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Changing Lives Through Global Experiences

International Focus Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization serving as the cultural and artistic bridge between the Research Triangle and the International Community for more than 30 years.

Global understanding and respect

Every year we host programs and events to connect our community with current or rising leaders in government, politics, business, education, media, the arts and more - to exchange ideas, resources, and best practices across our respective cultures.

Every year International Focus implements approximately 25 short-term exchange programs and hosts 200 global leaders and youth in our community to share knowledge and best practices.

By joining International Focus as a member, you will discover many perspectives, make new friends, expand your network, and even host international leaders in your home or business.

Global Socials are evening events uniting International Focus's diverse community, including working professionals, officials, business owners, students, and retired international affairs experts. These gatherings often feature international leaders as speakers and showcase multicultural artistic performances.

Want To Make A Difference ?

International Focus is a nonprofit organization registered charity and relies on the contribution of local individuals and businesses to carry out our mission, and vision.

Global understanding and respect.

For over 30 years, we’ve hosted the annual International Festival of Raleigh, highlighting the diverse cultures that make up the Triangle. Expanding the Triangle’s impact, we’ve run global programs that connect our community with emerging world leaders.

Our Programs

Building global respect and friendship by facilitating professional and personal dialogue and exchange.

International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP)

The IVLP is a professional exchange program of the U.S. Department of State designed to increase mutual understanding between Americans and people of other countries.

The Open World Program

Administered by Congressional Office for International Leadership (COIL), the Open World Program is the first and only international exchange agency in the U.S. Legislative Branch. Through Open World, nearly 18,000 current and future leaders from Central Asia and Eastern Europe have interacted with members of Congress, Congressional staff, and thousands of other Americans.

Youth Leadership Programs

Youth Leadership Programs foster mutual understanding, respect and civic engagement among young Americans and their international peers. Need all content in this section to be the same length.

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Global Programs Connecting Raleigh with the World

International Focus partners with the U.S. Department of State, USAID, and the U.S. Congress to bring five vital exchange programs to the Triangle and other parts of North Carolina:

  • International Visitor Leadership Program
  • Open World
  • Youth Leadership
  • Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative
  • Community Connections

All of the international visitors we host are current or rising leaders in government, politics, business, education, media, the arts and more.


Maria Adoskina (PhD)

Director of Special Projects

Dr. Maria Adoskina (PhD) emigrated from the Russian Federation in 1993 with her PhD in Philology and Linguistics from the Institute of Linguistics at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Maria became involved in International Focus in 1999 where she would become the Program Director for Community Connections and Open World Programs. Maria has directed more than 43 successful programs via Community Connections, Open World, Youth Leadership Programs, and the Young Leaders of Americas Initiative. In her free time, Maria loves her dog and family and has recently had a new grandchild born.

John Thoma


John Thoma, retired Chief Executive Officer, joined the nonprofit Transitions LifeCare in 1991 as the Director of Finance and Information Systems.  John became CEO in 2002 and served on the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees. 
John graduated from Boston University with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature and has continued his education and training at the Tufts University Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and the Harvard Business School.
John is passionate about maximizing the impact nonprofit services bring to diverse communities and the importance of thriving mission-driven organizations.  John is very active at the regional, state and national level, and has served on numerous boards and committees including the United Way of the Greater Triangle, the Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina, and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Samuel Josephson

IVLP Program Coordinator

Samuel Josephson is a North Carolina native from Cary with a double bachelor's degree in both Political Science and International Studies with a concentration in Global Governance, Human Rights, and International Law from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. At International Focus he works as the IVLP Program Coordinator designing and implementing the International Visitors Leadership Program visits to the Triangle, whilst assisting with social media, website development, and newsletter development. Having an interest in international affairs and cultural exchanges, Samuel Josephson came across International Focus through personal research and joined due to an appreciation and respect for our mission. Outside of his professional life, Samuel has a dog named Lulia who he spends his time training and enjoys reading.

Kasi Kindred


Kasi Kindred is the Intern with International Focus tasked with the development of the International Focus Cultural Newsletters. She was born and raised in Raleigh, NC, and received her certification in Business Administration: Advertising and Digital Media from Wake Tech Community College in May 2022. In her free time, she loves going to Wrightsville Beach, NC, listening to music, and traveling. Ever since she started at International Focus, she knew this was going to be a great internship for her because she is intrigued by learning about other countries' cultures and customs. Getting involved at International Focus has given her the confidence to take on highly skilled roles and work in a professional setting and by applying them in her future career. She is a joy to be around and appreciates everything she is learning at International Focus.

Leila Bekri

Executive Director

Leila was born in New York City and raised in Tunis. Her father’s diplomatic service took her family to the U.S., Europe, and West Africa before moving back to Tunisia. Being exposed to a multitude of cultures and places at an early age, she cultivated a pluralistic perspective which she later reinforced through her education, work, and passion for world affairs.

Thelma Vambe

Graduate Student Fellow

Savinance Thelma Vambe (Her/She pronoun) was born and raised in Zimbabwe. However, for the past ten years, she and her family have been happy to call Winston Salem their second home. She went to Appalachian State University and graduated with a Bachelor's Degree of Science in Political Science with a concentration in Pre-Professional Legal Studies and a minor in Accounting and Criminal Justice in May 2022. She is a first-year second-semester student at North Carolina State University, currently pursuing a Masters of International Studies. In her free time, Thelma enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She loves going on walks and watching K-dramas. She is looking forward to partnering with International Focus this academic year "as this is an opportunity for me to learn, grow, and build my global understanding and respect through a professional, personal, and artistic exchange".

Ally Newby


Ally Newby is an intern for the International Visitors Leadership Program, and she joined in June 2023. Born in Maryland, her proximity to the nation's capital inspired her to work toward a career in international relations. Ally is a senior at UNC Chapel Hill pursuing a double major in Global Studies and Political Science and a minor in Hispanic Studies. In addition to interning with International Focus, this summer she worked as an intern for an immigrant resource center in Maryland.

Join As a Volunteer.

We are looking for experts/ professionals in these areas: Multimedia/Video editing & Publishing and Grant Writing.

Join International Focus with an Individual or Corporate Membership

Individual Memberships

By joining International Focus as a member, you will discover many perspectives, make new friends, expand your network, and even host international leaders in your home or business.

With a membership, you will get to discover the world in Raleigh through opportunities to:

  • Connect directly with global emerging leaders
  • Connect with other globally minded leaders in the Triangle community
  • Host global visits with homestays and other volunteer opportunities to build new relationships
  • Receive exclusive invitations to Global Socials
  • Receive exclusive invitations to workshops
  • Receive discounts to events
  • Play an important part in supporting International Focus’ mission of changing lives through global experiences
  • Receive our signature cultural newsletter… and so much more!

Corporate Memberships

With a Corporate Employee Membership, you will give your employees the opportunity to discover the world in Raleigh through global engagement opportunities:

  • A membership certificate for display upon request
  • Your business, council, or not-for-profit URL will be featured on our Network web page
  • A subscription to and the opportunity to be featured in our E-newsletter
  • The opportunity for your employees to participate and engage in our Global Socials
  • Early-bird access and discounted ticket prices to events
  • Support our internship and fellowship programs for area students
  • Play an important part in supporting International Focus’ mission of changing lives through global experiences!
Our Vision:

Serving as the cultural and artistic bridge between the Research Triangle and the International Community.

We Have More Than 30+ Years Of Experience.

We uniquely promote North Carolina in the world, conserve the heritage of our international communities, and defend universal values of democracy and freedom of expression.

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