Angelina Jolie Inspires International Adoptions

ByABC News via logo
October 1, 2005, 7:57 AM

Oct. 1, 2005 — -- When cameras follow the actress Angelina Jolie, it's not just down the red carpet. It's often a very long way from Hollywood.

Two important roles have taken Jolie around the world -- her roles as U.N. goodwill ambassador, and as mother of her son, Maddox, and new daughter, Zahara.

"They're the greatest little people I've ever met, and they give me so much joy," Jolie said.

Both of Jolie's children are adopted. Maddox came from Cambodia four years ago, and Zahara came from Ethiopia, where she fought to stay alive in a world of hunger and desperation.

"She had a choice of life or death -- because some children that were in a very similar situation to her passed away at that time, [kids] who didn't get out in time," Jolie said.

Jolie managed to get Zahara out at 6 months old. She was one of the lucky ones.

"A child dies, I think the stats are, every three seconds in Africa from completely preventable diseases, for the most part," said Sarah Mraz, director of child programs at Wide Horizons for Children, a private, nonprofit adoption and child welfare agency in Waltham, Mass., that places children from 10 countries, including the United States, with U.S. families.

"The reason these children are placed with international families is because they cannot be cared for in their country of origin," she added.

When Jolie arrived back in the U.S. from her last adoption trip, the cameras started clicking again. She and little Zahara graced the covers of numerous magazines, and the public took note.

"I remember being at the store and seeing Angelina on the cover of, I think it was People magazine," said Ann-Charles Watt, "and I said, 'Oh my gosh! We can do this.' "

Watt and her husband, Jason Hillard, residents of Athens, Ohio, wanted to adopt a child. When they saw Jolie on that magazine cover with her adopted daughter, their decision to raise a child from Ethiopia was clear.

"In the grand scheme of things, she changed our lives," Watt said. "It's kind of hilarious to think of, but yeah, Angelina Jolie probably brought us an African child."