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Save the Children's Newest Artist Ambassador Hopes to Create Lasting Change


Some of Hollywood's brightest stars are helping shine a light on some of the world's neediest youngsters. They are serving as artist ambassadors for Save the Children, a leading international organization helping children in need around the world. Gwenyth Paltrow is working for newborn survival, America Ferrara champions education, Ben Affleck sheds light on the crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Joely Fisher recently returned from a trip promoting child sponsorship in Mozambique. The actress told VOA's Faiza Elmasry that during her visit, she saw the daily hardship families and children there are facing and came home more determined than ever to do something to help them.

Actress Joely Fisher is Save the Children's newest artist ambassador.

"Having been asked was an incredible blessing and a privilege," she says. "I took it very seriously."

So seriously, in fact, that when the organization asked her to travel to Mozambique, she didn't hesitate to leave her family and go.

"I have a lot of children. I have five, [ranging in age] from 22 years old to 6 weeks," she says. "I have sort of a very big life and responsibilities. I asked my children, 'Hey, listen, is it OK if I go and see what's happening over in that part of the world and leave you a little short time?' I'm sure that they understood what I was doing."

During her eight-day trip, Fisher got a firsthand look at the challenges facing Mozambique's children. Most families in the country's rural areas rely solely on rain-grown crops for their living. That makes their harvest extremely vulnerable to floods, drought and crop diseases. In addition, Fisher says, HIV and AIDS are taking a heavy toll.

"It's hard to explain unless you've seen it," she says. "It is a generation that is completely wiped out by HIV and AIDS, and so you have this smattering of a few older people. When I say older, you know, the life expectancy is not very old.

"So you see a few of these older people, these grandmas that I met. Then you meet an entire generation of children that has basically no parents. They are taking care of themselves. With that, I mean really struggling to survive."

Fisher says the visit opened her eyes to the struggles of children in Mozambique. While there, she filmed Faces of Poverty, Eyes of Hope, a TV program that will bring those children's stories into American homes.

"It's an hour [long] program," she says. "I'm going to walk you through six stories, and the stories, one after the next, are amazing - [the stories] of Maria, of Rebecca, of Nelza, of these little boys.

"It's an amazing thing to look at a child, Maria, who is 8 years old, who is taking care of her grandmother - who can't walk or see - and her sister with cerebral palsy, who is a little bit older than her and can't walk. She is working in her field. She is making all the meals. She is trying to get to school. She is trying to do all the things a regular child wants to do. And it's just next to impossible without the funds that we send over there, and it's such a meager amount."

Those funds from Save the Children support efforts in Mozambique and other poor countries to provide children with clean water, nutritious meals and better education. When she was in Mozambique, Fisher visited one of those projects.

"My sister, she went with me," she says. "We walked up to one of the success schools, where we are actually doing good over there as Save the Children. They are building a handicapped ramp up to their school. The parents are doing it. When we walked up and people were singing. It was everything you could imagine."

Fisher hopes sharing such stories will raise awareness and encourage more Americans to donate money and sponsor a child through Save the Children.

"I do know the financial, economic climate right now is sort of near devastation," she says. "I do understand this is a concern, but if there is a small amount [of money] you can put aside, that you say, 'I'd like to give to something,' I feel like these children might be the ones."

Visiting Mozambique, she says, was a life-changing experience for her. As much as she was moved by the faces of the poor children there, she says, she was deeply inspired by the hope in their eyes.

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