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Nina Dobrev for Free the Children: Variety Power of Youth Honoree

'Vampire Diaries' thesp has worked with Canadian org since 2007

Although Nina Dobrev lives most of the year in Atlanta, where she’s shooting the fifth season of the CW drama “The Vampire Diaries,” the Bulgarian-born, Toronto-raised actress has worked with Canadian organization Free the Children since 2007.

“I love their whole concept of kids helping kids,” she says. “It empowered me and opened up my eyes to the fact that you can affect people all over the world. The program really encourages young people to travel to different countries and actually physically do something and meet the kids, as opposed to just donating money and hoping it gets to the source. That’s what I found so appealing.”

For her first mission in 2007, Dobrev flew to Africa for three weeks.

SEE MORE: Variety Power of Youth Party Amps Kid Champs

“I helped build a school and a well and taught kids in Kenya. As much as I was able to help their lives, that trip forever changed and a ected my life,” she says. “When I talked to friends and people about it, that in turn created a domino effect which hopefully inspires other people who can impact children’s lives in very big ways.”

So far, the charity has built over 650 schools and classrooms in countries around the world, Dobrev reports. “But there’s still so much to do. We’re all so lucky in America, and often don’t even realize it.”

SEE MORE: Hollywood Kids: How Do Young Actors Deal With Sexy, Violent Roles?

Despite her busy schedule she’s already planning another trip, this time to India. “Then I want to return to Kenya, to see how those kids are doing now,” she says.

SEE MORE: Variety’s Power of Youth Honorees:

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