She plays many roles onscreen,
but actress Angelina Jolie never loses sight of her
role as a concerned global citizen. The dedication to
her craft that garnered Jolie an Academy Award for her
performance in "Girl, Interrupted" (1999)
is applied to her efforts as a Goodwill Ambassador for
the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),
an agency that currently assists 20 million refugees
in approximately 120 countries.
Jolie's involvement with UNHCR began in 2001 with a
mission to Sierra Leone, a small West African country
that has been devastated by years of brutal civil war.
Seeing firsthand the enormous challenges that refugees
face was a life-altering experience for Jolie, who decided
to use her fame to aid their cause. Later that year,
she was named a Goodwill Ambassador. Since then, she
has visited UNHCR refugee operations in the Balkans,
Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya, Cambodia, Thailand, Pakistan
and Ecuador. During one of her visits, she wrote, "You
go to these places and you realize what life's really
about and what people are really going through. These
people are my heroes."
Jolie's acting career has already spanned two decades.
She was born Angelina Jolie Voigt in Los Angeles, on
June 4, 1975, to actor Jon Voigt and model-actress Marcheline
Bertrand. Her father was already an established superstar,
having topped the bill in such classics as "Midnight
Cowboy" and "Deliverance." When Jolie
was 2, he scooped the Best Actor Oscar for "Coming
Jolie grew up around the film industry. She later trained
and performed at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute,
where she appeared in several stage productions. She
worked as a professional model in London, New York,
and Los Angeles, and also appeared in music videos for
such artists as Meatloaf, Lenny Kravitz, Antonello Venditti
and the Lemonheads. In addition, she has acted in five
student films for the USC School of Cinema, all directed
by her brother, James Haven.
While hosting "What's Going On?", a TV program
about children who face huge problems, Jolie was inspired
by children living at the Lugufu refugee camp in Tanzania.
Their tragic stories were all too familiar to Jolie,
who has met thousands of men, women and children forced
to flee from their homes and struggle to survive as
As a Goodwill Ambassador, Jolie uses her superstar
status to generate media coverage about the plight of
refugees and the conditions under which they live. To
further raise awareness, she has released her personal
journals from field visits that can be accessed at http://www.usaforunhcr.org.
For her efforts, Jolie was honored with the Church World
Service Immigration and Refugee Program Humanitarian
Award in 2002.
reports that more than 35 million people worldwide have
been forced to run for their lives and are either temporarily
or permanently exiled from their homes. Half of them
are children. Roughly 20 million fall under the auspices
of the UNHCR and are currently receiving assistance
from the agency. Around 12 million people live in refugee
camps after fleeing persecution, armed conflict, murder,
rape and mutilation. In many cases, the smaller camps
of 200 to 300 people are essentially whole villages
that have fled together. Larger camps can be the size
of small cities.
UNHCR was established in December 1950 by the United
Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to
lead and coordinate international action to protect
refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. Its
primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being
of refugees. It strives to ensure that everyone can
exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge
in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily,
integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.
In more than five decades, the agency has helped an
estimated 50 million people restart their lives.
UNHCR camps provide refugees a safe haven, food, medical
care and primary school for the children. Funding levels
and the political realities of hosting countries, however,
can make living conditions extremely difficult. A recent
outbreak of fighting in Liberia has forced Sierra Leonian
refugees living in UNHCR camps close to Monrovia, the
Liberian capital, to go into hiding. Reports of violence
against civilian populations, including refugees, are
UNHCR also provides protection
and assistance to growing numbers of internally displaced
persons (IDPs). IDPs are people who have been forced
to flee their homes, but have not crossed the border
into another country. As the nature of war has changed
in the last few decades, with more internal conflicts
replacing interstate wars, the number of IDPs has increased
significantly, and they are now the second largest group
of concern to UNHCR. The number of IDPs is estimated
to be between 20 to 25 million worldwide, with major
concentrations in Sudan, Angola, Colombia, Democratic
Republic of Congo, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bosnia-Herzegovina
and countries of the former Soviet Union. UNHCR helps
an estimated 5.3 million of these
There are numerous ways you can get involved to help
raise funds for and awareness of refugee issues and
the work of the UNHCR.
a donation today that directly translates into refugee
children's education, new shelters for refugees, and
vital protection assistance.
in working or interning with UNHCR? Find out about employment
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