Celebrities support good causes in South Africa

Powerhouse celebrities like Jared Leto, Charlize Theron and Victoria Beckham all have an interest in South Africa through their charity work.

Charlize Theron shakes hands with one of the patients at a hospital that specializes in treating victims of sexual violence against women. (Image: UN /Marie Frechon)

Priya Pitamber

Powerhouse celebrities like Jared Leto, Charlize Theron and Victoria Beckham all have an interest in South Africa through their charity work. Good causes across the country are reaping rewards under the spotlight that these A-listers are shining on them.

Charlize Theron

Benoni-born Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron has a soft spot for her home country. In 2007, she set up the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP), which focuses on the youth in Africa and keeping them safe from HIV/Aids.

The project provides support in the form of grants and networking for a number of organisations already in the field working with young people between the ages of 10 and 20. “Although the geographic scope of CTAOP is sub-Saharan Africa,” reads the website, “the primary area of focus has been Charlize’s home country of South Africa, which has the highest number of people living with HIV in the world.”

“An entire generation was wiped out because of a disease that nobody wanted to talk about,” Theron said. “But the truth of the matter is certain pockets of people are falling through the cracks and if we don’t go all the way where there are zero infections and zero people dying from this, this is a disease that will come back warring.” The reality of stopping Aids altogether was around the corner; this was her driving force. “We can stop Aids.”

“Although there is no cure, treatment is available,” reads the CTAOP website. “Infection rates are dropping and more people are on treatment than ever before. But the fight is not over, and the epidemic is disproportionately affecting specific locations and populations.”

Jared Leto

The 30 Seconds to Mars front-man and Academy Award-winning actor, Jared Leto, has been named a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) global ambassador. “In this role, Leto will work with WWF to raise awareness of the most urgent, critical issues facing our planet,” said the fund.

He travelled to South Africa in this role to learn more about rhino poaching and what the WWF was doing to help stop it – and he described his adventure in the country as mind-blowing. “Being that close to majestic creatures like rhinos and elephants reminds me of the deep connection and important responsibility we have to protect and shepherd these fragile species and their habitats.”

Leto visited And Beyond Phinda Game Reserve in North Uthungulu in KwaZulu-Natal as part of a team sent to tag and collar three rhino in a translocation initiative. Those rhinos, along with others, will eventually be moved to an undisclosed location to boost breeding efforts.

“Unless we want our children to learn about rhinos from history books, we need to act now,” Leto said. “That’s one of the reasons why I support WWF for doing incredible work, getting results. So please join me in supporting WWF. Thank you.”

“Oh, what is that? The rhino thanks you as well. I’ve been practising speaking rhino. It’s a difficult language. Once you get the knack of it, it’s pretty nice.” – Jared Leto

“The world needs to wake up to the fact that we’re losing rhinos, elephants and other critically important species,” said Carter Roberts, the president and chief executive of WWF US. “Their recovery lies in our hands. We need strong voices that can mobilise the efforts of many and I’m grateful to Jared Leto for lending his reputation and passion to the cause.”

Rhino poaching numbers Rhino poaching has been growing since 2007. (Image: Eco Watch)

Victoria Beckham

Once a Spice Girl and now a world famous designer and UN Goodwill Ambassador, Victoria Beckham has also added her voice to the fight against Aids in South Africa. On behalf of UN Aids and the Elton John Aids Foundation (EJAF) she visited Soweto in Johannesburg to meet women, children and community workers affected by the disease.

“Elton is a very dear friend of mine and David’s and we’ve been patrons of the Elton John Aids Foundation for 20 years so I have been working a lot with lots of Aids charities,” she told UK Glamour magazine.

She sold over 600 items from her own wardrobe to help raise money to support mothers living with HIV. “As a mother I want nothing but a healthy future for my children and that’s all any mother would wish for,” Beckham said.

See Beckham’s tweets about her visit:

Anne Aslett, the executive director of the EJAF, travelled to South Africa with Beckham. “It was fantastic to see how Victoria connected with young women, young mothers and their children,” Aslett said. “Her energy and commitment to engage and learn from everyone we met was inspiring. I want to personally thank Victoria for the recent trip.”

Jenna Coleman

British actress Jenna Coleman came to the public’s attention in the sci-fi series Doctor Who; she cemented her reputation in her debut feature film role in Captain America: The First Avenger.

As one of the ambassadors – the other is actress Naomie Harris – for One to One Children’s Fund, Coleman travelled to the coastal city of Port Elizabeth in late 2014. She came to see the work the fund does to support parents and children affected by HIV, and how it created awareness to help prevent transmission of HIV from mother to child.

“Our aim, to build a one-to-one relationship of mutual trust and regard with local communities and to invest the time, skills and careful funding that would make the most positive difference to the quality of children’s lives,” reads the fund’s website.

“The first challenge is getting people to attend the clinics and be tested,” said Coleman. “The stigma around the disease prevents people from seeking help and sticking to their treatment.”

See more about her visit here:

“Working alongside the Department of Health,” adds the One to One website, “52 trained community health workers ensure that members of the community, predominantly pregnant women, access essential treatment and care.” In six months, they undertook 962 home visits to HIV-positive women, where they reinforced the importance of treatment.

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