Rachel Weisz: 'It's Lovely' Giving Back with Husband Daniel Craig
04/08/2014 AT 04:20 PM EDT
Craig, clad in a gray suit, and Oz the Great and Powerful star Weisz – in a sleeveless light pink dress and towering black heels – arrived at the seventh annual Night of Opportunity gala at Cipriani Wall Street smiling and holding hands before being honored by The Opportunity Network, which aims to help underprivileged teens get into (and pay for) college and launch successful careers.
Weisz, 44, told PEOPLE the decision to collaborate with the New York education organization was an easy one, and that she valued being able to work closely with her husband on the initiative.
"It's really lovely" working together, she said. "It's something that was incredibly natural and obvious to us."
But the work is not without tears. "I've met several of these kids and they've told me their stories to my face, and it was very hard not to cry," she adds. "Not because it was sad, but because they're so inspiring, and so courageous."
And, Craig, 46, told PEOPLE, "It's not just the grand gesture that counts [when giving back] – it's the everyday that matters."
He and Weisz appeared to be in great spirits, cracking jokes and lamenting the freezing April rain as they gamely posed for photos and gave interviews about their adopted cause. Weisz, who has a 7-year-old son, Henry, with ex Darren Aronofsky (Craig has a grown daughter, Ella), said she’s trying to parent by example when it comes to charity work.
"Kids watch their parents closely. They watch everything they do – the good things and the bad things," she said. "So hopefully they grow up in a culture of caring about others, and it will be up to them to decide what they want to do, but hopefully it will rub off on them."
Over a dinner of burrata, grilled halibut and vanilla cream meringue layer cake, the couple mingled with other guests before taking the stage to receive their honor, introduced by "OppNet" student Prisma Herrera.
As they stood close at the podium, Weisz rubbed her husband's back as he paid tribute to the students – some of whom were the first in their families to graduate high school and attend college thanks to OppNet’s intensive program – and at one point the pair exchanged a long, loving glance.
OppNet's founder Jessica Pliska praised the acting duo as true humanitarians during the event. "People who know them all say the same thing and know this to be true – they're incredibly authentic, they really care about this, and this night really meant a lot to them."
"You can't always say that about everyone ... especially two superstars," she added. "We hit the jackpot."