Friday, May 11, 2012

It's a Small World After All....

Lauren and David Lauren with Sam Waterston

by senior contributor Brendan Kownacki
Photo credit: Neshan H. Naltchayan

It was a night for all the do-gooders in the world to unite in celebration on the occasion of the 33rd Refugees International Anniversary Dinner.  Congressmen, diplomats, philanthropists and activists gathered at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium to toast another year's hard work for Refugees International (RI) and to honor some stand-out supporters of the cause, including Lauren Bush Lauren.

It was a mix of political and Hollywood star-power for the evening, celebrating RI's global mission which "advocates for lifesaving assistance and protection for displaced people and promotes solutions to displacement crises." 

Actor Matt Dillon

Actor Matt Dillon, who has been a longtime supporter of RI and sits on their board, acted as the master of cermonies for the evening.  Also on hand was Law & Order's Sam Waterston who took to the stage and declared, "I had to give remarks so I won't be confused with the wait staff"--after accidently wearing a tuxedo to the cocktail attired event.  Waterston is the vice chair of RI and has been working with the cause for more than 20 years, so the 'error' was easily excused by the crowd.

The Ambassador of Japan and Mrs. Fujisaki

Honorary Chair for the evening, H.E. Ambassador of Japan Ichiro Fujisaki, warmed up the crowd as he discussed the work of RI and shared with the attendees that it was his 25th wedding anniversary........then correcting himself, that it was actually his 35th anniversary leading to chuckles from the room and his wife who was standing by. "Ambassadors, please prepare your super PACs" he joked, as he explained to the other diplomats in the room that whoever would want to take over the role of honorary chair would have to go through a primary and election process. 

Lauren Bush Lauren, the 2012 recipient of the McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award was equally light hearted as she took the the stage to accept the honor. "He said I'm the Forrest Gump of philanthropy" said Lauren of her husband David's reaction to hearing about the award. 

Lauren talked about her time visiting settlements in Chad and around the world and the heartbreaking encounters with people who had been displaced from their homes and families.  She recalled seeing postings for missing family members that she likened to the posters we are used to seeing for lost pets and she talked about how much this stuck with her. 

Lauren's honor goes beyond just her travels with RI and  also stems from her work with her company FEED, which she started in 2006. 

"What can the every day young person do? That's when I came up with FEED."  FEED combined Lauren's love of fashion with activism by creating unique bags and accessories that would raise funds to feed people world wide. 

One bag feeds a child in school for a year and to date the organization has provided more than 60 million meals to children around the world. For the evening, Lauren sported one of her own signature purses, a clutch called the FEED 1000 bag--the proceeds from each will provide 1,000 school meals for children through the UN World Food Programme's School Feeding initiative.

Queen Noor and Lauren Bush Lauren
Lauren was presented her award by renowned humanitarian H.M. Queen Noor of Jordan. 
Lauren described that backstage the Queen shared: "She actually has a FEED bag, which makes my night." 

It's a small world after all and if we band's easy to see how we can make a difference.