On Tuesday evening, more than 700 people crowded the Rose Theater at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall for IRAP’s first-ever benefit event, IRAP Tonight with John Oliver. The event gathered some of the most passionate defenders of refugee rights, IRAP staff, and former IRAP clients and refugees for a night filled with emotion and, of course, big laughs.
In her opening remarks, Becca Heller, IRAP’s Executive Director, highlighted the need to continue supporting refugees and urged the country to not make the same mistakes that were made in the past, citing the voyage of the MS St. Louis and the over 900 Jewish Holocaust refugees aboard, who were turned back from the United States.
-Becca Heller on what Americans should demand of the Government in regards to refugees
The event also premiered IRAP’s mini animated film, A Refugee’s Journey, which depicts the story of a mother and and her daughter, as they are forced to flee their home and seek legal assistance to be reunited and reach safety.
First female Afghan pilots and former IRAP clients, Masooma Hussaini and Sourya Saleh, joined award-winning Executive Producer and Creative Advisor Joanna Coles, OBE, for a riveting conversation that chronicled their long and difficult journey from becoming the first women to be trained as Afghan helicopter pilots, to facing discrimination and security threats that eventually led them to reach out to IRAP and seek safety in the United States.
“It looked like I was stuck in a very well-dug hole that was so dark, that no matter how loud I screamed for help no one would help me [and] IRAP was the only one that came to help me.”
Carl Reisner, Partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, was presented with IRAP’s Visionary Award for his invaluable service and aid to IRAP, which has played a pivotal role in the organization’s success.
Comedian and Host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, John Oliver, and Comedian and Host of HBO’s Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas, Wyatt Cenac, delivered with gut-busting sets that craftily wove comedy into refugee advocacy.
IRAP would like to give a huge thank you to all of our incredible supporters that attended the event and contributed to the success of the evening. IRAP’s growth over the last ten years would not have been possible without the community that has stood by the organization as it continues to advocate for the rights of refugees and displaced people around the world.
Photos: Rick Gilbert/Skyhook Entertainment for IRAP