05/10/2007 at 02:00 PM EDT
Brad Pitt may be halfway around the world with his family in Prague, but on Thursday, ground was broken on his green-housing project in New Orleans.
Pitt, 43, tells PEOPLE: "The greatest victory for me will be when the first people move into one of these green homes – when they can put their key into that lock, sit down at the table, have dinner with their families and live their lives. That's what we're getting closer to with this announcement today."
Last year, Pitt co-sponsored a competition with Global Green USA
to find an affordable, Earth-friendly plan for building housing and community centers in neighborhoods ravaged the previous year by Hurricane Katrina.
In August, he announced the winners
of his Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans: New York City architects Andrew Kotchen and Matthew Berman of the firm Workshop/APD.
"Communities need to be rebuilt here and we hope this project points the way to how it can be done using smart sustainable design," Pitt tells PEOPLE.
The actor and Angelina Jolie (who is in the Czech Republic filming Wanted
) also announced Thursday that they have donated $1 million to humanitarian groups assisting more than 4 million people affected by the crisis in Darfur.
The gift, from their Jolie-Pitt Foundation, will go to three groups playing key roles in the Sudan and neighboring Chad: the United Nations Refugee Agency, the International Rescue Committee and SOS Children's Villages, according to a statement.
Jolie has met with refugees from Darfur
three times. After her recent visit to the Oure-Cassoni camp, she said she was struck by the sense of hope she encountered.