International House (as it would later be known) was founded by the Charlotte Area Clergy Association as a unique ecumenical ministry dedicated to meeting the needs of the international community in Charlotte. The nonprofit organization was incorporated in May 1981 as the Community College and International Ministry of Charlotte, Inc. (CCIM) and started implementing programs and activities promoting intercultural interaction and cultural awareness. CCIM created a central location that would serve as a clearinghouse for international information and resources as well as a meeting place for intercultural activities. In 1983, the congregation at St. John's Baptist Church donated the property next door as the site for this international center, and on November 23, 1985, the non-profit opened its doors for the first time at 322 Hawthorne Lane. In 1989, the organization changed its name to International House.
Among the earliest programs of International House was the "Friendship Connection,” a program to help internationals make new friends and develop English language skills in an informal setting. This was but one of many programs geared toward helping internationals better understand and adapt to US culture.
International House also focused on raising interest and awareness among the local population about international issues and culture. Americans were invited to weekly "Foreign Language Lunches," to break bread and practice various foreign languages such as Spanish, French, and Italian. These have continued in the form of International House’s free conversation hours in 10 different languages.
International House has a long history of providing English learning opportunities to Charlotte’s foreign-born residents. One of the oldest programs has been the English Tutoring Program (ETP), in which a volunteer tutor is matched with an adult student. The pair meets weekly in-house at specific days and times. International House also began offering ESL classes, Citizenship Classes, and a basic life skills series known as “Charlotte University”. In 2010, International House began a summer English program for children from non-English speaking families. The program has grown from 35 students the first year to over 180 students in 2013 due to a successful partnership with funders and Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools.
In addition to introducing Charlotte to newly-arrived residents from other parts of the world, International House has also introduced hundreds of overseas visitors to local businesses and community organizations here in Mecklenburg County. In 1986, the organization became home to the International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP), a member of the National Council for International Visitors, a network of more than 91 programming organizations across the U.S. under the auspices of the United States Department of State. IVLP hosts business, governmental and academic future leaders from around the world and arranges meetings and interviews with local professionals tailored to their areas of study.
In 2002, International House founded an immigration law clinic staffed by one attorney. Due to Charlotte’s changing demographics as an “Immigrant Gateway City”, demand for affordable naturalization and family immigration services has sky-rocketed, and International House’s legal team has grown in an attempt to keep pace with the demand. The Clinic now serves hundreds of low-income refugees and immigrant clients each year.
In late 2012, International house moved to its current location at the Midwood International and Cultural Center at 1817 Central Avenue. Our new multicultural campus in the converted Midwood High School houses a diverse array of tenants including the Language Academy, Global Arts Initiative, Universal Institute for Successful Aging, League of Women Voters, Bosnian-Herzegovinian American Cultural Center, Japanese Association of Charlotte, All Ethiopian Community Center, and Grameen America. Our new home provides much needed classrooms for ESL and citizenship classes, as well as confidential office space for clients to meet privately with attorneys. We are also located on one of the most international “corridors” of Charlotte, easily accessed by public transportation. We are now poised for an even larger role as the place where “Charlotte welcomes the world”!