The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. will continue its 27-year tradition of providing financial support to cultural and educational non-profit organizations at its annual grants banquet. This year’s grant recipients will be announced at the event, which takes place July 31 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
Licensing fees garnered from the Golden Globe Awards have allowed the HFPA to donate more than $33 million to over 80 nonprofit charities, fund scholarship programs and humanitarian efforts as well as organizations devoted to film preservation, journalistic freedom of speech and relief for natural disasters and international crises.
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Its efforts in the latter capacity were most recently defined by a $500,000 grant to Help Refugees (helprefugees.org), a U.K.-based nonprofit that brings aid to, and advocacy for individuals caught in the global refugee crisis. Both outgoing HFPA president Meher Tatna and newly elected president Lorenzo Soria joined actress Helen Mirren to present the check to Help Refugees founder Josie Naughton at the HFPA’s annual philanthropic celebration, held in association with Participant Media, on May 19 at the Cannes Film Festival.
Naughton launched Help Refugees in 2015 in response to the hundreds of thousands of migrants who arrived on European shores that year, the majority of whom hailed from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Images of men, women and children in dire need, and in some cases, in mortal peril — most notably, Aylan Kurdi, a Syrian boy who drowned on the shores of Turkey, drawing a global outcry — spurred Naughton and several friends to provide these individuals with assistance.
Their initial decision — to raise $1,500 and take a vanload of supplies to the northern French town of Calais, where thousands of immigrants had taken up residence in open-air camps — went viral and raised $86,000 in a week’s time, as well as 7,000 lbs. of goods a day. With the help of volunteers, Naughton and her associates went to Calais. They found thousands of individuals in need and French residents struggling to contend with their number, with only small grass-roots groups like themselves to help both sides.
“We ended up partnering with one of these micro-associations and opening a warehouse, starting a distribution system, a shelter-building program — all the services you’d expect at a refugee camp,” says Naughton. “That was what we tapped into from the beginning: the ability to get funds from the public and volunteer specific skills.”
Eventually, Help Refugees’ efforts extended to other European regions in need, and according to Naughton, they and 30,000 volunteers have provided $25 million to more than 700,000 refugees in 12 countries. Despite such efforts, the global refugee crisis remains a constant.
“The United Nations just gave out stats as to how many displaced people there are in the world, and it’s just under 70 million, and half of them are children,” Naughton says. “Though it seems like it might be a political issue, it’s actually a humanitarian one, and we are really grateful for the HFPA. It’s important to be standing on the right side of history with them.”
The decision to award Help Refugees was a natural one, according to Tatna. “They took it upon themselves to do it,” she says. “They found a lot of needs on the ground in Calais — housing for these refugees, there were no medical supplies — and they just decided that if no one else would do it, they should do it. That resonated with me, for sure.”
Her successor, Soria, agrees. “We felt comfortable with the way they operated, their overhead is very small compared to what they put out on the field. That doesn’t mean other organizations do less, on the contrary. But we believe that it is more effective to give a sizable sum to one rather than spreading smaller sums to 10 or 15 organizations, all of which, again, are worthy, and in need of help to sustain what they are doing.”
At the July 31 banquet, Soria says: “We will renew several of our older grantees and add some new ones,” with the focus remaining on charitable organizations devoted to cultural and educational ends. Giving back will also remain part of his tenure as president: “The transition from Meher to myself will be very smooth and friendly, and there will be no radical changes in philanthropy or other areas.”