Friday, April 23, 2004

Portman seeks Africa donations

Natalie Portman toured charity projects in Uganda and appealed to international donors to do more to help African women deal with poverty and the AIDS pandemic.

The 22-year-old Star Wars actress met with women who have started small businesses with loans from the Washington-based Foundation for International Community Assistance.

"It is amazing and it is an opportunity to see women with such courage and diligence creating money from such little funds," Portman said in the village of Iganga, 80 miles east of Kampala. "It is giving hope. The women are resourceful. And it is amazing that the world is not capitalizing on this resource."

Portman, dressed in a creased long-sleeved white shirt, faded jeans and brown boots, met the owner of a small restaurant in a hot dining room, walled and roofed with rusty sheets of iron.

Naima Omar, a 46-year-old single mother of 10, used a $100 loan from the foundation to set up a shop selling fast food made from wheat. In four years, she has gone from poverty to earning an average income.

"I employed my children as waiters and one as a cashier, because I do not know how to write," Omar said. "I have progressed."

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