Sunday, May 06, 2012

The New International Center (In Exile...)

By Nicholas Allanach

Last month, the International Center in New York closed. For almost fifty years, the IC was a not-for-profit organization that provided a place for immigrants and newcomers to gain advice on living in the United States, learn English, and network with others. Inevitably this established a unique international community in the heart of the world’s most global city. Before the center was shuttered, I asked a handful of members from the, now defunct,  Board of Directors - “Are you quitters? After all, isn’t that the message you’re sending to those who struggle here in hopes of achieving their dreams?” Predictably, none of the board members were able to answer this; instead, they sat stone faced and silent before moving on to the next pointed question from the many volunteers and students who had gathered to gain some explanation of why this important organization was closing down without a fight. Each question was met with a vague statement or empty reassurance that the board “had done everything it could to prevent the center from closing.”

Unfortunately, there was no transparency, no report showing where a (once robust...) endowment went, nor description outlining what efforts (if any...) were taken to prevent this closure from happening. The board admitted “facing financial difficulties before,” which leads one to believe that if they were able to overcome such challenges in the past, why give-up now? According to one board member, the center lacks “long term financial sustainability.” However, such observations of “a bad economy” seem to be a semantic crutch for quitters unable to accept that another world is possible. Those who believe are resolute in reestablishing this organization again, despite the seemingly insurmountable odds against us.

Accordingly, a group of devoted staff, former members, and dedicated volunteers, have decided to challenge the defeatism that suggests a place like the IC can just go away. Before being evicted from 50 East 23rd Street, staff members hosted a fundraiser to establish what is now being called The New International Center. At this well-attended fundraiser, members spoke about how the New IC had become a “second home” for them and that before enrolling in this organization some had “suffered from a sense of alienation and isolation” in America.  One member stated that without the New IC, “I wouldn’t have loved living in New York.”

Over the past few weeks, volunteers, members, and staff of the old IC, have been meeting in locations around the city to plan and consider our next steps. As we scout for a new location, reach-out to the media, and raise money, it is also important to maintain the ties that bound this group of immigrants and newcomers together. This collaborative network and vibrant community is what constitutes the New IC. So, while we seek out a new home and try to raise money we remain “The New International Center (In Exile...).” This community is accustomed to adapting to new places and challenges. We will persevere.

Of course, in order for the New International Center to find a new home and continue it’s mission, we still need to raise $100,000k. Fortunately, as of this writing, we are a little over halfway toward our goal. Once the center is reopened in its new location, members’s deposits alongside a more efficient and aggressive development team, will work together to ensure the mission of providing a place for “citizens of the world to feel at home in New York” continues long into the future.

Please consider contributing to this vital international organization. Check, money orders, and pledges can be mailed to:

The New International Center
c/o: The New School for Public Engagement
66 West 12th Street, Room 308
New York, NY 10011 

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