Lowell celebrates its immigrant population

To mark 100 years of service to newcomers to Lowell, the International Institute of New England (IINE) will honor 100 Lowellians who have influenced, led, and been part of Lowell’s vibrant immigrant community at a celebration on Wednesday, May 1 in Lowell.

“Since our founding in 1918, the people of Lowell have been our partners in resettling, educating, and welcoming newcomers to the city,” IINE CEO Jeff Thielman said. “In turn, immigrants and new Americans have been an integral part of Lowell’s growth and history. They have shaped the city’s history, people, and personality.”

IINE is one of the oldest and largest refugee resettlement and immigrant services organizations in the region. Each year, IINE serves 2,000 people in Lowell, Boston, and Manchester, NH. The organization’s century of service will be celebrated in the city where it all began. As part of the centennial celebration, IINE invited the greater Lowell community to help identify 100 of the most admirable leaders from Lowell’s immigrant community who have made achievements in their fields, as well as locally-born Lowellians who have supported immigrants and immigrant issues.

Included in the “Lowell 100” list of honorees are professors, priests, public servants, educators, executives, entrepreneurs, and advocates. The Honoree List represents 35 different countries, many generations, and dozens of industry sectors.

One of the honorees, Frank Carvalho, is an immigrant from Brazil and a resident of Lawrence, MA. He has served as Executive Director of Mill Cities Community Investments and Executive Director of the Coalition for a Better Acre. Mr. Carvalho will be recognized alongside her fellow honorees during the Lowell 100 Celebration at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium on May 1, 2019. The event will feature food from local immigrant-owned restaurants and a special exhibit featuring IINE’s history of service to the immigrant community.

“To my knowledge, no attempt has ever been made to honor 100 Lowellians in this fashion,” Dr. Robert Forrant said. He is a professor in the History department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and a local history expert helping IINE delve into its own archives and others to present a topical examination of the legacy of immigration in Lowell.

“In such an inclusive way, to review the city’s history and come up with an honor roll of 100 immigrants and refugees who have helped to vitalize the city is a big undertaking,” he said. “But one worthy of the impact the honorees will have made on the city.”

A group of women from Lowell and the surrounding area founded the International Institute of New England (IINE) in 1918. They banded together in response to rising nationalism in the USA following WWI. Originally, IINE welcomed refugees who arrived by boat and helped them with housing, employment, and language training. Today, much of that same work continues, but with a modern slant on services. IINE staff greets new arrivals at the airport, secure their housing with local landlords, and set them on a fast-paced 90 day route to self-sufficiency. Immigrants who are not refugees participate in IINE’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, job-training programs, and legal services.

A public celebration honoring the Lowell 100 (and their descendants) will take place at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, May 1 at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium. For more information or to buy tickets, visit iine.org/100 or contact IINE at events@iine.org or 978.459.9031.