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Seven of the most philanthropic celebrities in Hollywood: from Dolly Parton to Hend Sabry

As the country singer donates $1 million to Covid-19 vaccine research, we delve into which other stars are known for their generosity

Hend Sabry, Will Smith and Dolly Parton are among the most charitable of celebrities. 
Hend Sabry, Will Smith and Dolly Parton are among the most charitable of celebrities. 

News that Dolly Parton donated $1 million towards the development of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine made many see the country singer in a new light this week.

However, it was far from her first charitable endeavour. Here, we spotlight decades of hard work and good will from the 9 to 5 singer. We also look at more global stars who are using their place in the public eye to highlight, and fund, the causes most important to them.

1. Dolly Parton

Country Music Hall of Fame legend and multi-Grammy winner Dolly Parton has spawned her own social media challenge. AP
Country Music Hall of Fame legend and multi-Grammy winner Dolly Parton has funded coronavirus vaccine research. AP

The Jolene singer has made headlines for her $1m donation towards the development of the Moderna vaccine. However, this is certainly not the first good cause the country star has put her money behind.

Parton is a huge advocate for literacy and education and is the founder of the Imagination Library, a programme that gifts monthly books to children until they are 5. In February 2018, she donated her 100 millionth free book. At an event to mark the milestone donation, the star said: “Of all the things I’ve done in my life — and it’s been a lot because I’ve been around — this is the most precious. Maybe we’ll be back for a billion.”

Parton, 74, has also worked with a number of other foundations supporting unemployed people in America, has raised money for Aids and HIV causes, and helped preserve the bald eagle.

In 2003, Parton was recognised with the US Fish and Wildlife Service Partnership Award in recognition of her support.

2. Leonardo DiCaprio

FILE - Leonardo DiCaprio arrives at the 26th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 19, 2020, in Los Angeles. DiCaprio turns 46 on Nov. 11 (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)
Leonardo DiCaprio is a vocal environmental activist. AP Photo

It's no secret that the Oscar-winning actor is a vocal advocate of environmental causes. In 1998, he created the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to support organisations that work towards a sustainable future for the planet.

When he received his Best Actor Academy Award for his role in The Revenant in 2016, he took the opportunity to speak about climate change.

"Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating," he said. "We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this. For our children's children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed."

However, he doesn't only focus on environmental issues. In 1998, DiCaprio donated $35,000 to create the Leonardo DiCaprio Computer Centre at the library in his childhood home Los Feliz, with his mother, Irmelin DiCaprio. In 2010, he donated $1m to relief efforts in Haiti after a devastating earthquake and, earlier this year, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation donated $3m to Australian bushfire relief efforts.

3. Elton John

Sir Elton John was knighted in 1998 and now joins the elite Companions of Honour. EPA
Sir Elton John runs the Elton John Aids Foundation. EPA

British singer Elton John started the Elton John Aids Foundation in 1992, having lost a number of close friends to the virus.

“In the mid-1980s, I began channelling my grief into efforts to help raise money for the pioneering charitable organisations that formed during those dark, grim years to fund Aids research and provide vital services to people with HIV/Aids," the Rocket Man singer writes on the EJAF website.

He hosts annual Grammys and Oscars parties to raise money for the foundation.

According to its website, in the 28 years since it was founded, EJAF has raised more than $125 million "to support programmes in 55 countries [providing] prevention and education, elimination of prejudice and discrimination, and services to people living with the disease".

4. Hend Sabry

Hend Sabry at the opening night of the Dubai International Film Festival at Madinat Jumeirah on December 6, 2017. Christopher Pike / The National 
Hend Sabry was appointed an ambassador against hunger by the UN World Food Programme in 2010. Christopher Pike / The National

In 2010, the Tunisian actress was appointed an ambassador against hunger by the UN World Food Programme. She has visited a number of WFP’s programmes in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, and most recently visited Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, her first mission outside the Middle East.

“I wanted to visit the Rohingya families in the camps to show that suffering has no borders and humanity has no boundaries,” said Sabry during her visit. “I met inspiring women who have become heads of their households and are doing their best for their children in one of humanity’s most difficult circumstances. They have lost so much but remain hopeful and looking forward to their future. Their stories are heartbreaking, and their resilience inspiring.”

5. Will and Jada Smith

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - SEPTEMBER 25: Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith on stage during the Paramount Pictures, Skydance and Jerry Bruckheimer Films "Gemini Man" Budapest concert at St Stephens Basilica Square on September 25, 2019 in Budapest, Hungary. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures)
Will Smith and wife Jada Pinkett Smith are behind the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation. Getty Images

The high-profile couple founded the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation, a charity that works with inner-city community development, educational youth projects and under-privileged children and their families in the US. Last year, the WJSFF worked with the Make-A-Wish foundation to launch the #FriendLikeMe challenge, which raised $1m.

Notably, in 2007, Smith donated $1.3m to a number of charities, spreading the money between Christian schools, ministries and churches, Scientology organisations, a Los Angeles mosque and the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Centre in Israel.

6. Shakira

Colombian singer Shakira is among the artists due to sing at the worldwide coronavirus summit this weekend. Ryan Carter/The National
Colombian singer Shakira works on a number of projects championing the rights of children. Ryan Carter / The National

Lebanese-Colombian singer Shakira has worked with a number of charitable initiatives, with a special focus on children and education. In 1997, she founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation, named after her 1995 album, which funds schools for impoverished children around Colombia. The organisation currently supports five schools.

In 2005, she became a founding member of the Latin America in Solidarity Action, a coalition that champions the rights of children.

7. Beyonce

In this video grab issued Sunday, June 28, 2020, by BET, Beyonce accepts the humanitarian award during the BET Awards. (BET via AP)
Beyonce accepts the humanitarian award during the BET Awards in June 2020. AP Photo

Beyonce has worked with a host of charities and foundations since 2002, when she founded the Knowles-Rowland Centre for Youth in Houston with Kelly Rowland and her mother, Tina Knowles.

With Rowland, she also launched the Survivor Foundation, an organisation that helped the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. At the time, she donated an initial $250,000.

Beyonce has also donated more than $7m for maintenance and upkeep to the Knowles-Temenos Place Apartments, a housing shelter that can accommodate up to 43 displaced or homeless people.

“She’s an incredible human being,” said Reverend Rudy Rasmus, who established the shelter. “[She] has an incredible heart and has been extremely helpful in our mission and our ministry here."

She also runs the BeyGood organisation and Global Citizens, mostly from her hometown, Houston.

In June 2020, the singer was honoured with the Humanitarian Award at the 2020 BET Awards, which was presented by former First Lady Michelle Obama.

In her speech, Beyonce spoke about the Black Lives Matter movement, saying: "I’m encouraging you to continue to take action ... Continue to change and dismantle a racist and unequal system. We have to vote like our life depends on it because it does. Please continue to be the change you want to see."

Updated: November 19, 2020 04:30 PM

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