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2017 Voices of Courage Luncheon

Celebrating the Power of Refugee Youth

Thursday, May 4, 2017
Cipriani 42nd Street
New York City
Reception: 11:30 a.m. | Luncheon: 12 p.m.

This year, we will honor refugee youth who have channeled their talent and energy to become leaders working with and inspiring others to become part of a global solution to the refugee crisis.

Seldom consulted, frequently overlooked, and often unable to fully participate in decision making, the talents, energy, and potential of refugee youth (15-24 years old)—remain largely untapped. As WRC has seen, youth often have the information and answers to affect change, but lack the resources and/or vehicles to make that change happen. This is where WRC and the global community can and must come in. This year’s luncheon will acknowledge and highlight the ways in which youth are change-makers—for themselves, their communities, and for the global community at large.


About the Luncheon

Each year, approximately 500 leaders in business, media, philanthropy, government, and humanitarian agencies join us in support of displaced women, children, and youth worldwide. At this year’s luncheon, we will honor refugee youth for their groundbreaking work in support of fellow refugees, as well as a corporate leader for their contribution to improving programs and services for those uprooted by conflict and crisis.

The Voices of Courage Awards are presented annually to resilient, resourceful individuals who have a personal and powerful story to tell about the challenges and triumphs experienced by the tens of millions of people who have been displaced by conflict and violence worldwide.

Voices of Courage Award Honorees


Yusra Mardini

Yusra Mardini, a Syrian refugee now living in Berlin, competed as a member of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team in the summer Olympics in 2016. Now the youngest UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassador, she works to advocate on behalf of refugees, and was the youngest participant at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Swimming still plays an important role in her life, and she is currently training for the 2020 Olympics.

Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict, Yusra is unable to join us in person.

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Halima Mohamud Mohamed

Halima is a young Somali woman living in the Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda. She works as a youth ambassador in the camp and mobilizes other youth to engage in sports, cultural dances, and community work. She helps the most vulnerable in her community, particularly survivors of gender-based violence (GBV). She’s a Refugee Ambassador for UNHCR, and has participated in Global Refugee Youth Consultations led by WRC and UNHCR. She is also the vice chairperson for Community Technology Access, where youth are trained in computer use.

malual bol kiir

Malual Bol Kiir

Malual, a South Sudanese refugee in Uganda, founded the African Youth Action Network (AYAN), which recruits Ugandan national youths and refugee youths to work together as agents of peace and conflict prevention. He participated in WRC’s and UNHCR’s Global Refugee Youth Consultations that brought together youth from 22 countries to discuss the most pressing challenges they face and their recommendations on how to best address these challenges. Malual is also a member of the advisory panel of experts for the UN Security Council Resolution 2250 (2015) mandated progress study on youth, peace, and security.


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Chelsea Clinton

Chelsea Clinton is the Vice Chair of the Clinton Foundation. She works across a number of the Foundation’s programmatic areas including:  No Ceilings: The Full Participation Project, working to advance the full participation of women and girls; the Clinton Global Initiative University, a program focused on empowering the next generation of change-makers; the Day of Action program, which she founded; and various health programs.

Chelsea also serves on the boards of the Clinton Foundation’s affiliated Clinton Health Access Initiative, the School of American Ballet, the Africa Center and the Weill Cornell Medical College.  She is the Co-Chair of the Advisory Board of the Of Many Institute at NYU. She currently teaches at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and previously worked at McKinsey & Company and Avenue Capital.

She lives with her husband Marc, their daughter Charlotte, and their son Aidan in New York City.

Amina J. Mohammed

Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General

Ms. Amina J. Mohammed was Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from November 2015 to December 2016, where she steered the country’s efforts on climate action, protecting the natural environment and conserving resources for sustainable development.

Prior to this, she served as Special Adviser to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Post-2015 Development Planning, where she was instrumental in bringing about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals.

Before joining the UN, Ms. Mohammed worked for three successive administrations in Nigeria, serving as Special Advisor on the Millennium Development Goals, providing advice on issues including poverty, public sector reform and sustainable development, and coordinating programmes worth $1 billion annually for MDG-related interventions.

She is also an Adjunct Professor in Development Practice at Columbia University, and serves on numerous international advisory boards and panels, including the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the African Women’s Millennium Initiative, Girl Effect, 2016 African Union Reform and the ActionAid International Right to Education Project. Ms. Mohammed began her 35-year career in the private sector with architects and engineers responsible for the project management of health, education and public sector buildings.

Born in 1961, and educated in Nigeria and the UK, Ms. Mohammed is married with six children.

Fadia Thabet

Fadia Thabet

Fadia Thabet is a Yemeni woman who, after her university studies, worked with the Danish Refugee Council/UNICEF and other international organizations in her native country to assist children impacted by the decades-long civil war. Her support was directed in particular toward the psycho-social rehabilitation of child soldiers, as well as young girls who were victims of forced child marriage. Because she was prepared to work with children from all communities – including the opposition Houthis ethnic group – she incurred the wrath of the ruling party and left her homeland. After doing studies in Minnesota, Fadia now seeks to learn about peacebuilding and conflict transformation, and hopes to work in support of women’s engagement in peace processes and post-war reconstruction in the Middle East.

Corporate Leadership Award

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Airbnb, the worldwide accommodations leader, has shown an unwavering and exemplary commitment to refugees. The company’s mission to support the global community is reflected in its commitment to supplying relief workers places to stay through its philanthropic credit program, its offer to supply free, short-term housing to 100,000 refugees and internally displaced people, and its partnerships and financial support to NGOs. Airbnb’s leadership in its support of the worldwide refugee crisis distinguishes the company as a leader among corporations and a true voice of courage.


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Sonita Alizadeh

Sonita is an Afghan rapper and activist. When she was a young girl, her family fled from Afghanistan to Iran to escape the violence and persecution under the Taliban’s oppressive rule. In Iran, she learned how to read and write at an NGO for Afghan refugees, while working as a cleaner to support her family. As a teenager she began writing poetry to express her feelings about the inequalities she saw around her. Although it was illegal to be a solo female musician, her poetry soon morphed into songwriting and then rap.

When she was 16 years old, her family back in Afghanistan wanted Sonita to return so they could sell her into marriage, as is tradition. Devastated, Sonita wrote a song, “Daughters for Sale,” about early forced marriage. With the help of an Iranian filmmaker, the rap was made into a music video that was a hit on YouTube, and helped launch her music and activist career. Now a high school student in Utah, Sonita raps about early marriage, women’s and girls’ rights, and building a more peaceful world. Her message is reaching the highest levels of global leadership and civil society, and her story and vision has been shared worldwide.

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Refugee Orchestra Project

The Refugee Orchestra Project brings together instrumentalists and singers whose family and friends have come to the U.S. to escape violence and persecution in their homelands. The project was conceived by conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, who realized in the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis that many of her own closest colleagues and friends were not aware that she and many others like her had come to the U.S. as refugees seeking asylum from war and other crises. The Refugee Orchestra Project’s music demonstrates the important role that refugees from around the world have played in our country’s culture and society. Learn more at Refugee Orchestra Project.

Photo Exhibit

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Lynsey Addario – Finding Home

Since September 2016, photographer Lynsey Addario has been following four Syrian refugees as they navigate the difficulties of raising children while displaced. All four women learned of their pregnancies on the road and none expected to deliver in a refugee camp, far from the homes they fled. These women are among the more than 1,000 refugees who gave birth in Greek refugee camps in 2016 alone. In a year-long multimedia project, TIME is chronicling the challenges and uncertainty that these women and their families face in a world that is increasingly hostile to refugees. Select photos from the project are displayed around the room.


Premier Sponsor
Martha Gallo

Principal Sponsor
Annabelle Bexiga and Christine McConnell
Bloomberg Philanthropies
JPMorgan Chase

Major Sponsor
Dina Dublon
Jocelyn Cunningham and Deloitte & Touche
The Frances Lear Foundation
Mimi Frankel
Goldman Sachs
Clay Kirk

BGC Partners, Inc.
Elizabeth Learson Daniels
Julie Daum
Barbara McIntyre Hack and Regina Peruggi
E. Carol Hayles
Lily Safra
Microsoft Corporation
Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP
PepsiCo, Inc.
Silver Mountain Foundation for the Arts
TD Bank
Thomson Reuters
TP ICAP Data & Analytics
Sandra Sennett Tully

Joy Bunson
Fidelity Charitable
Jodie Eastman
Barbara and Stephen Friedman
Global Village Fund
Anne Bianchi Gunderson Foundation Trust
Marie Hancock
Margaret Smith

Gerry Cunningham & Mary Lacasse
Laurie and Jay Mandelbaum
Jane and Ron Olson
Jane Randel
Elizabeth Sallett
Diane Sinti
Ivana Stolnik
Deborah Tolman
Barry L. & Jan R. Zubrow Foundation

E. Sherrell Andrews Kuhbach
Lori Bassman
Ann Borowiec
Emily Cavanagh
Steve Cutler and Wendy Zimmerman
Susan Dickler
Gail Furman
Ellen and Bill Kealy
John Kocjan
Marianne Lake
Marjorie Magner
Judith Mayotte
Virginia Millhiser
Nancy Rubin
Catherine Shimony
Edward Sperling
Leila Maw Straus
Parinaz Vahabzadeh

Linda Addison
Mulan Ashwin
Emily Baugher
Virginia Botelho
Stacy Brandom
Caren Brustein
Bill Buscher
Dawn Calabia
Karen Chaplin
Betty Chen
Nuno Crisostomo
Katharine Crost
Nasreen Davidson
Virginia Decker
Shauna Denkensohn
Lisa and Joe Dimona
Linda D’Onofrio
Catherine Dumait-Harper
Elizabeth Ferris
Joan Gambro
Susan Geisenheimer
Linda Gottlieb
Sara Greenwood
Lee Gruzen
Susan Harris
Paula Hawkins
Karen Olin Heimann
Lucile Herbert
Carol Hymowitz
Susan Jonas
Miranda Kaiser
Ann Kaplan
Amy Kates
Terrie Koles
Sarah Kovner
Sandra Krause
Yong Kwok
Deborah Landesman
Alison Lankenau
Rachel Levitt
Nicholas Lomasney and Gwen O’Donnell
Bette and Winston Lord
Doris Meister
Monica Menelle-Kinberg, PhD.
Elizabeth McCaul
Judith McElnea
Marilyn Nissenson
Lou Rauchenberger
Hazel Reitz
Debbie A. Rosenberg
Angelica Rudenstine
Dora Schriro
Heidi Schulman and Mickey Kantor
Priscilla Shanks
Scati Shashank
Donald Steinberg
Catherine Sykes
Robert Tessler
The Roy and Niuta Titus Foundation
Debra Weiser
World Learning
Maria ZazzeraAdditional support provided by:
Sheppie Abramowitz
Joan Almond
Lisa Caputo
Debra Cianciolo
Jo Ellen Finkel, M.D.
Linda V. James
Bonnie E. Kaplan, CPA
Carmen O’Shea
Jill Schuker
Dr. Amra Spahic-Musakadic
Anthea Stratigos
Caroline Wamsler
Harriet L. Weissman
As of May 1, 2017

Luncheon Host Committee

Liz Appel
Jocelyn Cunningham
Elizabeth L. Daniels
Martha Gallo
Carol Hymowitz

Jurate Kazickas
Maggie Lear
Christine A. McConnell
Atiya Weiss
Carrie Welch

Journal Advertisements

Your ad will be displayed in the printed journal and on-screen in the luncheon slideshow. The deadline for receiving ads is Friday, April 14, 2017. Please note that purchasing an advertisement does not include a seat at the luncheon.

Full-page ad at $5,000 (6½”w x 8”h)
Half-page ad at $2,500 (6½”w x 3 ¾”h)

For more information and to purchase an ad, please contact Elise Newman at 212.580.9228 or elisen@wrcommission.org.