The following are just a few of the celebrities who I feel deserve a mention because of the work that they are doing:-
George Clooney along with his father started work in Sudan 2005. Initially he was under the impression that philanthropy might work. But he realized that the situation on the ground was more difficult than could be perceived by the façade. If a house and a well were provided to one family, the neighbouring family who did not have these resources would resort to violence to steal it for themselves. To seek a more permanent solution to Darfur’s problems which range from lack of cultivable land, water resources to poor policy of the government and genocide, Clooney decided to make the voices of the people of Sudan heard across the world. Using his star power and sheer determination, he helped lubricate and catalyze diplomatic talks between the northern and southern regions of Sudan and had a role to play in US deploying a diplomat to Sudan. Many believe that the referendum to separate South Sudan from the North would not have happened without his help.
Clooney drew the inspiration to work by means of international awareness and diplomacy from Bono’s model implemented through the ONE Campaign and (RED). The U2 singer has cofounded the ONE Campaign along with other campaigners which uses advocacy as a means to hold world leaders responsible for the commitments they have made to their people. Essentially, the ONE Campaign was started as a battle against poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa by raising awareness and pressurizing leaders into following policies which will save lives, ensure distribution of resources and higher literacy levels. In March 2002, Bono and some other celebrities worked on the “Drop the Debt” Movement, following which they got together to form the DATA (debt, AIDS, trade, Africa). This organisation focussed on debt relief, AIDS prevention and reform in unfair trade rules and also promoted democratization and greater transparency of governments. This organisation collaborated with 10 other anti-poverty organisations (Bread for the World Institute, CARE USA, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, Plan USA, Save the Children, World Concern, World Vision) to start ONE.
Oprah Winfrey, one of the best known faces of television in the west, had a tough childhood where she had to deal with poverty and sexual abuse. In 1997, she started Oprah’s Angel Network which has worked in impoverished regions in numerous countries to establish schools, provide school supplies, provide life-changing assistance for women and girls and has also worked on building homes for those who were rendered homeless during after hurricane Katrina. In 2002, along with Nelson Mandela, the foundation of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for girls was laid in South Africa. This school officially started in 2007, with around $40 million of personal contributions from Winfrey through the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation.
Angleina Jolie is one of the best known faces in Hollywood. Using her celebrity and her sheer will to do something for the world, Angelina has gained popularity through persistent social activism around the world. In 2001, Angelina Jolie was named the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. Her journey began in Sierra Leonne, a country ravaged by civil war, and she raised awareness through camps about the inhuman treatment of refugees. She has visited over 20 countries in the world to highlight the plight of the millions of poor and to try to bring help to these people. After she visited Afghanistan in 2008, she highlighted the need for reintegrating returnees and urged for humanitarian aid to the nation. She has also partnered with Global Health Committee to start the Maddox Chivan Children’s Center to bring relief to children in Cambodia infected with HIV. International Campaign to Ban Landmines was another organisation with which she has worked.
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation was started by DiCaprio in the year 1998 in order to further the cause of environmental protection by focussing on global warming, preservation of biodiversity and exploring renewable sources of energy production. He also supported World Wide Fund’s Save Tiger Now by donating $1million. Since childhood he has been moved by the degradation of our environment, depletion of natural resources, etc and his popularity now has lead to a wider outreach to audiences regarding the environmental concerns he is raising. In 2001, his Foundation was honoured with the Martin Litton Environmental Warrior Award. The Foundation produced two short films and also the feature documentary film The 11th Hour.
John Lennon said, “They say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” There are so many other public figures who share this dream of making the world a better place. Sean Penn, for example, has founded the J/P Haitian Relief Organisation to provide housing and medical care for disaster-wrecked Haitians, and Elton John who founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation to help those living with HIV/AIDS across the world. Alicia Keys too has cofounded Keep a Child Alive support AIDS orphans in Africa and provide medication to AIDS patients. This is an opportunity to learn from the people we idealize.
Here are some places where you can go to help.