Volunteer Spotlight: Micky Fukasawa

Our wonderful volunteer, Mickey Fukasawa!

Our wonderful volunteer, Micky Fukasawa!

Volunteers continue to play an integral part in International House’s success, and one volunteer in particular has stood out over the years, Micky Fukasawa.  Micky has been volunteering at International House for almost ten years; she started soon after moving from Japan to the United States in 2003.  She has taught both English and Japanese in Japan and worked at a travel agency for six years, while visiting thirty-one countries around the world.  Additionally, she was a coordinator at the International Internship Program.  She considers International House the perfect place for her interests and has done numerous tasks for our organization.  Currently, she volunteers every Friday at International House and attends Queens College, while giving piano lessons at home.

Read our inspiring interview with Micky, below!

Can you tell us about yourself?

My name is Micky Fukasawa.  I am from Japan, but have lived in Charlotte for ten years.  I came to the United States because of my husband’s job.  I have a daughter and a son.  I have no other family or relatives in the United States.  When I first came to Charlotte, I wanted to get closer to the community, find my niche and make friends who share the same interests as mine.  International House is the perfect place to know about the community for a newcomer and to meet people from all over the world.

Tell us about your work with International House.

I have worked in the administration department regularly, while also giving many singing performances at events such as at the Volunteer Appreciation Night, the Gala, and the Language Conversation Hour Party.  Additionally, I was a lecturer at A Taste of Tea and Zen ceremony and a presenter at several events such as the ImaginOn Bilingual Storytime, Kids Health Link, and Children’s World of Play.  Furthermore, I have been part of the organizing staff of several events that International House participated in, such as the Dragon Boat Festival, UNCC International Festival, International Fashion Week, and the Bastille Day Festival.

What do you like about volunteering for International House?

I keep trying to assimilate to the American life.  On the other hand, when I come to International House, I feel comfortable with being an immigrant because people there are open to unfamiliar cultures and can empathize with someone from another culture.  International House is a safe environment to me.  I feel good knowing that my volunteer work is valued.  I am glad to help International House’s mission to move forward.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned while volunteering at International House?

I am not the only one who has struggled with blending in a different social life here in the United States.  One might feel intimidated, embarrassed, resentful or confused in their daily life, but they keep moving forward.  This type of thinking empowers me and makes me stronger.

Micky continues to be an instrumental part of International House’s success, and we thank her for everything she has done and continues to do for us!


Charlotte: A New Immigrant Gateway

By: Denise Long, Executive Director

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Ronnie Bryant, Director of the Charlotte Regional Partnership said it well: “We are an evolving southern city.”  For over 200 years, Charlotte has been a quintessential city of the south. Immigrant residents were rare. Consider that in 1980, only 2% of the total population was foreign-born.  But in the last 30 years, Charlotte has become an immigrant destination. Currently, about 11% of Charlotte’s total population is foreign-born. The result is that the Queen City is now a globalized “gateway” city, one with an array of cultures and ethnicities, as well as hundreds of international companies.

I recently had the privilege of participating in a community round-table and luncheon sponsored by the Americas Society and Council of the Americas.  This type of community dialogue is also being replicated in other places around the country that are, like Charlotte, new immigrant gateway cities.  The purpose is to bring together local and national partners in order to identify steps to best facilitate the integration of immigrants into our community, particularly as immigrants become key players in the economic vitality of our country.

The roundtable discussion was a small but high-powered gathering that included business leaders, public officials, and community leaders from Charlotte, as well as leaders from other project cities across the nation, including the Mayor of Nashville, Tennessee. We also heard remarks from Ari Matusiak, Special Assistant to the President and Director of Private Sector Engagement at the White House.

As the prospect of immigration reform becomes more real, this kind of dialogue becomes increasingly important.  It is critical to hear voices across sectors and cities as we think together about how to enhance the ways that immigrants can contribute to the economy, as well as the quality of life for all U.S. citizens.  How will the business sector benefit from economic opportunities that arise from new immigration laws that enable workers to fill critical job needs?  How should cities prepare?

Fatima Shama with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs in New York City stated the case very succinctly: “Immigration reform is a federal issue, but immigrants are a local issue.”  It is absolutely critical that local cities and municipalities be pro-active in helping their newest citizens become successful, contributing members of their new communities.

I came away from the meeting glad to see that many of Charlotte’s leaders are eager to affirm the positive contributions that immigrants are already making to our community and economy.  These benefits will be multiplied should key measures of comprehensive immigration legislation be passed.

I also left the meeting even more convinced of the key role that International House plays in Charlotte’s new global landscape.  For years, we have worked to foster understanding and build bridges between Charlotte’s native-born residents and the city’s newest international arrivals. This includes educational programs and legal services that help immigrants successfully integrate into our city and country. We also create global connections through our citizen diplomacy and international visitor programs, providing a lens for viewing our own community in the context of the wider world.   This is good work, and it will be even more important in the days to come as Charlotte embraces her new identity as a truly global city.