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Natalie Portman urges students to help alleviate poverty

Natalie Portman is passionate about alleviating poverty, and that passion was evident in her inaugural address here at Stanford which launched the GSB's Center for Social Innovations Social Innovators Speaker Series.

Portman (slideshow) told the story of a woman in Uganda who received a loan from FINCA International--a nonprofit that provides financial services to the poor. According to Portman, the woman had been living on less than $1 per day, raising 10 daughters. "She was begging her neighbors for their dirty laundry water so she could wash her kids' clothes," Portman said of the woman's life before she started her own business. More than 10 years ago, the woman opened a roadside food stand with a loan from FINCA and by 2004, when Portman met her, she had expanded her business to a restaurant that employed other local people. All of her children were in school, with one daughter even attending university. "Her entire life was changed," Portman said.

Portman said seeing the psychological change in the women who are served is one of the most rewarding aspects of her work. "It's not charity. It's just widening opportunity," she said.

Natalie, who appears in The Darjeeling Limited (it's on my list of movies to see) and who gave a stunning performance in Closer, has worked with FINCA over the past 4 years, traveling around the world and meeting with recipients of FINCA loans.

Thank you Natalie for your social activism!!

Ciao,
--Rita