Rachael Ray gives her advice to Canadians helping out in Africa

Written by Sade Jones, CNN

Hosting the 2019 BAFTA Film Awards on February 10th, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to visit Ethiopia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. His office made the announcement in a press release earlier this month, saying that “Canadians are drawn to the quest for peace and progress in the African continent and are rightly proud of its rich diversity.”

One of those celebrating diversity is celebrity chef and TV host Rachael Ray. The author of Eat, Pray, Love and Dr. Oz’s “First Impressions” has recently visited Ethiopia’s Yegna Peace and Friendship Mission, better known as “Team Horn of Africa.” Ray spoke to CNN over the phone from Ethiopia about the many ways Canadians could be supporting humanitarian efforts in Africa.

“I really feel like there’s a need for more people from the West to go to Africa and to really understand what we’re donating to,” Ray said. “Once you start working in Ethiopia, you really realize that aid workers are really important people — not just because of the death they see and the refugee streams they see. But there’s a really good community of aid workers, if you look at the things that they do — like mentoring the next generation, like they do in Ethiopia — and it’s a really beautiful country.”

Team Horn of Africa, or “Birders” for short, works alongside the Ethiopian government and military to develop high schools, apprenticeships and agricultural programs. Working out of Refugee and Displaced Persons (Refugees) Aid Research Centre, it uses farming as a tool to teach lifesaving literacy skills.

In Ethiopia, with more than 22 million people, an estimated 1.1 million people are refugees, around 55% of whom are children.

“When my son Chris was at school in California, there’s every day kids asking him about ‘home,’” Ray said. “We kind of share the same experience, and I think it’s really important to get involved. And if we’re doing our country’s economic well-being well, then we’re doing that to help everybody else.”

Addressing Canada’s current budget shortfall and demonstrating commitment to immigrants and refugees, Ray shared a few food dos and don’ts, including one that could be applicable to the BAFTA Awards as well.

“A good tip is putting a woman at the top of the list,” she said. “We’re well-educated, we’re hardworking, and women make up half the population. And women for me, lead and run countries and inspire people.

“I also really strongly believe that we should be supporting parents by teaching them to cook. It’s so important.”

Help out in Africa, Canada

To learn more about ways Canadians can help, Ray recommended giving through the Canadian International Development Agency. “It’s like sending your money right into the heart of the problem.”

She also called on people to show their support in more personal ways, like donating a sweater to refugees.

“Another thing I do, especially when I’m on a deployment or in a camps with refugees, is ask everybody to give me their cellphone password, so I can text them information about charities and projects, and then write in my diary, because it’s just a little extra touch of connection,” Ray said.

And if the reaction to one of Ray’s recent charitable campaigns, raised more than $1.3 million, suggests Canadians are finally stepping up to help Africa, she encouraged them to keep it up.

“Really … just go online and donate now, for Valentine’s Day. Forget gifts. Give a gift now,” Ray said. “It’s going to feel really good, and it’s so important.”

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