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Making a Difference in the World: It's Not Just For Celebs!
Written by Samantha Blum
 
What do George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, and now I have in common, besides perfect bone structure? (in my dreams…) We have a passion for making a difference in Africa.
 
This summer, I took a month to travel across the world to Ghana, Africa, where I volunteered at an orphanage located in a small village called Senya-Beraku. Becky’s Orphanage Home houses 35 beautiful orphans ranging in age from 1 to 12 years old.
 
Before my trip to Ghana, I had never previously done any form of travel volunteer work, and aside from volunteering at a local animal shelter for a few days a week through high school, I had never participated in anything as a volunteer. I am just an average 20-year-old girl attending a state university who grew up in an upper-middle class community in Northern New Jersey.
 
When the time came for me to decide what I wanted to do this summer, something had changed in my heart, and I found myself wanting to do something substantial, like “giving back to the world”. As an American citizen who has lived a privileged life (so far), I felt that this would give me perspective and fulfill a need in my heart to help others who did not have the good fortune that I have grown up with.
 
After much research and consideration, I found myself on an 11-hour flight to West Africa where I would be working as a primary caretaker for 35 children.
 
 
We all know that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are philanthropists, to say the least. Their love for Africa does not go unnoticed -- aside from adopting their daughter, Zahara, from Ethiopia, and giving birth to another daughter, Shiloh, while in Namibia, Brangelina have been very active in donating their time and substantial funds to help ease the hardships in many African countries.
 
Angelina became a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in 2001 and has traveled to over 20 African countries in this role since. In 2007, she was honored by the International Rescue Committee and received the Freedom Award.
 
In 2006, Angelina and Brad brought both of their individual passions for philanthropy together and created the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation, which funnels large sums of money to conservation groups. To kick off their foundation, they donated $1 million to Doctors Without Borders and Global Action for Children. The couple has been internationally recognized as some of the world’s most influential philanthropists and they continue to give back to the world.
 
Pitt, Clooney, Don Cheadle, Matt Damon, David Pressman, and Jerry Weintraub together founded Not On Our Watch, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “focus global attention and resources towards putting an end to mass atrocities around the world.” NOOW strives to educate and inform people of the unfair treatment, harsh living conditions, and crime occurring in places like Darfur, Burma, and Zimbabwe.
 
In addition to founding Not On Our Watch, Clooney and Damon have done numerous work with other philanthropic organizations and have spent much of their time working to make the world a better place.
 
In 2008, George Clooney was made a UN Messenger of Peace to promote Not On Our Watch’s peacekeeping activities around the world. He has done extensive traveling through Sudan and has been particularly involved as an activist there, even being present when the newest African country was created during the successful referendum, South Sudan.
 
Matt Damon’s main focus is slightly unique from Brad, Angelina, and Clooney -- he is a co-founder of Water.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating clean, safe, and accessible water supplies in underdeveloped countries. Water.org has brought clean water to over 300,000 families since its work began. Damon travels through Africa regularly to raise awareness and work hands-on at Water.org project sites. He is extremely passionate about helping those in need and donates a large some of his income to the cause of clean water and to decrease global hunger.
 
Numerous actors, actresses, musicians, athletes, and celebrities are involved in assisting humanitarian crises around the world and strive to inspire the young people of America to get involved with philanthropic non-profit organizations.
 
I am no Oprah Winfrey or Bono, but I too involved myself in helping those in need by becoming a global volunteer in Ghana. What these celebrities have decided to do with their talents and income is inspirational to say the least, and you do not need to have a large fortune as they do to make difference -- you too can act on their inspiring movements and involve yourself as I did.
 
Going to Ghana was the experience of a lifetime that I will keep close to my heart for the rest of my life. Upon my departure from Becky’s Orphanage Home, I pledged my loyalty to the beautiful children who live there and need our help. Today, I am working to raise at least $10,000 to help save Becky’s Orphanage Home from famine, disease, and fear of loosing a roof over their heads.
 
Helping those in need is an unbelievable way to spend your time and money, but the love and appreciation that those adults and children give to you in your time there, is more substantial than any monetary value.
 
Taking a trip to a developing country where volunteer help is needed is something that should be added to so many people's bucket lists. Assisting with humanitarian crises around the world is an unbelievable way to spend time and money. Although it may seem expensive and hard to get to Africa, with fundraising and the help of others, anything is possible. Making a difference to adults and children who dream of clean water and safe living conditions could change your own life even more than those who you are helping. 
 
 
If you are inspired by my story and want to make a difference, you can help by making a donation or simply by becoming a supporter to “Help Save Becky’s Orphanage Home”. Click the link below and see how easily you can make a difference! Your change starts here.
 
 
Some other celebrities who are making a significant contribution to the world with worthy causes include:
 
- Bill and Melinda Gates: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funnels a huge amount of money to Africa from Bill Gates’ Microsoft fortune. The foundation mainly focuses on destroying malaria, but lately has been working to eradicate cholera.
 
- Bono: His foundation ONE works to create economic equality and justice in African countries, as well as improving the AIDS epidemic
 
- Ben Affleck: Founded the Eastern Congo Initiative which works to improve the lives of victims who have experienced sexual violence, vulnerable children, instill peace, improve health care crises, and economic equality
 
- Oprah Winfrey: Among her numerous foundations and philanthropic endeavors, The Oprah Winfrey Operating Foundation works to give money towards the Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.
 
And the list goes on.
 
How can YOU make a difference?
 
 
 
- Samantha Blum, YH Staff