Atlanta resident and actress Kat Graham, best known as Bonnie Bennett for eight seasons on the CW’s “The Vampire Diaries,” has spent years raising money and awareness on behalf of refugees.
Recently, she stopped by the Global Village Project in Decatur, a school founded by volunteers in 2009 to help middle-school-aged refugee girls. She visited classrooms leased by the school inside Decatur Presbyterian Church and spoke with students and educators. She also took part in a music class.
“I don’t necessarily want to remind them of the trauma they’ve been through,” Graham said to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We listened to the ‘Moana’ soundtrack and sang songs. We talked about the music we like. That’s what’s fulfilling to me.”
Graham, a goodwill ambassador for UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency for the past three years, chose to make roots in Decatur after joining “Vampire Diaries.” The show ended in 2017, but she still splits time between Decatur and Los Angeles.
Born in the Switzerland, she has family members who were refugees, including a grandfather who fled Liberia and a grandmother who escaped the Nazis during World War II.
“If my grandparents hadn’t had the support of organizations of kind people and countries that had welcoming policies, I wouldn’t exist,” Graham said. “I’m indebted to the organizations and the people and communities that saved their lives. I’m just one generation removed. I could have easily been born into a camp or into conflict. I feel very close to it.”
Graham was impressed with The Global Village Project, which has graduated more than 300 students since it opened and currently has about 40 students enrolled from eight different countries.
“There are a lot of different refugee programs,” she said. “I’ve met a good group of them. This one in particular is such an important step in the ladder for these girls to find their footing.”
With the SAG-AFTRA strike placing most scripted work on ice, she has chosen to focus on her U.N. refugee ambassador work, visiting Ethiopia and Uganda and fundraising in the United Kingdom.
“We try to bring awareness and get funds there,” she said. “Sometimes it’s war. Sometimes it’s as simple as climate change, flooding and droughts. And one region can impact another. The war in Ukraine, for instance, cut off the wheat supply to Ethiopia and that affects Somali refugees there.”
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.