History of International Women’s Association of Yakima
The International Women’s Association of Yakima was founded in the spring of 2002 by eleven women. The original idea for the organization came from Diana Aboulhosn who had been a member of an International group in Venezuela. This founding group consisted of both American-born and foreign-born members. These founders were: Diana Aboulhosn, Pat Deatley, Bonnie Eglin, Gloria Gomez, Shannon Hughes, Vicky Kim, Linda Markee, Judy Rider, Vasthy Santana, Laura Trivisono, and Lisbeth Kaplan.
These eleven women formed the group with the purpose of having a place for international women to get together and share each other’s cultures. Many of them had experienced certain trials and difficulties through coming to a new country to live. Not only was there often a language barrier but also a cultural one. It was decided that it would be helpful to also invite American born women to the group to promote goodwill among women of all cultures regardless of race, religion, creed, political affiliation or economic status.
At the first gathering, in May 2002, there were approximately 90 guests representing 31 different countries. It was decided to meet 8-9 times a year for a social gathering or for a program presentation. Since there was such cultural diversity within the group, a presentation on the representative countries was an early goal. Many IWAY members have volunteered to give a presentation on the culture of their own country. There have been country-specific presentations from Africa, South America, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.
Since the beginning, the group has delighted in sampling ethnic food, and enjoyed the music, videos, artifacts, and unique personal stories of life in different countries. Additionally, we have shared tales about coming to the United States and immigration and adjustment challenges.
Out of this we have found many shared experiences. The gatherings continue to be interesting to the members as well as guests, and provide the setting for the beginning of many wonderful, new friendships.
One Member's Perspective - The importance of IWAY
When you come from another country, you have to start from square one.
When people meet you, they can’t see your achievements, education, values, and culture. It takes several years before you establish yourself, learning the system of your new environment and how to project your personality in that environment.
At the same time, you need some kind of a support group that will help you assimilate, and will have similar experiences to yours. This group will be the first step to creating the new network around you. So where can you find it?
Not in the grocery store or in the gym. Not even in your kids’ school, unless you are naturally inclined towards it, and want to express yourself in that way. You might find it in a church, but even this is not always the right place for everyone.
So if you are looking for adult, intellectual conversation that doesn’t revolve solely around children, you need a group like IWAY. A group like IWAY is where your “otherness” is actually an asset, and not a handicap; a place where you can learn the new social codes in a patient and forgiving environment.
In sharing our cultures from our respective countries, we open our
eyes, mouths, noses, minds, and eventually our hearts, to other cultures
and to the experiences of a newcomer. And we are also doing this: we are
building tolerance to other ways of life. And this may be a small step
towards more peace in the world.
I hope you will do the same for others, and I hope I can find something similar to IWAY where I’m moving in California.
Adi Breman, IWAY Member from Israel
2016-2017 Officers / Board
President - Beatrice Reiss
Board members: Ana Villasenor, Annemarie Van Luenen, Carolyn Long, Marisol Summers, Willy Ibrahim, Ivone Petzinger, Ariane Stechmann