Tag Archives: Celebrity Philanthropy

Stephan Bognar, A Personal Friend, A Personal Hero

20 Aug

Upon meeting my good friend Stephan Bognar, my gut told me this is a man who will change the world & beginning  5 years ago was most definitely changing the philanthropic landscape of Cambodia!  For the last several years Stephan has served as the CEO of the Jolie Pitt Foundation & is based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Here is a taste of some of the inspiring work Stephan has done & why I feel so lucky to not only have him as a friend, but also a philanthropic mentor.

Stephan prior to his position with the Jolie Pitt Foundation was a field agent for the San Francisco-based international non-profit wildlife conservation group, WildAid. Bognar spent two months in Baghdad, where he helped with the effort to rescue and rehabilitate the animals at the Baghdad Zoo. When he arrived, only 32 of the 600 animals remained, the rest were stolen or roaming the streets. The ones left at the zoo were suffering from neglect, malnutrition and dehydration. Bognar helped in the efforts to care for the animals, and to find the lost ones. He also was part of several black market sting operations to recover animals. Bognar also took care of Uday Hussein’s private collection of animals which had been abandoned and which included cheetahs, lions and baby lion cubs.

Listen to his NPR interview at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1290181 and I hope you are as inspired! 

Stephan Bognar serves as CEO of the Jolie Pitt Foundation in Samlaut, Cambodia

Examples to Follow

27 Oct

Below is an amazing commentary by actor Javier Bardem and John Pendergast about the atrocities being committed in the Congo.  We must recognize the power we have to use our voices on behalf of those who do not have the freedoms to speak for themselves.  The first step to solving the problem is recognition of the problem.  I hope you will share this with your friends and continue to support the Interface Foundation which supports high impact organizations achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
 
 
(CNN) — Over the past decade, waves of violence have continuously crashed over eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in the world’s deadliest war.
A study by the International Rescue Committee says the war has led to the deaths of 5.4 million people.
The human wreckage that washes ashore in displaced settlements and shattered communities has few parallels in terms of pure suffering.
With the most recent escalation in the conflict during September and October, another tidal wave of destruction is hitting the embattled population of eastern Congo, with devastating consequences.
The perpetrators and orchestrators of this violence do so primarily in a mad scramble for one of the richest non-petroleum natural resource bases in the world.
All kinds of minerals are mined in the Congo that end up in our computers, cell phones, jewelry, and other luxury and essential items of everyday use. Because there is no rule of law in the Congolese war zone and no ethical code impacting the international supply and demand for these minerals, the result is that anything goes.
In Congo, this means the vampires are in charge.
Vampires take many forms in Congo. They are the militia leaders who control the mines, and who use mass rape as a means of intimidating local populations and driving people away from areas they want to control.
Vampires also include some of the middlemen based in neighboring countries who arrange for the purchase and resale of Congo’s resources to international business interests, run by people who are often accomplices. They need to acquire minerals like tin and coltan to be able to satisfy the insatiable demand for these products in North America, Europe and Asia. It leads them to ask no questions about how the minerals end up in their hands.
Then there are innocent consumers like us — completely unaware that our purchases of cell phones, computers and other products are helping fuel a shockingly deadly war halfway around the world, not comprehending that our standard of living is in some ways based on the suffering of others.
The suffering of the people of the Congo is unnecessary. If there was a functioning government there, and the rule of law, the minerals could be mined in a legal and orderly way.
If there was a peace agreement involving the main armed groups, the use of sexual violence as a tool of war would end. If there was a cost for committing the kinds of atrocities that have become common in Congo, they would end.
There are many Congolese community leaders, churches, politicians, human rights activists, women’s organizations and others who are struggling to create a future Congo that is defined by peace and security. Around the world, we can play a major role in supporting these everyday heroes.
The Enough Project is launching a campaign called RAISE Hope for Congo, aiming to build a permanent and diverse constituency of activists who will advocate for the protection and empowerment of Congolese women and girls.
Women and girls have become primary targets in the war of attrition between the armed groups in eastern Congo. Congo’s transformation must begin with them.
Over a century ago, tens of thousands of people across the world joined together in what would be the 20th century’s first great international human rights movement to protest the bloody reign of Belgium’s King Leopold II over the Congo.
In a murderous effort to exploit the central African nation’s vast natural resources, half of the Congo’s population would be decimated by King Leopold’s personal rule — an estimated 8 million people. The resulting public outcry helped curb the worst abuses of that period. A century later, the people of the Congo need a new popular movement to end the atrocities once and for all.
So, the good news is there are answers to what is happening in Congo. A determined peace process can end the war. Support for Congolese institutions can help build the rule of law and economic opportunities. And a focus on crimes against women by the International Criminal Court could help introduce some accountability and justice to a place that has little.
But these things won’t happen unless voices are raised all over the world against the injustice occurring in the Congo. If we make enough noise, we can influence politicians to pay a little more attention to the deadliest war in the world. With a little attention and some effective action, that war could end, and the era of vampire rule in eastern Congo would come to an end.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Javier Bardem and John Prendergast

John Prendergast contacts rebel leaders

John Prendergast contacts rebel leaders

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Javier Bardem with Penelope Cruz & Salma Hayek

Javier Bardem with Penelope Cruz & Salma Hayek

The Interface Foundation — My Life's Work

8 Oct

As a child I always saw myself helping countless people.  Serving is truly the essence of who I am & for most of my life this has been a double-edged sword.  The words of Henry Van Dyke in his short story The Mansion resonate in my soul daily, ” What could I have done better?  What is it that counts?  ‘Only that which is truly given,” answered the voice.  Only that good which is done for the love of doing it.  Only those plans in which the welfare of others is the master thought.  Only those labors in which the sacrifice is greater than the reward.  Only those gifts in which the giver forgets himself.”  So this double-edged sword of my souls ultimate desire to serve has finally become my ultimate blessing & my life’s work.  For years I would bang my head against the wall as I was not born with a trust fund, I was not educated at an Ivy league school, I was not blessed with “fame” however these supposed “hurdles” in my life are my actual blessings.  My unquenchable desire to be a force for good is a flame that will never be extinguished because I don’t have a trust fund, I didn’t go to an Ivy League school & because I can’t carry a tune & didn’t win American Idol & end up touring the world.  It is that simple!  What I do have is the ultimate desire to serve humanity and after 12 years of working professionally in the non-profit world the Interface Foundation was born.

As most of you know last year Interface came to life.  The Interface Foundation is a 501(c)3 private foundation whose mission is to leverage the power of business and celebrity to bring attention to high impact organizations working to accomplish one of the eight Millennium Development Goals established by the United Nations in 2000.

There is no greater peace than knowing your life’s mission!  With Interface I work 24/7 in doing all in my power to get humanity to help humanity!  Each and everyone of us can contribute in some way & I am here to guide the philanthropic ship of Interface to the ultimate destinations where high impact philanthropic initiatives will change countless lives.  Eradicating extreme poverty & hunger (850 million people suffer fromt the tragedy of hunger).  Allowing every child in the world to receive primary education (presently 125 million children don’t go to primary school).  Promoting gender equality & empowering women.  Reducing child mortality.  Improving maternal health.  Combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria & other diseases.  Ensuring environmental sustainability.

In a very short time we have seen hundreds, thousands of people come together to learn about Interface partner organizations, we have seen donations of time, money & products, and equally as big we have seen people spread the Interface mission!  It is a testament to the power of Interface.  Choose your goal & we will help you support it!!!

I have to give huge thanks to the business community and it’s true philanthropic leaders like Steve Luczo from Seagate, Brent Bishop, Josh James of Omniture, the famed music video director Hype Williams, Randy Blosil of Xango, Alex Hoffmann of Nu Skin, Brandon Fugal of Coldwell Utah, Bernadette Turner of QVC, Darren Dixon, Charlie Walk President of Epic Records, Brent Bolthouse of SBE, Bryan Ferre of Cultivate Ideas, Andrea Donsky, Jim Evans of Xactware,  Jason Deere, Maggie Biggar of Fortis Films, Lisa Spackman, Joel Sybrowski, Jeron Paul of V Spring, Bernadette Hill, Lisette Sand-Freedman of Shadow PR, Jessica Weitz, Dee Murthy of Five Four Clothing, famed music producer Harvey Mason JR, Lisa Nelson of ICAP, Joe “3H” Weinberger, Cynthia Garrett, Kirk Lee of Intuit. 

And I have to set the record straight here after being asked a million times if celebrities are truly engaged in causes because of their own heart or is it a PR move?  Well after being involved with some of the biggest names in the world, I have to say regardless of the celebrity’s initial reason for getting involved I have text message, emails, voice messages, & hand-written thank you notes that show they can’t wait for the next opportunity to serve humanity.  With that I want to thank a few now by giving them a “shout out” — Jeremy Piven of Entourage, Vanessa Williams, Eric Mabius of Ugly Betty, Jesse Metcalfe, Lance Bass,  Sheila E,  Sandra Bullock, Shannon Elizabeth, Tom Higginson of the Plain White T’s, Terri Seymour of Extra, Edison Chen, Paul Wall, Paris Hilton, Marla Maples, Patrick Muldoon, Blake Lewis from American Idol, Michael Moloney from Extreme Makeover:Home Edition, Laura Harring, artist Paul Rusconi, Miss USA Rachel Smith, and Billy Bush from Access Hollywood to name a few.

Paris Hilton Using Her Voice For Philanthropic Good

Paris Hilton Using Her Voice For Philanthropic Good

Let’s continue to come together to change the world.  The goals are simple.  The mission is pure.  Remember what the poet June Jordan taught us: We are the ones we have been waiting for.