Purpose//

5 Inspiring Celebrities Who Give Back to Surprising Causes

Lenny Kravitz, Pharrell Williams, and more show us how charity work can help us find greater meaning.

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Getty Images

Musician and activist Lenny Kravitz recently opened up about his passion project: an effort to help residents of the Bahamas get access to dental care. “There are so many people that need care,” he told People. “At this point in my life, it’s all about the service.”

Kravitz partnered with the GloGood foundation to set up an oral health clinic, near where he spent his summers as a child, that provides free dental care and education to the underserved. Kravitz and his partner, his dentist, have helped 430 people receive dental work last month alone.

When talking about his enthusiasm for giving back, Kravitz reflected on how he has been inspired to reconsider his lifestyle. “I was thinking yesterday, ‘Man, I just want to sell everything I own.’ There are a lot of things I can get rid of that aren’t important to me anymore, and even if they are, not more important than helping someone.” This life-changing response to the act of giving isn’t unusual at all. In fact, expert research has shown that giving to others without expecting anything in return can lead to intense positive feelings.

Kravitz is just one of many public figures who dedicate time and energy to charity work, and find it profoundly fulfilling. Here are five inspiring celebrities and the charities that they focus on — perhaps they’ll provide you with inspiration to give back.

Matthew McConaughey — Just Keep Livin Foundation

Actor Matthew McConaughey founded the Just Keep Livin Foundation in 2008 to help empower high school students by giving them “the tools to lead active lives and make healthy choices for a better future.” The group works on programs at inner city schools that focus on exercise, nutrition, community service, and gratitude. “We want to give them hope, a reason to get out of bed in the morning. They’ve got somewhere to go,” McConaughey told Variety. He goes on to explain that the goal of his charity is to change small habits in the students’ lives, so that they understand the importance of the mind/body connection and are better prepared for a successful life.

Steven Tyler — Janie’s Fund

Singer Steven Tyler opened his second home for abused and neglected girls this month, and it’s named Janie’s House after the Aerosmith song “Janie’s Got A Gun”. The homes are a part of Tyler’s larger charity, Janie’s Fund — a partnership with Youth Villages that aims to empower young girls who have experienced trauma and give them access to support and therapy. “This does my heart and my soul good,” Tyler said at the opening in Memphis, T.N. “Spending the day with these girls… I’m just so proud of them! I’m just relieved they have a safe space to be who they are.”

Pharrell Williams — From One Hand to AnOTHER

“Connectivity and education — in any community that’s falling apart, those are the two biggest things that lack. And, I just wanted to try and do something different,” says singer and activist Pharrell Williams about his From One Hand to AnOTHER foundation. The group sponsors educational programs for at-risk elementary and middle school aged students that focus on S.T.E.A.M.M. — science, technology, engineering, arts, math, and motivation. Williams himself often attends the summer camps and after-school programs to speak to students directly and be an active mentor. “Volunteering time is the biggest thing,” Williams told InStyle. “Of course, donations for any organization will always help, but it’s mostly just the mentoring and the time… in my opinion, I just feel like there’s nothing that can out-do the energy of someone positive.”

Oprah — Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls

Oprah first became a mentor for young girls in South Africa in 2007, when she founded a boarding school aimed at providing a “world-class education to previously disadvantaged girls in South Africa from Grade 8 to Grade 12.” Oprah’s hope for the attendees of her school is to give them the right education to achieve their personal and professional goals, as well as set them up for financial independence. Recently, Oprah admitted that the work she does with these students has given her more meaning than she ever thought possible. She says the students are her “greatest and deepest joy”, and “the daughters [she] did not have.”

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