Angelina Jolie on her work with refugees: ‘I just wanted to be a part of the real world’

**** NO WEB USE UNTIL APRIL 25th 10 AM EST **** Angelina Jolie makes a powerful speech criticizing the lack of effort over the crisis in Syria during United Nations Security Council meeting in New York City

Angelina Jolie celebrated her 20th anniversary with the United Nations High Commission on Refugees this year. It was in 2001 that she was first appointed a goodwill ambassador to the UNHCR. Eventually, her title was upgraded to special envoy to the UNHCR. She not only travels to refugee camps around the world, but she also has expanded her activism and advocacy to gendered violence, rape and assault in warzones, the rights of children and more. As part of Angelina’s People Magazine cover story (in the current issue), she spoke more about what led her to this work, and the kindness she’s been shown from refugees:

The kindest thing to ever happen to her: In the middle of unthinkable hardship and atrocity, Angelina Jolie has witnessed incredible grace and generosity. In fact, it was while visiting the Syrian border that a young girl shared one of the few items she still had. “This little girl came up to me and offered me some biscuits that she had in her pocket. Knowing what she’d come from, knowing what she was heading into, knowing everything she’d experienced, yet in that moment she wasn’t thinking of herself or everything she had lost. She wasn’t sitting with self pity. She just saw me—I must have looked tired and she just walked over and thought to just be kind. That’s what makes human beings so wonderful.”

Her commitment to finding solutions for refugees: “My spirit has benefited, my life has benefited, from being allowed to be in the company of people who are surviving very difficult things. It’s been a gift to me. I don’t like the idea that it’s some burden, that it’s so nice of somebody to go out of their way to help somebody else. It’s not. I don’t ever see this idea of charity.”

She learned a valuable lesson from an Afghan grandmother. “She was raising her grandchildren because her children had been murdered and she was in a refugee camp. I remember I started to cry and she said, ‘I don’t need you to cry, I need you to help me.’ That was a big lesson. The thought that sitting and feeling sorry for somebody is this luxury because you can be in your feelings and they don’t have that time to feel sorry for themselves.”

When she first began working with the UNHCR: “I realized there are people around the world who want their lives to be dedicated to helping others, finding solutions for others, being a part of the world with each other. It changed my perspective. I just wanted to be a part of the real world. And I wanted to have a life of some meaning.”

Her work in Cambodia: Her largest effort has been the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Project, run entirely by local staff serving and supported by their communities. “It’s a foundation set up in one of the areas of Cambodia that was most affected by the conflict and genocide (in the late ’70s, by the Khmer Rouge, led by brutal dictator Pol Pot)… We started out nearly 20 years ago, removing landmines from the ground so that local people could return to their homes. Today we help protect a large area of tropical forest in the Cardamom Mountains (southwest part of the country) that is threatened by illegal logging and land encroachment. And we fund two clinics and 16 healthcare staff, serving thousands of patients a year, as well as six primary schools and one secondary school. We also run a women’s empowerment program.”

Her work in Namibia: Recently, Jolie and her daughter Shiloh worked with a top conservation organization in Namibia, the Naankuse Foundation, to create Shiloh’s Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is primarily a safe place for elephants and rhinos that have been injured or orphaned due to poachers. “They have recently had to move different animals because of the desert expanding, the lakes drying up,” she explains.

Her book, Know Your Rights: “Children are on the front lines of the struggle for human rights today. We want to ensure every child knows and understands their rights, and how to claim them. It’s intended to be a practical guide. It was written for young people and the stories of youth rights activists we consulted are the bedrock of the book. We wanted the book to be open and honest and not to pull punches. That’s why I wrote at the start some adults won’t want young people to read it. I hope that this is a book that might inspire a conversation between parents and children. And that it might remind governments that child rights are as real as those of adults.”

Why she went to DC to speak about the reauthorization of VAWA: “I am asking for protections for children in the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, which is currently in the hands of the Senate. There’s a child health emergency in our country, caused by the hidden effects of domestic violence. I’m asking for trauma care, training for judges and non-biased forensic evidence collection all to be included in the act.”

On kindness: “I don’t think of myself as a kind person. Generosity of spirit, I think that’s a better way of putting it. When you go to sleep at night and you feel like you’ve been of use to another human being, whether it’s your friend, your child or someone, that’s a life worth living.”

[From People]

She’s so inspiring. I’m so happy that I’m an OG Jolie Stan. That’s fascinating about her book and how she’s trying to inform children how to stand up for themselves and their rights, and how there are many adults who won’t like that. Her list of accomplishments is amazing, and the way she just listed off everything that the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation has done in Cambodia is such a badass move. She’s fundamentally changed thousands of lives for the better just in Cambodia.

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Visits Iraq

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie Visits Iraq

Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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35 Responses to “Angelina Jolie on her work with refugees: ‘I just wanted to be a part of the real world’”

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  1. Sierra says:

    I am proud to be a hardcore Angelina stan. She has done soo much and yet didn’t mention even 50% of the things she has been doing.

    She has multiple schools in Afghanistan and in several countries in Africa where she pays for everything from staff to books to food.

    • GrnieWnie says:

      me too. I have always had a very similar mindset to hers. I also just wanted to be part of the real world, where people were living these very different lives. I have always, always, always hated the notion that she somehow owes the United States her attention and that she’s betraying her own nationality by focusing on the underserved in other countries. Just can’t stand that attitude.

  2. Zut Alors says:

    She talks the talk and walks the walk.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      Yes, and she is such a bad ass as well. I hope that AJ can and will inspire others, in her situation, to also walk the walk. It’s amazing to me that AJ has done all of this incredible work but it’s not profiled in the major outlets so that we can see what she has done. I didn’t realize how much of an impact she has had, the schools, and the health clinics. Add to that the push for legislation to help vulnerable children. AJ seems to be very humble in not tooting her own horn which is very commendable. I love that she has put out this book to teach children how they can be activists as well!

    • Jules says:

      exactly ^^

  3. Commonwealthy sounded witty at first says:

    She’s the real deal.

  4. Sue says:

    I love everything she said here. I love the lesson of helping someone over the luxury of being in your feelings. It’s not wrong to feel sorry for someone who is suffering but DO something about it. She’s dedicated to helping others, teaching her kids to use their privilege for good, and that’s great.
    Small story: I worked for a little while at Nat Geo. My boss there coordinated an event that Angelina attended and she said she is super cool.

  5. AmyB says:

    I too am an OG Angelina stan. Loved her even before she found her way into her work with refugees, and using her platform to help so many who truly need it. I loved her in Hackers, Gia, and later in Girl, Interrupted – back in her wild crazy days lol. Married to Billy Bob, with the blood and tattoos – so sexy and wild. She came in and just didn’t give a F. It has been so inspiring to see her growth as a woman, mother and work with the UNHCR. She is just a lovely, inspiring woman on so many levels. She is breathtaking and gorgeous, yes, but her spirit, strength and kindness only adds to her loveliness, IMO.

  6. Southern Fried says:

    Has anyone read her Rights book? I’m wondering about donating copies to middle and high schools in my former community.

  7. Kristin says:

    It always blows my mind when a strong woman like this who is so clearly dedicated to helping the world’s most vulnerable and less fortunate winds up with shitbird like Brad Pitt. This is NO criticism of Jolie by the way. He seems to be one of the snakes in sheep clothing. I’m so glad she got away from him and continues to fight for the protection of her children. This is an inspirising woman. When the children were younger, I used to question the choice of taking them all over the world instead of settling down in a continuous stable envrironment, but now those choices seem clearer. Like Princess Diana before her, she knew that based on her wealth and status that her kids would likely lead a very privileged life and she wanted to expose them to other cultures and realities of horror being played out every day in other parts of the world, which is so smart. I hope her kids grow up and follow in her footsteps in helping the worlds vulerable and less fortunate!

    • AmyB says:

      Well, honestly – did any of the public truly know the real character of Brad Pitt before more recent years (during his split from Angelina?). Even in his divorce from Aniston, he wasn’t the one who got the bad press, it was Jolie who got slammed for being a homewrecker, and Aniston for not wanting to have his babies lol. It never seemed, at least to my knowledge, that he had these kinds of demons, addiction issues, and such an awful character until this custody battle with Jolie. Again, none of us were privy to exactly what went on behind closed doors. But for most of his career, Brad Pitt was one of the Hollywood’s Golden Boys. He hid it very well.

    • FilmTurtle says:

      I think about that a lot, just as a student of human nature. I’m reminded of that interview Aniston gave after their divorce when she said his “empathy chip” was missing. I mean, he looks like Brad Pitt, he’s wealthy and charming, he pays lip service to good causes; it must be quite an ego boost to be in his orbit. And he’s not a himbo, so BP has to know the effect he has on people and he likes it and uses it to his advantage. I mean, that famous observation (was it by MSN?) that he morphs his looks and personality to mimic whomever he’s dating at the time, and then moves on, says a lot.

      • AmyB says:

        @FilmTurtle – you are correct. Looking back on that first interview Aniston did after their divorce, she said he had a “sensitivity chip” missing, and people thought she was throwing so much shade!! Little did we know, she was being as kind as she could be, or perhaps never knew how dark IT COULD get (as Angelina does now)!! And as you pointed out here, someone did make the observation that Pitt always seemed to adapt his character/and causes to that of his partner. I have no doubt, in beginning, he was on board with the causes Angie was dedicated to, and the family they created. But demons and addictions are a beast, and they won out here. The rest is history.

    • Dee Kay says:

      I read that if a person has a narcissist in their close circle, look around at the rest of their friends and family, it will turn out there are several narcissists. This is because someone can get acclimated to narcissism so they basically expect that kind of behavior, it is normal to them. I think that’s what happened to Angelina Jolie — her father was a narcissist and Pitt was one, too, and she didn’t see red flags in Pitt because at a deep subconscious level, she had just gotten used to her dad’s narcissistic behavior when she was just a child.

      I struggle with this, too, I basically picked a profession where many if not most people are narcissists or have narcissistic tendencies, and if I’m honest with myself, it’s because I have family members who are narcissists and so for me a lot of really terrible egregious behaviors are just normal life. I didn’t see the warning signs. And now I am in the process of building a path to another kind of career where I don’t have to be around these types of people constantly.

      • Lyds says:

        Thanks for sharing; it shows that you are insightful and introspective about what is happening in your life and it’s wonderful that you’ve taken action to change it. Not to be presumptuous, but your previous industry sounds like finance/business, and after being around that kind of cutthroat people/environment, you absolutely become immune to the intrigue and selfishness. It becomes normal and those who have a tolerance for it are the ones who survive (or even thrive in) it.

        I think that is why Jolie needed to be in the real world. Her parents were both actors, she dated actors, she worked alongside them. Narcissistic, self-absorbed and insecure doesn’t even begin to describe them. Thank goodness she realized that she needed to ground herself in reality and discovered how she could help in the best way possible. I do believe that there was a part of Pitt that was initially aligned with this vision. However, he had a hidden dark side and loved Hollywood more, so it became a facade with him (cardboard homes in New Orleans, anyone?). He was never onboard the way she was.

      • Dee Kay says:

        @Lyds thanks for your kind and supportive comments. I will keep your words in my heart as I make the career transition, even though it will take me some time.

        That is a very good point about how Jolie is, like me!, in an industry that attracts and fosters narcissistic behavior, and so that alone made it kind of likely that she would be both parented by a narcissist and would partner with one, too. And as you say it also inspired her (b/c she’s smart and aware) to get out and see the actual world and not just live in the bubble of Hollywood her entire life. Once she learned about the world, she started using her resources to do something about the serious needs she saw.

        I think Pitt was more or less performing philanthropy for a while to impress Jolie and show they had the same priorities. Narcissists do that to “win over” their targets but give up the pretense once they feel the targets are secure.

    • Mireille says:

      I think Pitt fooled everyone. I know some people don’t understand how Angie could have stayed with him for so long. But she loved him. She had children with him. She may have thought he could change, he would change, he would get better. But then, he didn’t. She knew then she had to end it or her family could get seriously hurt. I remember an interview she gave after the break-up, how heartbroken she sounded. I really felt for her. I once fell big time for a man, who had (and continues to have) serious problems, and I overlooked them thinking he would change. And he never did.

      And after all that has transpired between them, all she really wants for him is to get help. He is still a father to their kids — but he needs to deal with his issues in order to be there for them.

      • AmyB says:

        @Mireille. I think you described this situation very well. I had a very similar situation in my marriage. Married to a drug addict/alcoholic for ten years. We had a young daughter together. I too, only wanted & prayed for him to get well so we could remain, and be a family. I loved him with all my heart. I stayed for a long time too, maybe longer than I should have. Addiction is a horrible disease, I would not wish on my worst enemy. It not only affects the addict, but rips the family apart as well. I started to become sick as well – co-dependent and physically ill (losing weight, depressed), not taking care of myself, probably very much like Angie did. Always so worried about him, and trying to protect her kids, she neglected herself. That was my signal to leave. I totally get her pain; I was a mess for a long time, but I know it was for the best. I am glad to see her emerging from all of that, and her children seem to be happy and thriving too. It is hell, trust me on that.

    • A. Key says:

      You keep forgetting who she is privately – a troubled rebellious person lol. Remember who she dated before Pitt? I thought Pitt was the biggest improvement in her dating life compared to the others. Well clearly I was wrong because he proved just as problematic as Billy Bob Thornton. I think Angie has a thing for damaged complicated men, always has.

  8. Dee Kay says:

    Wow. Angelina Jolie is really showing us the way. If only more people with her fame and resources did half as much for people in need and in crisis. Jolie is such a teacher. I learned a lot just from reading these brief quotations from her!!!!! I really believe in what she is saying here: we need people to support one another, and not out of guilt or pity, but out of a spirit of generosity and because it is simply the right thing to do. And it seems like Jolie has met many of her own teachers along the way, like the little Syrian girl refugee who had barely anything but offered her some of her biscuits, and the Afghan grandmother who said I don’t need your tears I need your help. Excellent, wonderful lessons from great teachers.

  9. Kay says:

    Angelina has always given money to causes she believes in. The only problem with rich philanthropists is that they also get tax breaks/relief for giving money. – so by doing charity they avoid paying tax – so the money they give is funded by the tax payer. It can also undermine democracy in a country – the money they give isn’t necessarily based on need just personal choice. In reality the poor actually give much more. To reduce inequalities in society you need to empower people and change the tax system rich philanthropist don’t do that – they actually increase inequalities. Tax reliefs should abolished – it gives rich people unaccountable power that is not transparent.

  10. teecee says:

    Angie is doing great things and it obviously a wonderful person with a big heart, but I want to push back on something she said a little. People who make art, real artists, do have a life of meaning. Everyone from Barry Jenkins, to Toni Morrison, to Tony Kushner – these are all people whose work has expanded our understanding of the human condition and has connected us to each other in profound ways. Now Angie was never a great artist. A stunning woman, a throwback movie star, but not an artist. So it makes sense that as a seeker she would find some other way to contribute. But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to make art and still have a meaningful life. In fact, I believe you can find meaning in nearly any profession.

    • Thirtynine says:

      I just read it again. Where did she say artists aren’t living lives of meaning?

    • AC says:

      A throwback movie star? Really? That statement by you is so not true. Make it make sense.

    • Agreatreckoning says:

      @teecee, it sounds like you are putting words in Angelina’s mouth that didn’t come out. At no point did she say anything about artists not having a life of meaning. ????

  11. Mireille says:

    Huge Angie stan here. But wasn’t always. I used to hate her years ago, because she married MY INTENDED husband — Jonny Lee Miller. LOL. In the beginning of her career, I also used think she was nothing more than a stunningly beautiful weirdo who carried vials of blood and dated…Billy Bob Thornton. Funny thing is, I was living and working in NYC where you come across people who met her and stories about her that don’t make the tabs and I was for believing the tabs before I believed what people — actual people who met and worked with her — were telling me. How sweet she, how down to earth she is, how frank and honest she you speak with her. These were people who worked with her on her movies (e.g. Gia). I was stupid for believing the tabs.

    I dug a little deeper afterwards and found out more about her — the stuff that was NOT written about her during the height of the media warfare against her. Over the years, I worked with people at my company who were hired by UNHCR to work with Angie on her missions. One filmmaker told me he worked with a lot of celebrities and politicians who did work in this field, but the one…and only one…he gushed about was Angie. Literally, he told me, she is the real deal. Tons and tons of humanitarian missions around the world for many years (some of which we don’t even know about), her understanding of policy, programs, etc. when it came to the UN, her advocacy for these causes, her donations. And she could travel to places in dire conditions, never complain where UNHCR sent her and did the work. Never acted like a “movie star”, never asked for special treatment, never acted like a snob or treated other people beneath her. Let me reiterate (but I won’t get it into it), he worked with A LOT of celebs and politicians, Angie is the ONLY one who he profusely praised.

    That’s not to say, she didn’t get treated like shit. He told me some UN people would treat her like some dummy actress — trying to talk down to her. He witnessed this. But this never bothered her either.

    Anyhow, just came to say. LOVE HER, LOVE HER, LOVE HER. And I’m over Lee Miller, but I think she is way tooooooo good for him (sorry to say to all of you Angie/Jonny shippers).

    • Agreatreckoning says:

      I will disagree with you about JLM and her being too good for him. He is (as a shipper) probably the best match. Someone who knows, loves, appreciates, accepts and looks past her incredible beauty and still appreciates/respects her for who she is.. Might be projecting because I think JLM is a pretty cool dude.

      No matter what, she’s had so much sh*t flung at her for the past 20 plus years, that she is an excellent example of turning off the noise and living a good life of service- regardless of what you’re critics say. I’m older than her and have to say, for whatever reasons, her FU attitude to some helped me stand up for myself.

  12. jferber says:

    My daughter and I listened to a great TED talk on refugees by a Brit who looked EXACTLY like Prince William, but was smart, committed, caring and a hard worker for his cause. I told my daughter I wish that dude would become the king of England.

  13. Ewissa says:

    Just want to say anyone else saw pics of AJ in that vintage Valentino? She looks insane!!! She is out of this world beautiful

    • Southern Fied says:

      Yes! Perfection. It’s got to be her best look ever! Taken by for British Vogue by Misan Harriman. He’s a great follow on IG.

  14. A. Key says:

    I am very glad she is doing what she is doing. We need more celebrities like her. At the same time, I am jealous she gets to have access to this type of job that I would kill for, as it’s my field of study and my dream to work like this. But getting a meaningful job at the UN when you’re a nobody from an insignificant country is akin to winning the lottery… I wish they appointed people to this position for other reasons, not just for being famous…