These famous actors aren’t resting on awards and accolades; check out 10 big-hearted stars who are changing the world by running their own charities.
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
If his speech at this year’s Oscars didn’t give it away, DiCaprio takes climate change very seriously. The actor is a U.N. Messenger of Peace for the Climate, and his namesake foundation has been protecting the world’s oceans, wildlife, forests, and more since 1998. The charity operates a variety of initiatives all over the world, issues millions of dollars in grant money to support “the long-term health and well-being of all Earth’s inhabitants,” and utilizes social media and the public consciousness to bring attention to a variety of important environmental issues.
Mariska Hargitay, The Joyful Heart Foundation
As the fictional Det. Olivia Benson on 17 seasons of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” Hargitay understands the pain that sexual assault survivors can bare. Inspired by fan mail from viewers struggling to recover from their own real-life ordeals, Hargitay set out to help survivors across the country with her charity, the Joyful Heart Foundation. Now in its 12th year, the foundation offers healing, education, and advocacy to victims of sexual assault through a variety of initiatives and survivor retreats, and partners with law enforcement to narrow the nation’s rape kit backlog.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, The Maddox Jolie-Pitt Foundation
Nearly as famous for their charitable work as they are for their on-screen efforts, Jolie and Pitt launched their namesake charity in 2006 with $1 million donations to Doctors Without Borders and Global Action for Children. Their philanthropic organization seeks to help refugees and aid in humanitarian work where it is most necessary through the world, focusing on impoverished countries and children in need. In addition to the Jolie-Pitt’s own in-person advocacy, the foundation has donated many more millions of dollars to groups including the Namibia Red Cross and the Daniel Pearl Foundation.
Matt Damon, The H2O Africa Foundation
Formed in conjunction with the 2009 documentary “Running the Sahara,” this NGO was the brainchild of Matt Damon and his producing partners. Now known as water.org, the foundation is committed to bringing clean water to millions of people worldwide and making large strides to permanently end the international water crisis.
Don Cheadle, Not On Our Watch
Dedicated to “robust advocacy and research in support of global human rights,” this non-profit boasts actors Cheadle, George Clooney, Damon, and Brad Pitt as its board members, along with author and human rights activist John Prendergast. Currently focused on aiding victims of conflict in Darfur, Burma, and Zimbabwe, Not On Our Watch engages with international policy makers and advocates for groups “not typically prioritized by the international community.”
Bette Midler, New York Restoration Project
Helmed by New York–based legend of the stage and screen Midler, this charity creates green spaces in underserved communities throughout NYC. The project has improved life for thousands of city residents through the development of unused outdoor areas, bringing neighborhoods together and creating sustainable community gardens and parks that will have an impact for generations to come. The project’s current missions include planting one million new trees by 2017, sprucing up dozens of city parks and gardens, and revitalizing the underappreciated upper Manhattan waterfront.
Eva Longoria, The Eva Longoria Foundation
Founded in 2012 to “help Latinas build better futures for themselves and their families through education and entrepreneurship,” Longoria’s namesake foundation brings incredible family-based programming to women and children throughout the country. Longoria focuses her efforts on raising awareness about issues facing Latinas and on creating a network of educational and mentorship opportunities to help young Latinas reach their full potential, and also aids Latina business owners with training and small business loans.
Hugh Jackman, The Laughing Man Foundation
This charity from Australian star Jackman makes the world laugh by providing educational and entrepreneurial opportunities to thousands of individuals in need of a boost. Laughing Man changes lives by spreading “personal initiative, collective action, and community awareness” to needy communities. In Jackman’s words, “It doesn’t matter where we come from, what we want is opportunity. This is about livelihoods, this is about change, this is about hope.”
Emma Watson, HeForShe
“Harry Potter” actor and Global Goodwill Ambassador of UN Women Watson spearheaded this worldwide campaign to transform the way we look at feminism, powered by the United Nations. The initiative calls upon all genders to stand together in the pursuit of equal rights for all: “It’s not just a women’s issue, it’s a human rights issue.” Watson’s star power has given the campaign a major push; #heforshe is prompting important conversations throughout the world, and inspiring up and coming generations to mobilize for change.
Bonus: Watch her beatbox while “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda raps about gender equality.
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