Central Mission of the Organization:
IRIS is a non-profit, non-religious organization founded in 1993 and located in Ames, Iowa. Its mission is to promote international education, understanding, development, and peace through initiatives that connect Iowans to the world.
History of the Organization:
The organization was founded by former Lieutenant Governor Robert Anderson. Originally called the International Center for Community Journalism, international journalists were brought to Iowa where they stayed with Iowa host families and interned at newspapers across Iowa. Several stayed in Newton and interned at the Newton Daily News. One of them, Alexander Zhabskiy frm Volgodonsk, Russia, returned home to create a sister-newspaper relationship between the Volgodonsk Weekly and the Newton Daily News. Articles continue to be traded between the two publications, one of the only efforts of its kind in the nation.
Anderson and IRIS were also a key stimulus in creating OPEN (Organization Promoting Everlasting Neighbors), Newton’s sister-city organization, that maintains close ties with sister-city, Smila, Ukraine. It has also assisted in establishing similar sister-city relations for Oskaloosa and Adel, as well as funding support for these efforts in Marshalltown, Muscatine, Cedar Rapids, Waverly, Adel and Oskaloosa. These initiatives ultimately led to a sister state relationship between Iowa and the Cherkassy region in Ukraine.
The scope of IRIS was broadened in 1996 and now includes a number of adult professional program groups and youth exchange programs, changing the name to Iowa Resources for International Service.
As of 2014, IRIS has hosted more than 1,700 students, teachers, business people and government leaders from Armenia, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Georgia, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, South Korea, Lebanon, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uganda, West Bank, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.
Events and Programs Sponsored:
Iraq Science Fellows Program
Global Kilimanjaro Bowl – Drake University and Tech de Monterrey
Women in Leadership - Nigeria Project
Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program
Korea Ombudsman Fellowship
South African Youth Ambassadors In Action
Multiple Community Connections Programs
Bulgarian Library Exchange
Government and Civil Society