Actress Kristen Bell, best known for her role in Veronica Mars from 2004 to 2007, as well as the title role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the narrator of Gossip Girl, also has a passion: helping the children of Northern Uganda. She talked to WebMD the Magazine recently about her acting, her advocacy, and her avocations.
You regularly carve out time from your work -- including narrating Gossip Girl and appearing in Serious Moonlight -- to work for Invisible Children, dedicated to helping raise awareness about the hardship kids face in Northern Uganda. What drew you to this movement, sparked by a documentary about children in a country ripped apart by war for more than 20 years?
It’s so shocking to see those children sleeping like sardines [on the streets of Uganda], because their homes are unsafe for them at night, and it’s not safe for them to be out past dark. I just think no child should have to deal with a war-torn area. You should be allowed to have your childhood. And on top of it all, if they’re abducted, and lucky enough to escape, they’re not only left with the ability to kill, but the instinct to kill. And brainwashing children is just something that’s completely unacceptable.
How did you first get involved?
The older brother of one of the girls I worked with on Veronica Mars, Jason Russell, started the organization. So I started hanging out with these wonderful people, and they’re making a gigantic change in the world. And they’re so inspiring, I told them I wanted to do whatever I could to help.
How is Invisible Children giving these young people hope?
First and foremost, Invisible Children bases itself upon the idea that what the youth of America are concerned about cannot be ignored by the American government. And what the American government are concerned about cannot be ignored by the rest of the world. So to give this issue worldwide attention, we create lots of demonstrations to get the message out. On top of that, we use the funding and the donations of people’s time. We have offices over in Uganda; we’re rebuilding 11 schools, which educate more than 8,000 kids. The buildings were condemned, and we’re rebuilding all of the structures, so that these kids can have a place to learn, and to thrive in school. And there are over 700 kids whose school dues we pay.