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We 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. 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 critical resources to Iowans, new Iowans (including refugees and immigrants), and international visitors in 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 Iowa International Center's key programs and activities include the following:
Multilingual Resources for New Iowans, Refugees and Immigrants
- The Welcometoiowa.org website offers essential information about community resources that can benefit refugees and immigrants working to find work, educational opportunities and housing in Iowa, provided in 80 languages online.
- Free 24/7 Statewide Emergency Interpretation Hotline providing crisis service in 220 languages, for the well-being of both non-English speakers in the state of Iowa and those assisting them in life-threatening situations.
- Accessible ESL classes taught by professional instructors taught at three convenient locations in Des Moines, enhanced by life skills training and free childcare, and with transportation removed as a barrier to attendance.
Interpretation and Translation Services
The Iowa International Center maintains a network of more than 120 professional interpreters in 60 languages and dialects for assistance at critical appointments around central Iowa, ensuring appropriate care for thousands who are not able to speak English, as well as the businesses, courts, health and human service providers serving them. We also provide resources to assist clients and community members with the translation of written documents - including birth records and more - into key languages.
The Sehgal Foundation International Visitors Center
The Sehgal Foundation International Visitors Center hosts more than 130 global leaders annually for professional exchanges, bringing economic investment and diversity to central Iowa, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and USAID. These programs enhance a global worldview, citizen diplomacy and economic development opportunities here in Iowa and around the world.
Cultural Education Programs
The Iowa International Center offers the International Dialogue Series each month at the Central Library in downtown Des Moines. These free forums are presented by local and visiting global experts and feature relevant international and cultural topics for the benefit and education of our entire community. Videos of these presentations are made available on YouTube for later viewing.
Inspiring Cultural Celebrations
The Iowa International Center presents Passport to Prosperity each September. This inspiring annual awards celebration highlights the success and significant impact of immigrants and refugees on the social, cultural and economic fabric of our state. More than 250 of our most culturally-minded community leaders attend each year.