Located on Kirby Street in Detroit’s ever-evolving midtown, the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit offers a global community for new immigrants and native Detroiters alike. Along the hallways, murals portray children of all ethnicities holding hands in harmony. Flags representing over 80 countries hang from the walls.
It’s a welcoming space. Children can often be seen practicing dance or theater in the available performance spaces. The scent of international meals wafts from the café that provides full-service lunches.
The institute, which has been serving the Detroit community for nearly 100 years, has been a United Way funded partner for over three decades. And it provides services that align with our key areas of work in Education, Economic Prosperity and Health.
Anne Roth is the institute’s director of grants administration and strategic relations. She is proud of the institute and the work it provides protecting and empowering immigrant communities.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping vulnerable populations, including asylum seekers and refugees.” Anne says. “Here at IIMD, I am able to advocate on behalf of multi-ethnic immigrant communities as the institute helps people through the legal process, ultimately creating a pathway to U.S. citizenship.”
The focus of the institute is simple: diversity and inclusion. At the heart of the agency’s mission is working with low-income native and foreign-born populations to promote a more just and equitable society. It does this through several programs, including Legal Immigration, English as a Second Language, Career Development and Job Placement and Financial Empowerment.
Job placement and Financial Empowerment programs are available to both native Detroiters and immigrants.
IIMD fosters community engagement and believes that a variety of cultures significantly contribute to Detroit’s richness.
“We are a global society,” Roth says. “It’s important to remember that we all come from somewhere. Detroit is at its best when we are inclusive to all its residents.” And that’s why the institute is always seeking out volunteers.
Julie von Foerster recently volunteered as a grant writer and researcher for the institute. After teaching English in Thailand, and then working at a refugee center in South Africa, Julie wanted to find meaningful work when she moved back to the Detroit area.
“I had no personal experience with immigration, but it has been a passion of mine for a long time.” Julie says. When she saw IIMD on United Way’s portal, she reached out to Anne. “I was impressed with the organization and felt like I could contribute a lot.”
The institute had a difficult time recruiting qualified volunteers before the portal was available and mainly used word of mouth.
But now, the portal is attracting volunteers like Julie. She remains a qualified and passionate volunteer who the institute has come to value and trust. Julie has even found a career through her volunteer work. She now tutors children while their parents attend ESL classes.
IIMD also uses United Way’s 2-1-1 referral helpline to direct their clients to find assistance for food, transportation and utility assistance. With the help of the United Way, IIMD continues to make an impact within the Detroit area.
“If you struggle here, you still have the privilege of being a United States citizen,” says Anne. “And that is a privilege all people in America should have.”