Angelina Jolie deeply affected by her work with refugees

In a new interview with Newsweek, Angelina Jolie comes off as thoughtful, caring, and deeply moved by her over six years of work as a goodwill ambassador for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. She says as her film schedule brought her to places where refugees were suffering like Cambodia she started to learn about the dire situations that people were in and wanted to help however she could.

Angelina approached the UN herself and said that they were a bit incredulous at first, but gave her a chance to help. She she didn’t want pictures taken of her work with refugees and that it took her a while to allow photographers to come with her. She usually travels alone to the field with just a photographer.

This interview was pretty moving to me, and includes a very touching photograph of Angelina holding a 7 year-old boy tied to a tree. He was just three when he went missing in Dafur for two days while his village was bombed, and was never the same since. He now lives with his mother and four siblings in a refugee camp in Chad. His mother keeps him tied up so that he won’t run away or hurt himself.

Angelina said that there are always people who will criticize her, but that her work speaks for itself and she can’t let negative opinions keep her from helping people:

When did it occur to you that you could do something about this directly? Did people approach you or —
I approached them. I think they thought I was a little crazy.

When was this?
Six years ago. I was very nervous to call the U.N. agency at the time. I [was] considered a rebel in Hollywood. At the time I was also a bit of the wild child. So first I went to Washington [to the UNHCR office] and I sat with everybody there and said, “You know, I know you don’t know me. You might have heard things about me… And I don’t want to bring negative attention to your agency. If you could just help me, I’ll pay my way.”

I spent the next year and a half going to, first, two camps in Africa, and then Pakistan and Cambodia. And with no cameras and with no press and had the opportunity to have this great education before I spoke at all…. I was transformed in such an amazing way.

But you do have photographers following you now.
It took me a while to agree to do it. I guess I saw that so many times the picture comes before the knowledge and the substance and I certainly didn’t want to do that to myself or the organization. And also, I really just was shy. I was shy about sitting on the floor and talking to a woman and having a camera take a picture because I thought it was making less of my conversation with her. But… I was changed by the faces of the people I saw. “It is something that I am incapable of describing…those faces and that place and those people. And so I think it’s just—let the people speak for themselves through the camera. And if I can draw you in a little because I’m familiar, then that’s great. Because I know that at the end you’re not looking at me, you’re looking at them.

I think it’s fair to say people start out by looking at you, Angelina.
As long as they end up looking at them, that’s the point.

Do you worry about people who say this is celebrity tourism?
I don’t know if anybody saying that has spent the last six years of their life going to over 30 camps and really spending time with these people. I can’t care. At the end of the day, I’m sure a lot of criticism could keep a lot of people from doing this kind of work…

If someone had a direct criticism of my opinion on the issue, if someone had a direct criticism of the image shown because they think it hurts somebody then I will take that into consideration. But there are a lot of people that simply have an immediate gut reaction and they just don’t want to combine artists with foreign policy. And hey, I understand. I get it. I know where you’re coming from. And to each his own. … You know, I was more shy when I first went into a camp that other field officers would not want me there.

You were worried that you’d get in the way.
Yeah. That’s why I brought no media, it’s why I sat back. That’s why I just helped them load things. And if I felt that I was ever getting in the way, I wouldn’t do it. Because I do care about the opinion of the aid worker, I do care about the opinion of the refugee. I care less about the opinion of the person who’s never been in the field but has an opinion about celebrity.

Do you still go with so few people? I can’t believe you take no one with you…
I take no one. I [go] by myself on a commercial plane and into the field with my backpack….

When you got there, what were the people saying about their situation? There are several photographs with this boy tied to a tent pole, and there’s also another photograph of a group of women near some tents, and one of them has her ankles chained.
The first time I saw that in the camp [it was] obviously really shocking. They are people who are traumatized by the bombing [by Sudanese government forces attacking villages in Darfur] and by war. The old woman may have had some dementia before. The reality is there are one or two aid workers for every 2,000 refugees. The same with the doctors, the therapists. The basic need there [is] to just try to keep these people safe. To keep the tents up in all the sand storms, try to get the food distributed and basic health-care needs. The [chained] woman started to beat her daughter with anything she could find. She kept hearing voices of the people yelling at her. So she feels constantly under attack. I’m no therapist, so I don’t understand all the details. But when I did try to talk to her, she seemed pretty rational. But then she started aggressively telling me that I had to stop them from putting snakes on her. And for the people to stop yelling at her and for the bombs to stop dropping.

And the little boy?
The little boy was a normal 3-year-old [now 7] who disappeared for 48 hours after [his village was bombed]. I can only imagine what he saw. Sure he saw death. And when found, he was found in a state…

As a first reaction you want to remove [the rope]. But the mother, she has four other kids, she’s by herself. Therapists visit him, but if [he's] left alone he will disappear or bang himself. I talked to him for like half an hour and just kind of looked at him for a long time before he touched me and there was a little boy in there who was open to a kind sound.… There’s a normal little kid right there, but he’s got a look of fear. He’s nervous to touch. And you can feel that need for safety. The mother unfortunately can’t not go work for the other children and can’t sit with him all day long and hold him, which is probably what would do some good. But what he needs is probably some serious therapy. [There are] lots of children like him there. Lots of victims of war. [It's a] whole other thing that you usually don’t get to address because they have to be so focused on the basic needs of survival. These are the many other casualties of the kind of war that is happening in Darfur.

Angelina said she was distraught when faced with so much suffering, and that she finds it overwhelming at times. She said “The first two years I cried constantly like a woman does,” when the interviewer asked her about it.

She also said she loves it in her new hometown of New Orleans, and that it’s a great place for her children, but that much work remains to be done post Katrina.

To me, this interview is in contrast with her pre-pregnancy talk with Ann Curry. As rude as it sounds, I wasn’t too blown away by her Dateline Interview before she had Shiloh and she came off as a bit insincere to me at the time. It was likely that she was just defensive over all the speculation around her upcoming birth.

I was skeptical of her due to the contrast of her extreme wealth and the entire hotel she booked up in Namibia with the povery-striken people she posed with. There also were a lot of stories at the time about her heavy-handed security staff and head bodyguard Micket Brett beating the shit out of people and threatening their lives.

Her security goons continued their rough ways while she was filming in India, and after a highly-publicized incident at a school where anxious parents were threatened and racists insults may have been used, she seems to have pulled in the reins and to have put a stop to their thuggish tactics.

Now that Angelina’s security staff has calmed down and she’s been seen out at events and walking in New Orleans with her children and Brad, it seems like public opinion is favoring her again. After reading this article, I’m reminded that she’s only human and was motivated by a desire to protect her family. She does so much more for charity than most celebrities, and it seems that she also wants to protect the fragile people she truly seems to care about.

You can help refugees by giving to the charity Angelina mentions in her interview, SOS Kinderdorp.

Thanks to Oh No They Didn’t and Soulie Jolie for the pictures and story.

Related stories

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

19 Responses to “Angelina Jolie deeply affected by her work with refugees”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Good for Her says:

    I don’t believe that she is doing this for publicity. I think she is a regular person, and has the same concerns as the rest of us. It is good to see people doing something about suffering when they have the time and the means to do so. Most of us don’t have the luxury of jetting off to another country to do charity work–we have to work, we have responsibilities in our lives, we don’t have the financial means, whatever. So, I applaud those people who do what many of us might wish we could do, if we had the same resources. Of course, there are plenty of local charities/organizations we could give our time to, if we really put forth the time and effort.

  2. Good for Her says:

    I realize my post above was a little rambling, but you get the point, I’m sure :)

  3. Miller says:

    I’d love to believe that she is completely altruistic, but I can’t fight the suspicion I have towards her (her attention-seeking past is too damn notorious). I want to believe, I really do.
    Now George Clooney, that’s a celebrity I believe in with regards to his humanitarianism.

  4. SillyWilly says:

    Get the feeling that she is finding her niche and purpose in life. Seems to be much happier and more peacful now as a mother/advocate.

  5. kailie2 says:

    I don’t think it’s completely altruistic or completely self-absorbed. I think her motives are to help others but she tends to go to th extreme in everything she does so I think that helping others helps her in some way. She’s hooked on it like she was once hooked on weird behavior. Not that I’m criticizing her for it, after all, how many other stars would bother. A few maybe (Mia Farrow comes to mind) but they don’t get as much publicity so it seems like she’s seeking it but I think it follows her. She was involved in all this work before Brad but it was not as reported as it is today.

  6. frewtloop says:

    Really, would anyone keep up a charade for six years if thats what it was? Why can’t people believe this woman just wants to do some good with her life? Are we all so mean spirited and envious that we have to find fault where none exists. Does it make us feel better about ourselves to believe that she’s just publicity seeking? Geezus, I’m just so sick of the misdirected criticism and cynicism. Pick on someone who really deserves it – there are plenty of them.

  7. Caz says:


  8. countrybabe says:

    Is this post full of Angelina fanatics or what? Who cares if people are convinced. Calgon take her away.
    Most of these celebrities don’t know what the heck they’re talking about. I saw Mia Farrow on Hardball the other week and she didn’t know a thing about the cultutre from one of her recent trips to Africa.

  9. KIM says:

    It has taken me a very long time to come around concerning Jolie, but I am beginning to see that she does more than her share and she does deserve respect for her efforts. Her personal life aside, she donates 10% of her income to charity and she is doing tireless work with the U.N. I disliked her for a long time, but as she ages I think she begins to be a very good example for women on how you can change your life, and also how much your past can be difficult to forget(especially when your past is full of tabloid fodder). I have a new found respect for her over the past year because she has had a baby, along with two adopted children-under the age of four- she has helped out repeatedly with everything from the Darfur conflict to the earthquake in Pakistan, and she has managed to put the grief of her mother’s passing aside to take on humanitarian efforts. I can put all of my former misgivings about her aside because I think she has proven herself and I, for one, will not put her down anymore. I don’t know that if I had her money I would be able to do what she is doing, so I think maybe it is time for people to stop scutinizing her and realize that at least she is not sitting idly by while people suffer- she is actually doing something very productive with her life. And for that, if nothing more, she deserves respect.

  10. FArrah says:

    I lost all respect for her when she called her first born child a blob.She is neglecting her children all three of them .And why is she adopting another child .I belive it is important for a parent to give your child time .I really think she is not connected to Shiloh and maybe even be jealous of Shiloh.I remember when she adopted Maddo x ,he was always with her .I have never seen her hold and carry Shiloh ,and she was always holding Maddox when he was little.

  11. Wow! says:

    There are some very weird people on this site–> see the two comments above mine. As for you, “countrybabe”, does admiring someone’s charity work make me a “fanatic”? I don’t think so. It is good and natural to admire admirable works. As for her acting/love life, I couldn’t care less. Why do you care so much?

  12. xiaoecho says:

    What I want to know is why is she hugging that little boy so far away from the pole he’s tied to? Is it because a taut rope makes a better photo? Why didn’t she untie him before the photo was taken? How is hugging him going to alleviate his distress at being tied like an animal?

  13. Sheesh says:

    So what if she hates her dad – he’s probably an asrsehole like mine. A lot of men are – particularly of that generation.

    She didn’t screw her brother you moron, that’s malicious hearsay with no foundation in truth which means that if you believe it you’re a fucking twat.

    She didn’t call her child a blob – the interviewer did – get your facts straight and find a valid reason to hate her.

    She didn’t untie him from the pole out of respect for his mother and their situation – can’t you read and comprehend?

    She chooses the third world because the impoverished and underpriviledged in the States have access to public services that the third world doesn’t.

    Any other idiotic, fabricated misperceptions I can clear up for you bunch of sad wankers?

  14. LL says:

    Hey Sheesh, were you there? Oh, you know the ho personally right” Then shut the fuk up you sh!t head!

  15. sowhat says:

    Sheesh has all the answers right? Kiss my arss biotch!

  16. Anon says:

    Eewwwww, this trick looks as sick and hungry as the enslaved kid!

  17. ruby tuesday says:


  18. rose no thorns says:

    Wow! It’s amazing to me how many people hate Angelina (a woman they don’t even know) and can’t wait to bash her. Their reasons range from she hates her Dad, to she had relations with her brother, she doesn’t love her own baby, is a homewrecker et al. Why is she being judged so harshly and people so quick to believe negative stories about her? And is she not allowed to be flawed and make mistakes just because she’s a celebrity.

    My opinion is that Angelina may not have been a saint in the past (who is btw) but I admire her for all of her huminatarian efforts and I agree with the poster that says it is hardly likely that anyone would committ this much time and effort to such a worthy cause unless they were genuine. Good for you Angie for trying to make a difference in the lives of the neglected, sick and suffering.

  19. someone says:

    I lost respect for her when she slobbered all over her brother at an awards show, and her morals went down hill after that. She cheated with a married man, was pregnant before his divorce was final, called her 1 and only biological child a blob with no personality. I think she has always been a freak, and I don’t think she is as much a giver as she tries to portray to the world, I think shes a fake, with real mental issues..Too bad the kids will suffer for it, and Brad will get what he deserves in the end.