Our Mission & History

Mission Statement

We empower individuals and families, especially the underserved, immigrants, and refugees, to become self-sufficient and fully participating members of our diverse community through innovative programs and advocacy that promote education, training, and cultural understanding.

Our Purpose: 

We welcome all those who are working to overcome cultural,educational, economic and language barriers; and we empower them to achieve self-sufficiency and to participate actively in our community.

Our Approach:

We provide client-centered services, advocacy and opportunities based on our expertise in family literacy and adult education, employment services, refugee resettlement, translation, interpretation, U.S. citizenship and immigration services.

Our Commitment:

We are committed to building on the diversity and strength of the people we serve as an investment in a stronger and more connected community. 

Our History

On June 28, 2012 the leadership of International Institute of Rhode Island and Dorcas Place Adult and Family Literacy Center announced their merger, effective December 31, 2012. 

The new organization, Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, combines one of the state’s best-regarded adult education and workforce development programs: Dorcas Place, which has helped low-income adults to realize their full potential through literacy, collaboration, advocacy and community involvement since 1981; and the International Institute Rhode Island, which began serving the myriad needs of immigrants and refugees in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts in 1921.

While not a faith-based organization, Dorcas Place was founded by Sister Mary Reilly, RSM, and Deborah Thompson, a former Mercy Associate, as part of an urban ministry program in South Providence. Their vision to develop a literacy program for single parents grew out of their work with teen mothers in Providence's inner city. Over three decades, Dorcas Place has advocated for low-income parents and other adults to expand awareness of this population. Dorcas Place programs recognize the direct link between illiteracy and problems of long-term welfare dependency, children growing up in poverty, teenage pregnancy, child abuse and neglect, crime and chronic unemployment.

The International Institute of Rhode Island (IIRI),was originally housed in two rooms on Weybosset Street and began as an affiliate of the YWCA. In its early days, the IIRI provided casework and support to a few hundred immigrant women and their families as part of a national movement by Edith Terry Bremer to create a membership-driven organization to build community for foreign born women in their new homeland. In 2001 IIRI sponsored the charter for the International Charter School which is located on 334 Pleasant Street in Pawtucket. Over the years, IIRI expanded services to adult education, legal immigration and citizenship services, and refugee resettlement.


Equal Opportunity and Nondiscrimination Policy

DIIRI is committed to equal opportunity.  DIIRI does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, national or ethnic origin, gender, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or expression, homelessness, marital, citizenship status or status as a special disabled veteran, recently separated veteran, Vietnam era veteran, or any other veteran who served on active duty during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized, (except in those special circumstances permitted or mandated by law), or any class protected by law.  This nondiscrimination policy encompasses the operation of DIIRI's programs and activities including the employment of personnel and contracting by DIIRI for goods and services.  DIIRI is committed to taking affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified women and members of minority groups identified in state and federal Affirmative Action laws and executive orders, persons with disabilities (including qualified special disabled veterans), and veterans of the Vietnam Era.