February "Love Songs from Around the World" IN Day
Each of us have contact with other members through our group(s) meetings and events where we get to know people and forge friendships. But have you ever thought about all the other groups and all the other members you are not acquainted with? And what about all the work that is being done "behind the curtains"? Here we give you an overview of what happened this year in International Neighbors - each area sent us a report of what they accomplished this year.
Conversation groups meet weekly to practice English, make friends, and learn about the
Ann Arbor community. They usually meet in a rental space but also take field trips to
local places like the botanical garden, the Farmer’s Market, the Ann Arbor District
Library, or restaurants for socializing. Because of the pandemic, some meetings were
During the pandemic years, fewer new members joined, but the groups were a life line
of friendship and continued to meet on Zoom throughout the year. In fact, some
conversation groups have members who continue to participate even though they are
back in their own countries. At present, three of the five conversation groups are still
meeting on Zoom, while two groups meet in person.
A summer conversation group will meet in a park with babysitters so that children can
be included. Some of the groups might meet through the summer also.
Cultural Encounters Group
Meeting monthly on Fridays from 12 to 2 p.m., the cultural encounters group continues
to learn about what makes countries unique. The group has welcomed the opportunity
to get outdoors more often after the pandemic years. Many more members have joined,
and the group has been meeting monthly at different ethnic restaurants for cultural
encounter lunches. The members share information about their country’s famous
landmarks while enjoying a nice meal. With 26 members from 10 countries, the group
has enjoyed presentations on Croatia, India, Japan, Jordan, and South Korea.
Discussion groups in 2022-2023 have gradually settled down to something resembling
normal again. One language group just resumed meeting this fall after a previous hiatus
due to their members’ strong dislike of meeting on Zoom. Other groups have
continued meeting in homes and also occasionally in restaurants or cafes. In total, there
are two topic groups, two film groups, and four language groups currently meeting.
There have been a few noticeable changes since pre-pandemic group meetings. In
general, group leaders have faced more challenges in scheduling their groups to meet
their members’ changing schedules this year. One language group adapted by trying to
meet at one time and location on their first meeting of the month, and at another time
and place on their second meeting. Some groups have also struggled to find members
willing to take turns hosting group meetings.
Despite these few challenges, groups have continued to enjoy their time together. In the
last year, women from many different countries have joined discussion groups, including
those from Bulgaria, Costa Rica, India, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Peru, Taiwan, Turkey,
and the US.
A few changes in groups and leadership have taken place this year. The new “What’s
Happening?” group, which just began meeting in the fall of 2022, has done very well.
Meeting twice a month at a cafe, they have up to ten members, who have quickly
formed a close bond and who often stay beyond the allotted meeting time.
The leader of the Friday afternoon film group for many years is stepping down at the end of June. A new leader is needed.
Reading group on Zoom
Five reading groups started at the beginning of this year, in September 2022: two
advanced reading groups, a high-intermediate group, an intermediate group, and a
beginning group, which was discontinued in the late fall.
All groups this year had between four and twelve members, who attended fairly
regularly. A few new members joined this year....perhaps four or five. Many meetings
were on Zoom, although two met outside in person when the weather was comfortable,
at member's homes, or at various libraries. Meeting on Zoom was often a benefit, since
a few of the members lived out of town or outside the US. Zoom helped groups to
reconnect with previous members who had moved away from the Ann Arbor/Michigan
A reading group leaders' meeting was held on Zoom on May 31, 2022 to discuss
summer and fall plans; a second meeting is planned for spring 2023.
Special interests groups of IN include the following: food, excursions, arts and crafts,
During the year, three different food groups were active: Adventures in Baking,
International Cooking, and Vegetarian Cooking. The excursions group included
Chat and Chew ( dinner and conversation) and Fun and Games. Arts and Crafts
comprised Knitting and Let’s Make Music. The exercise/fitness group included
Hiking on Monday Morning, Thursday Stroller Friendly Hiking, and Thursday Afternoon
The 2022-2023 season has seen some improvement in attendance. All groups are
meeting in person again. The arts and crafts and excursion groups have seen a
resurgence in membership. The hiking groups are hoping for increased attendance
once the weather improves.The special interests groups continued to manage new
Tea group leaders have been successful in keeping together their key group of
hostesses despite years of the pandemic. Each group is determining the best time to
return to meeting in different hostesses’ houses. Meetings in restaurants, farms, and
even the Van Gogh exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts have felt more comfortable for
the tea groups. Including the Founding Mothers in the meetings has been a priority,
while the addition of new guests has been purposely smaller.
February "Love Songs from Around the World" IN Day
International Neighbors Day
The IN Day group planned monthly events for the membership at large:
● the Halloween event in October:
● the Thanksgiving feast in November;
● the cookie exchange in December;
● the craft event in January;
● love songs around the world in February;
● zumba exercise in March;
● and the garage sale/exchange in April.
The group added seven members during the reporting period, from India, Japan,
Singapore and the US.
It takes a small village to create the newsletter.This year, the International Neighbors
Newsletter underwent a major change when IN debuted the new website. The
newsletter group had a short time to get acquainted with the new website, but
succeeded in delivering news every month. During the 2022/2023 season, the IN
Newsletter published more than 50 articles inviting the membership to IN events,
guiding them through IN changes, and informing them about subjects of interest in the
area and in their daily lives. This was achieved thanks to the work of the creative writers
in the newsletter group, other equally talented contributing writers, two co-editors and a
The secretary attended all board meetings except October, when an alternate kindly
recorded the minutes. Board meetings were initially held in person with the option to join
via Zoom and then moved to virtual in December. Copies of the corrected minutes of
the monthly board meetings, including board members’ monthly reports, were shared
via Google Drive with the board and emeritus members before the next monthly
The secretary maintained a file of International Neighbors materials to be deposited in
the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. Board minutes from 2022-23
and minutes of the annual meeting will also be deposited with the Library. The
secretary ensured that the new website had been electronically captured by the Bentley
Library and clarified who has access to International Neighbors records. They are
available to any member of the public who registers as a researcher at the Bentley
All of the open board positions have been filled at this time. New Executive Board
positions are as follows:
● Veronica H. will take on the role of president, following the retirement of
Andra B.F. after five years of service as IN president.
● Treasurer Stephanie B. will become the new vice president of IN, filling the
year-long vacant position.
● Adriana R. has accepted the position of treasurer.
● Maja I.R. will be the new ambassador coordinator, a non-executive
The Volunteer Coordinator (VC) sent welcome emails to new members of IN shortly
after they registered on the website, inviting the new members to attend IN Day and
forwarding the most recent newsletter. As the ambassador coordinator was frequently
traveling, the VC stood in for her at different times throughout the year. Unlike in the
past, due to the lingering pandemic, no in-person new member get-togethers were
possible, but these will resume whenever the situation permits.
September Open House in Gallup Park
Before the fall mailing, member lists were updated, and 987 annual letters were mailed
out at the end of August 2022 to the updated database. Of those, 97 were completed
and returned, most of which contained donations. As many as 158 mailings were
returned, and those members were deleted from the database. The completed
numbers are down again this year (by several percent), while the undeliverables are up
compared to last year. IN has a very loyal and generous donor base, with the majority of
donations generated through the fall mailing. With the addition of our donation tab on
the website, IN did receive one donation via this method.
However, tracking membership remains a challenge that requires ongoing effort.
IN has members that are either Newcomers or Neighbors. Newcomers are women from
other countries who are new to this area. 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 newcomers, helping lead programs or by serving
on the Executive Board.
Since August 2022, 64 new members have joined. According to the lists from July
2022, IN currently has 344 Newcomers (from 15 countries) and 987 Neighbors for a
total of 1,331 members from 86 countries. In IN’s 27 groups, 327 women are active or
signed up for groups/activities, while 227 attended the seven International Days.
Approximately 37% of the members participated this past year, a number of whom
engaged in one or more groups/activities. In total, 554 women participated in those
As noted above, the vast majority of funding for IN is provided by members’ donations,
solicited through the fall mailing of members in the database. Although IN maintained a
solid financial footing during FY 2022/2023, thanks to bank reserves, donations as of
early May 2023 were more than 50% lower than the previous fiscal year. Most
expenditures during the current fiscal year were for relatively fixed costs, including
church rent, mailing and printing, insurance, IN Day expenses, and the website. By
contrast, expenditures supporting group activities were very limited. Going forward, the
organization needs to examine both how to increase funding and curtail any fixed costs