Keira Knightley’s Visit To South Sudan Proves Celebrity Charity Work Can Be A Force For Good

Her visit comes as Steve Coogan says celebrity attachment to charitable causes, such as Angelina Jolie campaigning to end war rape, is ‘off-putting’…


by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

After South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011 (basically the bottom half of the country voted to become a separate state), it has sadly been subjected to a deadly civil war and famine that has resulted in 1.5m people being displaced from their homes.

Almost a quarter of a million of these people live in UN peacekeeping bases as refugees, and on the third anniversary of the country’s formation, Keira Knightley recently took a trip to one of the refugee camps in South Sudan with Oxfam to draw awareness to diplaced people’s plight. Why her? Well, she explained this to the refugees who wondered the very same. ‘When those refugees asked me, “Who are you?” I really, really wished I could have said, “I’m a doctor,” or something else useful. Instead I told them, “I am somebody who is going to ask people to give lots of money to Oxfam, so they can help you.”

Keira was surprised by what she saw. ‘I’d never been in a post-conflict zone. I’d never experienced the incredible, palpable atmosphere of terror or smelled the breathtaking stench of sewage from tens of thousands of people crammed together with nowhere to go and nothing to do but wait.’

When asked by The Telegraph if she cried on her visit, she shook her head. ‘I didn’t cry when I was there. What bloody right would I have to cry when the people I met, who were living in as near to hell as I can imagine, weren’t crying?’

She was then asked what she would say to those who would call any celebrity foray into humanitarian work as ‘doing an Angelina’, she replied, ‘I admire Angelina Jolie hugely. I don’t think I could ever be anything like as impressive or authoritative as she is on the world stage. She’s pretty much devoting her life to her causes, and that’s a great thing, a great message. I’m always happy to help in any small way I can.’

Her visit comes just as Steve Coogan said that Angelina Jolie’s campaigning to end rape being used as a mass weapon in war zones is ‘off-putting’. Speaking to Alistair Campbell, the former spin doctor for Tony Blair’s government, he said, ‘Though I have been involved politically, I find people who are in the public eye for something else who suddenly start voicing opinions about everything else quite irritating,’

When asked by Campbell, who was interviewing him for GQ magazine, reports The Independent: ‘What? Like Angelina Jolie going out campaigning with William Hague?’ Coogan replied, ‘I do find it a bit off-putting. If you are trying to do something charitable there is always a double-edged sword, because it is good PR for the celebrity. Better to do it than not do it, but I have much more respect for a celebrity that goes out [campaigning] about something really difficult.’

Coogan himself is a prominent supporter Hacked Off campaign, after having his phone hacked by journalists at The News of The World. Of course, press intrusion into people’s private lives a very important issue. But is it really more difficult than addressing war rape committed internationally, affecting women, men and children in a hundred countries?

Ugh. Still, instead of getting angry, head to Oxfam’s website to donate what you can, because, as Keira puts it, ‘Give. Give. Give. Please. The unfolding catastrophe is so much bigger than any one actress can solve.’

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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