Alison Jones talks to actor Kris Marshall about supporting a good cause...

With increasing fame there comes an implicit understanding that you should use your new powers for good, to help others.

That in the interests of karmic balance you will "pay" for your good fortune by modelling the T-shirt, wearing the rubber band, snapping your fingers or even posing naked with your hand clutched round your dignity (this month's campaign in Cosmopolitan to promote the necessity for checking for testicular cancer).

Kris Marshall, the star of Murder City, My Family, Love Actually and those BT ads, admits that though he is fronting this week's Christian Aid week, that he "won't be trying to save the world. I'm too lazy".

Nor is the former Cotswold schoolboy - and ardent Villa supporter - keen to become a "charity whore" throwing his support behind every fashionable cause.

But he was persuaded to become the front man for Christian Aid week (which runs until Saturday) by the example of a neighbour, who collects for the charity, and a long held desire to visit Bolivia.

The poorest country in South America, its need for help can be eclipsed by the dire situations in other parts of the world, such as parts of Africa and Asia.

In Beni, the region that Kris visited (an area so remote it took him three days of flights, three ferry journeys and a four hour drive to get there) he discovered people living well below the poverty line with "no electricity, no running water, no sanitation, a river they all wash in and a good three to four days from the nearest hospital."

Even in the one horse "literally, there were horses walking around" missionary town where Kris stayed, hotels were just $5 a night and there was no electricity between 2am and 8am.

However, though the villagers he met had few material possessions, they did possess a fierce pride and a desire to improve their lot through their own efforts.

"I spoke to Malaquia Rosell, a farmer and one of the elders in the village. He had bucket-loads of dignity and he doesn't want to be seen as a hand-out case. He said they reckon there is only enough hardwood left in the Amazon for the next five or ten years so he is replanting mahogany and coca."

Kris also saw Christian Aid's "You add, we multiply" scheme in action. Two years ago the villagers were given a donation of 20 sheep and a ram which they then bred, increasing their number ten-fold.

This larger flock provided a new source of income while the original 20 sheep were given back to the charity to be passed on to another village.

"It's a great idea because it is sustainable for the future," said Kris.

Another issue he was asked to make a film about was how cattle ranchers were cutting down swathes of the rain forest and driving the indigenous people off the land to use it for grazing.

"I did a story about old lady whose village had been using a cemetery in the rain forest for generations. In the 70s the cattle ranchers came along and just cleared them off. They raked up all the bones and just left them there, piled up.

"People were still being displaced as recently as five years ago."

Kris met with one of the cattle ranchers, who are mostly Bolivian but of European descent.

"He was incredibly racist about the indigenous people. He said they were lazy and the land wasn't being used for anything so why shouldn't they take it and make money out of it."

He also probed the rancher on the rest of the world's fears over the effect that deforestation was having on the environment.

"He said 'We are a poor country. You destroyed your forests 200 years ago, why shouldn't we do the same to make money'.

"It was a bit hard to argue with, except to say that we have learnt from the mistakes we made hundreds of years ago."

Christian Aid's partner in Bolivia, CIPCA (Centro de Investigaciun y Promociun del Campesinado), is assisting indigenous families in their fight to get their land back and getting them legal advice.

"It is such a contentious issue," continues Kris, "It is hard to get the land back as the ranchers have already drawn up rights for it.

"Because the rain forest is so vast nobody really owns parts of it and there are no written rights. So the ranchers just take it and the people there have to move elsewhere and rebuild their community."

Kris says even the smallest donation can help. "If every person in the UK gave a pound that's more than £50 million, Christian Aid works in 50 different countries and a million quid goes a long way in Bolivia."

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