Fearless Humanitarian: Angelina Jolie Pitt

Fearless Humanitarian: Angelina Jolie Pitt

Image Courtesy: unhcr.org

Actor, writer, director, and passionate worker for humanitarian causes- Angelina Jolie never fails to use her powerful status as A-lister Hollywood star to lend her voice to the voiceless. Last month Jolie spoke at the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict and effortlessly generated countless headlines in publications across the Globe. “We must send a message around the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence, that the shame is on the aggressor” said Jolie in her opening note that kick started the Summit.

The 39-year-old actress is a UNHCR (U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees) Goodwill Ambassador and has traveled to dozens of countries around the world, including war zones, meeting survivors of rape and other types of assault. Angelina Jolie became noted for going ‘where real bullets fly’, traveling to such war zones as Sudan’s Darfur region during the Darfur conflict, the Syrian-Iraqi border during the Second Gulf War, and the Afghan capital Kabul during the war in Afghanistan, where three aid workers were murdered in the midst of her first visit.

Angelina Jolie speaking with Syrian refugees in a Jordanian military camp based near the Syria-Jordan border.
Angelina Jolie speaking with Syrian refugees in a Jordanian military camp based near the Syria-Jordan border.

Jolie has also let her passion for humanitarian causes seep into her work many a time. She brought up the issue of sexual violence against women in conflict through her directorial debut in the 2011 film, “In the Land of Blood and Honey.”  The film, which unfolds against the backdrop of the 1992-95 ethnic conflict in Bosnia, is set in detention camps where rape was used as a weapon of war on more than 50,000 women.

In 2011 Angelina Jolie directed 'In the Land of Blood and Honey' which brought out the plight of women in detention camps where rape was used as a weapon of war.
In 2011 Angelina Jolie directed ‘In the Land of Blood and Honey’ which brought out the plight of women in detention camps where rape was used as a weapon of war.

The ‘Maleficent’ star first personally encountered the effects of a humanitarian crisis while filming Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) in war-torn Cambodia, an experience she later credited with having brought her a greater understanding of the world.Upon her return home, she contacted the UNHCR for information on international trouble spots. She began visiting refugee camps and met with refugees in more than 30 countries over the next decade. She covered all costs related to her missions and shared the same rudimentary working and living conditions as UNHCR field staff on all of her visits.

[box] Jolie also donated $1 million in response to an international UNHCR emergency appeal, the largest donation UNHCR had ever received from a private individual. [/box]

Angelina Jolie wanted to create awareness of the plight of the people she had visited and decided to chronicle her 2001-02 visits in her book Notes from My Travels, which was published in October 2003 in conjunction with the release of her film Beyond Borders.Notes From My Travels

Other projects:

  •  In 2006 Jolie create Asia’s first Millennium Village, in Cambodia in accordance with UN development goals. The compound includes schools, roads, and a soy milk factory, all funded by Jolie.
  • Jolie has built at least ten other schools in Cambodia,and funds the Maddox Chivan Children’s Center, a care facility for children affected by HIV, in the capital Phnom Penh.
  • In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the birthplace of her adopted daughter Zahara, she funds the Zahara Children’s Center, which treats children suffering from HIV or tuberculosis.
  • She has also built schools elsewhere in the world, including a school and a boarding facility for girls at Kakuma refugee camp in north-western Kenya, a school for girls in Tangi, Afghanistan, and another girls-only school in the Afghan capital Kabul.
  • Since its founding at the 2007 Clinton Global Initiative, Jolie has co-chaired the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict, which funds education programs for children affected by disaster.
  • Jolie also co-chairs Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), which provides free legal aid to unaccompanied minors in immigration proceedings across the U.S.
  • In the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, she established the Jolie Legal Fellowship, whose member attorneys assist and support government officials and other organizations in their efforts to secure the legal protection of Haiti’s most vulnerable children.
Jolie covers all costs related to her missions and shares the same rudimentary working and living conditions as UNHCR field staff on all of her visits. Photo: E. Parsons /June 2004
Jolie covers all costs related to her missions and shares the same rudimentary working and living conditions as UNHCR field staff on all of her visits. Photo: E. Parsons /June 2004

It is inconceivable but well known that this powerhouse for humanitarian work has gone through some tough times over the years. She was left devastated by the death of her mother, Marcheline Bertrand, from ovarian cancer in 2007. She herself underwent a preventive double mastectomy last year after learning that she carried the BRCA gene, a mutation that puts a person at higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. And there have been darker moments in her life where the actor admitted she used to harm herself because she felt her life was empty.

But personal setbacks have never deterred Jolie from her tireless humanitarian work which is inspirational to say the least.