Homeless Youth in CanadaThe plight of homeless youth in Canada is a recent issue in the public eye. The increased representation and awareness have garnered celebrity support, such as from Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. The married couple has committed to donating $500,000 in total to the cause. Covenant House Vancouver and Toronto, foundations dedicated to opening their door to the homeless youth in Canada, are the lucky recipients.

The Issue

The first majority study done on homeless youth in Canada, “Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey,” was conducted just four years ago in 2016. A recent study found that the youth make up around 20% of the entire homeless population in Canada.

These children often experience housing instability and child abuse prior to their homelessness experience. Once on the streets, children under 16 — around 40% of the homeless youth in Canada — struggle through increased adversity. Further, various forms of oppression often couple homelessness. A staggering number of these children identify as POC, LGBTQ+, and of many other marginalized groups.

However, organizations and philanthropists alike have stepped up to address this dire situation.

Covenant House

Covenant House is an international organization that provides support and aid for homeless youth in Canada. The organization’s mission statement is: “Covenant House launched a federation-wide initiative to design and implement a cutting-edge, data-informed strategy to help even more of our kids achieve meaningful, long-term outcomes.”

It especially focuses on offering services to members of the LGBTQ+ community, POC, and abuse victims. The organization provides more than just direct support for these young individuals. Covenant House commits to restructuring data processing regarding homeless youth, reviewing methods of information analysis and generation, and finding the best performance measurement strategies. The organization works toward short-term as well as long-term change.

Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s Involvement

The serious issue of youth homelessness in Canada deeply struck Ryan Reynolds, a Canadian himself. In response, Reynolds and Blake Lively decided to donate $500,000 to the cause. The couple even matches donations up to $375,000 before the end of 2020 to encourage others to donate.

The choice of where the funds should go was a personal one. Reynolds has a long-time relationship with the Covenant House. The dedication they put into their work and the extensive impact they wield in the community inspired his “investment.”

In the interview done by Covenant House, he described the donation as an investment rather than a monetary donation into homeless youth in Canada. Reynolds stated, “The young people who pass through the doors of Covenant House more often than not have a story marked by extraordinary trauma. They are so much more than that trauma. They have so much to offer the world. Matching this gift is saying you believe in them. You believe in the power of compassion to transform the trajectory of a human being.”

The CEO of Covenant House Vancouver, Krista Thompson, expressed her gratitude for the donation and continued relationship with the couple. Thompson remarked, “Ryan and Blake truly understand that young people who are facing homelessness deserve unconditional love and absolute respect.” The money will be used to assist with youth experiencing homelessness and fund much of the research that is occurring to combat the issue of homelessness as a whole.

Manasi Singh
Photo: Flickr

Celebrities Pose for 2017 Hear the World Calendar
For 85 percent of the world, hearing is a quality of life that is often taken for granted while the other 15 percent of the population envisions a future limited by disability. Every year, 665,000 children are born with hearing deficiencies, and those living in low-income countries are unable to receive the adequate treatment needed to aid hearing loss.

Hear the World was established in 2006 by Sonova. Its mission? Providing equal opportunities for individuals with hearing impairment. As 2016 comes to a close, the foundation marks its 10 year anniversary and has successfully donated over 100,000 hearing aids and has “supported 24 projects in 19 countries.”

One of Hear the World’s campaigns to raise money is their annual calendar featuring celebrities posing with one hand behind their ear as a symbol representing hearing awareness. The foundation has been recognized by the Guinness World Records for “the world’s largest photographic awareness campaign with 53 celebrity ambassadors.” The newly released 2017 Hear the World calendar, which sells for $40 with all proceeds benefiting the foundation, features celebrities such as Cindy Crawford, Jake Bugg and Linda Evangelista.

Though hearing loss is a global issue, impoverished countries experience it as more of a burden, especially children. According to research, “60 percent of childhood hearing loss is preventable” and yet, with the lack of resources in low-income countries, children are left untreated and their learning abilities are hindered. In countries such as Cambodia, hearing loss would be preventable without issues such as “incorrect treatment of middle ear infections, malaria drug overdose or acoustic trauma caused by landlines.” Such preventable situations drive the Hear the World Foundation to develop programs that equip countries with financial and audiological resources to help relieve the effects of hearing loss.

In 2015, Hear the World partnered with photographer Philipp Rathmer to implement a project in Malawi, Africa that allowed young people affected by hearing impairments to photograph their favorite sounds since receiving hearing aids. Some of the youth favored the sounds of local animals while others appreciated sounds of the manual labor that drives their local economy. Fifteen-year-old Pauline Mwanja says, “I like the sound of sewing machines because I know something nice will come out of it.” Because of Hear the World’s efforts toward providing hearing health awareness, the youth of Malawi have found joy in sound again just like Masautso Mwale who simply says, “I like to hear people call my name.” Not only has rehabilitated hearing brought joy to the Malawi people but they also have a newfound sense of appreciation for sounds which now hold a deeper significance.

By raising awareness about hearing disabilities that are prevalent in low-income countries, individuals living with hearing loss, especially children, are offered a better future with necessary resources. By purchasing the 2017 Hear the World calendar as a gift this holiday season for family and friends, it will be a gift to those in need, as well!

Amy Williams

Photo: Flickr

Can you name at least three musicians who fight poverty in unorthodox ways? In a recently announced project, major hitters in the music industry will be joining together to produce a new album aimed at reducing poverty around the world. Some of the musicians already attached to the project include stars like Kanye West, Ellie Goulding and Mumford & Sons.

The album, entitled Metamorphoses, will be sponsored by Global Citizen, a nonprofit that brings people together to fight global poverty. This project is a logical extension of the organization’s previous work, which often includes organizing major concerts to raise funds and build awareness for poverty-fighting efforts.

What makes Metamorphoses unique is the fact that fans have been called upon to submit lyrics, poems, and even short stories for the musicians to incorporate into the 12 tracks. According to Global Citizen’s CEO, Hugh Evans, this highly interactive process will include material from people all over the world, making the project “a truly global tribute to our collective responsibility” to fight poverty.

How will the album ultimately help alleviate poverty? Producers are planning to employ slightly unorthodox methods that sidestep traditional fundraising techniques. Instead of buying the album with actual currency, fans can “purchase” Metamorphoses by making commitments to take action to fight poverty.

This kind of outreach has the potential to build lifelong warriors against poverty, as opposed to one-time donors. Those who “buy” the album are offering to engage with the anti-poverty movement through direct action, such as educating their elected officials about the issue and petitioning those with law-making power.

The project itself was dreamed up by Global Citizen in partnership with Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons. According to Lovett, the “crowd-sourcing” of material makes the project especially exciting. “Metamorphoses has the potential to break down our preconceptions of the voices of creativity, what different people around the world are thinking and who has the right to be heard,” Lovett claims.

Set to be released in the Fall of 2016, Metamorphoses is destined to be an exciting and unique album with the potential to do a lot of good and foster activism through the power and process of creating music, according to Global Citizen.

Jennifer Diamond

Photo: Flickr

Celebs Speak Up for Refugees
The migrant crisis appears to escalate more and more each day: more stories of migrants crossing borders, fleeing war-torn, violent fragments of communities on foot and by boat. As governments, particularly in the E.U., struggle to determine how to handle the situation, many celebrities are advocating for governments to treat the refugees with due compassion and kindness.

JK Rowling is promoting a petition in the U.K. that advocates for the acceptance of asylum seekers. She tweets, “If you can’t imagine yourself in one of those boats, you have something missing. They are dying for a life worth living. #refugeeswelcome.”

She also is criticizing the press for not giving the issue enough attention and coverage. Rowling is a known philanthropist and also spent some time as a researcher with Amnesty International. Samantha Morton, who is starring in Harry Potter spinoff “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” also advocated for the U.K. to reconsider its position on refugees.

Author John Green declared a commitment to matching up to 20,000 pounds toward fellow author John Ness’s donation page for organization Save the Children. Green is famous for Paper Towns and Looking for Alaska; he also carries a strong Twitter and YouTube presence.

Actresses Olivia Wilde and Sophia Bush criticized GOP nominee Donald Trump’s attitude toward immigrants while praising Iceland’s recent commitment to taking in refugees.

The Icelandic government is reviewing a recent Facebook appeal from citizens to increase the number of refugees permitted asylum in 2015 and 2016. Sophia Bush tweeted, “Wow. While we try to throw people out and build a wall, others are opening their homes to refugees. True humanity.” This was later re-tweeted by Olivia Wilde.

For those who are not celebrities, social media is serving as an equally powerful means for advocacy. The outcry following the publication of the drowned Syrian boy shows the power of social media to fight for human rights and support refugees.

Furthermore, advocacy organization Sum of Us created a catch-all page compiling relevant links for donation pages, fundraising opportunities and event listings. Through petitions, advocacy and pledges for support, hopefully refugees can receive the care and support needed to gain stability after such a long time in crises.

Priscilla McCelvey

Sources: Global Post, JK Rowling, Sum Of Us, TIME
Photo: Google Images

education_awardActress Jessica Biel and actor and singer/songwriter Justin Timberlake will be honored in Los Angeles in the fall by GLSEN, a non-profit focused on schooling. The couple will receive an education award for their commitment to children’s education.

The GLSEN Respect Awards began in 2004 and have been held annually in Los Angeles and New York to broadcast the charity work of educators, students, influential individuals and corporations who have made an exemplary difference.

Recently, GLSEN announced this year’s honorees to voice the organization’s excitement for the Respect Awards and to showcase the humanitarians receiving the awards. GLSEN Executive Director Dr. Eliza Byard said that GLSEN is thrilled with their diverse selection of philanthropists. Byard also said that Biel and Timberlake have been great supporters of the cause.

“Jessica Biel and Justin Timberlake have been visible and committed allies,” she said.
Biel and Timberlake will receive the Inspiration Award that will highlight the couple’s continual and thorough pledge to improving the lives of children.

Biel and Timberlake have participated in work for water sanitation, women’s rights, human rights, poverty, disaster relief, refugees, slavery and human trafficking and health — all causes that contribute to a quality standard of education.

Biel has taken to Twitter to use her celebrity to raise awareness for Charity: Water, an organization that seeks to provide clean water for areas without.

“In Orissa, India #water & sanitation solutions can change lives,” Biel said.
She also asked that her followers visit the Charity: Water Twitter page and website for more information and to retweet her tweet.

Timberlake contributed a song to Songs for the Philippines, a collection of 39 popular tracks, to benefit those displaced after the supertyphoon in 2013.

All charity work aside, Biel and Timberlake are a celebrity couple who understand the importance of a safe environment for education. GLSEN does, too.

Since 1990, GLSEN has made it a point to research and create programs for primary education systems. The organization has successfully helped to implement student leadership plans and educator training, as well as federal advocacy.

According to UNICEF, creating a safe and successful learning environment is difficult in areas of war and poverty. In one UNICEF article titled “Finding a Safe Space for Learning in a Country Beset by violence,” displaced refugees and citizens in areas stricken with conflict may miss years of schooling because of their unfortunate living conditions.

The article also describes the struggles of a teenage girl named Nicolette Divine who moved out of her area so that she could attend school in a safe setting.

“My mother said that a school at the monastery was starting, so that was why I came [to Bangui], so that I can study,” Divine said.

GLSEN has employed many tactics and ideas to ensure the safety of children in school. With the power of voice and opinionated thinking, GLSEN has successfully executed programs that created special days dedicated to social and educational movement towards safe and positive schooling systems.

In previous years, GLSEN Respect Awards have honored actress Julia Roberts, NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt, athlete Jason Collins, as well as corporations like MTV and Johnson & Johnson.

The lineup for the GLSEN Awards features actor Dave Karger, actress Jessica Capshaw, athlete Mike Irvin, country music artist Terri Clark and more. The event will take place at the Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills on Oct. 23.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: Billboard,, Look to the Stars 1, Look to the Stars 2, UNICEF
Photo: Us Weekly

Feeding America
As part of a series by the organization Feeding America, “Say No to Summer Hunger” is teaming up with local food banks to serve much-needed summer meals to kids facing hunger.

In an event that was in partnership with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Jennie Garth famous from the television show 90210 and actress Samantha Harris served free and nutritious lunches to dozens of kids and teens.

The event was located in a library is located in Los Angeles County, where the number of children living in food-insecure households ranks highest in the nation, with 591,000 children who may not know where they will find their next meal.

“Child hunger exists in communities all across America,” said Garth. “There should be no reason that a child in this country is allowed to go hungry.”

Nationally, upwards of 22 million children rely on free or reduced-priced meals to nourish them during the school year. However, during the summer months, only 2.7 million children have access to free or reduced-price meals through summer feeding programs. This creates a huge deficit in the amount of nutrition these children are receiving during a crucial period of their development.

As Samantha Harris said during the event, “Summer should be spent outside playing with friends, not worrying where or if you will eat lunch that day. Kids need energy, and food is fuel!”

This is why organizations like Feeding America exist: to feed America’s hungry through a nationwide network. Having celebrity members spread awareness by using their name, real change can be made, along with hopefully inspiring a call to action from other members of the community.

Feeding America’s “Say No to Summer Hunger” has and will hold events across the country for the duration of the summer months.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Look to the Stars, Feeding America, Think Progress
Photo: Look to the Stars

Stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and self-proclaimed travesti exécutif, Eddie Izzard, traveled to Djibouti in July 2015.

Izzard, a UNICEF UK Ambassador, met with child refugees who escaped the ongoing civil war in Yemen, Izzard’s country of birth. The children he spoke to fled their homes with nothing, traveling across the Red Sea by boat.

According to UNICEF UK, more than 20,000 people, including 10,000 Yemenis, have taken the journey across the Red Sea into Djibouti since March. Many of these Yemeni refugees are living in Markazi, a refugee camp outside the city of Obock.

“For decades, the children of Yemen have been living in fear and danger. They are now living through the hell of civil war and many have had to flee across the Red Sea, to Djibouti via Bab-El-Mandeb – the Gate of Tears” Izzard explains.

“The harrowing stories from Yemenis, particularly those from Aden, the city of my birth, will stay with me forever. I have a responsibility to highlight this crisis to the world, and I hope I can persuade the UK public to help the 10 million Yemeni children that are in danger right now.”

Izzard wishes to help the many children caught within the turbulence of conflict—products of what he calls a “forgotten civil war”.

In his appearance for Sky News, he highlights UNICEF’s efforts, stating that with any donations the organization would be able to provide a week’s worth of nutritious food or even 60 vaccinations against polio.

Out of the 25 million total population of Yemen, he states, nine million children have become extremely vulnerable and have faced much hardship due to the ongoing conflict.

Jaime Longoria

Sources: MSN, UNICEF

At a recent fundraising gala, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) raised more than $40 million. This money was dedicated to preserving the last of Earth’s wildlife, habitat, and fragile ecosystems.

DiCaprio stated during the opening ceremony, “We’ve decimated our forests, wildlands, polluted and overfished our rivers and oceans; all the key ecosystems that not only serve as a home to our planet’s biodiversity but also make life here for us possible”.

The event itself, an annual affair, focused its current efforts on protecting key species like the tiger, rhino, shark, and mountain gorilla by working with governments to conserve the jungles, coral reef and forests they call home.

The LDF was able to raise such a large amount of money in a single evening by holding a live auction, presented by the LDF’s long-term partner Julius Baer and other co-sponsors like Chopard and Armani.

The live auction sold an extensive collection of fine art, luxury items and uniquely memorable lifetime experiences. Some of the items sold were an estate home on Leonardo DiCaprio’s own Belize Island that was sold for over $11 million, a private concert with Elton John sold twice for a total of $3 million, and a limited re-edition of Rodin’s “The Thinker” sold for close to $2 million. This shortlist of expensive items were a few of the many auctioned off at the gala event. In addition, several key figures at the event donated simply out of the kindness of their hearts for this worthy cause.

Starting in 1998, the LDF has stated its mission of protecting the world’s last wild places. The LDF implements solutions that help restore balance to threatened ecosystems, ensuring the long-term health and well being of all Earth’s inhabitants. Since that time the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has worked on some of the most pressing environmental issues. The LDF has made several strides with grantmaking, public campaigns and media initiatives to focus efforts on protecting the biodiversity of the world.

With accomplishments like this, it is truly satisfying to see the LDF tirelessly strive to make a difference.

Alysha Biemolt

Sources: Look to the Stars, Leonardo DiCaprio, Calfund
Photo: Flickr

In 1899, Rudyard Kipling published “The White Man’s Burden,” a poem that seemingly outlines the necessity for White help to countries that were not, in his eyes, as far along as those in Europe.

Although what initially spawned was colonialism—wherein the African continent was forced to be subject to European powers while living under deplorable conditions—the White Man’s Burden turned into something more: a white savior complex, the need to rescue people of color from what is assumed to be a horrid status.

Many have viewed Western celeb aid to developing countries as just that.

Since movie stars were famous, it has been a commonality for successful stars to go to Africa and Asia to ‘help’ the children and countries. Many see this as a win-win for the celebrities—they get a tax write-off for donating money, they get good press and they ease their conscience.

Celebrities in these countries also affect those in America. When people click on pictures showing celebs like Bono, Madonna and Audrey Hepburn, they admire their charity and the things they are doing.

However, when Americans see these faces among black and brown children in poverty, it can stimulate a savior complex. Although Kipling’s poem influenced the white man’s complex, it has turned into a Western savior complex.

Americans are no strangers to the ‘Africa the country’ phenomenon. Many assume most of Africa is an underdeveloped jungle full of natives who need help. When media only shows the parts of Africa that are in trouble coupled with the infrequency to learning about it in school, many Americans feel the need to save them from themselves and their conditions.

While this condescending attitude may seem harmless on a small scale, it is dangerous on a national scale.

When politicians are discussing sending aid and support, it is often times not done properly, sometimes worsening the situation. Earlier this summer, Pastor Rick Warren urged the Senate to have a different type of attitude towards those stuck in extreme poverty.

By changing the narrative and the education, aid can be properly and respectfully given to countries in Africa, developing mutually beneficial relationships between the U.S. and the East.

Erin Logan

Sources: History Matters, Newser, LA Times, Senate
Photo: The New Yorker

operation smile
Balsam Hill and Operation Smile announced the #CelebritiesforSmiles campaign that auctioned off ornaments autographed by celebrities to help children in need.

Balsam Hill, an online retailer of Christmas home décor products, and Operation Smile, an international medical operation that serves children, collaborated to help raise money for children and families in need of medical help.

Operation smile is a nonprofit medical service organization based in Virginia Beach that works to reduce the occurrence of cleft lips and palates worldwide. The organization operates in more than 60 countries and has an international network of thousands of medical volunteers from more than 80 countries to help the lives of children.

The organization also raises awareness of cleft issues and organizes student programs worldwide to promote leadership, commitment and volunteerism values across many young lives. Operation smile also donates medical resources and provides continuous treatment for family and children in need of medical services.

The campaign auctioned ornaments signed by celebrities from the fashion industry to the sports industry. The auction started on December 9 and lasted until December 16.

“It is such a pleasure to partner with Balsam Hill because they are incredibly motivated and dedicated to helping give smiles to these children around the world,” said Dr. Bill Magee, CEO and Co-Founder of Operation Smile.

Before the campaign took off, Hill pledged $25,000 to Operation Smile and donated ornaments from one of their high-quality décor collections. More than 30 donated holiday ornaments autographed by well-known celebrities inducing Adam Levine, Mark Wahlberg, Kate Walsh and the entire cast of Days Of Our Lives were auctioned online beginning December 9. All the proceeds from the sales of the ornaments were donated to Operation Smile.

The campaign quickly caught attention as the #CelebritiesforSmiles campaign was trending on popular social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Updates from the campaign also appeared on Balsam Hill’s Facebook page that has more than 27,000 followers.

To date, Operation Smile has provided over 220,000 free surgical treatments to children around the world from families who cannot afford it.

Sandy Phan

Sources: Operation Smile, Balsam Hill