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Actor Kal Penn Cooks for Palestinian Refugees on MasterChef

posted on: Jan 4, 2017

BY: Nisreen Eadeh/Staff Writer

On the hit FOX television series, MasterChef, actor and public servant Kal Penn of ABC’s Designated Survivor participated in a special Celebrity Showdown episode, where stars win money for charities of their choosing. Penn competed against Son of Zorn’s Cheryl Hines and won the competition, donating $25,000 to his charity choice: the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA USA).

UNRWA USA supports the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, which was established in 1949 to provide “education, healthcare, emergency protection, and other human development programs to over 5 million Palestine refugees across the Middle East.”

Every year, Israel demolishes hundreds of Palestinian homes and displaces families, who are forced to live in crowded refugee camps or flee to neighboring countries. According to the United Nations, Israel doubled the amount of homes it demolished in 2016 compared to 2015, taking down a total of 1,089 structures. The demolitions and seizures displaced over 1,500 Palestinians and affected the livelihoods of another 7,000 Palestinians. UNRWA works to fulfill basic human needs and build a better future for Palestinian refugees who have been displaced from their homes.

Penn explained his decision to play for UNRWA USA, saying, “We are so fortunate as Americans to live in a country as prosperous as ours… I thought it was important to choose an organization that directly helps those facing impossible hardships, especially refugees. Much of our own media attention is focused away from the human stories of children and families who are suffering due to displacement against the rule of international law, terrorism, and violence from so many sides. So having the chance to cook for UNRWA USA on MasterChef seemed like the right thing to do.

“As all Americans of various faiths and backgrounds return to work after the holidays this week, I hope you’ll join me in celebrating and promoting peace and love for all through a donation to UNRWA USA. A donation of $32 can provide a blanket, mattress, and winter jacket to Palestine refugees in Syria this winter.”

Penn’s generosity to UNRWA USA comes a week after the United Nations voted on a Security Council resolution, which called for an immediate shut down of the illegal Israeli settlements program in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

It is uncommon to hear celebrities speak about the Palestinian plight on a national platform, but Penn said he was inspired by Secretary Kerry’s speech after the UN vote last week to offer assistance to Palestinians.

“Secretary Kerry recently discussed in his speech that Gaza is home to one of the world’s densest concentrations of people enduring extreme hardships with few opportunities; 1.3 million people out of Gaza’s population of 2 million are in need of daily assistance – including food and shelter. I’m honored to have the chance to cook on behalf of UNRWA USA,” said Penn.

The actor is perhaps best known for his role in the comedy film Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. He appeared on the hit medical show, House, for many seasons before serving as Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement during the Obama administration. He left the White House to re-enter the field of acting on the shows How I Met Your Mother and Designated Survivor.