Actress Rooney Mara, known to many for her roles in the films The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (American version) and The Social Network, is also heavily involved in something else that most people in the United States may not be aware of.
Rooney Mara is a global ambassador for Oxfam, an international relief and development organization. Oxfam is based in the idea that poverty is rooted in injustice, and that clean water and basic necessities are the right of every person.
Oxfam’s website says of Rooney Mara:
"The Academy Award nominated actress is a long term humanitarian who created her own foundation in 2008 to help fight the cycle of poverty children face in the slums of Kibera. She joined Oxfam in 2012 on a trip to South Sudan to meet refugees and has been back again in 2013 to bring attention and stop the flow of illegal weapons into vulnerable countries.”
Mara has now been on a total of three trips through South Sudan to observe and document what is happening in that country torn by civil war. What she has seen has convinced her that we here in the United States are not aware of what is actually happening there, but also that it will not stop unless and until we step in to help.
In a commentary for CNN, Mara recently wrote:
"What I saw on my three trips through South Sudan were people just like you and me. People with desires and needs. People in love. Mothers and fathers. Sisters and brothers. Friends and enemies. People with resilience, determination. But above all — hope."
Mara says that her time in South Sudan gave her many opportunities to see people who were not at war, but whose lives were torn by the war they found themselves in the middle of.
"At a camp for people who had crossed the Nile to escape the violence that destroyed their homes, a middle-aged Dinka man, who was easily 7 feet tall, told me that armed men had stolen all of his cows -- his main source of income. When I offered my sympathy for his loss, he smiled and said, 'Don't worry, I will get more cows.'"
While the American media may simplify what is going on in a faraway place like South Sudan by saying it is a war between tribes, an ethnic issue for the people within that country, Mara says that is not the reality there.
"People I met are opposed to -- and terrified by -- what's happening. But as the summer’s rains have ended and the roads are once again passable, the fighting has resumed and is likely to get worse in the coming weeks."
— United Nations (@UN) December 18, 2014
"Although the conflict has taken on an ethnic tone, people I spoke with were at pains to tell me that this wasn't a conflict between the Dinka and Nuer tribes, who have lived together, worked together, and intermarried for generations.
“‘When you have problems within your family,’ [one man] told me, ‘you sometimes can't solve it yourself; you need someone from outside to come in and help you reconcile.' His words were echoed by so many South Sudanese I spoke with, who highlighted the special role of the United States in helping the country achieve peace and gain its independence, and asked for America’s assistance again now."
Mara hopes that Americans will start to see South Sudan as she does, not as a distant place that they have no need to get involved in, but as as a country full of people more like themselves.
"Even now when I think of South Sudan, I don't think of war. I don't think of poverty and children with AK-47s. All of this exists within the country, but I think of the confident cattle herder who believes he will regain his lost cows, even in the face of such despair.
“It is for those people that the U.S. must act to keep that hope alive."
— UNA-USA (@unausa) December 18, 2014