It is the mission of the Columbia Council for Internationals (CCFI) to stimulate community interest and participation in services to international students, scholars, visiting family, medical staff, and other visitors during their stay in South Carolina, while acting as a clearinghouse for activities with internationals. 



CCFI is an all-volunteer, non-partisan, secular, non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status. CCFI operates by committee structure.



create a comfortable environment in which international visitors can have the broadest possible educational experience


gain new perspectives by the exchange of ideas with people of other cultures for mutual enrichment and understanding


give the international visitor every opportunity to observe and participate in the activities of the community

Board Members


Pat Lawter

Pat has been a long-standing member of CCFI and is currently serving as the President of the Board of Directors. She enjoys meeting international students and has given her time to pick up arriving students at the airport, understanding the importance of a warm welcome.


kim sharpton

Vice President
After working in the Middle East with Syrian refugees in 2015, she returned home with a deep appreciation for other cultures. Kim joined the board in 2016 and it is her goal to help American families discover the joy of experiencing other cultures through the Community Friends Program.


piedad sanyer

Piedad has been a CCFI member for 30 years, joining the CCFI board in 2010, and currently serving as the Treasurer. She has traveled the Americas, Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East, and enjoys hosting international students in her home.


carol gelhaus

Recording Secretary
Carol's love for international travel began in 1962 as an exchange student in Germany. She has served 2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Brazil, and 4 years as an educator in Japan. Today, when she's not spending time with her family, she serves as the CCFI Recording Secretary.


jim byrum

Board Member
Jim has been involved with CCFI since the 1980s and has served several terms as Board President. He is a former Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Chile and has been instrumental in the development of the Palmetto Council for International Visitors (PCIV) program.


Marion crane

Board Member
Marion's life has been dedicated to international exchange - from hosting international students in her home to later becoming the Director for Ayusa Global Youth Exchange. Now retired, she splits her time between the Friday International Lunch Hour and the Arrival Assistance Program.


Robin Dean

Board Member
Robin joined the Board in 2009 and has since been key in hosting the Friday International Lunch Hour, sponsored by CCFI. She was a teacher in the English Programs for Internationals (EPI) at the University of South Carolina for 21 years. During her career, she had the opportunity to teach ESL in Japan. Now retired, Robin also serves on the board of the Columbia Green Board.


jane teas

Board Member
Jane joined the board in 2009 to repay the kindness shown to her when she was a stranger in a foreign land. She has primarily focused on helping with the Friday Lunch program, rising to the position of Chief Dish Washer. Her commitment to CCFI comes from her experiences living in foreign countries, including her time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania.


jackie richards

Board Member
Jackie joined the board in 2016 to re-energize the Community Friends Program. She enjoys welcoming international students and visitors in her home, has traveled throughout the Middle East, and was a guest speaker for Lebanon's first ever Disability Awareness Day in 2013.


dickson monk

Board Member
Dickson joined the board in 2017. He is a native of Columbia and has had the pleasure of interacting with international visitors from an early age. He is the Executive Director of the Columbia World Affairs Council, a partner organization of CCFI.


anthony triolo

Board Member
Anthony joined the board in 2017 and is currently the Senior External Relations Officer at the Rule of Law Collaborative at the University of South Carolina. He has spent his career advocating for justice and accountability for global human rights abuses and has 15+ years experience working for United Nations institutions and other international organizations.


peggy linton

Board Member
Peggy joined the board in 2017 and personally knows what is like to come to the US as an international, as she is originally from Cuba. Peggy is an avid traveler and has a great love for the world. She believes we can make our world a better place for future generations.



Arrival Assistance Program

John Crane

Community Friends Program

Jackie Richards + Kim Sharpton

Hospitality + Events

Robin Dean + Marion Crane

Palmetto Council for International Visitors (PCIV)

Jim Byrum


Denise Cellier

Open Positions

Speakers Bureau



Founded in 1993, the Columbia World Affairs Council (CWAC) is a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization that serves as the bridge between our local community and its global counterparts. The CWAC is a member of the national World Affairs Councils of America network and Sister Cities International. CWAC has partnered with CCFI in 2017 to pursue efforts in the community jointly.

CCFI is officially recognized by the University of South Carolina to offer services to international students. USC is rich in internationally focused opportunities that engage students in global learning, support the scholarly activities of the university, and connect their students, faculty and staff to the rest of the world.  Each year, about 1800 international students study at the University. 


Nathan is a photographer and videographer based in Columbia, SC and Kyiv, Ukraine. Internationally, he shoots alongside humanitarian and missionary organizations. Locally, he shoots businesses, events, and weddings. He studies Russian at USC and partnered with CCFI in 2016, lending his skills to capture CCFI events and spirit through his photography, which can be seen throughout our website.


Lauren is a web and graphic designer, specializing in branding and creative direction for makers, businesses, and humans of all kind. She caught the travel bug at a young age and most recently spent 2 years living in South Korea. She partnered with CCFI in 2017, supporting the Arrival Assistance Program while crafting a fresh brand image and fancy new website for CCFI.

Website designed by Lauren DeLoach Creative.