LONDON — The cofounder of boutique popcorn brand Propercorn and his childhood friend, actor Riz Ahmed, have raised over $85,000 to help Syrian refugees as part of a DIY charity drive.
Propercorn cofounder Ryan Kohn was inspired to try and raise money for refugees over Christmas when the London-born entrepreneur flew to America to visit family.
“I love Christmas, it’s one of my favourite times of year and I love buying lots of presents,” he told Business Insider. “I’ve had quite a busy year and often you don’t stop and pause to consider things. I just felt a bit guilty this Christmas.
“Here we all are giving lots of presents to each other and enjoying lots of food and drink, but actually there are so many people out there really struggling. I’d read on the plane out there quite a lot of articles about Syria and it was front of mind.”
Kohn came up with the idea of texting ten friends asking them if they would donate £10, $10, or €10 to charity. The idea was that they would then text ten other people to help magnify the result.
One of the initial ten he texted was Riz Ahmed, the Wembley-born actor who recently starred in Star Wars spin-off Rogue One and won a Golden Globe nomination for his role in the HBO miniseries “The Night Of.”
“Riz and I were at school together from the age of 11,” says Kohn. “We met at school at 11 and to be honest hit it off immediately and always remained best friends. Even at school, he was always the lead in all of the plays and all that kind of stuff.”
Kohn says Ahmed was “really keen” to get involved in the charity drive, saying: “What’s amazing about Riz is he’s such a good genuine person. The fame and all the success he’s getting is not changing him one bit. He’s still got really strong opinions and wants to do the right thing. He’s got a good moral compass on him.”
Ahmed told Business Insider over email: “2016 wasn’t a great year for many people, for many reasons, it’s easy to feel helpless. But if it taught us anything, it’s that when people rally together they can make great change against the odds.”
Ahmed has been promoting his and Kohn’s charity campaign in all his recent Golden Globe interviews and it has helped the campaign on crowdfunding website Crowdrise reach 85% of its $100,000 funding goal. The campaign has morphed from its original 10×10 goal — where someone asks ten people to donate £10/$10/€10 and then ask another ten each — and the crowdfunding page is pulling in individual donations in the hundreds of dollars.
Kohn says he and Ahmed will continue to promote the campaign until mid-February, hoping to raise as much as they can.
The funds will go to the Karam Foundation, a charity working with Syrian refugees. Kohn said: “The Karam foundation are doing fantastic things. There doing a lot in terms of emergency aid but also, in terms of those who are already displaced but are safe, helping to educate them and make sure they have opportunities in life.
“They have this thing called the Karam house and they’re getting Syrian adults who are skilled and have things to offer and they’re helping them to teach the Syrian children.”