On Tuesday, April 24, Refugees International hosted its 39th Anniversary Dinner, drawing attention to the plight of refugees and displaced people world-wide and honoring humanitarians who work to improve their lives and defend their rights.
This year's event honored the work and dedication of Chobani Founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Hala al-Sarraf, executive director of the Iraq Health Access Organization (IHAO). The gala was held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Ulukaya received Refugees International’s highest humanitarian honor, the McCall-Pierpaoli Award. An immigrant to the United States, Mr. Ulukaya is a philanthropist and refugee rights advocate. Along with creating the Chobani brand, Mr. Ulukaya founded the Tent Foundation to mobilize the private sector to improve the lives of refugees around the globe. He also signed the Giving Pledge committing the majority of his personal wealth to the cause. Mr. Ulukaya has been named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in the World, as well as an Eminent Advocate by the United Nations Refugee Agency.
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota received Refugees International’s 2018 Congressional Leadership Award in recognition of her commitment to the protection of refugees around the world and within the United States. Senator Klobuchar has been a proud champion for Minnesota’s refugee communities and called for the United States to resettle more Syrian refugees. She has fought for greater public recognition of the major contributions refugees make to our country and for orphaned and other vulnerable refugee children to be placed with American families.
Hala al-Sarraf received the Richard C. Holbrooke Award in recognition of her organization’s work in Iraq on behalf of displaced Iraqi citizens. The Holbrooke Award is given annually to a member of local civil society who has demonstrated courage and commitment in assisting refugees and displaced persons. Ms. al-Sarraf and her organization have worked tirelessly to assist Iraqi families in need, including delivering aid to Iraq’s most besieged cities.
“All of our 2018 awardees are deeply committed to both humanitarian values and results, and each is critical in today’s world, where the rights and lives of refugees are under attack on many fronts,” said Refugees International President Eric Schwartz. “Mr. Ulukaya leads by example in his dedication to improving the lives of refugees and honoring their rights to dignity and a better life. Senator Klobuchar is a tireless and staunch advocate for Minnesota’s refugee communities. Ms. al-Sarraf and her colleagues exemplify courage in the face of great personal danger, defending the lives and welfare of Iraqi men, women, and children.”
This year’s RI anniversary dinner benefit chairs were Vali and Darya Nasr, and His Excellency Ambassador Domingos Fezas Vital of Portugal and Mrs. Vital served as the gala’s honorary chairs. The RI's Global Partnership Initiative chair is Sarah Bovim, Whirlpool Corporation vice president of government relations.
RI’s annual anniversary dinner is a celebration in honor of individuals and organizations that demonstrate extraordinary leadership and commitment to humanitarian action, changing the lives of refugees and displaced people around the world. Past gala honorees include Syria’s White Helmets, Sir Richard Branson, Rohingya human rights activist Tun Khin, and journalist Maureen Orth, among many others. Attendees of the gala include members of Congress, diplomats, representatives of corporations, foundations and nongovernmental organizations, and individuals whose generous support enables RI to serve as a powerful voice for lifesaving action.
Refugees International wishes to thank the following sponsors of our 39th Anniversary Dinner: Elizabeth and Michael Galvin; Vaithehi Muttulingam and Bala Cumaresan; Pfizer; the Pivotal Foundation and Francis and Dionne Najafi; Nina and Dino Saglimbeni; Eileen Shields-West and Robin West; UPS; Jan Weil and Amos Avgar; Maureen White and Steven Rattner; Lisa Barry and James Gale; Gilead Sciences; Irfan Kathwari Foundation; Repsol Oil & Gas USA, LLC; and Frederica and George Valanos.