Rebuilding Lives: Annual Dinner, Seattle
On October 25th, supporters of the IRC in Seattle gathered at the picturesque Four Seasons hotel overlooking Puget Sound, to celebrate this year’s local and global successes. Since 2008, Rebuilding Lives, Seattle’s Annual Dinner has aimed to inform and inspire supporters through personal accounts of survival and hope. This year, with the help of generous corporate sponsors and dinner guests, over $100,000 was raised to support the work of the IRC in Seattle. These funds will sustain and grow our current programming, as well as provide the resources for us to take on some exciting new initiatives in the coming year.
After a short reception kicked off the evening, the program opened with The IRC Youth Chorus from this summer’s Newcomer School Readiness Program. The students, primarily Burmese and Bhutanese refugees arriving in Seattle within the last six months, sang a touching rendition of John Lennon’s "Imagine."
In years’ past, CBS Evening News Anchor and Managing Editor Scott Pelley hosted the Rebuilding Lives dinner. This year being an election year, however, he was unable to attend, but sent a video, sending his greetings and updating the attendees on his trip with the IRC to Somalia. Jonathan Wiesner, IRC Board of Directors Chair Emeritus, gave an update on the IRC’s global programs, focusing on the relief work in Syria and Jordan, and continued support in Mali. Bob Johnson, IRC’s Executive Director, updated attendees on local programs.
Before dinner was served, Sarah Wayne Callies, star in the highly acclaimed AMC series "Walking Dead" spoke about her family’s experience as refugees, and how that has impacted her. Callies is the granddaughter of a refugee and the IRC supports causes that are very close to her heart. She has been named an IRC "Voice" for the organization, and spent time with the IRC in Thailand, SeaTac and Atlanta.
The program continued with Monika Bakayoko-Topolska, the Gender-Based Violence Coordinator with the IRC in Cote D’Ivoire and an IRC Humanitarian Award Recipient. She has spent six years in the Cote D’Ivoire coordinating the Women’s Protection Empowerment program as well as the Economic and Social Empowerment Program, which has helped more than 1,200 women.
Dinner attendees listened to powerful performances by two actors, Jose Amador and Pilar O’Connell, who recounted personal accounts of IRC clients. These "Voices of Survival" stories are those of courage, from a survivor of human trafficking, a Somali man separated from his family for many years, and a Bhutanese farmer whose journey from harm to home lasted twenty years. As the evening drew to a close, a group of traditional Meskhetian Turk Dancers ended the program by performing two captivating numbers.
The IRC in Seattle would like to extend our gratitude to the following sponsors for making this dinner such a success: Starr International Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Threads 4 Thought, Stoel Rives, Alaska Airlines, Blucora, Banner Bank and Rainier Investment Management.
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