The Iraqi Community Center started in 1998, when the first wave of Iraqi refugees arrived from a refugee camp based in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War. During that time, There were no services in Arabic. Refugees struggles to find a job and a permanent residence. Many of them did not have the ability to get an ID, since the language barrier was a huge obstacle. Soon it was time for many Iraqis to apply for their citizenship, many did not know where to start. Yahya Algarib, IRCCW's founder and Executive Director, acknowledged the growing gap between Iraqis and the rest of the community. He immediately felt the urge to take action and inspire change. His first step was creating an ESL program. Families fell in love with the program and more programs were needed such as Early Learning and Women Support Groups to further educate the community and help them navigate the system. The community was based in White Center in Burien, we started getting more families who mainly needed case management and social services in general, which is when IRCCW started a partnership with City of Seattle and Seattle Central Community College to further support our programs.
The second wave of Iraqi Refugees was around the year 2010, most of them were resettled in South King County, the need for a community based Organization in Kent was bigger than ever. Which is when Yahya took the Executive decision to relocate to Kent, in order to help as many refugees as possible. Soon after we started another partnership with Best Start for Kids (BSK), and this was when the IRCCW took off immensely, we succeeded in both our Homelessness Prevention Program and Early Learning Programs, as the need for such programs was extremely high.
Since 2000, IRCCW has been embedded in the Iraqi and larger refugee community. IRCCW differs from the other refugee services specifically because of our staff and volunteers. All of our staff are from the community and have been refugees themselves, including our board of directors. We have 19 paid staff and rely on experienced volunteers to provide services throughout the community. The services we provide are highly intensive and help clients obtain self-sufficiency, helping them to pave the way to a better future.
We are well respected within the community, and have been very successful in engaging families through our home visitor programs with parents, Arabic language school, After School Program, Senior's Program, System Navigation and Refugee Orientation Programs, Homelessness Prevention Program, and holistic approach to family and individual case management. All of which have impacted our growth immensely.
Over the past three years, IRCCW assisted over 3,000 individuals, of which 91% were Arabic speaking, Muslim, from the Middle East or a combination of the three.