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MasterChef Celebrity Winner Kal Penn Donates Proceeds to Palestinian Refugees

Kal Penn, of ABC's Designated Survivor, gives $25,000 to UNRWA USA. 'I'm thrilled to be helping UNRWA do its critical work in Gaza and Syria,' he said.

Kal Penn speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 4, 2012.
Kal Penn speaking at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, September 4, 2012. Scott Eells/Bloomberg

Actor Kal Penn has donated his winnings from MasterChef Celebrity Showdown to support Palestinian refugees, UNRWA USA announced this week.

"Only in America can a guy make tacos on FOX TV, almost lose an eye, and win $25,000 to support Palestinian refugees," said Penn of ABC’s Designated Survivor, after he beat Son of Zorn’s Cheryl Hines. "I'm thrilled to be helping UNRWA do its critical work in Gaza and Syria. They're a lifeline for so many families that have been struggling for decades to meet their basic needs and achieve their rights.”

The format of the faceoff stipulated that the winner designate the charities of choice for their prize money.

Penn opted for UNRWA USA, an independent nonprofit organization which provides humanitarian support to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, according to UNRWA. He publicized his intent on Twitter on Monday.

Kal Penn's tweet: "Taking on @CherylHines in the kitchen on @MASTERCHEFonFOX tonight 8pm & cooking to win 25k for @unrwausa #Refugees #Love #NonNom."
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“We are so fortunate as Americans to live in a country as prosperous as ours. Especially during the Christmas, Hannukah, and Kwanzaa holidays, and in hopes that the New Year will bring peace and prosperity around the world, I thought it was important to choose an organization that directly helps those facing impossible hardships, especially refugees," said Penn. "Much of our own media attention is focused away from the human stories of children and families who are suffering due to displacement against the rule of international law, terrorism, and violence from so many sides. So having the chance to cook for UNRWA USA on MasterChef seemed like the right thing to do."

Penn also referred to last week's speech by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Secretary Kerry recently discussed in his speech that Gaza is home to one of the world’s densest concentrations of people enduring extreme hardships with few opportunities,” said Penn, “1.3 million people out of Gaza’s population of 2 million are in need of daily assistance – including food and shelter. I’m honored to have the chance to cook on behalf of UNRWA USA.”