It’s a special mother-daughter trip for Angelina Jolie Pitt and 9-year-old Shiloh. The mom of six brought her daughter to Lebanon on Friday to spend time with a 12-year-old Syrian girl named Hala, whom Angelina met a year ago during a trip for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“Shiloh is very aware that I hold refugee families in high regard and has been asking to come on missions and meet them for many years,” Jolie Pitt tells PEOPLE. “She had heard about Hala since my last visit to Lebanon, and has been wanting to meet her and her brothers and sisters.”
She continues, “It was wonderful that they were able to meet, play together, and make friends. So many refugees are children. I’ve often heard them say that the most painful thing is not that they have lost their homes – it is that they have lost their friends.”
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Hala, who has no parents, lives with her five brothers and sisters in a tented settlement in the Bekka Valley. Over 50 percent of the 1.2 million refugees in Lebanon are children. Hala’s situation is unfortunately representative of a growing problem. UNHCR says over 60 million people worldwide are displaced – or one in every 122 people – is either a refugee, displaced, or seeking asylum, up from 51 million last year.
“It was humbling and emotional to see Hala and her siblings again, and realize that their situation only becomes harder as time goes on, and aid for refugees is stretched beyond all limits,” says Jolie Pitt. “Their memories of Syria are fading. They have stopped counting the days in displacement. Nothing is certain and they feel abandoned.”
She adds, “Upon leaving the family, Shiloh asked many questions. It is of course hard to explain all of the harsh realities of war and displacement. She said she felt sad, but was happy that she went and is looking forward to the next visit.”
After leaving Lebanon, Angelina and Shiloh are headed to Midyat Camp in Turkey to mark World Refugee Day on Saturday with UNHCR High Commissioner Antonio Guterres and meet with Syrian and Iraqi refugees before joining Brad Pitt and the rest of the family for Father’s Day for a big celebration.