Founded in 1938, the Iowa International Center began by welcoming and providing safety for refugees fleeing Germany and Poland.
For more than 75 years, the Iowa International Center has been providing personal and professional opportunities linking Iowans with peoples
from around the world. Over time, the name of the organization, its staff, volunteers and locations have experienced changes even as its essential goal – connecting people and changing lives – has remained unchanged.
A focus of the Iowa International Center is to provide access to international resources to Iowans, new Iowans, and international visitors to Iowa. The overarching impact provides economic and leadership development resulting in Iowa being a more inclusive and welcoming place to live, work and raise a family. The legacy of Elinor Robson, the founder and first Director of the Center, lives on through the Robson award, the highest award bestowed by our organization.
With more than 75 years of experience the Iowa International Center is uniquely positioned and equipped to provide effective and efficient access to international resources in four distinct ways:
- The Iowa International Center provides an extensive interpretation and translation service through an ever increasing number of languages, more than 60 languages and dialects and over 100 interpreters.
- The Iowa International Center works with the U.S. Department of State, USAID and the Center’s own Sehgal Foundation International Visitors Center to facilitate visits from hundreds of international leaders each year, whose exchanges build personal and lasting connections between Iowans and professionals from around the world.
- Partnering with DuPont Pioneer, Drake University, the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Des Moines Public Library, the Iowa International Center presents the Iowa International Center Dialogue Series, a monthly public forum featuring experts on relevant international issues and topics. These programs are free and open the public, and are designed to engage our community in important global conversations.
- The Iowa International Center providing essential resources to immigrants and refugees through development of the multilingual “Welcome to Iowa” Resource Guide, The Welcome to Iowa web site in 80 languages, and a 24/7 Emergency Interpretation Hotline in more than 200 languages.
The Ray Resource Initiative
Currently, the Iowa International Center is engaged in a three-year campaign to rebuild resources and create educational opportunities for new Iowans – an effort we call the Ray Resource Initiative. Former Governor Ray and his wife, Billie, are an important part of the Iowa International Center’s celebration of more than 75 years of service. They represent a legacy of work in welcoming and improving the lives of new immigrants and refugees, so that they can prosper economically and raise their families to thrive in Iowa. Support systems once seen for new Iowans from around the world under Governor’s Ray’s leadership no longer exist, and the Iowa International Center, in collaboration with our community and supporters, is working to raise $750,000 in support between now and 2016 to ensure our ability to provide multilingual resources, Accessible ESL classes, emergency interpretation services, as well as community-based cultural education programs.