Ronan Keating performs at a charity event in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied photo

Dubai: Celebrity power and generosity joined forces in Dubai this week to raise more than $1 million (Dh3.67 million) for some of the poorest people in the world.

Fashion model and photographer Helena Christensen, Bollywood star Rahul Bose, Hollywood favourite Owen Wilson and UAE director Ali Mustafa gave emotional accounts of their experiences in Nairobi, Malawi and Pakistan in a bid to encourage an audience at the city's Armani Hotel to dig deep. And it worked.

Unique gifts donated by Scarlett Johansson, Alec Baldwin, Christensen, as well as Colin Firth and his wife Livia, were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to auction lots.

The One Night to Change Lives charity evening was hosted by the Dubai International Film Festival and luxury Swiss watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen with all profits going to Oxfam and UAE-based philanthropic organisation Dubai Cares.

Ever the cynic at first there was something uncomfortable about eating tomato-crusted Angus beef tenderloin, wild mushrooms followed by light cheese tart with strawberry compote under the stars while watching videos of children starving in 30 of the poorest countries in the world.

But when the auction began and the generosity became apparent - not to mention that of 90 per cent of the suppliers gave their time, money, skills and produce free of charge - everything fell into place.

The Alec Baldwin Experience - flights, accommodation, a private yoga class with him and his girlfriend and a tour of the 30 Rock set - opened proceedings selling for $14,000.

But bids didn't stay low for long. A one-off timepiece courtesy of IWC sold for $85,000, a Pablo Picasso painting for $50,000, while Body and Image - a painting by Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahij brought in $30,000.

Then star power really kicked in with heart-felt messages from around the world.

"I'm sorry I can't be with you tonight at the Dubai International Film Festival," came the recognizable voice of Johansson. "I'm in East Africa where I'm trying to help these children achieve the right for clean water and sanitation. Please, please bid high and bid strong. These children depend on your generosity," she added before wishing everyone a beautiful evening.

The actress' lot - two tickets to join her on the red carpet at the world premiere of her latest flick The Avengers - went for $22,000.

Colin Firth's wife Livia also had a message, before introducing her lot - the necklace and earrings she designed and wore to the Golden Globes the night Firth picked up his win for his performance in the King's Speech.

"These pieces will bring luck to anyone who wears them," she said via video link. "Help the people I'm here working with help themselves." The pieces went for $25,000.

But probably the most emotional segment of the evening came when Rahul Bose arrived on stage. The actor told of his experiences in Pakistan following the floods and before he knew it he had people throwing large quantities of cash his way.

"I met a woman who earns $2 US dollars a day," he said, the entire audience in silence. "I asked her how she raises her children. She replied ‘I don't'. She said she wakes up at 4am and walks two hours to work where she breaks stones for 12 hours before walking back home again for two hours. By the time she reaches home the children - a boy and a girl - have eaten leftovers from the night before, the girl has bathed the boy and they are in bed. ‘They raise themselves,' she says with tears in her eyes. We selected the daughter for a scholarship. I knew the best way to break the cycle of poverty was to give her a chance. She is now expected to get more than 80 per cent in her Grade 10 exams this year. I cannot thank you enough," he said.

Bose then asked all those willing to give $30,000 - which builds a school for 200 children, water, sanitation, teaching training, equipment and boundary walls - to stand if they could help.

One after another stood until thirteen people were on their feet. While an emotional Rahul tried to find the words to express his gratitude the GEMS group then announced they would like to add a further 10 schools - $300,000 schools. With that the entire audience gave a standing ovation, many in tears.

Ali Mostafa and Helena Christensen, who also had tales of their travels with Oxfam, joined the other celebrities to close the successful evening.

"I met a woman who sleeps with her husband and nine children in a hut the size of two of the tables you are sitting on tonight," she said. "We have to help these people."

Meanwhile, Ronan Keating finished off the night in style with a lively performance against the backdrop of the Burj Khalifa.

"It's great they managed to build this fabulous building in time for my show tonight," he joked.

Life is a Rollercoaster, If Tomorrow Never Comes, When You Say Nothing At All, The Way You Make Me Feel, Last Thing on My Mind kept everyone dancing into the night.