Editor’s note : This is the first in a new series to introduce readers to some of the great non-profits in Santa Monica and the Westside.
Hello, Santa Monica Next Readers!
My name is Katie and I would like to introduce you to a fantastic non-profit organization working to benefit refugee and immigrant women in Los Angeles County.
Meet the International Women’s Resource Center:
The International Women’s Resource Center (IWRC) is a remarkable nonprofit organization founded in 2022 by a diverse group of women, offering compassionate support and empowerment to refugee women in Los Angeles County amidst unprecedented global conflict, including the war in Ukraine. Their transformative work focuses on Adult Education, Health Literacy, Workforce Preparation, Family Literacy, and Community Building to address the multifaceted challenges faced by refugee and immigrant women.
Education is the cornerstone of IWRC’s impact, enabling adult female refugees to take control of their lives with knowledge, skills, and confidence. Equipped with language proficiency and employability skills, they navigate society, access employment, and improve their families’ well-being, fostering independence and self-sufficiency.
Health Literacy provides vital information on health, hygiene, and reproductive health, empowering refugee and immigrant women to make informed decisions for their families’ well-being, promoting healthier lifestyles and community well-being. Workforce Preparation equips women with the skills needed for better employment, enhancing economic stability for individuals, families, and communities. Family Literacy fosters social cohesion and understanding among diverse cultures, strengthening connections and reducing isolation. Community Building empowers refugee and immigrant women to serve as role models, advocates for change, and champions of gender equality, social justice, and women’s rights.
Investing in the education of these women enhances lives and builds an inclusive and equitable community, creating a ripple effect that uplifts families, communities, and society as a whole. The IWRC’s transformative work reflects the resilience of the human spirit amidst the cultural diversity of Los Angeles County.
In just over a year, IWRC has impacted nearly 300 participants, thanks to over 200 dedicated volunteers from 42 different countries, embodying the organization’s commitment to unity and empowerment.
Special Programming for Ukrainians:
One poignant example of IWRC’s impact is the story of Ukrainian participants. In March 2022, we initiated an English language learning program for Ukrainian women displaced from Ukraine, still traveling within Europe, uncertain about their future. They joined the classes for various reasons, including its usefulness as a lingua franca in Europe, considering applying to the US or Canada, and seeking productivity during uncertain times. Each participant had an individual tutor online and attended a weekly group English class with me. Despite their constant movement, whether returning to Ukraine, changing countries in Europe, or moving to North America, they found stability and support in our virtual classes. These sessions not only taught English but also offered emotional support and a sense of community during times of intense trauma. They became a safe haven, providing solace, understanding, and a sense of belonging amidst chaos. In a year marred by conflict, IWRC stands as a symbol of hope, unity, and empowerment. Some days we did not cover any English grammar or vocabulary, but they were able to talk about what they were experiencing and feeling about the geopolitical issues. Other days they were interested in a distraction from current events and I would present the silliest English language learning games and goofiest American culture topics. The tutoring and the classes served their purpose of teaching English, in fact one student was able to find a job in her chosen field immediately after arriving in Canada thanks to intensive preparation with her tutor, but they also served another, perhaps more important purpose. IWRC became a safe haven where these women found solace, understanding, and a sense of belonging amidst the chaos.
At IWRC, we deeply appreciate the talents, dedication, and generosity of our volunteers. Check out the various volunteer opportunities on our website. Our greatest need is for volunteers to provide virtual ESL tutoring to our adult participants. With flexible scheduling, tutoring pairs can meet remotely or in person in Los Angeles County, ideally committing to at least once weekly tutoring for three months. Tutoring English to refugee and immigrant women virtually is an incredibly rewarding and meaningful experience. Witness the growth and progress of these women as they improve their language skills and gain confidence, becoming an integral part of their journey towards integration and success. Additionally, teaching English offers an opportunity to learn about the cultures and traditions of the women you tutor, creating a vibrant and dynamic learning environment. Virtual tutoring’s flexibility allows for accommodating learners across different time zones and meeting their unique needs. Celebrate their achievements, whether it’s mastering a new phrase or gaining fluency, and experience the immense joy it brings.
Furthermore, we need volunteer assistance for development and fundraising. Consider hosting an in-person or virtual fundraiser to support our free educational programs for refugee women. Join our Development Committee and play a crucial role in fundraising efforts, attending regular meetings, collaborating with other members, and actively participating in initiatives. You can also help by promoting volunteering and donation opportunities, and sharing information about our services for participants through printed materials or via social media and online platforms. Consider purchasing IWRC swag from our online shop, as all proceeds support our organization. Alternatively, make a direct donation through the provided link. Your financial support is vital in providing free, comprehensive services and fun community-building activities for participants and their children, enabling us to continue making a positive impact. Together, we empower refugee and immigrant women, fostering their integration and creating a more inclusive community.
Meet me (Katie):
I am Katie, a teacher, education consultant, and founder of IWRC. Moving to Los Angeles County in 2020 allowed me to be closer to my in-laws, and for 15 years, I have worked in teaching and refugee resettlement. My husband’s background as a Jewish refugee from the former Soviet Union deeply impacted me, motivating me to start a nonprofit agency serving refugees and immigrants. This personal connection has given me empathy for their experiences, challenges, and aspirations. I understand the unique needs, cultural nuances, and complexities faced by these communities, which informs our targeted programs and services at IWRC.
My exposure to diverse international populations has been enlightening, and despite the dramatic change in environment, I remain connected to my roots in Appalachia, which shaped my identity and character. Founding IWRC was a long-standing dream, and after the pandemic hit in 2020, virtually-based programming became a reality. In 2021, my battle with Breast Cancer further fueled my determination to establish this nonprofit organization, as significant personal challenges can spark a sense of purpose and a desire to make a meaningful impact. In 2022, IWRC achieved its official 501(c)3 status as a federally recognized non-profit organization.
I work alongside a diverse team of strong women to make IWRC’s mission a reality. Natalya Zernitskaya, one of our Board of Directors members, brings her experience as a Belarusian immigrant who moved to the United States after the fall of the USSR. She serves in various capacities within her community, advocating for positive change, housing, social justice, criminal justice reform, and women’s rights.
Together, we are committed to empowering and supporting refugee and immigrant women, ensuring their successful integration and creating a more inclusive and compassionate society.
Free English Language Learning Materials:
One last note: the IWRC is developing free English language learning materials, intended for students who are self-studying or for volunteer tutors. The materials are translated into 6 support languages that (1) are not commonly used in English language development materials and (2) are spoken in areas with some displacement. We focus on Burmese, Bangla, Ukrainian, Russian, Farsi/ Dari, and Swahili. This deliberate selection allows the curriculum to directly impact individuals uprooted from their homes and striving to rebuild their lives. This endeavor, affectionately called “Curiosity Literacy” aims to bridge linguistic gaps and empower refugees to pursue a brighter future. The development and translation of the curriculum represent more than just language acquisition. It signifies the restoration of agency for those who have been forced to leave their homelands. It is a testament to the belief that language, as a connection tool, can break down barriers and facilitate integration and inclusion.
Contact Information & Socials
Volunteer Intake Form: https://shorturl.at/KUZ89
Curiosity Literacy’s Free ESL Materials:
Free Materials for Ukrainian Students/ Russian language speakers:
“Molodets” is available on the following channels: