Actor and former White House staffer Kal Penn doanted $25,000 to Palestinian refugees after he won the “MasterChef Celebrity Showdown” Jan. 2. Kumar’s beer-braised fish tacoswon him the top spot, as he beat “Curb Your Enthusiasm” actress Cheryl Hines.
“Only in America can a guy make tacos on FOX TV, almost lose an eye, and win $25,000 to support refugees,” Penn wrote in a note posted to Twitter. “We are so fortunate as Americans to live in a country as prosperous as ours.”
“MasterChef Celebrity Showdown” invites celebrities to cook on the show for the opportunity to win donations that go to their chosen non-profit organizations. Penn picked the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The UNRWA USA is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees all over the Middle East.
“[Penn’s] win will help us provide life-changing services to many Palestinian refugee families in need,” Abby Smardon, executive director of UNRWA USA, told NBC News. “But perhaps the most critical impact of his appearance on Fox is that Kal was able to bring the issue of Palestinian refugees to primetime U.S. television — sharing his concern for a people who have been struggling for decades to survive and thrive.”
Penn, who is best known for his role as Kumar Patel in the “Harold & Kumar” movies, worked for the Obama administration as an associate director for the White House Office of Public Engagement between 2009 and 2011. He said on Twitter that he chose UNRWA because it is an “organization that directly helps those facing impossible hardships, especially refugees.”