The mission of the Iowa International Center is to build cultural respect at home and around the world, one person at a time.
Founded in 1938, the Iowa International Center began by welcoming and providing safety for refugees fleeing Germany and Poland. Since that time, the Iowa International Center has been providing personal and professional opportunities linking Iowans with people from around the world. Over time, the name of the organization, its staff, volunteers and locations have experienced changes the essential goal – connecting people and changing lives – has remained unchanged.
A focus of the Iowa International Center is to provide access to important educational and cultural resources to Iowans, new Iowans, and international visitors in Iowa. The overarching impact of our work provides economic and cultural leadership resulting in Iowa being a more inclusive and welcoming place to live, work and raise a family.
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, with currently more than 60 languages and dialects and a network of 150 professional interpreters.
- Through the Center’s own Sehgal Foundation International Visitors Center , the Iowa International Center works with the U.S. Department of State and USAID to facilitate visits from hundreds of emerging international leaders each year. These exchanges build personal and lasting connections between Iowans and professionals from around the world, as well as economic development opportunities for Iowa.
- The Iowa International Center, in partnership with Meredith Corporation, presents the Iowa International Center Dialogue Series, a monthly public forum featuring experts on relevant international issues and topics. All programs are free and open the public, and are designed to engage our community in important cultural conversations. The programs begin at noon on the second Tuesday of the month and are held in the Meredith Conference Core. Topics are wide-ranging, and have included programs on local refugee issues, religious diversity in Iowa, human trafficking, and other immigration and global political events.
- The Iowa International Center provides essential resources to refugees and immigrants through the provision and ongoing development of the multilingual Welcome to Iowa web site (welcometoiowa.org)in 103 languages, a 24/7 Emergency Interpretation Hotline in 220 languages to assist non-English speakers and first responders dealing with crisis situations, and – most recently – Accessible ESL Classes at two locations in Des Moines.
The Ray Resource Initiative
Currently, the Iowa International Center is engaged in a three-year campaign to support 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 current work in the community. The Rays 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 critical multilingual resources, Accessible ESL classes, emergency interpretation services and other key programs now and into the future.