City to City

Immigrant Welcome Center Executive Director, Terri Morris Downs, traveled to St. Louis, Missouri, as part of a city-to-city visit sponsored by Welcoming America and the Welcoming Economies Global Network.  During the two-day trip last month, representatives of Buffalo, Des Moines, Detroit, and Indianapolis met with several local economic development and immigrant- and refugee-serving organizations to learn about St. Louis’s successful programs and innovative approaches to support economic growth, workforce development, entrepreneurship, and highly-skilled immigrant integration efforts.  Also representing Indianapolis was Sarah MacInnis of Business Ownership Initiative.
Touring Casa de Salud (House of Health), a low-cost health clinic in St. Louis. I shared this signage idea with the Executive Director of Indianapolis’s “International Marketplace,” a thriving neighborhood of immigrant- and refugee-owned restaurants and businesses.  She would like to replicate it in Indy!
Coffees from around the world with international grocery store owner,
from Vietnam.
The beautiful and intricate details of a Turkish restaurant owned by an Iraqi refugee

New Job Opportunities Page!

The Immigrant Welcome Center proudly presents our new and improved Jobs Page! Here you’ll find a variety of jobs from hourly to management level, full-time to seasonal, gardening to health care.

Employers now have the ability to advertise their open positions directly to our job seekers through our job submission page.

Questions? Contact Angie Le Blanc to learn more.


Household Goods and Toiletries Giveaway

The Immigrant Welcome Center is hosting a toiletries and household drive for newcomer immigrants and refugees in Indianapolis.
We are accepting at The Immigrant Welcome Center, Southeast Community Center, 901 Shelby Street, 3rd floor, Indianapolis, IN 46203.




Needed Toiletries and Household Items:
-Children’s Books and Toys
-Liquid Dish Soap
-Laundry Detergent
-Light Bulbs
-Trash Bags
-Feminine Pads (No Tampons)
-Baby Diapers
-Kitchen Utensils

For more information, including ways to get involved/volunteer, please call (317)808-2326.

Immigration 101

How can I change my visa? Can I apply for work authorization? Many newcomers have general questions about changing their legal status. Join attorney Dallin Lykins of Lewis Kappes, P.C. – Immigration for a legal presentation that will answer these basic legal questions. PLEASE NOTE: Individual consultations will not be offered.

Free and open to the public.

IWC Welcomes New Volunteers and Board Members

Immigrant Welcome Center Adds Ten New Volunteers For Outreach, Two New Members to the Board of Directors

In February 2018, the Immigrant Welcome Center elected two new members to its volunteer Board of Directors and added 10 new volunteers to its ranks to help serve Indianapolis’ growing immigrant communities. The Immigrant Welcome Center relies upon scores of volunteers to serve immigrant newcomers in Indianapolis. 149 Community Volunteers are now available to help in 75 languages! 

Robert Postlethwait, a retired executive from Eli Lilly, was elected to a three-year term on the organization’s Board. While at Eli Lilly, Postlethwait served in various roles including President of the Neuroscience Project Group from 1994 to 1999. He has also served on a number of boards, most recently the Butler University Board of Trustees, the International Center, and the National Advisory Board for TeenScreen at Columbia University Medical School.  The Kathi & Bob Postlethwait Mental Health Recovery Center at Eskenazi Hospital was opened in 2014 as an inpatient facility for individuals with serious mental illness who require the safest possible environment for their recovery.

Patrick T. Tamm, the President and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association (InRLA), was also elected to a three-year term. His government affairs work for InRLA has been recognized by the International Association of Hotel Association Executives and the Indiana Society of Association Executives. Tamm represents more than 1,600 hotels and restaurants across Indiana that employ more than 14% of the state, including the thousands of immigrants and refugees throughout Central Indiana.

At its annual meeting on Thursday, February 22, the board also elected the following officers to a one-year term:

  • Richard C. Miller, President
    Retired, E.D. Bullard Company
  • Neelay K. Bhatt, Vice President
    PROS Consulting
  • Maria Pimentel-Gannon, Secretary
    Founder, Necessary Ingredients for a Simple Existence (N.I.S.E.)
  • Jackie Nytes, Treasurer
    Indianapolis Public Library


Ten new volunteers completed training in February 2018 to become Natural Helpers. The Natural Helper volunteers, many of whom are recent immigrants themselves, provide a personal connection as well as information and referrals to community resources to help with health care, legal services, public transportation, education, housing and employment.

The newest Natural Helpers and their country of origin are:

Abdulrahman Alghamdi, Saudi Arabia; Alayna Hutchinson, United States; Denise Villarreal Chico, Mexico; Georges Mutombo Cinu, Congo D.R.; Lyha Docta Ifambe, Congo D.R; Jane Njoroge, Kenya; Jean Baptise Boonga, Congo D.R.; Joyce Cummings, Liberia; Kimberly Ashlock, United States; Madeline Cartagena, Puerto Rico

With the addition of this latest cohort of volunteers, the center now has 149 Natural Helper volunteers who represent 43 countries and speak 75 languages.

Last year, Natural Helpers provided assistance to 2,966 immigrants and refugees. Newcomers can request assistance from a Natural Helper by visiting one of the Immigrant Welcome Center’s seven neighborhood branches, calling the Immigrant Welcome Center at (317) 808-2326 or visiting


Enjoying the Season with IWC’s Natural Helpers

Natural Helpers told us what they like to do in autumn and what they are thankful for this year.

Chandra Newsletter Photo“My favorite autumn activity in Indiana is visiting Kelsay Farms for a Family Picnic. Here we can show the kids what a real farm looks like with plenty of activities. We can feed the cows here and see how the cows are milked.”

Chandra Kesavan has been a Natural Helper since Spring 2016. His country of origin is India and he speaks Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and English.


“I am thankful for the opportunity for being a God’s instrument for helping others when they are most  in need. My best reward: the joy of seeing people fulfilling their dreams.”

Maryori Duarte-Sheffield has been a Natural Helper since 2009. Her country of origin is Venezuela and she speaks Spanish and English.


“I am grateful for having the time and energy which permits me to help people form many countries of the world and to continue to visit some of these places in my travels.”

Kathleen Lattimer has been a Natural Helper since 2013. Her country of origin is the United States of America and she speaks English and French.


Linda“My favorite autumn activity in Indiana is driving through Brown County for the turning of the leaves. Coming from a country without the 4 seasons, the different colors are a beautiful and wondrous thing for me to see each year.”

Linda Simba has been a Natural Helper since Summer 2017. Her country of origin is Kenya and she speaks English and Swahili.


Bumeh“I am thankful for ‘putting knowledge into practice.’ ”

Bumeh Maria has been a Natural Helper since Summer 2017. Her country of origin is Burma and she speaks Karenni, Burmese, and English.


Hilina Fessahaie (Eritrea)“I’m thankful to finally feel that I have the opportunity to realize any dream I want to pursue.”

Hilina Fessahaie has been a Natural Helper since early 2017. Her country of origin is Eritrea and she speaks Tigrinya, Amharic, and English.

Gabriella Borbás (Hungary)

“My favorite fall activity in Indianapolis is to walk in downtown streets with my grand-daughter. I especially like walking with her on Mass Ave. when the Halloween Trick or treat is on.”

Gabriella Borbás has been a Natural Helper since early 2017. Her country of origin is Hungary and she speaks Hungarian, Russian, French, and English.

“IWilliam am thankful for God’s protection to all Immigrants in Indianapolis.”

William Dido Kile has been a Natural Helper since Summer 2017. His country of origin is Democratic Republic of Congo and he speaks Swahili, French, Lingala, and English.


“I am grateful to everyone who helped new immigrants, especially children, even with a smile.”

Howaida Abdulahad has been a Natural Helper since 2015. Her country of origin is Syria and she speaks English and Arabic.

Qing“My favorite autumn activity in Indianapolis is running or hiking on different trails around the city. My favorite spot in downtown Indy is probably down by the canal.”

Qing Wang has been a Natural Helper since Summer 2017. Her country of origin is China and she speaks Mandarin Chinese and English.

Julia“I am thankful for being a member of Immigrant Welcome Center. I am also thankful for doing work that matters and for the members of Immigrant Welcome Center of helpers who are making a difference in the community and in the world.”

Julia Plehmeh has been a Natural Helper since Summer 2017. Her country of origin is Burma and she speaks Kayah.

Graham“I am grateful for all of the help the IWC and Natural Helpers give the Indy immigrant community. Also, I am very grateful to God for friends and family that give me unconditional love and support all the time!”

Graham Melendez has been a Natural Helper since Summer 2017. His country of origin is Peru and he speaks English and Spanish.

jose_pic1“I am grateful for my family. We have had our ups and downs, but they are really my foundation. I am grateful for my church and my church brothers and sisters that make me fell like I have second family to encourage me when I am facing tough situations in life.”

Joseph (José) Acosta has been a Natural Helper since 2013. His country of origin is México and he speaks English and Spanish.

Barbara“My Favorite Fall activity is the First Friday art show at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in November when Kyle Ragsdale is the featured artist and Spirit and Place events are in the gym. I am grateful for people who are willing to work out their differences with each other.”

Barbara Van Vleet has been a Natural Helper since summer 2017. Her country of origin is the United States and she speaks English and conversational Spanish.

Bakya Alabi (Benin)“I’m grateful for all the Immigrant Welcome Center is doing for immigrants. I do like to work with nice people from everywhere that are working with love and passion to serve others to meet their needs. It’s just a great and helpful program!”

Bakya Alabi has been a Natural Helper since early 2017. Her country of origin is Benin and she speaks English, Yoruba, Fon, and Nago.

Preh Reh“Autumn is my most favorite season. I like to go for a long walk, feel the wind whirling through my hair, and take the best pictures of the year within the beautiful colorful trees. Autumn is just the best season of the year for love. I can’t expect anything better than that.”

Preh Reh has been a Natural Helper since summer 2017. His country of origin is Burma and he speaks English, Karenni, Karen and Burmese.

Verne Flavious (St. Lucia)“My favorite thing to do in autumn here is participate in my church’s Thanksgiving dinner give away for the community. I am thankful for my family & the ability to serve my community.”

Verne Flavius has been a Natural Helper since early 2017. Her country of origin is St. Lucia and she speaks English and Creole.


Christian“My favorite fall activity in Indianapolis is networking with people. I am thankful for being part of the Immigrant Welcome Center as an Natural Helper.”

Christian Ngalula Matamba has been a Natural Helper since summer 2017. His country of origin is Democratic Republic of Congo and he speaks English, French, Swahili, Lingala and Ciluba.

Check out a map of the places of origin of all of our Natural Helpers, a list of the languages they speak, or learn more about the program.

Newsletter Thank You

Volunteers Create Indianapolis English Classes Map

What do you do when you need to find someplace? Maybe you’re looking for a restaurant, a library, a store, or a gas station. I’m going to guess that your answer was “search on Google Maps”. Most of us who have access to a smart phone, whether we are new to a city or long-time residents, use Google Maps or similar apps to get information and directions for a variety of locales. Immigrant Welcome Center volunteers Ginger Kosobucki and Angela Herrmann have spent the past several months developing a map that gives Indy’s immigrants, refugees, and others the ability to easily find what is often an essential need: English classes.

ESL Map Website ScreenshotThe Immigrant Welcome Center, and other organizations that serve immigrants and refugees, can tell you that there has not always been one place to look for current and accurate information on English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in our city. Now, thanks to the dedication of Ginger and Angela, there is such a tool that everyone can use. You can view the website and map here.

The Immigrant Welcome Center’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Sarah Fox, interviewed Ginger and Angela to learn more about the project.

Immigrant Welcome Center: Please tell us a little bit about you, professionally and/or personally.

GK portraitGinger Kosobucki: I received a BA in French at University of Vermont, after which I taught foreign languages in an elementary and high school in Vermont. In 1990, I got married, moved to Netherlands and then to Poland, where I taught English and gave birth to our two daughters. We moved to Indianapolis in 1997, and in 2014 I  completed my MA in English with a TESOL Concentration at IUPUI. I currently teach at ELS Language Center.  I love working with internationals of all kinds, as well as travelling, gardening, sewing, and reading.

Angela Herrmann: I am a writer and photographer. I have a BA in Spanish/Journalism from Indiana University, an MA in English with certificates in TESOL and Teaching Writing from IUPUI, and an MA in Earth Literacy from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. I’m the managing editor for the New Teacher Advocate, a publication of Kappa Delta Pi, an international honor society in education. I’ve taught English in Indiana, California, England, and China. When I’m not writing, photographing, or editing, I’m probably working in a garden, tending a small flock of hens, or hiking on a trail.

IWC: How did the Indianapolis English Classes Map project get started?

GK: In Spring of 2016, a volunteer from the IWC called me because my community English class was “on the list”, which she was trying to update. After speaking with her, I decided to help her update the list. I began volunteering with her, under the guidance of the Outreach Coordinator. Eventually both the volunteer and Outreach Coordinator moved on from the project, but I felt the desire to continue. I worked under the oversight of Terri Morris-Downs, Executive Director of the IWC, and eventually asked my friend, Angela Herrmann, to assist with the project. She has both the technical and TESOL background, whereas I lacked the technical know-how to fulfill the vision.

AH: The map project formally got started after a conversation with Ginger because we both had discovered and agreed that Indianapolis needed this resource. We pooled our skill sets and went to work.

IWC: Why did you want to create this website and map?

ESL Map ScreenshotGK: I was planning a trip, using Air B&B, and enjoying the easy drop-down informational arrows. I thought, “This is what we need for the non-English speaking immigrant community in Indy – a navigable, visual map of all the possible ESL programs available to them.” I noticed that the text-heavy lists became quickly out-of-date, and were difficult to read for English Language Learners. Whenever the question came up, the answer was always, “I think (so-and-so) has a list.” The need for one master list was evident, and the Immigrant Welcome Center seemed the most sensible place to “host” the list.

AH: When I was looking for opportunities to teach adult ESL, with the exception of some better-known programs in the city, I had no idea where I might find teaching positions–either for pay or as a volunteer. I realized that if I, as a long-time resident of Indianapolis, could not find English classes, how would newly arrived immigrants find English classes–especially low cost or free classes? Having volunteered and taught English abroad, I fully appreciate the importance of having the language skills for everyday needs, such as shopping, paying bills, going to the doctor, and more. Without those language skills, living in a new culture can feel overwhelming and even isolating. Thus the rationale behind organizing all of Indianapolis’ English classes into one online place so newcomers can find a class that’s just right for them.

IWC: How do you hope the map will be used?

GK: We hope it will be useful on multiple layers. (1) For the Immigrant community to be able to more easily find an ESL program near them. (2) For agencies / individuals who work with immigrants, to more easily direct them to an appropriate program. (3) For teachers of English – to be able to volunteer in programs, or find employment in one of the many programs. We also hope it will be used as a model for other types of services for immigrants (health centers, food pantries, etc.)

AH: I envision multiple audiences for this resource. First and foremost, the immigrant communities. All over the city, English classes are available–everyone should have the opportunity to learn English so they can make the most of their experience in Indianapolis. Second, aspiring teachers. With IUPUI’s new TESOL program, finding opportunities for internships and teaching will be much easier.  One assumption I made in creating the website and the map is that most will access it via a mobile device–thus the resource is intentionally simple and very easy to use. The bottom line is that no matter who you are, I want you to be able to find an English class that fits your needs.

IWC: You are both busy people, but you’ve given a lot of time to this project and other volunteer efforts. What fuels or inspires you?

GK: What inspires me first is my God, who is a lover of strangers, and encourages me to “love the stranger.” Secondly, I have been a stranger many times, having lived in Norway, France, Bolivia, Netherlands, and Poland, and have felt the helpless, lost, confused feeling…a lack of footing in a new culture. I wanted to create a tool that would ease some of the confusion, and facilitate language learning, as language is an empowering key that opens doors of opportunity.

AH: Paying it forward … some kind people have made my life a little easier along the way, I hope to do the same for others.

IWC: What message would you want to share with someone in Indianapolis who is beginning to learn English as a new language?

GK: The message I would like to send to any language learners new to Indianapolis is: (1) Make the effort to enroll in one of the many programs available, or take lessons, no matter how difficult or inconvenient it may seem. Putting forth the effort at the beginning will reap long-term benefits. If you don’t, you will constantly feel like an outsider looking in. (2) Use on-line resources to help with language learning. You can do this from the convenience of your home.  (3) Don’t give up! It takes a child years to master his/her native language. It will take a long time before you feel really comfortable in the English language…but don’t give up. You learned your first language (and maybe other languages too)! You can definitely learn English!

AH: Everyone knows English is a crazy language to learn, but keep at it and practice, practice, practice. And when you have learned some English, don’t be afraid to use it even if you don’t feel confident with your skills. All practice is good practice. We learn from our mistakes. And if possible, try to find a place to volunteer so you can meet and get to know some Americans and so we can get to know you.

IWC: Anything else you’d like to add?

AH: I appreciated the opportunity to work with Ginger. We both discovered an unmet need in Indianapolis and brought very different but complimentary skill sets to this project. That made it possible! Overall, I’ve found the ESL/TESOL community in Indianapolis to be quite collaborative–we all have the same goals in mind with different paths to achieving those goals. The Immigrant Welcome Center staff has been totally supportive of our efforts and for that I am most appreciative.

Thank you, Angela and Ginger! We appreciate YOU!

Questions or comments? Please email

Prepared families = Stronger communities

We know that many immigrant families feel fear that they could be separated due to emergencies such as detention or deportation, but we believe our communities and families are stronger when we are prepared. As a follow up to many Know Your Rights presentations that have been held since the change in U.S administration in January, we are hosting Family Safety Plan Nights. These free and open to the public events are an opportunity for immigrant parents to learn more about creating a family safety plan, temporary guardianship, and power of attorney.

On May 23, Immigrant Welcome Center held our first Family Safety Plan Night in collaboration with COIN (Coalition for Our Immigrant Neighbors), Kids’ Voice Indiana, Indiana Legal Services, and La Plaza, at the Newcomer Program of Indianapolis Public Schools.Fourteen families attended the workshop which began with an informational presentation by Aimee Heitz of Indiana Legal Services (ILS). After the presentation, families had the opportunities to meet with one of five volunteer attorneys.

Thank you to our volunteers, including Christina Trent, Drew Spear, Katie Blum, William Esquivel, Aimee Heitz (ILS), Julie Sommers Neuman (COIN), Lindsay Faulkenberg (Kids’ Voice), Rose Ohiami (La Plaza), Jessica Feeser (IPS) and the Newcomer Program staff, partner organizations, donors, and the families who came to create their family safety plan!

Upcoming Dates:
Wednesday, January 30
6 to 8 pm
St. Philip Neri

550 N Rural St.

Indianapolis, IN 46201

Alicia Gómez, IWC Administrative Assistant, and Rose Ohiami, Community Resource Specialist at La Plaza and IWC Natural Helper, at Family Safety Plan Night on 5/23/17.

Alicia Gómez, IWC Administrative Assistant, and Rose Ohiami, Community Resource Specialist at La Plaza and IWC Natural Helper, at Family Safety Plan Night on 5/23/17.

Aimee Heitz, Directing Attorney of the Immigrants' and Language Rights Center at Indiana Legal Services, Inc., presents to families at Family Safety Plan Night on 5/23/17.

Aimee Heitz, Directing Attorney of the Immigrants’ and Language Rights Center at Indiana Legal Services, Inc., presents to families at Family Safety Plan Night on 5/23/17.













Please share the flyer:


Family Safety Plan Nights Flyer

Immigrant Welcome Center Welcomes Three New Board Members

The Immigrant Welcome Center is adding three members to the organization’s board of directors. Helene Cross, Jackie Nytes and Mario Rodriguez will begin their board terms on April 4, 2016.

“These three individuals bring diverse leadership and life experiences to our board,” says Terri Morris Downs, executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Center. “Their guidance as board members will be invaluable to helping us meet our mission to connect immigrants and refugees to resources, services and opportunities they need to fully participate in the economic, civic, social and cultural life of the community.”

HeleneCrossHelene Cross is the retired president and CEO of Fairbanks. Currently, she serves as a consultant, providing expertise in leadership and management development, executive coaching, and strategic and business planning. Cross served as executive vice president of Easter Seals Crossroads and in various administrative roles at St. Vincent and Wishard Hospital.  She has been awarded the John T. Hazer Distinguished Alumni Award in Psychology from the IUPUI School of Science, the American College of Addiction Treatment Administrators Annual Achievement Award and the Richard M. Fairbanks Circle of Hope Award. She holds a master’s degree in management from Indiana Wesleyan University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

JackieNytesJackie Nytes is the CEO of the Indianapolis Public Library. During her career, Nytes has served as the Chief Financial Officer and the associate director for management services at the library in addition to serving as president of the Indiana Economic Development Council and executive director of the Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation. She was an elected representative on the Indianapolis City County Council for 12 years. She is on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, and the Indianapolis Symphony. She serves as a trustee of Citizens Energy and recently completed 12 years on the board of the International Center of Indianapolis. Nytes holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a Master of Library Science degree (MLS) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Mario RodriguezMario Rodriguez is the executive director of the Indianapolis Airport. Rodriguez, a second-generation immigrant, is an aviation expert with over 28 years of experience in the private and public sectors. He sits on several industry and charitable boards and is a former president of the California Airports Council. Rodriguez previously served as CEO of the Long Beach Airport, and has served in leadership positions in airports from Hong Kong to Palm Beach. Rodriguez is an accomplished author and speaker on issues affecting the aviation industry, including business recovery and disaster management. He is an engineering graduate of the University of Miami.

Indianapolis Selected for Gateways for Growth Challenge

Twenty U.S. cities chosen for program created by
Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE) and Welcoming America

INDIANAPOLIS — The Partnership for a New American Economy Research Fund (PNAE) and Welcoming America selected Indianapolis to take part in their Gateways for Growth Challenge, a program that supports the development and implementation of multi-sector strategic plans for welcoming and integrating new Americans. The Immigrant Welcome Center submitted the application for the challenge and will serve as the lead organization for this initiative locally.

Indianapolis was one of 20 cities chosen for this unique program. “These communities are leaders in the broader and growing trend to be more inclusive, countering the narrative often heard in the mainstream news,” says David Lubell, executive director of Welcoming America.

PNAE and Welcoming America will provide the Immigrant Welcome Center with:

● Customized quantitative research reports on the contributions immigrants make to the local economy.
● On-the-ground, technical assistance to help the Immigrant Welcome Center draft, execute, and communicate a multi-sector immigrant integration strategy.

The Immigrant Welcome Center’s 100-member Welcoming Cities Task Force is working to address ways to make Indianapolis a more immigrant-friendly city. Terri Morris Downs, executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Center says, “The support and expertise offered through the Gateways for Growth Challenge will help our Task Force craft recommendations for a citywide immigrant integration plan that will offer practical solutions for creating a city that welcomes and supports all residents.”

For more information about the Gateways for Growth Challenge and a complete list of cities selected for the program, visit


About the Immigrant Welcome Center
The Immigrant Welcome Center began community outreach in 2007 through its Natural Helpers program, which has expanded to include 96 volunteers representing 32 countries and speaking 46 languages. Natural Helpers are immigrants themselves who live and work in the communities they serve. They are a trained, dedicated group of bilingual volunteers who connect newcomers to a variety of community organizations that can provide information and referral for assistance with transportation, health care, employment and job training, education, legal issues, ESL classes, and more.

In addition to the Natural Helpers program, the Immigrant Welcome Center serves as a resource for community programs by collecting information about immigrant needs and how to best meet them, as well as by coordinating interagency services and addressing barriers to access.