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Houston Gala



6:00 pm VIP Reception
6:30 pm General Reception
7:00 pm Dinner & Program



Hotel ZaZa
5701 Main Street
Houston, Texas


Rishi & Michelle Varma


Please join the Tahirih Justice Center at our 7th Annual Houston Gala! This year, we are proud to honor change-makers and culture shifters: those dedicated to re-defining the rules, breaking down barriers, and shining light where it’s needed most. Tahirih’s work is only made possible by these voices and their fearless effort to transform how our society thinks and responds to violence against women, gender equality, and an equal playing field for all.

For more information or to sponsor the event, please contact Christine Spencer at



Be on the lookout for event updates and ticket sales! In the meantime, please find additional details below or contact Christine Spencer at


General Admission Tickets
Access to General Admission Gala Reception
Seated Dinner & Program

VIP Tickets
Access to VIP Gala Reception
Premier Seating for Dinner & Program



To download the 2018 Houston Gala Sponsorship Form, click here.

To purchase a sponsorship or request additional information, contact Christine Spencer at

NOTE: The $5,000 Advocate Sponsorship level is currently sold out; if you’d like to be added to the wait list, please click here.

$100,000 +
20 Premier Seats (2 tables of 10)
Access to VIP Gala Reception
Recognized at Sponsorship Level in Gala Materials*
Name and Sponsorship Recognition on Gala webpage
Social Media Recognition
Full Page Printed Program Recognition*

$50,000 +
20 Premier Seats (2 tables of 10)
Access to VIP Gala Reception
Recognized at Sponsorship Level in Gala Materials*
Name and Sponsorship Recognition on Gala webpage
Logo Recognition at Event (on screen, signage)
1/2 Page Printed Program Recognition

$25,000 +
12 Premier Seats (1 table of 12)
Access to VIP Gala Reception
Recognized at Sponsorship Level in Gala Materials*
Name and Sponsorship Recognition on Gala webpage
Logo Recognition at Event (on screen, signage)
1/4 Page Printed Program Recognition*

12 Premier Seats (1 table of 12)
Access to VIP Gala Reception
Recognized at Sponsorship Level in Gala Materials*
Name and Sponsorship Recognition on Gala webpage
Logo Recognition at Event (on screen, signage)

$10,000 +
10 Premier Seats (1 table of 10)
Access to VIP Gala Reception
Recognized at Sponsorship Level in Gala Materials*
Name and Sponsorship Recognition on Gala webpage

SOLD OUT Advocate
$5,000 +
8 Premier Seats
Limited Access to VIP Gala Reception
Recognized at Sponsorship Level in Gala Materials*
Name and Sponsorship Recognition on Gala webpage

*Must be confirmed by July 16 for inclusion in printed invitation, September 27 for inclusion in printed program and event signage, October 12 for inclusion in digital materials.

Gala Chairs
Rishi & Michelle Varma

Host Committee
Ken Anderson & Andreanna Vachon
Benjamin Bahlmann
Tahirih Baker
Mitch & Don Gibbons
Melanie Gray & Mark Wawro
Eyvette & Tom Hetherington
Celina & Doug Joachim
Lisa & Sanjay Kalavar
Monica Karuturi & Kumaran Sathyamoorthy
Jen & Shawn Kavoussi
Christine & Craig LaFollette
David & Morgan Shin
Hannah Sibiski & Stuart Nance
Enoch & Solana Varner
Natara Williams


Thank you to our 2018 sponsors!

Laura & John Arnold

Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher LLP

Hogan Lovells
Kirkland & Ellis LLP
Sidley Austin LLP
Rishi & Michelle Varma

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
Baker Botts L.L.P., in memory of J. David Kirkland, Jr.
Baker & McKenzie LLP
The Frees Foundation
Gonzalez Olivieri LLC
Melanie Gray & Mark Wawro
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Night Court
Oasis Petroleum, Inc.
Kalli O’Malley & Terry Giles
Porter Hedges LLP
Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates
Jennifer Tomsen, Frank R. Bradley III, & Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Vinson & Elkins LLP

Arnold & Porter
BP America Inc.
Dina Al-Sowayel & Tony Chase
CenterPoint Energy
Foster LLP
Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP
Eyvette & Tom Hetherington
Lisa & Sanjay Kalavar
Carol & Alan Kelly
Dr. Paul Lee, DDS
The Marek Family
Mayer Brown LLP
Morgan, Lewis, & Bockius LLP
Phillips 66 Legal Department
Reed Smith LLP
Seyfarth Shaw LLP
David & Morgan Shin
Hannah Sibiski & Stuart Nance
Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Thompson & Knight Foundation
White & Case


Layli Miller-Muro

CEO & Founder, Tahirih Justice Center

Layli founded the Tahirih Justice Center in 1997 following her involvement in Matter of Kasinga, a high-profile case that established gender-based persecution as grounds for asylum in the U.S. Layli used her portion of the proceeds from a book she and Fauziya Kassindja co-authored about the case to launch Tahirih. Layli has been awarded Diane Von Furstenberg’s People’s Voice Award, Newsweek/Daily Beast’s 150 Most Fearless Women in the World, and GoldmanSach’s Top 100 Most Innovative Entrepreneurs. Layli began her career as an attorney-advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice, Board of Immigration Appeals before joining Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, where she practiced international litigation. Layli lives in Greater Washington, DC with her husband, three children, and dog, Anis.

Yelba Variety Band

Yelba, a beloved and well-known performer based out of The Woodlands, TX, was born in Nicaragua to a musical family and has been involved in music since she could speak. The “voice of an angel” combined with a vivacious personality, Yelba interprets every genre of music with her high powered vocals and tireless energy. Making music fun and inspiring, Yelba has been the master of ceremonies and ultimate performer at over 2,500 events! Her repertoire includes over 1,000 songs – from Sinatra to Bruno Mars, from Gloria Estefan to Celia Cruz!

Yelba’s undergraduate and MBA degrees from Texas A&M and University of Texas combined with her corporate experience working for Fortune 500 companies allows her to present her shows with polished professionalism that extends far beyond your typical entertainer.

Former Client, Tahirih Justice Center Forced Marriage Initiative


Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates

The founders of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP and Affiliates believed not only in a lawyer’s social responsibility, but that we all benefit when the legal system is accessible to everyone. Those views continue to thrive at Skadden, where it has dedicated more than 1.5 million hours to pro bono over the last nine years alone.

Skadden regularly partners with its corporate clients around the globe on shared-value pro bono and community service work, both by engaging in joint legal services efforts and providing a range of administrative, logistical, and program development support for their clients’ pro bono and charitable endeavors including work related to immigration and asylum; racial and educational injustice, disability rights, LGBTQ advocacy, nonprofit incorporation, tax exemption and operations; civil litigation; administrative hearings; life planning; criminal matters; community development; veterans’ issues; and cases involving domestic violence survivors.



Corina Azpurua-Strauss

As an immigrant from Venezuela herself, Corina relishes the opportunity to help other immigrants and the organizations that serve them. She began volunteering with Tahirih as a paralegal in early 2017, providing legal expertise and critical assistance to the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative and Tahirih’s joint effort in organizing weekly pro se asylum workshops. Since then, hundreds of immigrant families have benefitted from her time and dedication.

Corina holds a Bachelor of Law from the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, Caracas, where she practiced corporate law for many years. After leaving Venezuela, Corina spent three years living in Norway with her husband and eldest daughter before moving to Houston in 2011, where she currently resides. In her spare time she enjoys running, photography, and spending time with her husband, Miguel, and her two young daughters, Ana Corina and Alexandra Beatrice.


Diane Granger Bowman

Diane has long believed that everyone deserves to feel safe, secure, and confident in themselves, and her time as a volunteer with Tahirih and other organizations stems from her wish to help individuals find the support systems they need most. As Tahirih’s Houston office has continued to grow and the political climate intensifies, Diane has volunteered countless hours of her time and invaluable skills as a paralegal and highly organized administrative professional.

Originally from Minnesota, Diane holds a BA in Sociology with a minor in Psychology from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN and obtained a Paralegal Certificate and Certificate in Legal and Ethical Issues in Healthcare. Diane moved to Houston in 1981 and began a distinguished 30-year career as a Litigation Paralegal. After recently retiring from Shell Oil Company after 16 years, she began a post-retirement career evaluating health records for U.S. Veterans and Active Duty service men and women in need of care. A mother of four and proud grandmother of four, Diane lives in Houston with her husband Wayne, where she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, reading, and admittedly, sometimes watching a bit too much TV.


Teirdre Roberson

One of Teirdre’s favorite quotes is “service to others is the rent we pay to live in this world”.

For nearly six years, Teirdre and her family, as an annual tradition, have volunteered at Tahirih events like the Client Holiday Party and other outings that help clients become acclimated to life in the U.S. She is Tahirih Houston’s longest-standing volunteer, and has made it a point to encourage her daughters to find ways to give back, not just with finances, but with their time as well.. Teirdre’s dedication to service and women’s empowerment led her to serve as Shell Oil Company’s Community Service Chair for an employee network group called Women Adding Value Everywhere (WAVE), which is where she introduced to Tahirih. Recently retired from corporate life after 17 years and currently serving in her faith full time,Teirdre enjoys traveling the world with her family and, of course, leaving the world a better place than when she found it.



The Frees Foundation

The Frees Foundation was founded in 1980 by C. Norman and Shirley B. Frees with a philanthropic vision to improve quality of life, restore hope, bridge differences, promote understanding and, above all, contribute to the relief of human suffering.

In Houston, the foundation prioritizes community initiatives assisting homeless individuals and families as well as supporting refugee resettlement programs. Internationally, the foundation is currently funding education and health initiatives in Jordan (Syrian refugees), school construction in rural Vietnam, and girls’ education programs in Afghanistan.

The Frees Foundation is proud to support the leadership of Tahirih in breaking down systemic barriers to justice for thousands of vulnerable immigrant survivors of violence and in expanding policy advocacy and outreach programs to provide legal protection and access to legal benefits.

Hotel ZaZa is offering a group rate of $299 for the night of Saturday, October 20, 2018*. To reserve, please call Hotel ZaZa’s reservations department and request the Tahirih Justice Center Room Block Rate.

Hotel ZaZa’s Reservations Department


*After September 20, 2018, Hotel ZaZa cannot guarantee availability or the group rate of $299.