Toni Collette honored as ambassador against worldwide hunger

July 11, 2014
Originally published in: The Jewish Daily Forward
Written by Masha Leon

Blog post discussing the ‘Women of Concern’ Awards lunch and Concern Worldwide’s Global Ambassador, Toni Collette.

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Delighted to be invited to the 12th Annual Concern World Wide Women of Concern Luncheon at The Pierre, I got to meet one of my favorite film stars — Toni Collette — who was honored as its First Global Ambassador for Concern. Among Collette’s many films are two favorites I like to revisit: The 2003 gem “Japanese Story,” and the 2006 — at times “farklempt” nosh — “In Her Shoes” in which Collette — one of two Jewish sisters (Cameron Diaz is the other) — with personal and career issues — discovers she has a still living grandmother named Ella (“Shirley MacLaine”) living in a Catskills-in-perpetual-sunshine resort genre retirement paradise in Florida. Reunited with their feisty grandmother Maclaine and embraced by the retiree entourage, the film ends in a funky, multi-cultural Jewish wedding. If you haven’t tasted this film — rent it!

At the luncheon I asked a bubbly Collette — fit and svelte in a black and white sleeveless polka dot dress — what was it like working with MacLaine. “Bloody brilliant!” she blurted out. “She is so ballsy, so grounded, so honest, so upright. I really like her a lot.” When I commented that “you seem to be attracted to transformational roles,” Ms. Collette — who was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in “The Sixth Sense” and won both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for “Best Actress in a Comedy Series” for her performance in Showtime’s hit series “The United States of Tara” — shrugged and replied: “Life is change. Embrace it!”

Accepting the organization’s Global Women of Concern Leadership Award, Collette told the 420 guests: “I can’t tell you how deeply honored I am to be a Global Ambassador for this community that is helping some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our beautiful world…. As a mother of two children, I cannot imagine what it must be like to listen to your children cry for something to eat…and have nothing to give them…” Choked up, Collette thanked Concern for “having given me the opportunity to try to do something about it,” and stressed — “I have found that 94% of the money collected annually goes to the people.” In 2012, Ms. Collette participated in Concern’s global campaign to fight malnutrition and hunger… worldwide with gifts of livestock, clean water and health care.

Emceed by “Shelby Holliday,” Anchor/Reporter Channel 1 News, the event also honored Concern Worldwide co-founder “Siobhan Walsh.” Among the guests: Concern Worldwide U.S. CEO “Joseph Cahalan,” Concern Worldwide US COO “Michael Schreiber” and “Amina Abdullah,” Concern Worldwide Specialist in Food Security and Development.

Founded in 1968 in Dublin, Ireland, and present in New York for 20 years, Concern Worldwide is an international non-governmental humanitarian organization working in 25 of the world’s poorest countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

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