Connecting people who care with causes that matter

Join us as we explore the humanitarian efforts of some of the world’s most prominent celebrities. Since Jan 2012 we have invited notable ambassadors to share their inspirational stories of global support. Read through our collection of articles to find the cause that speaks to you.

When you think of essentials in life, nothing is more fundamental than the need for safe water and sanitation. Though most of us are lucky enough to never experience what it’s like to go without a toilet or safe, clean water, this is not the case for millions of people around the world.

For the third consecutive year, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report in 2014 ranked water crises as a top 5 global risk. In fact, today as it stands, 750 million people lack access to clean water and more than 2.5 billion people don’t have access to a toilet.

Like many problems, the ripple effect of this issue is truly alarming. Beyond the health ramifications, a lack of access to safe water and sanitation inhibits education, job creation, commerce and more. The interconnectivity of the water crisis is particularly evident when examining the lives of women and children in these communities.  Forced to skip work and school to search for clean water, it is estimated that women spend 140 million hours per day collecting water — precious hours that could be spent in productive employment or going to school.

However, when safe water and sanitation is accessible, not only is there a drastic improvement in the quality of life on an individual scale, there are huge returns across the board.

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As UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, international singer and songwriter Katy Perry visited Madagascar in 2013 to bring attention to the situation of children in the tropical island country, one of the poorest in the world and still recovering from a political crisis that began in 2009. UNICEF has an extensive network on the ground in the country and works with government and social agencies to promote child protection and survival.

On her visit in support of UNICEF, Perry saw a full range of programs, from education, nutrition, health and child protection, to water, sanitation and hygiene.

“In less than one week in Madagascar, I went from crowded city slums to the most remote villages and my eyes were widely opened by the incredible need for a healthy life—nutrition, sanitation, and protection against rape and abuse—which UNICEF are stepping in to help provide,” Perry said.

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Ian Somerhalder Foundation

For fans of Warner Brother’s hit supernatural TV drama “The Vampire Diaries,” actor, Ian Somerhalder will forever be likened to Damon Salvatore — the blood-thirsty, yet charming vampire. While Ian’s charisma may be equally as palpable as his persona onscreen, fortunately in real life he is much more interested in preserving life than taking it.

As the Co-Founder and President of the Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF), Ian has spent much of the last four years fighting for the future of our planet. Assembling a team of passionate activists across the globe, this Hollywood heartthrob has gained the admiration of the entertainment industry and the environmental community alike. In recognition of his efforts, Ian has assembled a lofty repertoire of accolades including an ambassadorship for the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), the International Green Awards title of “Most Responsible Celebrity,” as well as the honour of being named one of the “Visionaries” by Condé Nast Traveler in 2013.

Like many passions, Ian’s love for the great outdoors began early in life. Born and raised in Covington, Louisiana, Ian spent much of his childhood studying and interacting with his natural environment. Though he gained an appreciation for nature at an early age, it wasn’t until a disaster hit his home years later that his voice became a catalyst for change.

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Me to We

On World Day Against Child Labour, I think sadly of the lost potential of 168 million children toiling in brick kilns, carpet factories and plantations instead of attending school. I also celebrate a friend and force of nature who works enthusiastically to educate girls who might otherwise walk for hours to gather water and firewood, or be forced into early marriage.

Nelly Furtado is not only a chart-topping songstress in English and Spanish, she is also a fierce advocate for girls’ education and a dedicated Ambassador for Free The Children, the charity I co-founded with my brother, Marc, almost 20 years ago.

When I asked the Grammy-winner to travel with me to Kenya on a Me to We Trip a few years ago to visit our schools and development projects, I had no idea it would lead to an amazing friendship, a designer t-shirt for our Me to We Style line, a new all-girls’ high school, and many other inspiring spin-offs. She even chose the name for her 2012 album Spirit Indestructible from a line from Me to We, a book Marc and I co-wrote. Nelly also sold our Kenyan mama-made Water Rafiki Friend chain on concert tour, with each sale supplying clean water to one person for a year.

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Farm Aid

The 1980s were a time for musical activism. Dozens of concerts for a cause sprung up to address social issues plaguing the world. Only one, Farm Aid, has sustained for nearly 30 years with the unwavering commitment of its original founders.

In 1985, when falling crop prices and rising debt payments incited an upsurge of foreclosures that pushed family farmers off their land, Willie Nelson decided to organize a concert to raise money and awareness. With the help of fellow artists and Farm Aid founders, Neil Young and John Mellencamp, world-class talent like Bob Dylan, Billy Joel and Bon Jovi signed on to create a line-up of more than 50 performers. After just six weeks of planning, the first Farm Aid concert was held in Champaign, Illinois, on September 22, before an audience of 78,000. With this first concert, Farm Aid spread awareness of the challenges of American farmers, and raised over $9 million to be distributed throughout the countryside to keep family farmers on the land.

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Shania Kids Can

Reaching Children Under the Radar

“As a child, I often went to school without having had breakfast, without a lunch, no money to take part in pizza days or many field trips for example, because I wasn’t able to pay or get the authorization signature from my parents because they were not available or unable. Reflecting back, I realize that my disadvantages created a lack of self-confidence and insecurity, causing me to withdraw and be less social than I would liked to have been otherwise. In addition to feeling inferior, hunger caused a lack of energy, enthusiasm and motivation to interact with others.”—Shania Twain, Founder of Shania Kids Can Charity Foundation.

These are the words of world-renowned Canadian country pop singer and song writer, Shania Twain. In a heartfelt personal note Shania reveals the struggles of a youth shrouded in poverty and isolation. Often lacking access to proper nutrition, clean clothing and parental support, Shania shares the challenges of growing up in a disadvantaged family.

Unwilling to stand by and watch as other children suffer in silence, Shania has created her own non-profit organization to address the needs of primary school children who fall into the gap between a dysfunctional home life and qualifying for a social service intervention. “I promised myself early on in my own childhood that someday I would help kids just like myself, cope with their disadvantages and prosper in spite of those challenges. Shania Kids Can Charity Foundation (SKC) is fulfilling that promise.”

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No Kid Hungry

Those of us working to improve social conditions, like bringing about an end to hunger and poverty, tend to bring skills in fundraising, community organizing, politics, and marketing. But there is often one essential ingredient missing: storytelling. Telling the stories of those we are trying to help is essential to build the political will necessary to solve a problem on the scale that it exists. Who better to supply that perspective than a great American actor whose passion for storytelling and social change intersect in 63 years of iconic screen roles?

Three summers ago I met the actor Jeff Bridges at the Goleta Boys and Girls Club near his home in California. He’d been a long time champion of anti-hunger efforts since creating the End Hunger Network in 1983 and a mutual friend suggested we collaborate. We talked about our respective efforts over the years (I had started the national anti-hunger nonprofit Share Our Strength in 1984), what we’d learned about the most effective strategies, and the dire economic conditions that had led to so much hunger in this country. At one point Jeff said softly: “This feels like the moment we’ve been waiting for, this is our chance.” For me it was as dramatic a moment as anything I’d seen from him on the big screen and renewed my own sense of urgency.

Jeff agreed on the spot to be the national spokesperson for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, which works to connect children at risk of hunger to healthy food where they live, learn and play. Since then, he’s carried our message to Governors, cabinet secretaries, Republicans, Democrats, the news media, corporate leaders, and others with strengths to share in this fight. He effectively articulates that childhood hunger is a solvable problem since we have food and nutrition programs that kids need, but must do more to ensure that kids can access such programs.

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Raise Hope For Congo

Raising Hope for Congo…Robin’s Courageous Journey

 As people around the world become more mindful of where their consumer products come from, accountability for human rights violations are being demanded.  Of the many deplorable cases, the situation in eastern Congo is one of the most heinous.  Home to many mines rich in natural resources; Congo’s government and rebel militias fight for control, using the profits to fund horrific violence. Congo’s disorganized military and police do little to stop the abuse, and armed groups are able to operate without accountability.  Using rape and murder to intimidate civilians, locals in mining communities are forced to take part in the illicit mining economy.

 Since 1996, countless women and children have been raped and over 5.4 million people have died from war-related causes. While Congo’s wars officially ended in 2003, the violence continues today and more than 2 million people live as refug

RAISE Hope for Congo, is a campaign of the Enough Project, aimed at ending the ongoing conflict in eastern Congo.  Building a permanent and diverse constituency of activists who advocate for the human rights of all Congolese citizens, this team works tirelessly to incite change.  Actress and activist Robin Wright has been personally involved in the plight of the people in Congo for years.  Sharing a genuine affection for the Congolese people, Robin and the Enough team traveled to the eastern Congo to speak with victims of rape and torture and ensure their stories do not go unheard.

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Who can forget the brave resilience of Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist who is fighting for women’s rights and education?  Or the makeup of the newly elected U.S. Senate, which now includes more women than at any point in U.S. history?  Or the inspiring performance that earned Gabby Douglas a gold medal at the London Olympics?

Together, these 2012 milestones and others testify to the tremendous reserve of talent, ideas, and passion possessed by girls and women around the world – and to why all of us benefit when that reserve is unleashed.

However, as advocacy campaigns like the Girl Effect, 10×10 and others have demonstrated, poor health, disempowerment, and—as exemplified in Malala’a case—gender-based violence, prevents millions of girls around the world from achieving their full potential. As a result, classrooms, families, communities and economies are less productive. Now is the time to turn advocacy to action.

I am a board member and ambassador for PSI, a global health organization that has demonstrated private and corporate investments can be leveraged to dramatically improve the health of girls and women. The problem isn’t that there is a shortage of solutions to the world’s most vexing health concerns. The solutions exist. The challenge is finding ways to deliver them in the farthest regions of the developing world where the need is greatest—in communities that lie beyond the reach of public roads, where the nearest health center is two days away by foot, where there is such a disconnect that women may not even be aware of health services we in the western world take for granted, such as family planning.

We need to identify more game-changing ideas that have the potential to accelerate and sustain progress for the health of girls and women across the developing world. We also need private and corporate investors that are willing to support innovation and push the boundaries that currently limit us. I firmly believe that through innovation and partnership we can transform insurmountable development challenges into solvable problems.

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Spring 2012, on a rainy April evening in London, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge made their first public appearance since the Duke’s return from the Falklands, attending a charity screening for Tusk Trust of the Disney Nature film, African Cats. The evening was light, jolly. The Duke’s message was anything but.

Speaking to a packed theatre, which included many of the world’s leading press organisations, England’s future monarch was direct and emphatic.

“Tusk and other conservation groups are now confronting the truly horrific situation affecting Africa’s elephant and rhinoceros. Both are being mercilessly and illegally poached at a rate not seen for decades. Unless this stops, these two majestic animals will be, in a few short years, but a memory in the wilds of Africa.”

A dramatic though accurate statement. With rhino in South Africa alone being poached at a rate of one every 18 hours, and elephants at some 35,000 per year from an overall population estimated around 350,000, the killing has reached a crisis point.

According to Ian Craig, Director of Special Projects at Kenya’s Northern Rangelands Trust, the current level of poaching is but the start of a massive tsunami sweeping the continent, decimating wildlife and destroying national and local economies, including the tourism industry, which in countries like Kenya accounts for at least 10% of GDP.

“If our grandchildren are to experience the wild Africa and free-roaming animals of today, we have to kill the demand for ivory and rhino horn. The time is now. Right now. Not tomorrow.”

The demand Craig refers to is almost wholly attributed to an insatiable appetite in the East. For rhino horn, it is Vietnam. While in the case of ivory, it is an emerging middle class in China. With fast-tracked industrialisation and economic growth, this consumer group is likely to be 250 million strong within the next 15 years, bringing with it ever-increased buying power for aspirational goods.

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Every Mother Counts

Every year 287,000 women around the world will die from complications due to pregnancy and childbirth, and millions more will experience serious and debilitating health conditions. The five major causes of maternal mortality are hemorrhage, sepsis, unsafe abortion, hypertensive disorders and obstructed labour. While most of these deaths are preventable, the harsh reality is that without access to an experienced physician or proper equipment the chances of survival for these women are drastically reduced.   

Created to give supporters a place to get involved, Christy and her dedicated team have fostered relationships with some of the best Non-Government Organizations and leaders in global health, while also raising awareness amongst celebrity circles, dignitaries and the general public.  Uniting people with the universal experience of pregnancy and childbirth, Every Mother Counts strives to incite change by educating people on the sobering facts of maternal death and encouraging people to become a part of the solution.  Speaking at events all over the world, implementing diverse campaigns, and working alongside likeminded corporate partners such as Starbucks and AOL to engage consumers, Every Mother Counts endeavours to support the global goal of reducing maternal mortality by 75%.  

Donating 100% of money raised to lifesaving maternal health programs, Every Mother Counts is dedicated to providing women with access to emergency services and quality care, improving postpartum care, providing family planning, and strengthening systems and policies.

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The Clinton Foundation

Ten years ago, only 200,000 people in developing countries were receiving HIV/AIDS treatment, at a cost of nearly $10,000 per person per year. The prevailing belief was that health systems in low-income countries were too weak – and the price of lifesaving medicines too high – to make a significant impact on the crisis.

 After meeting with world leaders at the Barcelona AIDS conference in 2002, President Clinton was inspired to try a new approach to the issue. He realized that the root problem was an economic one: the market for HIV/AIDS medicines was completely disorganized and operating at a low-volume, high-cost model. So the Clinton Foundation took a business-oriented approach, working with governments to increase demand and drug companies to increase supply. Today the market operates on a high-volume, low-cost, model; developing country governments have saved billions of dollars; and the profitability of the industries involved has improved. More importantly, 4.5 million people, including 380,000 children, are accessing lifesaving treatment at prices that the Clinton Foundation has negotiated – more than half of the 8 million people now on treatment worldwide.

 Through its work on the HIV/AIDS crisis, the Clinton Foundation realized it had developed a model that it could use to address other major challenges. Today the Foundation works to strengthen economies in the U.S., Latin America, Haiti, and Africa; fight climate change worldwide; and help children and adults live healthier lives in the United States – all by leveraging market forces, engaging stakeholders from multiple sectors, and working directly in line with governments to ensure solutions are built to last.

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Wild Aid

Every year the illegal wildlife trade brings in an estimated $10 billion (USD) which has resulted in the drastic reduction of many wildlife populations around the world. Despite the implementation of international bans and the committed efforts of law enforcement, there has not been a resolve to the problem. Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent protecting animals in the wild, but the massacre of these engaged creatures still continues.

In response to the lack of progress, an innovative non-profit was formed to address the fundamental root of the problem.  Run by Peter Knights, WildAid is the only organization in the world dedicated to reducing the demand for these products, with the strong and simple message: when the buying stops, the killing can too.

Empowered by an unrivaled portfolio of celebrity ambassadors and a global network of media partners, WildAid strives to reduce demand of these products through public awareness campaigns and by providing comprehensive marine protection.

Assisting WildAid in its mission to protect the world’s most vulnerable animals is founder and chairman of Virgin Group, Sir Richard Branson.  In addition to being one of the most successful businessmen on the planet,  Richard is also a distinguished humanitarian with his own non-profit foundation,  Virgin Unite, which mobilises the talent and resources from across the Virgin Group and beyond, to tackle tough social and environmental problems in an entrepreneurial way. It was through his work with Virgin Unite that he was first introduced to the efforts of WildAid. 

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Conservation International

People Need Nature to Thrive

Mission: Protecting Humanity through Environmental Initiatives

While everyone knows superstar, Harrison Ford as an action hero in the legendary film franchises Star Wars and Indiana Jones, considerably fewer are familiar with his heroics off-screen. For over 20 years this cinematic idol has been championing his efforts to wage another clear and present danger — the depletion of the earth’s natural resources. Operating as the Vice Chair for Conservation International (CI), Ford, and the brilliant team of visionaries at CI are fighting to protect humanity through innovative environmental initiatives.

As the world’s population continues to skyrocket, more and more pressure is being put on our natural resources.  In fact, in the next 40 years our population is expected to grow to over 9 billion people, which will essentially double global demand for food ,water and energy. Today as it stands, 1 in 6 people don’t have access to clean drinking water, half of the world’s sick suffer from waterborne disease, and over a billion lack proper sanitation.

As these statistics indicate, we are in store for some troubling times if we don’t make a change soon. Unfortunately, one of the biggest challenges the environmental movement faces is the perception that the ecological crisis is a non-human issue. In an effort to change this, Conservation International is making enormous strides to alter the way we view our relationship with nature.

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Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust

Today, Edward Norton is the President of MWCF — the US affiliate of MWCT — and has been vital in providing the necessary resources as well as much needed experience to help engineer MWCT into a self-sustaining and fully professional organization.

Over the last few years the trust has affected incredible change. Campi ya Kanzi has become one of the most highly awarded eco-lodges in all of Africa with revenues from tourism to the community approaching $400,000 yearly.

Utilizing the conservation fees collected by the eco-lodge, the MWCT has pioneered incredible programs like Wildlife Pays, which reimburses the Maasai on any livestock killed by lions and other predators. The trust also employs nearly 100 Maasai game scouts and predator monitors to prevent illegal poaching activity, reduce human/wildlife conflict and monitor impacts on biodiversity.

Equally as impressive are the changes the trust is having on the community. The MWCT employs more than 200 local people as well as funds excellent education and health programs. MWCT supports 4 local health dispensaries, 20 primary schools, has built a new school with over 700 students, funds scholarships for postsecondary education and operates the Kanzi Academy for highly talented students.

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RFK Center For Justice and Human Rights

Last August, in the desert 500 miles south of Marrakesh, Kerry Kennedy, President of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, and daughter of the late Senator Robert Kennedy, stepped away from taking testimonies of survivors of sexual assault, imprisonment, and torture to get some fresh air. She and her 17-year-old daughter Mariah walked around the block and came upon a young man standing on a doorstep intently polishing a kitchen pan. As they passed him, never lifting his eyes, the man—at great risk to himself—whispered a warning, “You are being followed.”

Ms. Kennedy and her daughter Mariah were indeed being followed, just as they had been for the duration of their time in Laayoune, the capital of a region most Americans never hear about: Western Sahara, the last remaining colony in Africa. Ms. Kennedy was there with her daughter to lead an international delegation investigating human rights violations by the occupying Moroccan government against the Sahrawi, a community condemned to live under occupation for more than three decades in a land that diplomacy forgot and where the international press is effectively banned. 

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