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UNHCR Renews Yao Chen’s Tenure As Goodwill Ambassador

Jun 12, 2017 01:30 pm
In a nod to her untiring support for refugees, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi today renewed Chinese actress Yao Chen’s tenure as UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassador for an additional two years.

Filippo Grande presents a certificate of renewal to UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Yao Chen
Filippo Grande presents a certificate of renewal to UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Yao Chen
Credit/Copyright: UNHCR/Wang Wei

Grandi met Yao Chen on Wednesday as part of his inaugural visit to China to explore how Beijing can play a greater role in addressing global displacement through approaches such as South-South Cooperation and the “One Belt One Road” initiative.

Appointed as UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassador in June 2013, Yao Chen was honoured at the Crystal Awards in Davos last year for her work to raise awareness of the global refugee crisis on behalf of UNHCR. With 80 million followers on Weibo – the Chinese equivalent of Twitter – she has ranked among Forbes’ World’s Most Powerful Women and Time’s 30 Most Influential People.

“Thanks to Yao Chen, refugees have entered the consciousness of millions of Chinese people,” said Grandi. “Her unique voice has helped them to look beyond the numbers and see refugees as real people seeking to find some normalcy when their lives have fallen apart.”

During her time with UNHCR, Yao Chen has met refugees in some of the world’s largest host countries, including Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Somali refugees in Ethiopia and Myanmar refugees in Thailand.

“Refugees can often feel like a distant issue, far removed from our daily lives,” said Yao Chen. “But their plight is a symptom of the world we live in. In this global village, we are all connected and inter-dependent in one way or another.”

She added that she will continue to work closely with UNHCR to bring the public’s attention to both refugee emergencies and protracted situations of displacement.

Mental Health Association of NYC Raises $516,625 to Support Mental Health at 25th Annual Gala

Jun 12, 2017 12:00 pm
The Mental Health Association of New York City (MHANYC) raised $516,625 to support programs and services that improve the lives of people impacted by mental health challenges in New York City and across the United States.

Kimberly Williams, President of the MHA-NYC with the 2017 MHA-NYC Gala honorees: Chirlane McCray, First Lady of New York City; Brandon & Michi Marshall and the Zirinsky Family
Kimberly Williams, President of the MHA-NYC with the 2017 MHA-NYC Gala honorees: Chirlane McCray, First Lady of New York City; Brandon & Michi Marshall and the Zirinsky Family
Credit/Copyright: Sean Sime

The organization’s 25th Anniversary Gala, which was held at Gotham Hall in Manhattan and themed “Just Talk About It: Stories of Recovery and Success,” focused on the power of “just talking about” mental health concerns and celebrated people whose public words and deeds have helped thousands find hope and care.

• First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray was honored for her unprecedented leadership and commitment around her ThriveNYC initiative and her introduction of NYC Well, the City’s comprehensive call, text, and chat hotline for mental health support.
• New York Giants Wide-Receiver Brandon Marshall and his wife Michi Marshall were recognized for their passionate mental health advocacy since 2010, when Brandon disclosed his lifelong struggle with Borderline Personality Disorder and became an inspiration and role model to fans everywhere.
• The Zirinsky family was recognized for over 50 years and 3 generations of continuous Board membership and unwavering commitment to improving mental health services. Cynthia Zirinsky, founder of Gracie Square Hospital and the Richard and Cynthia Zirinsky Center for Bipolar Disorder at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital, was honored along with her daughter, legendary CBS News producer Susan Zirinsky; her son-in-law, TV news innovator, Joe Peyronnin; and her granddaughter, Morgan Stanley executive Cynthia Eckes.

“It’s gratifying to see the wide range of support shown at our Gala to promote mental health and emotional wellbeing,” said Kimberly Williams, President of MHANYC. “Not only did we exceed our fundraising goal, but we brought the conversation about mental health issues into the open and demonstrated how simply talking can lead others to take action and achieve wellness.”

More than 300 leaders in business and government attended the event, which was hosted for the second year in a row by Bill Ritter, Co-Anchor of WABC’s Eyewitness News, who lent his support to underscore the prevalence of mental health conditions and the importance of sharing our stories.

With less than 40% of people with mental health conditions receiving treatment, MHANYC is a leading provider of innovative mental health services, advocacy, and education in New York City and across the country. Monies raised at the Gala directly support these efforts and the millions of people who benefit from them every year.

Richard Branson: It’s Time To Be Brave

Jun 12, 2017 10:30 am

Richard Branson: Profile

Sir Richard Branson is supporting Amnesty International’s new “Brave” campaign for human rights.

“In 2016, people in at least 22 countries were killed for peacefully standing up for human rights,” blogged Branson last week. “That’s more than 10 per cent of the world’s countries. That number increases to 94 countries if you take into account all those threatened or attacked. That’s almost half the countries in the world.

“That’s a set of figures I find truly worrying. It’s the basis of Amnesty’s latest campaign, Brave – raising awareness of the individuals standing up for human rights across the world. Brave is a chance for us to recognise the courage and intrepidity of those who risk their lives in the name of human rights every day to make this world a better and safer place.

“These people are defined by the international community as Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), “someone who, individually or in association with others, acts to defend and/or promote human rights at the local, national, regional or international levels, without resorting to or advocating hatred, discrimination or violence”.

“The causes they continue to fight for – from protecting the environment to ensuring equal rights for women – are ones extremely close to my heart. What is most frustrating is the increasing rate at which these brave people are killed: from 156 in 2015 to 281 in 2016.

“Bravery is something I’ve mentioned many times before, mostly in the context of business. It’s a trait that means you’re willing to stand up and say you’re not happy with the status quo. The Human Rights Defenders honoured by Amnesty’s campaign exhibit this quality to the highest degree, willing risk everything for what they believe in.

“I have enormous respect for the individuals, locally and internationally, who have stood up against unjust regimes. Most are never known, and many are currently languishing in prison simply for raising their voice in support of the principles and values we should all hold dear. Where in the world would we be without this bravery?

“As a proud member of Amnesty’s Global Council, I hope this campaign not only raises awareness of these issues, but inspires real, tangible action. We must come together to support people on the frontline fighting to make this a safer world where human rights are protected. It’s time for us to be brave.”

To find out more about Amnesty International’s Brave campaign, click here.

150 Young Artists Join All-Star Broadway Cast In Arts For Autism Benefit Concert

Jun 12, 2017 09:00 am

Autism Speaks: Profile

Educational Travel Adventures (ETA) and Believe NYC, organizations that enrich the lives of young people through travel and performance opportunities, announce the return of Arts for Autism, hosted by Tony Award winner Kelli O’Hara.

The concert will take place at the iconic Gershwin Theatre on Monday, June 19, 2017 at 7:30 p.m., and will benefit Autism Speaks. More than 150 young artists will join the Broadway cast on stage for an evening that will inspire feelings of understanding, acceptance, kindness and compassion.

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Broadway lineup:
• Christopher Jackson, Tony Award nominee (Hamilton)
• Stephanie J. Block, Tony Award nominee (Falsettos)
• Adrienne Warren, Tony Award nominee (Shuffle Along)
• Jennifer Laura Thompson (Dear Evan Hansen)
• Teal Wicks (Finding Neverland)
• Abby Mueller (Beautiful)
• John Michael Dias (Beautiful)
• Betsy Struxness (Hamilton)
• Kelvin Moon Loh (The King and I)
• and more!

This year’s show will introduce Mina Cuesta, an incredible lyric soprano on the spectrum. She was non-verbal in early childhood, but her parents’ introduction to music became her pathway to communication. “Mina’s love of theatre and singing is infectious and endearing. When she sings it’s obvious she has found the thing that makes her feel most alive,” Says Jacque Carnahan, Artistic Director and Producer. Mina and Kelli O’Hara will sing a surprise onstage duet with a message to match the inspiration of the evening.

Andrew Duff, diagnosed with autism at age two and Autism Speaks’ Multimedia Producer, explains his connection with theater. He says, “It’s a place of expression. It’s practicing social cues. There’s not really a right or a wrong. In some ways, it has helped me more socially than any other therapy I’ve had.” Andrew is scheduled to speak at the show.

“It’s inspiring to watch young performing arts students and Broadway actors share a message of acceptance as they are joined on stage by performers on the spectrum. It’s a chance for the young people involved to perform on Broadway, a dream for many, and a chance to support an important cause. It’s an incredible show,” says Michael Holzer, Producer and General Manager of ETA.

Arts for Autism is produced by Educational Travel Adventures (www.etadventures.com) and Believe NYC (Believe-NYC.com) with 100% of proceeds from ticket sales donated to Autism Speaks. Last year’s inaugural event raised close to $40,000.

James Cameron And Zoe Saldana – What Would The Ocean Say?

Jun 12, 2017 07:30 am
Presented by filmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron and the Avatar Alliance Foundation, What Would the Ocean Say? debuted at the United Nations in the Hall of the General Assembly to mark the occasion of World Oceans Day on June 8th as part of the programming for the first-ever United Nations Ocean Conference.

Video: What Would The Ocean Say?

Distributed online by National Geographic, the short film is narrated by Avatar and Guardians of the Galaxy actress Zoe Saldana and features stunning ocean imagery generously donated by some of the world’s preeminent marine documentarians.

The short film outlines the significant challenges the world’s oceans face: global warming, plastic pollution, overfishing, ocean acidification and more. But it also introduces a new generation of ocean activists — researchers, conservationists, teachers, filmmakers — working on the front lines to protect and preserve the planet’s critical resource.

Following the film’s debut at the UN, a second segment aired that featured eight young leaders focused on ocean science, education and conservation and associated with National Geographic, The Explorers Club, OpenROV — OpenExplorer and The Resolution Project. Consistent with the themes of the UN Ocean Conference, which was aimed at achieving Sustainable Goal 14, the “Ocean Goal,” this next generation of ocean champions underscored the need to take action on oceans through a collective statement: “If not me, then who? If not now, then when? It starts here. It starts now.”

The film is executive produced by James Cameron and Maria Wilhelm and was made possible by collaboration from contributors: Oceans, a Jacques Perrin and Galatée Films production; Planet Ocean, a Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Michael Pitiot film; March of the Penguins by Bonne Pioche Productions and Luc Jacquet; MacGillivray Freeman Films; Alucia Productions; National Geographic; Howard Hall Productions; Dave Hannan; the Plastic Oceans Foundation; Years of Living Dangerously; TBA21-Academy.

The following list of institutions additionally supported the production: Disneynature; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; The Explorers Club; OpenROV – OpenExplorer; The Resolution Project.

Spotlight: Lionel Richie’s Charity Work

Jun 12, 2017 07:00 am

Lionel Richie

While Lionel Richie’s career includes such accolades as selling more than 100 million albums and achieving countless honors, from an Academy Award to four GRAMMY Awards, one of the accomplishments he is most proud of is his bachelor’s degree in economics from Tuskegee University.

In the Commodores, he developed a groundbreaking style that defied genre categories, penning smashes such as “Three Times A Lady,” “Still” and “Easy.” The diamond-certified Album Of The Year GRAMMY winner Can’t Slow Down followed in 1983, giving the world classics such as “All Night Long (All Night),” “Penny Lover,” “Stuck On You,” and “Hello.” His music continued to push boundaries and unite listeners worldwide. It’s because he wasn’t afraid to break genre barriers and craft something singular and timeless.

The next year he performed at the historic 1984 Summer Olympics closing ceremony. In 1985 he joined forces with Michael Jackson to write one of most important pop songs in history, GRAMMY-winning “We Are The World,” for USA For Africa and the album We Are The World. A decade later, in 1996 he began a run of powerful, personal albums that commenced with the gold-certified Louder Than Words, followed by 1998’s Time and 2001’s Renaissance.

Read more about Lionel Richie’s charity work and events. 

Video Spotlight: ‘The ocean and us’ – BBC Earth, United Nations Ocean Conference

Jun 12, 2017 07:00 am
This film, produced by the BBC and narrated by Sir David Attenborough, has been presented at the opening of The Ocean Conference that is taking place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from the 5th to the 9th of June 2017.

'The ocean and us' - BBC Earth, United Nations Ocean Conference

Click here to view the video in your browser.