Bereket is originally from Eritrea, eldest of 8 children in his family of modest means. He studied math in college and soon thereafter became a math tutor and teacher. He left Eritrea in 2009, lived in Khartoum and Juba before coming to Maine in June of 2016.
Within two months of arrival, Bereket was already engaged tutoring high school and college students in math and has become known as the "Emergency Tutor," as he makes himself available to his students at all hours by mobile phone. Bereket feels that children are our most valuable asset and that math is essential for life. His warm personality and counselor-friend style endears him to his students who have high powered careers all over the world, at this point.
Presently, he works at the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center and hopes, in time, to develop more curriculum and materials which he can administer through an interactive website to serve more students.
Beyond math, Bereket has strong English and interpersonal skills. He has already been interviewed on Maine Public, the Bangor Daily News, and was recently a special guest chef for Immigrant Kitchens. Bereket has very much appreciated his warm welcome to Portland.
Music: Live Aid - 1985 USA for Africa--"We Are The World"
Fowsia's middle class lifestyle came apart at the seams when she was only five years old in Somalia. Her family was separated and lived in poverty in a war zone and as refugees before coming the US in 1989. She shares her intimate experiences of those difficult years.
Since 2003 Fowsia has raised her five children in Auburn and works for Healthy Androscoggin as a Community Health Outreach worker focusing on keeping lead out of our bodies.
She also organizes the community through Maine Community Integration. They have hosted dinners and dialogues to dissipate fear as people come together to enter into conversations working toward mutual understanding.
Fowsia was one of the women recognized as a Trailblazer by Empower the Immigrant Woman this year for her excellent service to the community.
Music: Neil Diamond sings "Coming to America"
Bondeko is a new social enterprise in Portland, a building construction company that employs men and women who are immigrants. Orson teaches new arrivals how to work successfully in the trades.
Recognizing Maine's need for a respectful, productive and professional workforce, he feels that this program supports immigrants acculturation as well as offering skilled labor to the community.
Additionally, he and his friend Steve Taty (NMS #093 - Congo, Brazzaville) run a business called New Tides Consulting to help guide other organizations that are thinking about hiring immigrants.
When Orson (aka Pigeon) isn't working he is playing guitar, parenting, or making art. His Mainer Project (as seen here on his shirt) is something he discussed at length in his 2015 interview (NMS 080).
Music: Maitre Gim's "Tu Vas Me Manquer"
The Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center is located on the third, (and soon fourth), floor at 24 Preble Street in Portland, ME. Alain Nahimana (NMS 24, 60 and 92), above, is the Interim Executive Director of the center and Damas Rugaba (NMS 25, 68), below, is a founder and the Chair of GPIWC's board.
The IWC is taking a pro-active and collaborative stance toward immigration in Maine. Rather than simply responding to policies they are playing a more ambitious, strategic and positive role in the community.
Top priorities for the center include:
Language in a digital language lab
Shared Professional Working Environment
Empowering entrepreneurs with networks
Music: "Famille" by Lokua Kanza
James was born in South Sudan and was orphaned at age three. He was raised in Uganda at his aunt's Catholic mission school where he learned English. At 15 he went to Kenya's refugee camp where he got documents to come the the USA. He arrived in 1995 as a 16 year old.
After three years of working and going to school he heard about a "utopian" society--the US military. He joined the Marine Corps where he served as a helicopter mechanic from 1998-2006. His buddies loved his stories and thought he was funny and encouraged him to become a comedian.
Now James does stand up comedy at Empire and other area open mic and comedy nights. He values contributing to community because he feels he was raised by the community and wants to offer something back. He is also a worker, father, husband, landlord, and friend to many and lives in the Biddeford area.
Music: Chameleone sings "Double Trouble"
Demba was raised in Sikasso, Mali among his 8 sisters and brothers in a family that valued education. His father was an elementary school principal and his mother a keeper of the region's oral tradition.
He received his BA in teaching English as a Second Language in Mali and earned his Master's Degree from the University of Utah in Comparative Literature before returning to work as a consultant in a number of different capacities in Mali including: USAID, Peace Corps, British Embassy, United Nations.
Through shared facebook friends Demba met his wife Amy, who was raised in Maine. They have come to Maine (2016) to raise their young son. Demba is currently teaching French at Southern Maine Community College.
Music: "Wari" by Habib Koite
Julia Trujillo Luengo, originally from Spain, was interviewed earlier this summer (NMS 145) regarding her own story. She returned to the program to talk about Welcome Week, (Sept 15-24, 2017) which is part of a national movement coordinated by Welcome America. It celebrates the contribution of immigrants within unique communities around the country. Julia, the Director of Portland's Office for Economic Opportunity, highlights three offerings in Portland this year:
Map of the World (interactive art in City Hall's rotunda)
USCIS Information Sessions held around Portland.
Julia also noted that Catholic Charities will be offering City Employees the program called "In Their Shoes", an empathy and awareness building corporate training regarding refugees.
Music Ketama sings "No Estamos Locos."
Dundada means "big deal" and my guest African Dundada is making a splash as a artist/musician on the music scene in Portland, ME. He was born in South Sudan and grew up in a refugee camp in Uganda before being resettled to the USA and finding his was to Maine in 2001.
On this show African Dundada shares a sample of his original music ("My Girl"), invites listeners to join him at upcoming gigs (FMI click here), and spreads his good will to all. He is joined in the studio by his friend James Swaka who contributes perspective and humor and will return as my guest for the 155th show on October 1.
Music: Bob Marley sings "Satisfy My Soul."
Zoe came of age in a war zone. She talks about her life in Beirut, Lebanon during 20 years of war. Zoe and her husband left Lebanon when she was 27 and after three years in Canada they moved to Maine (in 1996) and raised three children in Falmouth.
Zoe is currently studying for her master's degree in Social Work at USM and she also is on the board of ILAP (Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project), MANA (Maine Association for New Americans) and is the new board President of MIRC (Maine Immigrant's Rights Coalition). Zoe is a parent leader in the Portland Empower Program but she speaks today mostly about her role as the founder of NEAAO-(New England Arab American Organization). NEAAO operates out of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center at 24 Preble St. in Portland and also offers numerous programs in Westbrook and other sites.
Music: Fairuz sings "Le Beirut."
11/12/17 Shima Kabarigi returns to NMS at noon on www.wmpg.org/90.9 FM