Refugees International Celebrates 40 Years

Refugees International hosted its 40th Anniversary Dinner on April 30, 2019, to celebrate four decades of work, advocacy, and to honor individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and commitment to humanitarian action.

“This year’s awardees have demonstrated incredible willingness to take on the most difficult challenges and push the international community to do better in pursuit of justice and human rights,” said Refugees International President Eric Schwartz. “We are humbled to be able to present them with this honor.”

Refugees International’s Anniversary Dinner is its largest fundraising event of the year. Through the generous support of our donors, Refugees International advocates are able to travel on field missions to research some of the most neglected and protracted crises and to speak with refugees and displaced people first-hand about their needs.


This year’s McCall-Pierpaoli Award, Refugees International’s highest humanitarian award, was presented to the Honourable Louise Arbour, C.C., G.O.Q., Senior Counsel at Bordon Ladner Gervais LLP and Former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for International Migration. 

In bestowing the McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award, Refugees International recognizes Ms. Arbour’s lifetime of work in the pursuit of justice and human rights. Ms. Arbour has achieved the highest levels of leadership whether it be at the UN, as a jurist, or at a leading advocacy organizations. What characterizes her leadership is her willingness in these roles to take on the most difficult challenges, to push the international community to do better, and the vision and drive to bring about systemic, transformational change in the pursuit of justice and human rights.

The McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award was also awarded to former president of Portugal, Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio, and Dr. Vartan Gregorian for their philanthropic work with the Global Platform for Syrian Students and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

In bestowing this award to President Sampaio and Dr. Gregorian, Refugees International is recognizing their dedication to public service and lifetime of leadership in the international community.


Refugees International honored Taller Salud, an inspirational humanitarian aid group in Puerto Rico, with the 2019 Richard C. Holbrooke Award for providing critical services and unwavering support in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and María. 



Refugees International honored U.S. Representative Will Hurd of Texas with its 2019 Congressional Leadership Award for his commitment to public service, recognition that principles of humanitarianism and humanity must inform policy making toward those who have been forced to flee their homes, and commitment to the resolution of challenging migration issues through civil discourse based on facts and not fear.


Refugees International honored Mayor Wilmot Collins of Helena, Montana with its 2019 Exceptional Service Award for his extraordinary advocacy on behalf of refugees. He has highlighted the stories of refugees and displaced persons, including his own compelling personal story as a resettled refugee and has effectively championed the importance of the U.S. refugee resettlement program while reminding the public about the enormous positive contributions of refugees to our society.


The evening also included a special performance by Mariela Shaker, refugee, advocate, and classical violinist.

Event Highlights