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Angelina Jolie Visits Ecuador And Meets With Refugees AS UNHCR Special Envoy

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 04/23/2012 2:34 pm Updated: 04/23/2012 3:37 pm

Exactly one week after confirming her plans to marry Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie already has a new engagement—in Ecuador.

The Oscar-winning actress, who was recently named the UN refugee agency’s new Special Envoy for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, visited Ecuador this weekend in her first field visit since being appointed to her new position this month. She spent time with refugees by the San Miguel River, in Ecuador.

"Her work does go substantially beyond what we would typically see as being the normal role of a goodwill ambassador," Geneva-based UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters late last week, noting that Special Envoys are unpaid positions.

"I don't think you need a rocket scientist to see the benefits that she is bringing in terms of the attention that she is getting for the plight of the world's displaced," Edwards added.

In her two-day visit, Jolie visited refugees in urban and remote areas of Sucumbios province in the north of the country and met senior government officials in the capital Quito. On Saturday, she made a return visit to the San Valentin neighborhood of Lago Agrio, the capital of Sucumbios province, and on Sunday Jolie visited two remote refugee communities on the banks of the San Miguel Rivera, which marks the border with Colombia.

Jolie also visited the Providencia community of 24 Afro-Colombian refugee families, an isolated community established in 1994 by refugees fleeing violence in Colombia. “I really encourage the government to continue their tradition of assistance to vulnerable families in need,” Jolie said.

On Sunday, Jolie met with the Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino to discuss the protection situation for refugees in Ecuador.

Ecuador currently hosts some 56,000 refugees, 21,000 asylum-seekers and continues to receive 1,300 new applications for protection each month from people fleeing Colombia’s ongoing violence. Many of these refugees live in the remote and poor northern areas of the country close to the Colombian border.

Last week, Jolie was appointed as Special Envoy of High Commissioner Antonio Guterres after serving for more than a decade as UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassador.

Check out this slideshow of Latino Celebrity Philanthropists

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  • Juanes

    Since starting his solo career in 2000, Juanes has been active in humanitarian causes in his native Colombia. He founded the organization, <a href="" target="_hplink">Fundacion Mi Sangre</a>, which works with underprivileged Colombian children through the Educacion Para La Paz (Education For Peace Program). But he has said his most passionate cause is his work with <a href="" target="_hplink"> victims of anti-personnel mines. </a> <a href="" target="_hplink">By 2010, Juanes' foundation had helped more than 1,500 victims of anti-personnel mines. In addition, more than 46,000 children received assistance from the Education For Peace Program. </a> This picture was taken at <a href="" target="_hplink">Comuna 13 </a> a shantytown in Medellin, Colombia, during a concert for International Peace Day in September 2010.

  • Eva Longoria

    As Gabrielle Solis in ABC's Desperate Housewives, Eva Longoria plays a shallow, money-driven housewife with little time for anyone but herself and her friends on Wisteria Lane. But that portrayal is far removed from the real-life Longoria, <a href="" target="_hplink">the ALMA award</a> producer who has dedicated a big part of her time to charitable causes. A recent project, "Padres Contra El Cancer" ("Parents Against Cancer"), is a non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life of Latino children with cancer and their families. <a href="" target="_hplink"> Longoria was awarded the "Latina Visionary and Community Empowerment Award" for her contributions at the 21st National Hispanic Women's Conference, the Hispanic Women's Corporation.</a> In 2011, Longoria <a href="" target="_hplink">co-produced The Harvest / La Cosecha</a>, a documentary which shines a light on the terrible conditions facing migrant worker children and hopes to encourage passage of <a href="" target="_hplink">The Children's Act for Responsible Employment (CARE Act)</a>. This picture was taken at the Padres Contra El Cancer annual gala at The Hollywood Palladium in 2010.

  • Rosario Dawson

    Rosario Dawson is co-founder of Voto Latino,<a href="" target="_hplink"> a dynamic and growing non-partisan organization with civic engagement campaigns that have reached 55 million Latino households nationwide. Voto Latino is dedicated to bringing new and diverse voices into the political process by engaging youth, media, technology and celebrities to promote positive change. </a> But Dawson's philanthropic work extends beyond Latinos. The actress has taken part in<a href="" target="_hplink">"Stay Close," </a>a campaign to encourage parents, families, and friends to remain close to lesbians, gays and bisexual people in their lives. Dawson also did a reading at the 2011 <a href="" target="_hplink">"Any One of Us: Words From Prison"</a> event, <a href="" target="_hplink">where performers used words and song to highlight the connection between violence against women and incarceration.</a> The picture above was taken during Dawson's runway walk at Fashion For Relief on May 2011. All proceeds went to victims of the earthquake that struck Japan on March 2011.

  • George Lopez

    George Lopez is best known for comedy, but when it comes to philanthropic causes the Mexican-American TV host is extremely serious. Lopez was one of the first celebrities to lend a hand after a massive earthquake struck Haiti in 2010. He threw a benefit concert <a href="" target="_hplink">"Help Haiti With George Lopez" </a> with various musicians and comedians. All the proceeds from the event went to the earthquake victims. Lopez also founded <a href="" target="_hplink">The Lopez Foundation</a>, which seeks to "create positive change" for underprivileged children and families facing health and educational challenges. <a href="" target="_hplink">In addition, Lopez has been a spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation</a> since his wife donated a kidney after Lopez required a transplant in 2005. This picture was taken at the 2011 ALMA award ceremony hosted by Lopez.

  • Shakira

    Known mainly for dancing and musical talent, the Colombian singer Shakira was recently honored as <a href="" target="_hplink">2011 Person Of The Year by the Latin Recording Academy. </a> The award took into account not only her musical accomplishment but also her worldwide humanitarian efforts, including her leadership of the <a href="" target="_hplink">Pies Descalzos Foundation, </a>which opens educational opportunities to underprivileged children in Colombia. <a href="" target="_hplink">The foundation opened five schools in different regions of the country, serving more than 4,000 children with educational, nutritional and psychological support. </a> <a href="" target="_hplink">Shakira also has worked as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador</a>. In this picture, she sits with a woman to learn how women process rice grains in Modhu Shudanpur village of the Rajshahi district in Bangladesh. As a UNICEF ambassador, Shakira toured coastal villages of the South Asian nation that were affected by the November 2007 cyclone.

  • Enrique Iglesias

    The Spanish pop music singer is an impassioned advocate of environmental causes. He was part of the 2007 Live Earth concert to raise awareness about environmental issues. Iglesias has said that he participated in Live Earth after watching <a href="" target="_hplink">"the documentary [An Inconvenient Truth] and wanted to get involved, so I had my manager make some calls". </a> Iglesias has also supported <a href="" target="_hplink">Habitat For Humanity</a>,<a href="" target="_hplink"> Help for Heroes</a> and the <a href="" target="_hplink">Muscular Dystrophy Association</a>. This picture was taken at the Latin GRAMMY Awards at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Nov. 11.

  • Jennifer Lopez

    The New York native of Puerto Rican descent is an avid supporter of charitable causes, especially helping sick children. In 2009 she received the "Mother's Who Make A Difference" award from Love Our Children USA, <a href="" target="_hplink"> a national nonprofit group.</a> In 2010, JLo helped raise $6.7 million for AIDS Research at a gala she co-hosted in France during the Cannes Film Festival. This picture was taken at the "Noche de Ninos Gala" benefiting Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles. Lopez was invited after her launch of <a href="" target="_hplink">The Maribel Foundation, a charity named after Marc Anthony's sister, who died of a brain tumor. The charity allows specialists in LA hospitals to treat children around the world using telecommunication technology.</a>

  • Adriana Lima

    The Victoria's Secret Angel and world-renowned super model, Adriana Lima, dedicates her time to helping the needy in Brazil. In her native city of Salvador, Bahia, <a href="" target="_hplink">she helped construct and expand the city's orphanage Caminhos da Luz (Ways of Light.) </a> She also helps buy clothes for impoverished children in Bahia.

  • Calle 13

    Calle 13 has created a partnership with UNICEF, MTV Latin America and Tr3s: MTV, Musica y Mas to launch the global campaign <a href="" target="_hplink">"MTV EXIT"</a> in Latin America and spanish-speaking communities in the US. "MTX Exit" aims to raise awareness and prevention on exploitation and human trafficking. Frontman Rene Perez directed the documentary <a href="" target="_hplink">"Invisible Slaves"</a> ("Esclavo Invisibles") which follows the story of four victims of human trafficking and exploitation. The subjects talk about how they were first deceived, then abused and how they finally gained freedom. It was shot in Tapachula, Mexico. The documentary was produced by UNICEF.

  • Rico Rodriguez

    Rico Rodriguez who plays Manny Delgado, Sofia Vergara's son in Modern Family, recently joined the <a href="" target="_hplink">"Thanks and Giving"</a> Campaign at the Los Angeles St. Jude Children's Hospital. He raided Kmart's toy department where he stocked up on Christmas gifts for children at the hospital fighting cancer and other deadly diseases.

  • Marc Anthony

    Puerto Rican salsa superstar Marc Anthony co-founded The Maestro Cares Foundation with Colombian-born entrepreneur Henry Cárdenas in January 2012. The non-profit foundation aims to help organizations in Latin America that work with disadvantaged children. In August 2012, the singer-songwriter and his foundation, Maestro Cares, hosted a <a href="" target="_hplink">fundraiser at Chicago's Sofitel Water Tower that raised over $100,000</a> to complete a residence hall and learning facility for over 200 children at Orfanato Niños de Cristo (Children of Christ Orphanage) in the Dominican Republic, according to a communiqué by the foundation.

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