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Helping new citizens feel more at home in America

As the Executive Director of the Ecuadorian International Center (EIC) in Jackson Heights, Martha Zambrano is helping new Americans throughout the borough.
The center was created by Zambrano’s brother, Guido, in order to bring the immigrant community together while also informing them of available services and assisting them to assimilate into society.
Originally from Ecuador, Zambrano has a degree in social work and helped many people in her home country during her career as a social worker. She came to the United States about eight years ago, first settling in New Jersey and now living in Corona.
At the time her brother was creating EIC, Zambrano was working for an investment company in Rockefeller Center. However, following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, she left that job.
After her brother had returned to Ecuador, Zambrano became the Executive Director of the Ecuadorian International Center about six years ago. Along with having volunteers involved in the organization, she also works with Program Director and Young Coordinator Veronica Piedra.
Among the services provided by the center are English and citizenship classes, domestic violence counseling, a youth program, public health programs, job training, referrals and there is a group of individuals that meets to share their thoughts and express themselves. The center also works with schools.
Although it is called the Ecuadorian International Center, it helps anyone regardless of their background. Along with serving the Queens community, it even has people coming from the Bronx and Brooklyn for assistance.
There were several challenges that Zambrano faced as EIC started its work. First of all, she had to learn how to navigate the non-profit system. She also had to make a name for the organization, earn the trust of the community and sustain its membership.
Gaining trust was an important aspect of her work since she said some cultures will not go to organizations for help unless they feel they can trust them. One of Zambrano’s biggest accomplishments as Executive Director was gaining the trust of the Latin community enough that they took part in a summer camp that they previously had not.
There was a non-profit summer camp organization that had been around for more than 100 years but had been unable to reach the Latin community. Since the parents trusted Zambrano, she was able to bring 400 children from the Latin community to the summer camp.
Zambrano said that there are several rewarding aspects to her work. First of all, it makes her happy to be able to set people free from barriers they have, whether they be emotional, professional or status related.
She said that it is satisfying to see people make a better life for themselves and attain positions of leadership, which shows that her work is being useful. Zambrano also said that it is satisfying to work with young people and learn from them.
In looking to the future, Zambrano wants to find young people who would be willing to take on the work of the organization, engage more members of the community and find more schools to work with.
EIC is currently holding a toy drive. New and unwrapped toys that are donated will be given out to members of the community. The deadline to make donations is December 19.
The center also accepts donations of other kinds that can help people in need. They are trying to get computers to start a computer class.
For more information on the Ecuadorian International Center or to become a volunteer, call 718-651-8630.

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