Dec. 18, 2010— -- Two superstars -- one a world-famous actress and one a world-renowned scientist -- have teamed up to bring aid to vulnerable children around the world.
Oscar winner Angelina Jolie and Harvard researcher Dr. Anne Goldfeld, who co-directs the Global Health Committee, turned a chance meeting into an opportunity to help Cambodian children stricken with HIV and tuberculosis live full, healthy lives.
The two women met while flying into Cambodia in 2004, where Jolie was filming the hit "Tomb Raider" sequel and Goldfeld was returning to provide medical aid to children in need. The conversation the two struck up led to Jolie lending her support and funding for a center to bolster Goldfeld's efforts.
"There, sitting next to me, was Angelina Jolie," Goldfeld said of that fateful flight. "I think I was so jet-lagged that I had the temerity to say, 'You're Angelina Jolie, aren't you?'"
Once they arrived in Cambodia, Goldfeld ended up taking Jolie to the dilapidated hospital where she was treating adults and children wasting away from diseases like AIDS and its common co-infection, tuberculosis.
Goldfeld, a professor at Harvard's Immune Disease Institute, also told Jolie that children with AIDS in Cambodia often don't get the care they need to survive, and are often stigmatized and cast out.
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According to current estimates, approximately 14,000 Cambodian children are infected with HIV, and mother-to-child transmission of AIDS is one of the major causes of new infections.
After her visit to the hospital, Jolie decided to partner with Goldfeld on a new project to bring relief to Cambodian children. The result is The Maddox Chivan Children's Center, named for Jolie's Cambodian-born adopted son. The daycare facility for children afflicted by and affected by HIV opened in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh in February 2006.
Here, ostracized children who've been kept out of school due to illness or social stigma are cared for and brought up to grade level. Children who need drugs are taught -- along with their parents -- how to administer the drugs, which if taken consistently, can keep them alive indefinitely.
Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt are actively engaged in the project, and have visited. ABC News' Dan Harris and a camera crew were also granted a tour of the facility recently with Goldfeld, who praised the center's superstar benefactors.
"They're very serious actors and they're very serious humanitarians, they are role models for all of us" Goldfeld said.
So far the Center has created some remarkable success stories. Yi How, a Cambodian boy, was on death's door, suffering from AIDS and tuberculosis, when Goldfeld met him in 2006. His mother had recently died and he said he wanted to go to heaven to be with her.
Today, thanks to help from the Maddox Center, How is happy and healthy -- and an aggressive soccer player.
"He got rid of his TB in six months, and now he's completely stable. He's 10, does great in school and he lives with his dad," Goldfeld told ABC News. The center offers treatment, education, and hope to some of Cambodia's most vulnerable children.