Travel Lessons from Angelina Jolie, Humanitarian

May 1, 2014
Lebanon, volunteer
Angelina Jolie in Lebanon

There are many women who travel for humanitarian reasons and Angelina Jolie is by far one of the most famous.  But 14 years ago, the Angelina Jolie humanitarian we know today wasn’t involved in this work at all.  In fact, she wasn’t even aware of it.

Many of us have our own “BCs”–the period before we became passionate about the thing that drives us today.  So what was the spark that led Jolie to transform from an erratic celebrity to a UN goodwill ambassador?

After filming Tomb Raider in Cambodia in 2000, Jolie first saw the plight of displaced people and wanted to learn more.  Her first trip as a UN ambassador was to Sierra Leone in 2001. Since then, she has visited more than 40 countries with refugee populations, listening to individuals’ tragic stories, exposing their realities to the world, and launching aid projects to address related issues.

What’s striking about Jolie is that since the beginning of her journey, she has plunged headfirst into her work, immersing herself with the local people of each country.  She wrote in her journal from her trip to Sierra Leone, “It seems crazy to some of my friends that I want to leave the warmth and safety of my home. They asked, ‘Why can’t you just help from here? Why do you have to see it?'”

Back then, she didn’t have an answer for them. Years later, her desire to see it all with her own eyes still hasn’t changed. During her recent visit to Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon, Jolie sat in a tent beside orphans, and asked them to share their stories, as one of the brothers in the room had a trauma-induced seizure.

Of course, the most difficult part of seeing hardship throughout the world is figuring out a way to take action. After years in the field, Jolie tapped into her own talents to do so.

In 2012, Jolie wrote, directed and produced The Land of Blood and Honey, a film that portrays the wreckage and rapes of the Bosnian War, and starred local actors from the former Yugoslavia.

This movie led to the launch of Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative, a campaign that seeks to end sexual violence during conflict. Next month, Jolie will co-host a summit in London with governments from 141 countries to discuss tactics to put this plan into action.

While we are not all Hollywood stars and can’t give the same kind of exposure to issues we are passionate about, we can still learn a lot from the Angelina Jolie humanitarian and traveling star.  We can allow the things that we witness in the world to change us.  We can get out in the world and do research.  And then, after we have immersed ourselves and reflected, we can use our skills to help make a difference.

About Rachel Sales

Rachel SalesRachel Sales is a co-founder of Pink Pangea.

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