Our History

In 2013, Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island was born from the union of two great organizations: the International Institute of Rhode Island and the Dorcas Place Adult and Family Literacy Center. Dorcas Place helped low-income adults to realize their full potential through literacy, collaboration, advocacy, and community involvement starting back in 1981. Since then, it has joined forces with the International Institute of Rhode Island (IIRI), which was originally housed in two rooms on Weybosset Street and began as an affiliate of the YWCA, to create Dorcas International, an all-encompassing agency that does not only provide education and job readiness opportunities but also legal services for citizenship and immigration and refugee resettlement programs.

After the merge, Dorcas International, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit, has continued nearly a century’s worth of work in the community, collectively serving the needs of immigrants and refugees in RI and southeastern Massachusetts since 1921.

Have you ever heard of Edith Terry Bremer?

She led a national movement in the early 1900s that inspired the creation of the International Institute of RI. It became an organization that provided casework and support to a few hundred immigrant women and their families, helping them to build a community in their new homeland. Over the years, IIRI expanded services to adult education, citizenship and immigration legal services, and refugee resettlement – until it was finally united with Dorcas Place.

*Quick fun fact about IIRI: In 2001 it sponsored the charter for the International Charter School, which is located at 334 Pleasant St. in Pawtucket.

And where does the name “Dorcas” come from?

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. For more than three decades, Dorcas Place advocated for low-income parents and other adults to increase awareness in the community. Dorcas Place’s programs recognized the direct link between illiteracy and problems of long-term welfare dependency, children growing up in poverty, teenage pregnancy, child abuse, neglect, crime, and chronic unemployment – and they aimed to fix it.

Dorcas Place combined its mission with IIRI to create a greater, more unified organization. As such it not only supportlow-income Rhode Islanders, but also empowers immigrants and refugees in the local community. Without them, there would be no Dorcas International Institute of RI.

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