In 1958, Esther Dunham learned from a friend at the University of Michigan International Center that an increasing number of foreign graduate students were arriving in Ann Arbor with their families.
The wives and children often faced difficult adjustments and loneliness. Mrs. Dunham and her neighbors responded, offering hospitality with a series of informal gatherings of neighborhood groups, more or less, on a monthly basis. English Conversation Groups and a newsletter were added.
Then, a monthly International Day program was begun. Gradually, other activities were added. International Neighbors was formally organized through the adoption of by-laws and the establishment of an executive board in 1960. In 1963, it was incorporated under Michigan law as a non-profit charitable organization.
All women are welcome to participate. We share activities in large group gatherings, such as our Fall Open House and International Days, and also in smaller, more personal groups. Knowledge of English is not necessary and there is no fee for participation.
Our focus is on friendship and cultural exchange. International Neighbors has a policy that prohibits the use of its name, communications or activities to promote commercial, political or religious causes.
How We Operate
International Neighbors functions primarily through small groups and one-to-one relationships. The organization operates in accordance with a set of by-laws and policies. It is governed by an executive board of officers and committee coordinators that oversee and coordinate the activities and services. An annual meeting is held each May for the election of officers and committee coordinators.
Newcomers and Neighbors
The women who participate in International Neighbors are called Newcomers or Neighbors.
Newcomers are women from other countries who are new to this area. Newcomers participate in whatever programs and activities are of interest to them. If a Newcomer lives in the area for more than a few years, she automatically becomes a Neighbor and offers friendship and support to Newcomers.
Neighbors are women who have lived in the United States and are familiar with the Ann Arbor area. They can take an active role in the organization by befriending new newcomers, helping lead programs or by serving on the Executive Board.
As volunteers, their active participation provides the organizational strength of International Neighbors and contributes to the enrichment of all the groups. Women who are able to devote as little as two hours a month to an activity are welcome. Many Neighbors make an annual tax-deductible donation to the organization.