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Power of Women NY Honoree: Susan Sarandon

Some celebrities have one charity they offer their name or their time to. Susan Sarandon is virtually awash in them. At any given time, she’s involved with Habitat for Humanity, City Harvest, the ACLU, Heifer Intl. and Artists for Peace and Justice.

And then there’s Hope North, an accredited secondary school founded in 1998 by former Ugandan child soldier-turned-artist Okello Sam. Amid her many other commitments, Sarandon has been especially dedicated to Hope North, which assists the youngest victims of Uganda’s civil war in getting an education. Sam has some Hollywood connections (he appeared in “The Last King of Scotland”) and was able to round up volunteers including Sarandon and Forest Whitaker for a New York City gala last September to raise funds for the school.

“We’re working to keep his school afloat,” says Sarandon. “The organizations I spend time with, or have worked with for a long period of time, are organizations I can vouch for — and that’s important. I can get spread pretty thin.”

But charity overall is crucial to Sarandon, no matter how much it stretches her time and energies.

“People of my generation had access to pictures and news as things were happening — we saw what was going on in Vietnam,” she says. “It was part of being young and idealistic. And as an actor you’re constantly given access to what it would be like to live in another person’s shoes.”

She adds, “I’m in a business that leads to empathy, which leads to action. Having the ability to constantly reframe perspective for people, and give them an opportunity to identify with someone they never thought they could deal with — that’s when things get interesting, because it leads to dialogue.”

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