‘Land Of Opportunity’ Indiana Through The Eyes of IVLP Alumna
What is IVLP?
The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is a professional exchange program instituted by the U.S. Department of State. Through three-week nationwide visits, current and emerging leaders experience the United States in their field of work and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts.
As part of the three-week visit, IVLP visitors to Indiana spend several days (virtually or in-person) in the Hoosier community. The International Center develops a wide variety of programs for participants in Indiana and is the only IVLP hosting organization in the state.
Olanike was an IVLP participant in July of 2017. At the time, she was working as a public librarian in her home country of Nigeria. Olanike’s program was comprised of nineteen librarians, each from a different country, and the focus of the program was on American public libraries. Olanike was inspired by the positive impact libraries have on communities and the power of giving back through volunteering. Because of her IVLP experience, she became particularly motivated to promote information literacy throughout communities.
“Land of Opportunity”
It was only four months after Olanike had gone through her IVLP program that she decided to move to Indiana. She and her husband wanted to move somewhere safer, so they moved to Indianapolis with their three young children in November of 2017. They knew no one here, but Olanike’s experience with IVLP influenced their decision. I understood and saw for myself during the program that the United States is safe, with friendly supportive communities,” Olanike said. “It showed through community involvement and volunteers in the libraries. Once I saw what American libraries possessed, I reflected and prayed and knew (that the United States) held the best for my family.”
Olanike and her family came to Indiana with nothing. For their first five months here, they slept on the hardwood floors of their apartment because they had no beds. Olanike eventually joined a local church and was welcomed by a community of kind individuals. A Liberian woman from the church took Olanike and her family under her wing- buying them beds and helping them settle into their new home. Olanike said this woman became “part of the family,” and her kind actions inspired others in the community to come together and graciously help Olanike and her family make Indiana their home.
The kindness shown to Olanike and her family when they moved made Olanike want to give back to the community. Olanike began volunteering at public libraries and was, in her own words, “blown away” by the great impact volunteering has on the community. Olanike began to see how the United States is a “land of opportunity,” inspiring her goal to pay forward the compassion she was shown as a newcomer.
Life for Olanike Now
Olanike now considers Indiana home and reflected on how culturally diverse and family-friendly it is. She works for The Indianapolis Public Library, where she is a diversity fellow and its first world languages collection librarian and is earning her Master of Library and Information Science at IUPUI. She is still passionate about promoting information literacy throughout the community.
When she’s not working at the library, going to school, or raising her family, Olanike continues her goal of paying forward the kindness she was shown when first moving to the Hoosier state. She volunteers as a natural helper at the Immigrant Welcome Center, is a Grassroots Project volunteer, a member of Impact 100, a certified community health worker, a grant writer, and is working on a project for Purdue Extension.
Olanike’s Thoughts on IVLP
Olanike highly recommends the IVLP program, “The program helps showcase the United States at its local roots through diversity of nationalities and cultures,” she said. “The program is well packaged to reflect community collaborations.”
By Elliott Hodge, marketing & communications intern