By People Staff
May 12, 2008 12:00 PM

Children’s Rights

GOODWILL AMBASSADOR for UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, which campaigns for kids’ rights around the world. “In 2005 I was asked by [then U.N. Secretary-General] Kofi Annan. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, and remains so,” says the soccer star, 33.

WHY THE DAD OF THREE LOVES IT “I get a lift seeing children learn and smile. I’ve worked to raise awareness and funds across many campaigns, including AIDS and malaria education, disaster relief and poverty appeals. I was recently in Sierra Leone to see the work UNICEF is doing to reduce child mortality; it works tirelessly to change their lives for the better.”

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HER CAUSE The “I Have a Dream” Foundation, which, she says, “adopts the entire first grade at a low-performing school.” The group provides after-school academic programs and summer activities and, when the students are ready to graduate, offers college scholarships.

WHY SHE DOES IT “You can’t meet these kids and hear their stories and how comprehensively ‘I Have a Dream’ has changed their lives without wanting to be a part of that process.” A fund-raiser for the last 10 years, Garner, 36, is getting more hands-on. “I am excited to become a volunteer reader. I am ready to get to know these kids personally.”

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HER CAUSE The Lancelot H. Owens Foundation, a college scholarship program based in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, was created by her mother, Rita, an art teacher, in honor of Latifah’s brother Lance, a police officer killed in a motorcycle accident. Recipients—all of whom Latifah, 38, meets personally—must maintain a 3.0 or higher GPA, and do volunteer work. Since 1992 the group has helped send 52 students to college.

HER INSPIRATION “My mother. Watching her go above and beyond as a teacher to educate a child’s mind. She wanted them to grow and figure out ways to accomplish their dreams and keep on the straight and narrow. Knowledge is power, and education is paramount. I’ve been given a lot, and it’s great to have an opportunity to help another person become successful.”

To learn more, call (201) 333-4883

Children’s Welfare

FOUNDER OF BELIEVE Foundation, which provides kids with medical expenses, school supplies, food and clothing. The group recently raised money for DKMS (a leukemia charity) and two others in Chicago, New York and San Francisco.

EARLY INSPIRATION “When I was a little girl and watched television, they would show you children who don’t have parents and food. I remember saying, ‘When I grow up, I want to help those kids.’ I’ve had a chance to make my dreams come true,” says the Barbados-born Grammy winner, 20. “I believe everyone needs that chance.”

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Healthy Mothers & Infants

AMBASSADOR FOR a Pampers/UNICEF program that provides tetanus shots to babies and mothers in developing countries. (Every pack of diapers with a UNICEF logo sold pays for one shot.)

WHY THE NEW MOM GOT INVOLVED “You give them the vaccine, they don’t die,” says Hayek, 41. “It’s not just about creating a better world for my daughter Valentina but also being more passionate about diminishing the suffering of women and children all over the world.”

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Cancer Support

FOUNDER OF the newly opened Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing, at Central Maine Medical Center, which successfully treated his mom, Amanda, when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1997. The center, where his sister Mary, a nurse, is the coordinator, helps patients and their families navigate cancer treatment. “If you can find out everything you need to know, in one place, you’re not overwhelmed,” says Dempsey.

WHY HE’S PROUD TO HAVE HIS NAME ON IT “Celebrity in itself is not that fabulous, but if you can use it to help make change, it’s great,” says the TV doctor, 42, who is currently starring in Made of Honor. A Lewiston-area native, he adds, “Maine is part of the core of who I am, and I want to give back to that community.” The whole family turned out for the March opening. “My mom is not a person who talks about her feelings a lot, but I think she’s quietly very proud of me.”

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