It's a well known fact that Angelina Jolie is one of Hollywood's most dedicated philanthropists, but even those who follow her humanitarian work closely might be shocked when they read just how much this dedicated woman has achieved for the good of the world.
After seeing your outpouring of admiration for Jolie's aid work with refugees in war-torn countries, I decided to research just which charity endeavors the 40-year-old actress has thrown herself into and below is a small selection (believe me, there's a lot more!) of the things Angelina has accomplished.
9. Adopting disadvantaged children from around the world
Angelina Jolie has adopted three children from orphanages around the world - along with having three biological children - and the lengths she went to to adopt them gives us an idea of her dedication.
For example, when Jolie adopted six-month-old Zahara from Ethiopia, she thought the baby was an AIDS orphan and probably infected with the virus herself, but this had no bearing on her desire to adopt the infant.
8. Starting the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation
In honor of her first adopted child, Maddox, Jolie started the Maddox Jolie-Pitt foundation to protect his native Cambodia from deforestation and encourage conservation.
The charity later expanded to provide education and healthcare to Cambodia's least fortunate and launch a microcredit program to allow people to start their own businesses so they can sustain themselves and their families.
7. Launching the National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children
In 2005, Angelia Jolie launched the National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children. This organization provides free legal aid to young asylum-seekers who are fleeing their homes without parents to care for them and ensures that they are provided with the support that they need.
In Angelina's own words from a National Press Club conference:
"The point of all this is, when children cross into this country alone and they're scared, we must hear them out before we make the choice to either allow them asylum in our country or send them away. It is unethical to not listen to these children. Because without legal representation we are sending children to court to represent themselves in a language that most of them don't understand. And expecting them to recall accounts so frightening and humiliating, they wouldn't want to tell anyone, let alone a room full of strangers."
6. Co-chairing the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict
Angelia Jolie co-chairs this hugely important charity that aims to rebuild the lives of children who have grown up amidst devastating conflict. By helping these young people who have often lost everything, the aim is to provide future generations with the tools needed to rebuild the nations they were born in. In Jolie's words:
"Education can make the difference between whether children of conflict can turn to violence and despair, or whether they can become the new leaders of a better future for their families and nations."
5. Being willing to get her hands dirty on aid missions in a meaningful way
An anonymous UN aid worker recently spoke out about how celebrities can hinder aid missions with either ignorance or unreasonable demands, but Jolie received a glowing report for her work in the field. The longterm project manager explained:
"She knew more about refugees, and had been to more places than I had. She had her own cameraman, so all I had to do was find the locations and the refugees."
4. Funding children's centers in Cambodia and Ethiopia
Jolie has provided extensive funding for children's centers in Cambodia and Ethiopia which treat children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis for no cost to the patients.
3. Using her star power in creative ways to benefit good causes
Being an actress for so long, Angelia Jolie knows that the paparazzi will stop at nothing to get the shots they desire, so she used their desperation to invade her children's privacy for the greater good.
Each time Angelina Jolie has given birth to her biological children she has sold the first controlled photos of them to image agencies for staggering sums and donated all of the money to charity.
The first photos of Shiloh were sold for $7.6 million which was donated to UNICEF and photos of twins Knox and Vivienne were sold for $14 million to benefit the Maddox Jolie-Pitt foundation.
2. Aspiring to be a voice for some of the most disadvantaged people in the world, despite the prejudice against them
Angelina Jolie's main passion is providing a voice for refugees, a group of people who are often vilified and dehumanized by the media.
A hugely popular actress speaking out on these people's behalf is helping to de-stigmatize refugees and help people see them with empathy and compassion as opposed to someone else's problem or people who need to be sent back to where they came from. In an impassioned speech about the refugee crisis, Jolie said:
"We see so many [refugees] dying at sea. It is not a "new trend," it is a result of those fleeing country after country and finding no safe place. These are not economic migrants looking for a better life, these are desperate refugees who are fleeing war and persecution. The average stay in a refugee camp is 17 years. Think of your own life. Think of what that would mean. For many, it is their entire childhood. During displacement you might be able to get an education, or continue your education. But very likely, you will not. As a refugee, you cannot legally work in a host country. So your skills and education will dull over those long years and your much-needed contribution will be lost. As a refugee you learn how the world feels about you. You know if your suffering causes outrage and compassion – or if it is mostly ignored."
1. Speaking up against sexual violence as a weapon of war
When we think of lives being torn apart by conflict, we think of family members being killed or life-altering injuries, but women being emotionally and physically traumatized by rape and sexual violence is an issue that isn't often spoken about.
Jolie and British politician William Hague wanted to de-stigmatize talking about rape as a weapon of war, so they headed the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London to force world leaders to stop looking away from the painful problem.
In many countries being a woman is more dangerous than actively being involved in conflict and in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, 48 women are raped every hour. In the words of Angelina Jolie:
"Everywhere I went rape was the silent killer. But it became quickly clear to me that these women were not just the collateral damage of war. Rape was a strategic, organized scheme to destroy entire communities."
By educating women that they do not need to feel ashamed about being the victims of sexual attacks and encouraging world leaders to plough resources into preventing sexual violence and care for survivors, Angelina Jolie has undoubtedly made hundreds of women's lives more bearable. In the words of U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry:
"Thanks to women like Zainab Bangura and Angelina Jolie, we're forcing the world to stop looking away—and to recognize that sexual violence is a vile crime against humanity, not an inevitable by-product of war."