By John Ostapkovich

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Philadelphia’s Women’s Law Project tonight honors area native, actress/activist Maria Bello.

Bello says she’s incredibly moved by tonight’s award at the Independence Visitor’s Center, in part because she cut her teeth in activism while a Villanova student.

“I was on my way to becoming a women’s rights lawyer and I too another path and became and actor instead, but throughout the years I’ve been lucky enough to marry both of my passions, which is international and domestic women’s rights and my acting career.”

Now, she’s being honored as co-founder of a group in Haiti.

“We Advance is a grass roots organization,” Bello says. “Our work is fueled by the act of actually listening to women. It’s centered around providing much-needed programs for women and girls in some of the poorest slums in all of the western hemisphere.”

Many consider Haiti a basket case but not Bello.

“As soon as I put my foot in Haiti, I knew I was supposed to be there.  It is simply one of the most vibrant, beautiful, exciting countries that I’ve ever been to.”

We Advance runs a health clinic in Haiti treating 50,000 people a year.

Back in the day, she was also a phone counselor for the Women’s Law Project and says both ventures have taught her that the first step to empowering women is to listen to them.

Top Content On CBSPhilly

Watch & Listen LIVE