By Tim Saunders on
Movie star Scarlett Johansson has made a significant donation to a school in Sri Lanka, following her visit there earlier this year.
The 22 year old travelled to India and Sri Lanka with aid workers from Oxfam for 10 days in February. During the trip, Johansson visited schools and healthcare facilities, met with women who had experienced domestic violence, and also talked to survivors of the 2005 Tsunami.
“Having visited Oxfam-funded school programs in rural communities, it has made me realise how vital education is to developing countries,” said the star of “Lost In Translation” and “The Island”. “It brings people out of poverty and gives them a sense of dignity, self-worth, and confidence.”
Johansson was especially moved after spending time with children in Sri Lanka’s poverty stricken Dalit community.
“The most gratifying opportunity was visiting a Dalit school,” she said. “The Dalit community in Sri Lanka is considered the lowest status in the caste system, and children as young as four are working in the fields.”
“I met a young girl named Gudiya at the Dalit school. She was an amazing, bright young girl, full of ambition and attending fifth grade. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she said “a government official”. Every morning she rises at 3am to study and then completes the household chores, before walking for half an hour to school. I asked her how she felt she would be able to raise her family and also hold a government position. She responded confidently “I can manage!” Her self pride and drive to succeed was an obvious outcome from her schooling."
There are over 40 million Dalits living in India and Sri Lanka, most of them working in slave-like conditions to pay off debts incurred in previous generations. The majority of Dalits live in segregation, and there are 110,000 registered cases of violence, murder, rape, and atrocities involving their communities every year.
“Hopefully the money I have given will financially support the school there for the next three years,” said Johansson.
“By supporting Oxfam, Scarlett is making a stand alongside millions of people globally who are working to overcome poverty,” said Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam’s Executive Director. “Her support is crucial in helping to show how the smallest donation to Oxfam can mean the world of difference to a poor community.”
Johansson will continue with her philanthropic endeavours early next year, when she is expected to visit US troops stationed overseas for the United Service Organization.
“She will make the trip in early 2008, for about a week,” said a representative. “We can’t give out more information than that for security reasons”.
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