Helping Hands: Global Connections helps internationals, builds community

Global Connections is a United Way, Penn State-affiliated nonprofit agency. Sharing exactly what we do in a single sentence can be difficult, because just like the people we serve, our mission is highly diverse and entails an array of programs, and services. But in a nutshell, we offer free services that aid internationals living in Centre County, whether or not they are Penn Students, while also working in the other direction and bringing international cultures and education to the community.

We offer the following programs that welcome and help internationals:

• The Conversation Partners and the International Friendship programs: These groups pair an international person or family with an American volunteer or family to practice English, and learn about American customs and norms.

• The Women’s Intercultural Book Group: In each of the 11 operational book groups, a native English speaker leads international women in discussions of books in English.

• English as a second language (ESL) classes: We provide six classes at a variety of levels, including one focused on cooking, and another group, Conversation and Crafts, that meets bi-weekly.

• Global Voices: This group provides a place for international and American adults to come together weekly to sing multicultural music.

• The Tax Assistance Program: In collaboration with the University Office of Global Programs, the program helps hundreds of internationals each tax season with volunteer tax advisers.

Global Connections also offers many opportunities for local residents to try something authentic and international, and to increase their cultural awareness.

• The International Speakers Program brings international speakers into classrooms to share their culture with Americans — primarily school-aged children.

• Five times a year, our Cultural Lunches showcase the cuisine and culture from a specific country, with delicious food and entertaining presentation. There is a small fee ($10) to cover costs. We featured Sudan and Turkey in the fall, and will showcase Germany on Feb. 4.

• The International Children’s Festival: The annual event will be March 28 at the State College Area High School South Building. International volunteers share unique arts, crafts, songs and dances from their own cultures.

There are many other services and events we’re involved in, including panels on the diversity of Islam and immigration; and translation/interpreter services. We feel lucky to have so many internationals living in and strengthening our community.

As a volunteer-driven organization, we always need help, so please consider volunteering in one of our programs or attending an event, as this will surely enrich your life. To find out more or to get involved, please call 863-3927 or visit our new website, www.gc-cc.org.