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Angelina Jolie is more than a pretty face for Pakistan flood relief

Angelina Jolie, a veteran of humanitarian work, has traveled to more than 20 countries. Pakistan’s crisis was greater in scope than any she had ever witnessed, Angelina Jolie said.

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Since then, the actress has visited more than 20 countries from Ecuador to Kenya to Sri Lanka, largely focusing on the plight of refugees and using her high profile to raise money for their causes – and donating millions herself, along with partner Brad Pitt.

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Jolie, better known for her pretty face than pretty prose, recorded her journey into international activism in a 2003 book, “Notes from My Travels.” For $10.30, you can purchase the diary-style account that begins simply, “I am on a plane to Africa.” She goes on to tell of how she defied her father, who tried to cancel the trip, and was warmed by her brother’s suggestion to remember the words of Peter Pan – a favorite story of theirs – if she ever felt scared: “Look up at the night sky, find the second star on the right, and follow it straight on till morning.”

In a review, renowned chimpanzee advocate Jane Goodall lauded Jolie’s commitment to humanitarian causes:

“Angelina is living proof of the power we all have – every one of us – to make a difference,” wrote Dr. Goodall. “I was deeply moved by her descriptions of individual refugees struggling to live with dignity and hope, and found her personal commitment to be an inspiration.”

In the afterword, Jolie calls the UN charter that underpins her refugee work “one of the most beautiful things I have ever read,” and reminds American readers, “We can’t forget that our founding fathers were refugees. And then the Native Americans became refugees.”

In Kosovo

On one of Jolie’s first UNHCR-sponsored trips, she traveled to Kosovo, which was still recovering from the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. One man with a very pregnant wife shared his worry that his shabby truck wouldn’t make it through the mud when it was time for her to give birth.

But there were also success stories; she met what she described as one of the best de-mining teams in the world – and the only all-female platoon – responsible for finding and dismantling landmines. One of the woman started the work at age 15 after her father was shot in the war; another had a prosthetic limb after a mine accident.

While Jolie’s writing is plain at best and often clunky there’s a refreshing realness about it that reminds one she is far from the red carpet – such as this entry from December 29, 2002:

“Up for 8 am leave,” she wrote in a journal posted by UNHCR. “Put on layers of clothes and grab a little coffee. Decide not to bother to take the mud of my shoes, it will only get dirty again."

IN PICTURES: Pakistan floods