Since our beginning over 100 years ago, the International Institute of Buffalo has welcomed, connected and empowered our foreign-born neighbors. We continue to celebrate the diverse community created by our staff, board, clients, vendors and supporters.
Serving Buffalo’s Foreign-Born Neighbors for Over a Century
Post World War I, 15 million people immigrated to the United States. Recognizing the need for specialized services for these populations, the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) established the International Institute of Buffalo. The Institute worked with female immigrants, helping them to learn English, create opportunities for cultural expression and integrate into the community.
As the needs of these newcomers changed, we helped more and more ethnic communities integrate while honoring and preserving their heritage. The Institute was incorporated as an independent nonprofit in 1934 to include men and children in addition to the women it already served. It was during this time that the Institute began to be recognized as a safe place for all to come together.
The Institute moved to 864 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo in 1973. The elegant three-story Georgian revival mansion was designed in 1898 by Esenwein & Johnson. The mansion boasts a storied legacy, as it changed hands among some of Buffalo’s up-and-coming leaders throughout the early to mid-1900s. Since then, the mansion has been a beacon for Buffalo’s international community and has hosted an array of weddings, parties and activities.
The former Buffalo/Niagara WorldConnect, an organization that hosted international visitors and provided global education programs to a variety of audiences, was incorporated by the Institute in 2006. The Institute continues to maintain WorldConnect’s memberships for the World Affairs Councils of America and the National Council for International Visitors and is the sponsor of the region’s Model United Nations competition.
The institute received its first grants to combat human trafficking from the U.S. Department of Justice.