On the evening of May 16th, the stunning Space Gallery (right in the heart of Denver’s art district on Santa Fe) came alive, as close to 150 guests joined in a celebration of resilience, hope, and the power of community: Welcome Home.

The annual signature fundraiser hosted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Denver had two goals: First to show support and unity in uplifting newcomers who have sought refuge from war, persecution, and upheaval, and second to raise necessary funds for the IRC in Denver's Education Program. 

The Mediterranean buffet delighted taste buds with its vibrant flavors, as attendees savored dishes inspired by the region’s rich culinary heritage. Specialty cocktails flowed freely, adding yet another touch of elegance to the evening, as guests browsed the extensive silent auction, marveled at the featured art, and conversed with Education Team members. 

At 7pm, Denver Post columnist, educator, and seasoned commentator Krista Kafer graced the stage as the evening’s emcee opening the official program. Her eloquence and passion effortlessly and instantly connected Denverites and those who have embarked on courageous journeys to rebuild their lives in Colorado. Her ability to greet the guests in 20+ languages immediately set a tone of solidarity. 

Krista was soon joined on stage by singer/songwriter Rebecca Folsom. Within moments, Rebecca captured the audience first with her personal connection to the IRC in Denver (in her project "Sanctuary" she partnered with IRC youth clients) and then with her soulful music, creating a one of a kind atmosphere of warmth and connection. 

Ukrainian artist Mila Solo next captivated the audience by sharing her story of transition from the Ukraine to Fort Collins. Her passionate explanation on the healing power of art during intense times of transition left a lasting impression on the attendees. Mila had generously entered 28 pieces of her own art into the ongoing silent auction, creating a buzz of excitement, as attendees bid passionately, knowing their contributions would directly impact the lives of those seeking refuge in Denver. 

The IRC in Denver's Executive Director Tanya Vitusagavulu extended her gratitude to several indispensable key players in the organization's daily operations. Jim Smith from Golden Real Estate, as well as Kyle Koster from CK&Done were honored as distinguished community partners. Further, John Hicks received the recognition of distinguished volunteer, and Nina Ghandour (Operations Manager at the IRC in Denver) and Jennifer Perry (Volunteer & Intern Coordinator at the IRC in Denver) were recognized with outstanding staff awards.   

The emotional highlight of the evening, however, came from Moses Mboka who shared his family’s arduous journey from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Rwanda and finally to Kenya in search of safety and peace. Last September, and after 20+ years, the family of 12 found refuge in the US. His detailed descriptions of the family's brutal separation, grueling flight, and coincidental reunification reminded the audience of the resilience and strength within displaced families, and the importance of providing a welcoming home for those seeking safety and hope. 

Moses was joined at the event by his brothers Gabriel, Zach, and Ephraim, as well as by his sister Beninga and his parent's Jean-Claude and Furaha. Singer Gabriel Mboka stunned the guest with his remarkable solo performance and further by joining Rebecca Folsom in the song "Sanctuary", which prompted all guests to get out of their seats and enthusiastically participate in the dancing and singing. Voices echoing hope and unity were heard by people passing by.

As the sun dipped below the horizon, the gallery’s doors remained wide open, inviting in the warm evening air and allowing guests to connect with one another. The positive atmosphere engulfed everyone, fostering a sense of belonging. In the glow of art, music, and shared purpose, Welcome Home 2024 left an indelible mark on Denver’s compassionate community or as Krista Kafer eloquently put it, "We are all part of this beautiful tapestry, woven together by compassion and understanding."

The IRC in Denver thanks their guests for attending this year's spectacular event, as well as Colorado Access for sponsoring the evening.