Daniel Gillies has just returned from a humanitarian visit to Uganda and you can hear in his voice that the trip has changed his perspective on his place in the world.
“It’s the largest humanitarian crisis on the planet right now — I say that without any trace of hyperbole,” Gillies tells PEOPLE of the civil war in South Sudan that has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and nearly a million refugees living in camps in Uganda. “Villages are being burned to the ground, children are being stolen from their homes in the night. Their war is beyond brutal.”
The Originals actor is raising funds to support Oxfam in their campaign to end the crisis and encourages everyone to educate themselves about this critical issue and open yourself up to receive more well-rounded information on the subject.
“If you go to Twitter or Instagram and you follow people like Oxfam, Action Against Hunger, if you go to Habitat for Humanity, just follow them and try listening to what’s happening,” suggests Gillies, 41. “Raising money is about addressing their immediate issues: water, sanitation, basic medical care and food. The more important conversation is about stop the f—ing fight. The more you can amplify those voices — something as simple as a retweet of something Oxfam says is worthwhile.”
Below, Gillies shares a few memorable photos from his visit to Uganda, along with his personal captions for the photos and why the people in them left an unforgettable impression on him.
“This gentleman’s name is Pascal,” writes Gillies. “He’s a Hygiene Promoter for Oxfam in Imvepi Refugee Settlement. When armed men terrorized his village, Pascal and his wife were forced to flee to the bush beyond. Because it was too perilous to travel the main roads, they moved by night with incredible stealth. After three months they finally made their way to the Ugandan border. His wife gave birth to their son just two weeks later.”
“This is James. Blind and ‘living positively’ with HIV, as he says, James was tremendously grateful for the support he received from the settlement authorities and the quality of sanitation supplied by Oxfam. Refugees are expected to build their own homes, but with cases like James the individual is provided with assistance.”
“Grinding grain in Bidi Bidi, the world’s largest refugee settlement with a population of 272,000.”
“Lily tells myself and the people of Oxfam the story of her escape from South Sudan with her six children,” writes Gillies. “Like many refugee women, Lily has not been able to communicate with her husband, since she fled her homeland 18 months ago. A staggering 86 percent of the inhabitants of Bidi Bidi are women and children under the age of 18.”
“A South Sudanese boy showing off a homemade slingshot he’d created in order to gather food. Apparently, this kid had taken out six birds with that thing. I was dubious until he fired off a terrifying demonstration shot.”
“Women’s group working their magic creating beads, jewelry and handbags.”
“This South Sudanese woman named Keiji did her best to school me on the intricacies of grain preparation,” he writes. “Moments after this, I was on all fours, pathetically hand-sweeping a large quantity of fallen grain I’d clumsily tossed on the ground.”
Gillies was inspired by his own children — daughter Charlotte, 3, and son Theodore, 2, with wife Rachael Leigh Cook — to raise awareness about the global issue in the northeastern African country.
“Since becoming a father I’ve decided that I need to be a better person,” he says. “You do start to think about the world that you want to bequeath.”