Abel Tesfaye, better known as The Weeknd to R&B fanatics, is one of the world’s most well-known musicians. However, his passion extends far beyond his love songs. The Weeknd’s charitable work positions him as a humanitarian celebrity as he uses his celebrity platform to help those in need.
The Weeknd’s Biography
The Weeknd was born in Toronto, Canada, to parents who are immigrants from Ethiopia. The musician grew up in Scarborough, Canada, where “the working poverty rate” stands at roughly 10% and 13% of the population is non-working poor. These circumstances of poverty prompted The Weeknd to take action to reduce poverty in the area and beyond.
5 Facts About The Weeknd’s Charitable Work
- Supporting Scarborough with COVID-19 relief. Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, The Weeknd began donating profits from the sales of his popular range of face masks, which carry an “XO” label, matching every dollar for COVID-19 relief in Scarborough. In June 2020, the popular singer and songwriter donated $500,000 CAD to the Scarborough Health Network Foundation to provide COVID-19 relief to his hometown. The Scarborough Health Network Foundation began in 1977. It works with volunteers and members of the Scarborough community to build infrastructure and purchase medical technology. This is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic as hospitals work to fight off the virus. Since implementing a COVID-19 Emergency Fund, the Foundation has raised more than $3 million for COVID-19 relief.
- Supporting Musicians During COVID-19. The Weeknd donated $500,000 to MusiCares, a charity that supports musicians with programs to “address financial, medical and personal health issues.” The charity created a COVID-19 Relief Fund to support musicians facing the impacts of COVID-19 and “the cancellation of multiple music events” due to social distancing protocols. The relief fund has provided more than $13 million worth of assistance to about 14,000 people in the music industry.
- Providing Food Aid to Tigray. An “ongoing conflict between the government” and the people of the Tigray Region within Ethiopia prompted The Weeknd to give back to his parent’s home country. The conflict arose in November of 2020 after the Ethiopian Prime Minister “ordered a military offensive against regional forces in Tigray” after “an attack on a military base,” home to government troops. The conflict led to thousands of deaths and more than 2 million displacements. A June 2021 article on GlobalGiving indicates that Ethiopia’s Tigray Region now faces the most severe food crisis in 10 years as more than 350,000 people endure “severe famine conditions.” Soldiers within the region “are accused of blocking food aid and stopping farmers from harvesting, plowing or planting” while “killing livestock and looting farm equipment.” Feeling a personal connection to Ethiopia, in April 2021, The Weeknd vowed to donate $1 million through the United Nations World Food Program U.S.A., which would ultimately provide 2 million meals for the people in this region.
- Supporting Ethiopic Studies. In 2016, The Weeknd made a donation of $50,000 to the University of Toronto’s Ethiopic studies program. This program commits to helping those of Ethiopian descent with academic, personal and professional achievements. The program works to teach the ancient Ethiopic language of Ge’ez to students in hopes of decoding “excerpts of history” that are rarely understood. The musician also made a donation of $30,000 to the program in 2020.
- Assisting Beirut, Lebanon. On August 4, 2020, an explosion in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut led to the deaths of more than 200 people while destroying a majority of the city. In response to his Lebanon-born manager’s call for aid to Lebanon, in August 2020, The Weeknd made a donation of $300,000 to the Global Aid for Lebanon fund which his manager created. The funds went toward supporting “the Red Cross Lebanon, the Children’s Cancer Center of Lebanon and the United Nations World Food Programme.”
Descending from parents who immigrated from Ethiopia to Canada jumpstarted The Weeknd’s strong passion for helping people in Ethiopia, Canada and beyond. His desire to provide people with entertaining music has made him into a household name throughout the United States, but his ability to influence does not end with just that. Through donations and a commitment to use social media to raise awareness of global issues, The Weeknd’s charitable work makes him a rockstar, both on and off stage.
– Nia Hinson