Forum 2016 Gala Banquet & Award Ceremony

InterAction will host its 2016 Gala Awards Banquet on the evening of April 19. Hosted by vice president for Communication at the Center for Global Development and former BBC World News reporter and anchor Rajesh Mirchandani, the Gala Banquet will honor our community's dedication to saving lives and improving the human condition. The evening honors the legacy of aid workers who lost their lives in service this past year, acknowledges the achievement of individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the world's poor and most vulnerable people, and recognizes individuals and organizations that support InterAction.

Gala Program

This year's Gala will be held at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park's Thurgood Marshall Ballroom and run from 7:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Fesitval attire is suggested.

Gala Program


Photo of Gayle SmothKeynote Speaker

Gayle E. Smith | Administrator, USAID

Gayle E. Smith was sworn into office as the seventeenth Administrator of USAID on December 2, 2015. As a long-time leader in President Obama’s Administration, she has helped shape and guide America’s international development policy for the past seven years, including by elevating development as a vital component of the national security agenda. As Administrator of USAID, Smith oversees a dedicated team of nearly 10,000 professionals working to end extreme poverty, foster sustained and inclusive economic growth, and promote resilient, democratic societies all over the world. Most recently, Administrator Smith served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy at the National Security Council. Read more about Smith.

Photo of Rajesh Mirchandani2016 Forum Gala Master of Ceremonies

Rajesh Mirchandani | Vice President of Communications and Policy Outreach, Center for Global Development

Rajesh Mirchandani is currently vice president for Communication at the Center for Global Development. Previous to this position, Rajesh was a BBC news anchor, where he garnered more than two decades’ experience as a journalist and broadcaster, reporting and anchoring from around the world for the BBC’s global television and radio networks, including BBC World News and the World Service. He has covered a wide range of stories and issues, from two U.S. presidential elections to the Haiti earthquake. He previously won two awards from the Los Angeles Press Club for his work during six years as a BBC North America correspondent. Read more about Mirchandani.


Each year during the Awards Gala InterAction acknowledges the contribution of individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to the world's most poor and vulnerable people. This includes a special memorial ceremony to honor the legacy of aid workers who lost their lives in service this past year as well as acknlodedge the contributions of indivuals who have gone above and beyond in their work. Awards to be presented this year are: 

Photo of David Beckman2016 Julia Vadala Taft Outstanding Leadership Award

David Beckmann | President & CEO, Bread for the World

The Julia Vadala Taft Outstanding Leadership Award honors and celebrates the leadership of an individual whose career and vision has transcended his or her own organization by raising the influence and profile of the U.S. NGO sector as a whole. World Food Prize laureate David Beckmann is one of the foremost U.S. advocates for hungry and poor people. He has been president of Bread for the World since 1991, leading large-scale and successful campaigns to strengthen U.S. political commitment to overcome hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world. Read more about Beckman.

Photo of Lindsay Graham2016 Congressional Leadership Award

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

The Congressional Leadership Award honors a member of Congress who has made significant contributions as a leader and advocates for U.S. foreign aid, humanitarian assistance, and/or other international, poverty-focused areas in which InterAction’s members work. Sen. Lindsey Graham has earned a reputation as a conservative problem-solver and one of the strongest proponents of a robust national defense. Before being elected to Congress, Graham complied a distinguished record in the United States Air Force, retiring in June 2015 having served his country in uniform for 33 years. He retired at the rank of Colonel. Read more about Sen. Graham.

Photo of Raed Saleh2016 Humanitarian Award

Raed Saleh | Head, Syrian Civil Defense

Please note that Raed Saleh is unable to accept his award as planned.
Click here to learn why.

InterAction's Humanitarian Award recognizes an individual or individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in support of NGOs and the people they serve in the developing world. Our community’s national staff and counterparts often surmount significant obstacles to carry out their work effectively in their own home countries or regions. Raed Saleh, aged 32, leads more than 2,800 intrepid search-and-rescue volunteers as head of Syria Civil Defence. Known as “The White Helmets,” these unarmed and neutral civilians have saved more than 40,000 lives in Syria. Read more about Saleh.


This year's featured performers at the Gala will be Roumana—an all-women world music ensemble featuring qanun, cello, and hand-percussion. The group’s repertoire is grounded in the music of the Middle East, primarily Arabic and Turkish music, but also ventures out to include styles such as Balkan, Armenian, Romani, Andalusian, North African and Sephardic music.

Forum 2016 Sponsors

UPSPlan InternationalZakat FoundationPlanet AidSIT Graduate InstituteNCBA CLUSATzu ChiMercy CorpsGlobal CommunitiesIslamic ReliefPublic Interest RegistrySave the ChildrenSolidarity CenterSolidarity Center