12 pics of Angelina Jolie demanding the world help Syrian refugees.

Wherever Angelina Jolie goes, adoring fans will wait just to catch a glimpse of the Hollywood star.

Like in Athens, Greece, where the actor was greeted by crowds on March 16, 2016.


Photo by Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images.

But the families in the photo above couldn't be further away from the bright lights of Hollywood (or the comforts of home, for that matter). They're refugees staying in Greece's port of Piraeus.

Jolie, a UNHCR special envoy, dropped by the port on Wednesday to greet the refugees, most of whom fled Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan due to war.

Photo by Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images.

Jolie is also meeting with leaders there to reiterate the humanitarian group's commitment in helping Greece — where about 85% of all the Middle East's refugees have poured into Europe — to reinforce and expand resettlement efforts.

Her visit came just a day after a rainy trip to Lebanon, where she gave an emotional speech pleading for the world to do more to alleviate the refugee crisis.

Photo by Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images.

"Every Syrian refugee I have spoken to on this visit, without exception, talked of their desire to return home when the war is over and it is safe for them to do so," she said. "Not with resignation, but with the light in their eyes of people dreaming of being reunited with the country that they love."

In recent years, Jolie has become one of the most visible figures demanding action on the Syrian refugee crisis. Like in 2007, when she visited a camp in Damascus, where 1,200 people who'd been torn away from their communities were staying.

Photo by Morris Bernard/UN High Commissioner for Refugeesvia Getty Images.

Or when she met with an elderly woman, who was trapped inside an Iraqi camp, unable to leave due to violence in neighboring regions.

Photo by Morris Bernard/UN High Commissioner for Refugeesvia Getty Images.

In 2012, Jolie visited victims of war near the Syria-Jordan border.

Photo by Khalil Mazraawi/AFP/Getty Images.

At that time, more than 250,000 people had fled Syria due to conflict — now, that figure's closer to 4.8 million.

Jolie met with displaced families in Khanke last January, too, a few months before giving them a voice on the world stage at the UN.

Photo by Andrew McConnell/UNHCR via Getty Images.

"In 2011, the Syrian refugees I met were full of hope," Jolie said in a speech in front of the UN Security Council in April 2015 in New York City. "They said 'please, tell people what is happening to us,' trusting that the truth alone would guarantee international action."

"When I returned, hope was turning into anger: the anger of the man who held his baby up to me, asking, 'Is this a terrorist? Is my son a terrorist?' On my last visit in February, anger had subsided into resignation, misery and the bitter question, 'Why are we, the Syrian people, not worth saving?'”

And throughout all of these travels, she's had a special place in her heart for those most vulnerable in times of war: children.

Photo by J. Tanner/UNHCR via Getty Images.

Photo by Andrew McConnell/UNHCR via Getty Images.

Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images.

Her most recent visit with refugees, however, comes at an especially critical time.

A summit is underway this week in Brussels, with the European Union and Turkey hoping to finalize a resettlement strategy in the region by March 18.

The deal, however, hasn't been without controversy, as it could send thousands of Syrians who came to Greece unlawfully back to Turkey in exchange for "genuine" asylum seekers — a move some protesters say is both illegal and immoral, given international law regarding refugees.


Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images.

What's more, ISIS — the terror group that's uprooted millions of families now seeking refuge in Europe — is officially considered responsible for genocide, Secretary of State John Kerry announced on March 17.

The categorization reflects a grave situation unfolding where Jolie is working on the ground.

During this pivotal week, Jolie met with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in hopes of making sure helping refugees remains a top priority.

Photo by Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images.

"I am here to reinforce efforts by UNHCR and the Greek government to step up the emergency response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation," Jolie said in a press release. "I look forward to meeting authorities, partners and volunteers working on the ground to improve conditions and ensure the vulnerable are protected."

Photo by Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images.

Jolie may have a bigger megaphone than you when it comes to promoting action, but you shouldn't feel hopeless.

There are plenty of ways everyday people can fight for refugees, from spreading critical information on the crisis through social media channels, to lending a hand as a volunteer, or donating funds for support. Learn more about ways you can help here.

True

Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less