Penelope has volunteered in countries worldwide, including Nepal, Uganda and India, helping poverty-stricken and ill people around the globe.

Time spent working with Mother Teresa, including assisting in a leprosy clinic, led her to found an organization supporting homeless girls in India. The salary from her first film, The Hi-Lo Country, was donated to Mother Teresa’s mission.

Cruz told Marie Claire in an interview: “To spend a week with Mother Teresa? I was more excited to do that than to get the greatest movie. When you are there, you feel more useful than at any time in your life.”

Her work hasn’t all been performed in remote areas; she has spent time visiting former gang-members at the Pacific Lodge Boys' Home, a school she learned about from Matthew McConaughey.

One 16-year-old resident felt so inspired after a 20 minute private conversation with her, he said, “I told her I didn’t want to do drugs anymore, that I wanted to be somebody, and she told me that I should do it, that I could do it.”

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