Immigrant Welcome Cener
Indianapolis’ Immigrant Ally and Advocate
A non-profit community organization dedicated to empowering Indy’s immigrants by connecting them to the people, places, and resources they need in order to thrive.
At the turn of the 21st century, Indianapolis was in a state of transition. The city was becoming more and more diverse by the day, and Indiana’s growing economy attracted a new wave of immigrants from across the globe. With this influx of new residents and cultures, The International Center realized that Hoosiers needed to adapt—and start proactively welcoming immigrants to Indiana.
In 2005, The International Center partnered with the First Lady of Indianapolis, Amy Minick Peterson, to solve this problem. They envisioned a new community organization dedicated to welcoming immigrants of all backgrounds, supporting their transition and helping them find a home here in Indianapolis. A year later, Immigrant Welcome Center (IWC) officially opened its doors and became a trusted partner for the Indianapolis community.
Today, Immigrant Welcome Center remains a staunch advocate for all Hoosier immigrants—regardless of origin, identity, or documentation. Their services include a variety of support programs and resettlement resources, including English and literacy classes, legal and citizenship assistance, and training workshops for organizations interested in working with refugees and immigrants. IWC also offers a free, multilingual helpline for immigrants with on-call assistance available in more than 150 languages.
These services are only possible thanks to the IWC Natural Helpers program, which recruits expert volunteers to help refugees and immigrants transition to life in Indianapolis. Over the years, IWC has grown to a small team of ten employees, but their work still depends on their Natural Helpers—with 50+ volunteers serving over a thousand clients in 2021.
In the words of CEO Gurinder Kaur, these Natural Helpers truly “walk alongside” the individuals they help. Many of their volunteers are immigrants themselves, giving them a unique understanding of their clients’ experience. They know what it’s like to move to a foreign country and not know the language, the culture, or the law.
This expertise was especially important during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when regulations and guidelines could change overnight. Volunteers helped conduct wellness checks, communicate safety tips, provide personal protective equipment, and encourage vaccination in accessible ways.
“I think what’s important for our community to understand is that the immigrants who are trying to make Indianapolis, Marion County and Central Indiana their home—each one of them has their unique needs,” said Kaur. “That is the beauty of it, and that is the complexity of it. By sitting down and talking with them, you can learn about who they are and what their needs are.”
Looking toward the future, Kaur hopes that Central Indiana will continue to support IWC’s mission through volunteer opportunities and community partnerships. After years of service, Immigrant Welcome Center has cultivated close relationships with resettlement agencies and other non-profits, such as the Indiana Latino Institute, La Plaza, the Chin Community Center, and the Barangay Club of Indiana.
The Immigrant Welcome Center team in 2022.IWC also actively advocates for refugee and immigrant rights in the Indianapolis community. They strive to achieve true systematic change, providing local leaders the data they need to inform policies and ensure that the needs of underserved communities are met.
“I hope that we can continue to build on similar partnerships [like we have with The International Center] amongst our immigrant-serving organizations,” said Kaur. “Each one of us has our mission and vision, and there is so much unmet need. If we can continue to build upon that collaboration, we can definitely make sure that our communities are welcoming.”