Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have spent their year helping others, and they didn’t take a break on Christmas Day. The couple spent Monday handing out gifts to refugee children in the Costa Rican capital San Jose.
“We had a wonderful Christmas both with the Costa Rican people and the Colombian refugee families we met,” Jolie said in a statement. Her visit was part of her work as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
About 11,500 refugees have come to Costa Rica, most of them from Colombia, where an armed conflict between leftist guerrillas, soldiers and paramilitary forces has forced them to flee, says the UNHCR. All told, an estimated 3 million Colombians have been forced from their homes.
“The conflict in Colombia is the greatest humanitarian tragedy in the Western Hemisphere, but it receives very little international attention,” Jolie said after her arrival in San Jose. “My Christmas message to Colombian refugees and to the millions of displaced people in Colombia is that the world has not totally forgotten them.”
In San Jose, Jolie and Pitt dropped in on several small businesses established by refugees thanks to UNHCR economic initiatives. They also talked with young refugees, learning about the problems they and their families have faced.
“It’s been sad for me to hear so many negative stories that show confusion between refugees, who are the victims of the conflict, and some criminal elements,” Jolie said.
The UNHCR said this was Jolie’s second trip to the region in her five years as a goodwill ambassador. She also went to Ecuador in 2002 and later wrote a personal journal of her meetings with Colombian refugees there.
Holiday visits with the underprivileged has become something of a tradition for Pitt and Jolie. In 2005, they spent their first Thanksgiving together aiding earthquake victims in Pakistan.
That same holiday this year, before visiting Ho Chi Minh City, Jolie paid an unannounced visit to son Maddox’s birth country, Cambodia, where she pledged to aid conservation efforts.