Tuesday afternoon, June 24, 2014, saw The Pierre hotel in Manhattan filled with hope and good will as donors and humanitarian workers gathered to celebrate the 12th Annual Women of Concern Awards. These awards have become a jubilant tradition for Concern Worldwide, an NGO established in 1968 whose mission is to diminish and help prevent extreme poverty in regions of the world that are most in need, including countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Caribbean. Siobhan Walsh and Toni Collette, the two honorees for this year’s awards, could not have been more deserving of such recognition.
Walsh has played a crucial role in Concern’s development and growth for nearly twenty years, and helped establish the organization’s American branch in 1995. Actress Toni Collette, a newer addition to the Concern family, has just this year stepped into her exciting role as Concern’s first Global Ambassador. In the midst of a buzzing cocktail hour prior to the luncheon, Collette took some time to speak with Examiner.com about her involvement with the NGO, and the importance of hugging the world. Read our exclusive interview below:
If someone wants to find a way to give back, there are an overwhelming amount of NGOs to choose from, and various charity organizations. What do you think sets Concern apart from the pack? Why should someone choose to get involved with Concern?
Well, the reason I chose to get involved with Concern is because they are the most effective group of people helping some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world. It really struck me that they weren’t just putting a Band-Aid on problems; they were getting in and living with these people, and helping them create a sense of self-sufficiency and autonomy, and really educating them in several different areas so that they can exist without needing help so they can help themselves, ultimately. And that to me was the profound difference. Also I’m always kind of checking the ratio of money that comes in to what actually is applied to the people who need it; it’s very, very high.
Are you focusing on a certain project or area of the world right now?
I’m going to hug the world. I’m going to try to get out there as much as I can. I think the first place I’m going is Haiti next month.
What would you like to accomplish as ambassador for Concern?
I guess someone in my position, the most they can really do is just help try to shine a light on these issues and make people aware of Concern and the wonderful work that they do, so that they can continue to do it, because it’s really essential.
Essential, indeed. As guests enjoyed a lunch of summer vegetable salad, roast chicken, and fruit sorbet, some of Concern’s key players, including CEO Dr. Joseph Cahalan, and development specialist Amina Abdullah, spoke about the Concern mission. Chairman Thomas Moran, overcome with emotion, praised honoree Siobhan Walsh’s strength and innovation in forging a bright future for the organization, from her early days panhandling (as Moran affectionately joked) for Concern at Grand Central Station, to her more recent success working in conjunction with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As Toni Collette mused while accepting her award, As we’re seeing today, women are the drivers of lasting change. She couldn’t have been more on point.
For more information about Concern Worldwide visit here.