Lupita Nyong'o: Why Philanthrophy is a Human Responsibility
"I was raised to consider philanthropy [as] my human responsibility," said Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o on Monday morning as she spoke at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The Us actress was there, in a conversation moderated by Cleo Wade, to discuss with Michael Kors and the World Food Programme's Antonella D'Aprile the launch of Kors's Watch Hunger Stop campaign. Now in its seventh year, the initiative partners with the largest humanitarian agency fighting global hunger to provide millions of school meals to children everywhere. Together they have delivered more than 18 million meals to date.
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Every year for World Food Day (October 16), Kors creates special-edition products to raise funds for WFP. This year's collection includes a t-shirt ($40) and tote ($58), for which all proceeds go directly to the WFP. (And, as a testament to the Instagram age we live in, Michael Kors will donate 100 additional meals if customers tag a selfie of themselves in the t-shirt or carrying the tote with the hashtag #watchhungerstop.)
Nyong'o, who is the face of the campaign, spoke at the U.N. about growing up in a family where philanthropy was simply just a part of everyday life. Her parents led by example: by visiting family members who lived in the slums of Kenya or those that lived in lavish mansions, they interacted with both sides with the same amount of respect and dignity.
"I was exposed to a large spectrum of human experience and what I learned through observation from going to all those places was that my parents valued humanity. I watched that and learned it," Nyong'o said, adding philanthropy was also always a part of her school's curriculum, and she spent her youth volunteering. "I got a lot of joy from helping because my parents instilled that in me. Giving was just a part of my psyche growing up, and it continues to be. For me, it's not an effort."
Why did she choose to align herself with the fight to end hunger? "Food and hunger are often taken for granted, especially in a land of plenty like the one we live in here. It's easy to be blind to those who are going without," she said. "I wanted to be involved because I could—I could lend my face to this and hopefully attract that new attention that can get us a little closer to the goals that these organizations and companies have set out to achieve."
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"Plus, the numbers are staggering. More than one in nine people go to bed hungry every night," she added. "That's 821 million people that don't know where their next meal is coming from. That's a lot," Nyong'o said. "If one of us decides, 'hey I'm not going to drink my morning coffee today and instead I'll donate it to Watch Hunger Stop,' that goes such a long way. We can affect someone's livelihood, even just for a day, if we didn't have that one coffee. So I would like to amplify that."
The statistics become all the more glaring when considering the hot button issue lately of there being too much food production, which leads to food waste and harms the environment. "It became apparent to me that this was a problem we could solve. There is enough food," Kors said. "We have to make noise, we have to let people know that they can get involved. I'm proud of the fact that seven years in, we're almost at 19 million meals. It's just the tip of the iceberg—if we can keep making the noise and rattling the pots and pans, we can keep the momentum going."
Antonella D'Aprile, who has been leading World Food Programme initiatives in Nicaragua, perhaps puts it best: "No one can do everything but everyone can do something."
To learn more about how you can help and to donate to the World Food Programme, visit wfp.org
To purchase a Watch Hunger Stop t-shirt or tote, visit michaelkors.com.
*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com
*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors