NEW YORK CITY – Olivia Wilde has adopted a new, off-the-screen role as a passionate activist fighting against global poverty. By taking part in various political activist projects like Artists for Peace and Justice, Olivia Wilde reveals another, more humanitarian side of herself that extends beyond her reputation a talented actress.
As a nonprofit organization, Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) channels the power of influential celebrities towards a greater good. In 2009, writer and director Paul Haggis founded APJ along with his fellow philanthropic friends including Charlize Theron, Penelope Cruz, and Nicole Kidman to address issues of poverty around the world.
The organization commits itself to long-term, sustainable development by improving standards of education, health, and human dignity for the children and families in the poorest regions of Haiti. After realizing that more than 50% of Haitians live on less than $1.25 USD per day, Haggis decided to dedicate his time to improving the fate of the Haitian youth.
In an effort to provide the youngest generation of Haitians with quality access to secondary and higher education, the organization funded and constructed the Academy for Peace and Justice in 2010. This academy is a first-of-its-kind secondary school with a beautiful campus set at the edge of Port-Au-Prince’s worst slums.
In Haiti, less than 50% of all children attend primary school, only 20% continue on to secondary school and a mere 1% receive a university education. As a result, nearly 70% of all Haitians are unemployed, and 95% of those who do have jobs are employed “informally,” by selling their goods in the market or on the streets.
By 2016, the Academy aims to serve its full capacity of approximately 3,000 underprivileged students, with each student receiving a full scholarship that includes tuition, uniforms, nutritious meals, and access to free medical care. APJ recognizes that providing access to education can halt the vicious cycle of poverty that plagues many developing countries.
Along the lines of education, APJ also founded the Artists Institute, a free college for art and technology located in the city of Jacmel. By offering programs in film, music, audio engineering and design, the Artists Institute helps foster business development and an entrepreneurial spirit in the underserved Haitian youth community.
APJ also supports the St. Luke Family Hospital, an emergency care and surgical center that was created to meet the growing need for hospital space and care after the earthquake and subsequent cholera crisis that struck Haiti in 2010. With the help of APJ, the Cholera Center at St. Luke Family Hospital has treated 20,000 patients, half of whom would have died without immediate attention.
Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of APJ is its ability to attract so much celebrity attention with its mission and values. After the devastating earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, Haggis gathered his “power crowd,” fundraised nearly 5 million dollars to support emergency and long-term aid for those in need, and flew to Haiti to lend a hand in direct disaster relief.
APJ’s growing influence and impact shows how celebrities can be heroes off the screen as well. The true celebrity heroes are those like Olivia Wilde who has used her well-known and respected status to convince her fans to help out the causes she cares about most.
– Alexandra Bruschi
Sources: NY Times, In Style, St. Luke Haiti, APJ Now