When the average America thinks of high-profile humanitarian work, she probably thinks of Angelina Jolie. Of all the activist celebrities, only Jolie has become a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations. She’s a glamorous celebrity, and I think that makes it easy to dismiss her, but in truth she has helped an extraordinary number of people. From the point of view of my very non-Hollywood life, she seems superhuman. She has six kids, acts in movies, and manages to devote a huge percentage of her time traveling to far off places to give back. I think we should all be looking to her for guidance. She has all the privilege in the world and yet, she uses her power for good! She could be basking in the spotlight, frolicking in the Riviera, and showing off her crazy handsome fiance. Instead, she works hard, every day, to make the world a better place.
I find the Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation particularly inspiring. It’s an organization Jolie founded in her oldest son’s name, to improve conditions in his birth country. “MJP is dedicated to eradicating extreme rural poverty, protecting natural resources, and conserving wildlife.” Their projects promote sustainable rural economies to directly improve the health of communities, wildlife and forests. The organization was founded in 2003 as a conservation initiative based in the endangered Cardamom Mountains’ northern territory, home to many endangered species, forests, and freshwater farms. Since then it has expanded to include projects focused on reforestation, park management, community protected areas, and integrated rural development.
Other organizations can learn a great deal from MJP. Their website is simple and direct with a clear message. They have an About Us section with information on the background of their core staff. They don’t have a strong social media presence and don’t have any community-building features (forums, comments, etc.) Perhaps having a celebrity founder eliminates the need for a strong marketing presence. MJP seems focused on their projects, not on the flashiness of their presentation. Also conspicuously absent are guidelines for volunteers. I suspect this is because they are looking for professionals, not your average vacation-style voluntourist or young, inexperienced gap-year volunteer.
MJP welcomes professional volunteers and interns for a minimum of 3 months. Volunteers work in the field in northwestern Cambodia, assisting teams of community development and wildlife law enforcement experts. Projects include: forest management, economic development (something we could use in this country too), food security, and education.
Here at Journeys for Good we are committed to growing a community of global citizens. We celebrate volunteer travel experiences, volunteer heroes, and organizations that make a difference.