The Amazing Actors Riz Ahmed and Kal Penn Raise Thousands for Syrian Refugees

If you need another reason to love Riz Ahmed and Kal Penn, here’s a big one: both actors are using their star power to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help Syrian refugees.

Ahmed and Penn took to social media to plug their individual CrowdRise campaigns. After Ahmed’s breakout 2016 (he starred in HBO’s The Night Of and had a supporting role in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), his 2017 is off to a good start. Ahmed’s virtual fundraiser has raised more than $170,000 for Karam Foundation, a nonprofit that delivers educational programs and smart aid to Syrian refugees.

“You might have seen the immense suffering that’s taking place in Aleppo, Syria right now; so many families and civilians caught up in a brutal civil war,” said the British-Pakistani actor in a video he posted on Twitter. “It’s easy to feel helpless, but the fact is, we’re not. Now if 2016 taught us anything it’s that when people really care about something, they can come together and make a massive, unexpected impact.”

Penn echoed similar support for refugees since winning MasterChef Celebrity Showdown and donating his $25,000 cash prize to Palestinian refugees through UNRWA USA. The Designated Survivor actor and former White House Associate Director of Public Engagement launched a campaign for Syrian refugees after a racist Twitter comment told Penn he didn’t belong in America.

“I was just sitting on my couch a few hours ago and figured it could be nice to turn some troll’s negative message into something positive,” Penn wrote on his CrowdRise page. “It is such a great testament to hope and positivity that we are — literally just a few hours later — close to having raised $50,000 for Syrian refugees. What an impactful way to show the world that we love our beautiful country and do not stand with our new president and his un-American policies.”

To date, Penn’s fundraiser has raised more than $860,000 for the International Rescue Committee, an NGO providing lifesaving support to vulnerable refugees. The looming threat of another Muslim ban and its surrounding anti-immigrant sentiment makes Ahmed and Penn’s advocacy all the more crucial. You can contribute to Penn’s campaign, ‘Donating to Syrian Refugees in the Name of the Dude Who Said I Didn’t Belong in America,’ or Ahmed’s ‘Support for Syria Now.’

Written by Zeenie Malik

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Zeenie is a Pakistani-American journalist from New York, covering Muslim and South Asian news and culture. When she's not putting pen to paper, she's hosting charity events and watching '90s teen movies.