What is more valued when competing in a contest and winning – the fame or the fortune? Or an even better question, how can you make better use of the platform you’ve been given from your victory?
Kal Penn, known for his roles on House, Harold & Kumar and The Namesake, recently won the the title of MasterChef on the famous TV competition program, MasterChef Celebrity Showdown, on January 2, 2017. His prize? Other than the MasterChef title, Penn was awarded $25,000 to donate to the charity of his choice – UNRWA (a United Nations organization that aids Palestinian refugees.)
While he used his movie star status and his popular winning title to shed light on the Palestinian refugee crisis on the show, he is no stranger to political and humanitarian issues. As a former White House Office public official under President Barack Obama, he was able to gain 270,000 Twitter followers throughout his tenure. He then used his platform to support and donate to UNRWA, which ultimately received a flood of donations.
Thousands of his fans took to social media expressing their gratitude for his generosity. For example, Facebook user, Osama Khader, wrote:
“Thank you sir for your generosity. Palestine and all of its people, from the locals to all around the world, deeply appreciate that. Thank you, God bless.”
Penn’s ability to bring awareness to Palestinian refugees brought attention to the 44% of the world’s refugee population. An interesting fact about UNRWA: Its staff consists of 33,000 Palestinians that are considered refugees, and extends aid to Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan as well.
Prior to the announcement of Penn’s MasterChef win, UNRWA tweeted:
“No matter what happens, Kal Penn is our winner!”
You could say the stigma of discussing controversial issues about Palestine was chopped in the kitchen Monday evening by the MasterChef winner, Penn. While many would avoid discussing the refugee crisis due to its political connection (it’s not polite to discuss politics or religion…or so they say) – it’s so much more than that – its a humanitarian issue.
Executive director of the UNRWA, Abby Smordon, clearly states the necessity of directing attention towards the issue:
“There’s nothing political about education; there’s nothing political about health care; there’s nothing political about social services. These are services that are tied directly to human rights.”
They are also necessities that should be entitled to every human being. The inalienable right to live your life and pursue your happiness should be afforded to everyone.