Jennifer Garner on Her Work with Save the Children: 'Be Your Own First Responder'

The actress shares her experience working with kids in Houston following Hurricane Harvey

Jennifer Garner knows how important it is to help the smallest victims of a natural disaster.

As an artist ambassador and trustee for Save the Children, the actress, 45, traveled to Houston in the wake of Hurricane Harvey in September and found an amazing resilience in the kids she met.

“One boy told me how his mom had put the kids in a kiddie pool in chest-high waters, and she had gone under because she couldn’t swim,” Garner tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “He’d said, ‘Throw Mama a rope!’ and saved her. Instead of saying, ‘We lost our house, all my toys are gone,’ he wanted me to know that his mom was okay. That spirit makes you really appreciate the good in the world.”

Garner was especially grateful to see Save the Children’s program, Journey of Hope, at work in the flood zone. Kids are taught how to address any trauma they might have experienced “maybe by losing their home or even a pet in the flood,” says the actress, who has worked with Save the Children—which provides relief and support for kids in rural America and developing countries—for nine years.

“It may sound like a small thing, but I’ve watched it in action. Seeing those kids talk about their feelings in a way that they never would have was the highlight of the year for me.”

  • Look for our special section—25 Women Changing the World 2017—in this week’s issue

For anyone wanting to help, Garner encourages just getting involved.

“Sponsor a child through Save, do a book drive, donate diapers,” says the mom of three, who was honored in PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World feature last year. “Just help in some way. Be your own kind of first responder. It will restore you and your faith in humanity.”

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