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Rooney Mara: Capturing the spirit of South Sudan in photos

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Actress and Oxfam ambassador Rooney Mara with a group of young South Sudanese men who have been displaced by fighting during the last year. Photo: Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/Oxfam America

“Despite decades of war, people continue to carry with them the hope for a better future for themselves and their children.”

Academy Award-nominated actress and Oxfam ambassador Rooney Mara recently made her third trip to South Sudan, where she met families displaced by the conflict now affecting the world’s youngest nation. In a photo diary for Vanity Fair, excerpted below, Mara shares some perspectives from her travels.

On my most recent trip this December, I visited some of the nearly one and a half million people who have been forced to flee their homes over the past year as fighting has engulfed large parts of the country.

In the small town of Mingkaman on the Nile River we met people who have been forced to flee their homes, leaving behind their possessions, their jobs, and, in many cases, their families. But the people of South Sudan continue to demonstrate a deep pride in their country’s hard-won independence. Despite the decades of war many of them have endured, they continue to carry with them the hope for a better future for themselves and for their children. …

Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin for Oxfam America
Photo: Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin/Oxfam America

The port in Mingkaman is the main point of entry for people coming and going from Bor, the town across the Nile from which many people have fled. Even though this is possibly one of the most trying and difficult times of their lives, many South Sudanese haven’t lost their spirit and passion for life.

For much of South Sudan’s history, a 15-year-old girl had a higher chance of dying in childbirth than graduating from high school. With a great deal of investment and hard work, particularly since independence, this statistic was beginning to change for the better. But the recent fighting threatens to erase that fragile progress. This young girl was living at one of the cattle camps we went to visit in Mingkaman. She wanted to try on my hat. I hope she will be able beat the odds that are stacked against her.

rooney-mara-south-sudan-03
Photo: Rooney Mara

Read Rooney Mara’s full photo diary here.


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