People often ask me “why” I choose a particular charity with which to become involved.Â Sometimes the question posed is for advice in their own decision making process, other times it’s an actual inquiry into my own reasons.Â The “why” has varied over the years, starting with business (when I first joined then chaired the Northern Virginia Technology Council Community Outreach Committee in the late ’90′s) changing to helping out clients’ and friends’ crusades, then evolving to more personal (running for Woman of the Year in ’07 for Leukemia & Lymphoma in honor of a friend’s dad and a girlfriend’s sister with whom I became closer because of this), then back to more professional intents and now, well now, I’m older and wiser and have done my best to pare it down to yes, professional, but with a personal bent.Â You have to streamline your community and global giving of time, talents, and treasure in order to be the most effective, otherwise, all will end up stretched too thin and something in the end, will give…out.
Currently, I, along with my friend Ashley Taylor (who is also a co-founder of Once Upon a Prom and extremely charitably active) co-chair the Young Humanitarian Circle (YHC), which raises awareness of and funds for Refugees International (RI).Â In just a few short years since its inception this group has built a dynamic Steering Committee from the ground up and held more intimate “salon” events like doc film screenings in the lower level of Napoleon and dinner conversations with RI Advocates.Â We started a YHC membership group, have raised some dollars and started a Fan page on Facebook.Â Even more than this, we are partnering with other like minded young professional groups, who advocate for those who don’t have a voice in war torn or climate destroyed countries in order to expand the reach that RI and the YHC does.
But why RI? And why did I choose to involve myself so deeply?Â After all, RI has been around for 33 years and has a most prestigious board (H.M. Queen Noor, Matt Dillon, Sam Waterston, Roya Hakakian, Lady Malloch-Brown, Dale Mathias, Frank Caufield, Ambassador John C. Danforth and the like), has earned an excellent for reputation its Advocates and their work they do as an NGO, raises money and awareness in circles of the highest regard, gets results on the Hill, and has expanded across the globe (they opened an office in London recently).Â In fact, perhaps the question should be why would RI even need me or this younger set?
Well, they, along with countless other non-profits do, and many have been tapping into this energetic, forward thinking set as the wave of now and the future.Â RI has shown appreciation for the YHC and we are seriously continuing to grow and even venture into other markets (NYC, LA, etc).
But back to RI.Â The more I have gotten to know them and what they do, witness the passion, the dedication, the fortitude, the grace, the relentlessness of the RI staff, Board, and Advocates, to say nothing of its long term supporters, volunteers, directors, and honorable leaders, has more than floored me.Â They are dignified and compassionate. The Advocates are so impressive with what they do, where they go, and how on the ground they are able to patiently ask the right questions get answers and use social media and blogging as immediate tools.Â They listen, probe more, take in the situations in Libya, South Sudan, Burma, Afghanistan, Haiti and more countries, which are hosts to the most vulnerable and the most in need and turn them into concise Field Reports. They are careful in their processes and gather the information that frankly, many won’t believe, nor want to hear, nor see, nor know about because they don’t to “rock the boat” internationally.
RI focuses on Climate Displacement, Humanitarian Response, Protection and Security, Statelessness (which I have just learned about) and Women and Children.Â Huge undertakings, truly, but with focus and determination, bit by bit, with each mission, and each meeting on the Hill (remember, they are an NGO) and each hearing, and each conversation with international leaders, ambassadors, our congressmen, and other organizations, RI makes a change for the better for these innocent people.
It was apparent at the luncheon held by RI Gala Honorary Chairs Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki and Mrs. Yoriko Fujisaki the day of the dinner, how important the relationship RI leadership has with Japan is.Â Both the Ambassador and his wife were adamant in being involved with the gala and outspoken in their support of RI.Â Also too, that evening, they both were loud and clear with praise of RI’s work, and at the podium in front of about 500 guests which included a large number of dignitaries and business leaders, as well as Mrs. Lauren Bush Lauren, who, as the co-Founder and head of FEED Projects, was deservedly presented with the McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award by H.M. Queen Noor.
The awards that night at Mellon Auditorium included the Congressional Leadership Award to the Honorable Chris Smith, a posthumous award to the Honorable Donald Payne, and the Richard C. Holbrooke Leadership Award to Colette Lespinasse who has worked tirelessly to improve the relations between the people of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.Â This was given to her by Richard Holbrooke’s widow, Kati Marton and his daughter, Elizabeth Jennings, both globally focused activists.
Later after the dinner, which by the way, had many a YHC person, all were invited to celebrate the night at Fujimar on K Street, in a private room.Â Mr. and Mrs. Lauren, Matt Dillon, RI President Dr. Michel Gabaudan and RI Board Chair Eileen Shields-West attended and talked with guests as best they could over the loud DJ in the packed room, but one could tell tell the relief from the night and the party mood, all though, there was a Board meeting all day starting early the next morning.
So again, why RI?Â After every encounter I have with this group or even a representative, I walk away thoroughly impressed and thirsting for more knowledge.Â They are exact, passionate, results driven.Â When you see and hear RESULTS, that’s when you know you are making a difference to a small village, a large family, 10 people, 100 people, 1000 or thousands of people’s lives who have not even a 1000th of what you have and what you take for granted, like living without fear, knowing you have a voice, or confidence in your future.Â Or the power to vote, the ability to speak your mind, having papers to prove who you are.Â Or simply going to bed with a roof over your head with a full belly without question it will happen the next day and the day after.
That is why RI.Â If you would like to support RI by joining the YHC, please contact me directly at email@example.com and learn more HERE and also please go to the website for more information.Â Follow them on Twitter @RefugeesIntl and Fan them on Facebook.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.