Who are we
Immigrant and refugees came to this country for a better life. Many of them have witnessed traumatic events either in their home country or in refugee camps. Many left their home country because of civil war, fear persecution based on their race, social group, religion or political views. Many of the immigrant and refugees in Maine had no prior education and cannot even read and write their own language. Coming to a country where language is necessary to interact with your neighbors, navigate services became a huge challenge for these families. Many parents from the immigrant and refugee communities have seen their children learning English faster than them, adopting and assimilating the American culture faster than their parents. Parents of these kids have no idea on parenting styles of this country. Families have started worrying about their children. Many parents felt their children are losing their culture and tradition. The children from the immigrant and refugees felt lost between two cultures, and unless there are culturally appropriate programs and services for them and their parents, many of these kids will end up in the juvenile justice system. To educate and empower the parents and children of immigrant and refugees, Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services (MIRS) was created. MIRS is a community-based organization incorporated in August 2008. A 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization built by the visions of young men and women from immigrant and refugees community who have committed their time to make differences in their community.
Why we do this
Living in a new country is a challenge for anyone specially immigrant and refugees who have never been to a big city or felt or saw freedom. Some of these youth started doing negative things like dropping out of high school, drugs and lastly ending up in the juvenile justice system.
MIRS as started its juvenile justice system program in 2012 to educate parents and youth about the juvenile justice system. Since then, MIRS provided 45 juvenile justice workshops with youth( more than 90 hours) to immigrant and refugee youth and their families. MIRS has been collaborating with organizations and local police to provide these important workshops. At the end of every summer, MIRS conducts juvenile justice panel, where we invite juvenile judges, police officers, probation officers, counselors, and other professionals to answer questions about the system from parents and youth. This has been a successful panel where we have more than 70 youth and parents participated.
What we're doing now
We have since expanded our programs to include those geared for immigrant and/or refugee parents. One of our most important programs is the Citizenship Program, in which parents study for their citizenship exams. Focus is on the literacy portion (reading and writing) of the naturalization process.
The success of our citizenship program has easily gained the attention of many parents. We are proud to say that 100% of our students have never failed the naturalization interview — and because of that, we have had parents attend not only from Lewiston and Auburn, but also from the Portland area. We also sponsor literacy classes for parents, where they practice and study important skills such as job searching, parenting, along with more advanced reading, writing and speaking skills. Most of the parents who attend our literacy programs are from Somalia and Djibouti, along with several from Sudan or Congo.