Actress and refugee activist Angelina Jolie was among those in Washington today who honored a Congolese refugee, Rose Mapendo -- and the Cambridge organization she works with.
The emotion-filled event at the National Geographic Society headquarters this morning featured the presentation to Mapendo of the "humanitarian of the year" award from the US office of the United Nations refugee agency.
I wrote a story in the Globe today about Rose Mapendo and her extraordinary story of suffering and survival, and finally of escape, from the genocidal war in the Democratic Republic of Congo in February 2000.
|Rose Mapendo accepts UN "humanitarian of the year" award. Photo by J. Rae, courtesy UNHCR|
Mapendo's escape occurred thanks to Sasha Chanoff, the Marlborough, Mass., native who traveled to Kinshasa to handle the rescue of 113 Tutsi refugees who faced persecution and death in the Congo. Chanoff and his rescue team colleagues, from the International Organization for Migration, squeezed Mapendo and her nine hungry children aboard the last rescue flight.
Chanoff founded Mapendo International in 2005 to facilitate more rescues from Africa. Supported by Rose Mapendo and many others, Chanoff's group has rescued more than 4,600 refugees so far.
To a packed audience of 400 at the ceremony today, Rose Mapendo told her own story and told of her work with Chanoff in Mapendo International on behalf of many like her.
|Actress Angelina Jolie at World Refugee Day event today|
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also would have been there, but she broke her elbow in a fall last night on her way to the White House.
The ceremony comes two days before World Refugee Day. The UN agency, formally called the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, reported this week that there are 42 million people uprooted worldwide. that includes 16 million refugees and asylum seekers, and another 26 million internally displaced people in countries torn by war and conflict.
Jolie and her husband, Brad Pitt, donated $1 million to the UNHCR yesterday for its global work on behalf of refugees. Jolie has used her stardom to highlight the suffering of refugees as a UN roving ambassador since 2001.
Jolie told the gathering today: "I know the strength that diversity has given my country – a country built by what some would now dismiss as asylum-seekers and economic migrants – and I believe we must persuade the world that refugees must not be simply viewed as a burden. They are the survivors. And they can bring those qualities to the service of their communities and the countries that shelter them.
"The refugees I have met and spent time with have profoundly changed my life," Jolie added. "Today . . . I want to thank them for letting me into their lives."
About this blog
About James F. SmithJim Smith came home to his native Boston in 2002 to become the Boston Globe's foreign editor after spending 22 years abroad. He was previously based in Buenos Aires and Mexico City for the LA Times, and in Johannesburg, Tokyo and The Hague for the AP. In 2007 he became the Globe's national political editor, coordinating presidential campaign coverage. He is a Yale graduate, and has an MBA. He is married to Maxine Hart and has two sons, Matthew and Daniel.
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