Co-chairs Natasha Koifman and Suzanne Boyd hosted the 14th annual Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ) Festival Gala, an intimate evening raising over $725,000 for education in Haiti.
The night began with a beautiful performance by Haitian-Canadian Wesley (Wesli) Louissaint and Congo-born Lionel Kizaba. Emcees George Stroumboulopoulos and Natasha Gargiulo then returned to the stage for their second consecutive year co-emceeing the APJ Festival Gala, expressing gratitude for supporters and guests and stressing the importance of the cause while detailing the current climate in Haiti.
Natasha Koifman, Canada Board Chair, US Board of Directors and Festival Gala Co-Host, spoke passionately about her commitment to the cause and appreciation for the long-time supporters in attendance. Opening the night in a grateful, passionate, and motivational tone, Koifman thanked everyone who made all of this positive change possible. She highlighted the overall pass rate of above 90 per cent, 1,300 students graduating since 2016, and over 27,000 students attending since its opening.
Highlights from the evening include:
- Eric McCormack was honoured with the official Artist for Peace and Justice Award for his strong commitment to social good, presented by Suzanne Boyd and Yannick Bisson. McCormack has been involved in many causes over the years.
- George and Eric Hendrikx also honoured environmental activist and champion Dax Dasilva with the prestigious Canadian Changemaker Award for the tremendous impact he has made through his non-profit environmental alliance, Age of Union. In 2021, he pledged an initial $40 million towards conservation projects around the world that aim to solve critical environmental challenges.
- A special performance from Fefe Dobson and Dan Kanter.
- Showcasing the first-hand impact of APJ on the lives of youth in Haiti, the emcees introduced intimate video messages from Susan Sarandon, Sting, and Paul Beaubrun among others. They recalled their own experiences of the positive impact APJ can have, encouraging guests to raise funds so Haitian youth can receive education for a better future.
- A live auction led by stars of he hit show Trading up with Mandy Rennehan, Mandy Rennehan and Lauren Ferraro raised $273,500.
- Natasha Koifman and George led an inspiring moment to “Fund The Need”, identifying significant need at the Haitian academy. Yannick & Shantelle Bisson started it off with a $30,000 donation to fund teachers’ salaries as well Ellie Mae donated $25,000 to fund 350 students with uniforms. Many guests including Natasha, George, and Peter Tunney, among others, rallied together to raise an impressive $163,250 to improve teachers’ salaries.
APJ’s mission is to encourage peace and social justice, working to alleviate poverty around the world. The organization’s immediate efforts serve the poorest communities in Haiti with programs in education and training in creative industries, while expanding its reach globally by partnering with effective local organizations to give young women access to quality education.
Generous sponsors for this year’s event include: Air Canada, Audi, REMY Martin, Oxley Real Estate, 9 Story Media Group, La Bonne Fille Fine Tea Co., Ritz Carlton, Ellie Mae, and Flow Water.