Courtesy of Radical Media
AH: You've taken a lot of action in your life for causes that you believe in—like getting clean water to the people in Ecuador, which was documented in the movie Crude. How did you get so involved in that issue?
TS: I was in Ecuador as my role as ambassador for UNICEF, working on the child exploitation campaign, and I had been confronted by the environmental damage caused by the oil industry in the Ecuador rainforest. I took the opportunity to go and see for myself. When talking to the people there and witnessing directly what they were suffering because they're ancestral land had been exploited was very compelling.
Thirty-thousand people are affected by oil pollution there, so it's a daunting problem. When I asked a woman there what I could do to help, she was very straight-forward with her response. She said, "Lady, get us some clean water." In this day and age, it seems outrageous to me that we couldn't fulfill that basic human need for safe, clean drinking water! That woman's statement was the impetus, the lightbulb on top of my head that said, "Yes, I can do that!"
AH: I think a lot of us want to make a difference in the world, but we don't know where to start. What advice do you have?
TS: I'd say jump in, get involved and get off the sofa and out of your comfort zone. Each and every one of us is capable of making the world a better place for the people who we come into contact with every day. If you find yourself personally engaged with someone's problems, use that energy and emotional connection to do what you can do to help. There's no qualifications necessarily—just empathy, energy and a little bit of self-belief.
When people reach out to ask for help, try to connect with it. With this water story, I felt that very connection. I couldn't bear the idea that clean water was not available to the beautiful faces that were staring out at me.
AH: There are just so many causes out there. How do you pick one to get involved in?
TS: I think that people shouldn't be guilt-tripped into something that they just don't feel very passionate about. You can be much more effective when you feel like "this issue is for me." God knows there are a lot of issues around that need addressing. But find one that you connect with and do it with passion, do it with verve, do it with all of yourself. That's the way we make changes. Transformation comes from us first.
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