SEATTLE, Washington — Celebrities are often known for their radio hits, box office successes. However, stars are influential beyond pop culture and the media. In fact, many are working hard to change the world. Whether it is through advocacy, raising awareness or direct donations, several celebrities are dedicating their time and efforts to improving the lives of underprivileged children across the globe. Listed below are six celebrities who give to children in poverty.
Six Celebrities Who Give to Children in Poverty
- Rihanna: Rihanna may be best known for her Billboard chart-topping songs, successful beauty line and fashion statements. However, the famous artist is also a humanitarian who makes great efforts to fight child poverty across the globe. She founded the Clara Lionel Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships to underprivileged students from the Carribean to attend college in the United States among other aid. In the past two years, the program has reached more than 16,000 children and donated $4 million in scholarships. Rihanna is also the global ambassador of the Global Partnership for Education, which has (thus far) provided access to education in more than 60 developing countries. In 2017, Rihanna won the Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year award.
- Ben Affleck: Aside from directing, writing and starring in several Oscar-winning films, Ben Affleck is heavily involved in philanthropy work. He is the founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), which is a nonprofit that focuses on supporting vulnerable children in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. By advocating for policy change in U.S. foreign aid and partnering with corporations for grant donations, the ECI has improved the lives of at-risk children. With tens of thousands of child soldiers in Eastern Congo, the ECI has prioritized working on the reintegration of child soldiers back into their communities. Plus, Ben Affleck doesn’t just run his nonprofit from the comfort of his home in the U.S.—he visits the people in Eastern Congo himself.
- Oprah Winfrey: Oprah, one of the most famous television personalities in American history, is also, unsurprisingly, one of the wealthiest people in the world. However, she does not keep all of her earnings to herself. Through the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation (formerly the Oprah Winfrey Foundation), she has donated more than $40 million to improve both education and healthcare for children suffering from poverty around the world. In particular, Oprah’s organization builds education opportunities for young girls in third world countries where scholarships for females are often culturally frowned upon.
- Orlando Bloom: English actor Orlando Bloom’s influence is not just limited to his leading roles in the Pirates of the Carribean or The Lord of the Rings film series. Rather, he uses his star power to advocate for children’s rights. In the last five years alone, Bloom has met with Syrian refugee children who were affected and displaced by the conflict in Syria, visited an informal-education center for children in Ukraine who have had to flee from their homes and traveled to Niger to meet children whose lives have been turned upside down by Boko Haram’s violence. As a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, his on-the-ground work has raised awareness of the global education crisis affecting children in emergencies.
- Angelina Jolie: Famous for both her acting career and humanitarian work, it comes as no surprise that Angelina Jolie dedicates some of her time to working for children in poverty. Along with her former husband Brad Pitt, she donated $2 million to create health centers to treat children affected by AIDS and tuberculosis in Cambodia and Ethiopia. Jolie also has a history of funding education programs in several poverty-ridden countries, including Bosnia, Libya and Afghanistan. The U.N. Goodwill Ambassador also started her own foundation called the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, named after her first adopted son.
- Matt Damon: Although Matt Damon is perhaps best-known for his roles in the Bourne movies, his influence extends much further outside of the United States. The actor is an ambassador for the ONEXONE Foundation, which is committed to supporting and improving the lives of children around the world. Additionally, Damon’s foundation established the Millennium Villages Schools, which are education programs delivered in both a classroom setting and extracurricular programs, in Rwanda and Mali. So far, these education programs have increased primary school enrollment rates. In Rwanda, the enrollment rate for girls is 97 percent and 96.5 percent for boys. The organization built/rehabilitated 83 classrooms and a computer lab and decreased student-teacher ratio from 75:1 to 35:1.
All in all, these six superstars have made an immense difference in the lives of impoverished children with their dedication and generosity. While the fight to end child poverty around the world still remains an uphill battle, celebrities who give to children in poverty have made a huge impact on the lives of many children and are hopefully inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.
– Sam Elster