Model Kurara Chibana said she felt devastated when she saw children dying of hunger in Zambia, Tanzania and other impoverished countries.
To help tackle the issue, Chibana became the U.N. World Food Program’s ambassador against hunger for Japan in December after having served as the organization’s celebrity partner since 2007.
In an interview, the 31-year-old from Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, said she has always kept in mind what her mother once told her in her childhood — “Please remember that there will be things you can do for other people should you ever get famous” — and that she has been looking for ways to help others.
As a WFP supporter, Chibana has visited five countries — Zambia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka — as well as the town of Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture, which was badly affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In Zambia torn by floods and droughts, she saw people eating tree roots to stave off starvation.
“Having seen firsthand people suffering from food shortages, I was made to realize how vital it is for people to eat,” she said.
Chibana, who often appears on TV programs and in commercials, said some people have criticized her, telling her she should visit countries suffering from starvation more often instead of being spotlighted as a model in gorgeous attire.
But she said she has decided to do all she can do at each moment.
She said that whenever she is given the opportunity to speak about her activity as WFP ambassador, she tries to choose specific stories and experiences.
“Apparently many people listen to me, especially when I share stories about mothers (struggling with hunger),” she said.
Chibana said the motto she has long lived by is to visit a location first before making any judgments.
“Without actually going there, I wouldn’t be able to understand anything about the world outside,” she said. “I’d like to convey to people what I saw with my own eyes and what I felt from the experience.”
For her near-term activity, Chibana said she hopes to visit more disaster-affected areas to learn about emergency support activities there.
Chibana, who loves photography, said that on her trips to Africa, Asia and elsewhere she particularly enjoys taking photos of children who come to tell her about their future dreams with shining eyes.