When most people think about Richard Gere they may imagine him as 'that movie star who's all about freeing Tibet'. Yes, that's certainly what he's most famous for, as it's perhaps the cause closest to his heart. And though you'd think that the task of solving the Tibetan crisis would be enough to keep him busy, he also commits himself to the causes of AIDS awareness (in India and throughout the world), cultural preservation and human rights. In fact, looking at the enormity of what Gere does, it's surprising that he has time leftover for a film career. 

For more than 25 years he's used his power as an internationally recognized celebrity to draw attention to serious global issues. And to do this he created two organizations: the Gere Foundation and Healing the Divide.  The Gere Foundation is a nonprofit organization that Gere created to provide philanthropic assistance to the dozens of needy causes. It directly supports The Tibet Fund, which supports the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people. Occupied by China, these refugees lost their homeland in 1959 and have been trying to regain autonomy ever since.

I hold a big spot in my heart for Tibetan culture and the Dalai Lama. My mother went to boarding school in Northern India from Kindergarten through the twelfth grade. So I grew up hearing stories of the Tibetan refugees that would pass through her hillside town. In fast, one of these refugees was in fact the Dalai Lama himself-young and fresh into exile. He attended my mother's home economics class and, together, they stirred fudge (pictured above). (After all, food is a universal language.) I too, in the same school in Mussorie, India, traveled to hear the Dalai Lama speak in Tibetan (with an English translator) to a group of about 40 Tibetans and a handful of Westerners. I was only 16 yet I still recall the Tibetan faces. happy, smiling and serene. And I vividly remember the awesome presence the Dalai Lama had.

So I am a huge fan of the Tibet Fund and the Gere Foundation who collaborate to raise money. With help centuries old Mahayana traditions are preserved, monasteries are rebuilt in southern India and assistance is given to bring awareness to the cause. The Gere Foundation also gives assistance to other humanitarian organizations including Oxfam America, the International Red Cross, amfAR, Amnesty International and plenty of others.  Collectively, these groups preserve indigenous cultures, provide disaster relief, research and fight against HIV/AIDS and help fight for human rights.

Healing the Divide, Gere's public charity, attempts to do just what its name implies. Its mission is to prevent conflict and promote understanding by providing solutions and bringing people together. Essentially, Gere believes that the human race is too divided by race, religion, location and other aspects that break us apart. Healing the Divide is his method of bridging the gap.  I love the quote printed on the landing page of the website for Healing the Divide. Gere is says, “Lasting and meaningful change in the world can only happen when people come together to boldly re-imagine what might be and to find creative solutions to the issues affecting them.”