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IRIS- Celebrating 20 years serving the world

January 30, 2013

2013 marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of Iowa Resource for International Service.

Bob with members of the Rule of Law Hong Kong Program during his follow-up in Hong Kong. -October '96

Bob with members of the Rule of Law Hong Kong Program during his follow-up in Hong Kong. -October ’96

Since 1993, IRIS has been striving to touch the world by meeting our goals and fulfilling our mission to promote international understanding, development and peace by connecting Iowa to communities worldwide. With 20 years of work and memories behind us, it only seems right to celebrate.

We plan to commemorate our memories and thanks monthly on our blog and newsletter. These posts will reflect on and honor our past, while allowing us to look forward to the future and all IRIS has to offer.

Former Lt. Governor of Iowa Robert Anderson founded IRIS in 1993 in an effort to encourage and develop cross-cultural relationships between citizens of Iowa and people from around the world. 1609 participants and countless volunteers later, IRIS has done that and more.

“It has been really important for small town Iowa. It’s not just beneficial to (our international) participants, but also to the Iowans who interact with them,” said Anderson.

Bob following up with participants of the Western Ukraine Independent Media Development Program in Western Ukraine. June '95.

Bob following up with participants of the Western Ukraine Independent Media Development Program in Western Ukraine. June ’95.

What started as the International Center for Community Journalism (ICCJ), the organization began working with adult professional journalists from Eastern European and Asian countries such as Ukraine, Bulgaria, Georgia, Mongolia and Korea. These programs focused on media development and touring Iowa (photos below).

Over the past two decades, IRIS has expanded into an Ames-based nonprofit, non-religious organization funded by several grant programs with a strong mission to better the world. Many of our current and recent programs promote education, business, journalism, leadership, eco-volunteerism and minority rights.

Much of the success has been due to our board members, both past and present (listed below). These volunteers have ranged from professors, to doctors, to state representatives and have all helped make IRIS what it is today. “It all depends on volunteers,” said Anderson.

Bob with part of the Hong Kong Rule of Law for Journalists group. Summer '96

Bob with part of the Hong Kong Rule of Law for Journalists group. Summer ’96

Perhaps one of the most dedicated volunteers is our very own Executive Director Del Christensen, who Anderson said “has done a great job of keeping everything rolling and going well.” When Christensen joined the team in 2002, he began leading groups to Georgia, Armenia, Tanzania and Nigeria. Throughout the past 11 years, Christensen’s passion for international development and education has no doubt benefited IRIS in immeasurable ways.

Alongside Del, IRIS Operations Manager Martha Pope and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Coordinator Christelle Enega have contributed much more than what their 9-5 hour days allow. IRIS is grateful to have had passionate employees, board members, interns and volunteers supporting the efforts over the past 20 years. Together, we have proven that our bounds are limitless.

Some of our key programs include:

– Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program (KL-YES)

– Connections/World Learning Program

– Sister Cities/Sister States

– South Africa Youth Ambassadors Program

– American-Bulgarian Library Exchange

– Eco-Volunteerism Program in Tanzania

– Peace Education Curriculum Development in Southern Sudan

– YES Alumni Humanitarian Projects in Africa

Fun facts:

– IRIS was founded in 1993 by Iowa’s former Lieutenant Governor Robert Anderson.

– IRIS is the only organization within the KL-YES program that works with Nigerian and Tanzanian students.

– IRIS also includes students with disabilities in the KL-YES program.

– In 2006, IRIS won the National Award for Outstanding Achievement in Citizen Diplomacy by the US Center for Citizen Diplomacy.

IRIS board, past and present:

Robert Anderson, President/Founder

Conrad Dejardin

Beth Dalbey

Dr. Thomas Emmerson

Dr. Michael Cheney

Dr. Kenneth Starck

Conrad Lawlor

Joe Ascroft

Laura Hamilton

Dr. Yogesh Shah

Willard Jenkins

Kathleen Laurila

Donna Cowan-Newbrough

William P. Angrick II

Ron Rowland

Representative Helen Miller

George Cole-Duvall

Mike Coverdale

Look for our anniversary stories throughout 2013! 

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