Portland Office Phone: 207-808-8551 | Lewiston Office Phone: (207) 753-2700 | Email info@meirs.org

Why Do We Need Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services?

Imagine what it must feel like for a refugees or immigrant to arrive in a new country. They are alone in a strange land. They don’t know the language or the culture. They may not even know how to read or write in their own language, much less in English. Perhaps they have fled everything familiar to them because home isn’t safe anymore. Perhaps they have experienced incredible trauma in their home countries or in a refugee camps. Perhaps they’ve had to leave behind a spouse or parents or children – or maybe they have lost them to war. Everything is confusing and overwhelming for them.

Why do I tell you this story? Because I am one of these people. I left my country and the only place I knew, not because I wanted to leave, but because I had to leave to save my life. Many immigrants and refugees came here not because of choice, but because they had to find a way to save their lives and the lives of their children.

Living in a refugee camp adds more stress and trauma to the lives of these families, because everything – including the basic human needs – is hard to find. Many families live in refugee camps for more than a decade. If they had choices, they would go back to their countries, but their countries are still not safe places to go. The camps are the only option for them. Eventually, most of these families are fortunate enough to be resettled in other countries, like the USA, where they can start a new life in a peaceful place: a place where they can finally have the freedom they lost in their home countries.

Coming to a new country has it challenges, challenges that are hard to overcome for people who don’t speak the language or understand the culture. The way of life here in the United States is totally different from other countries and refugee camps. Immigrants and refugees need a support system – a place where they can go to get help, a place where their language and culture are understood and respected, a place where they see familiar faces, and, most importantly, a place where children and parents can gain the education that will help them become successful and contributing members of their new communities.  That’s where Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services steps in.

Our Mission and Accomplishments

Since 2008. Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services (MIRS) has been educating and empowering Maine’s new arrivals. Among the services we provide are:

  • Support for young people who are bridging the gap between two cultures;
  • Literacy and citizenship instruction for parents;
  • Programs designed to keep kids in school and out of the juvenile justice system;
  • Services for older and disabled adults; and
  • Comprehensive mental health care and case management, much of which is focused on those who have endured or witnessed torture, rape, and persecution.

In the past eight years, we have seen incredible progress. We serve more than 100 individuals a day, more than 4,800 each year. An amazing 99% of the youth who have been part of our programs graduate from high school, and 97% go on to college. When our program started, almost none of the refugee children in the Lewiston area graduated.

Our success has led to a problem: we don’t have enough space to house our programs.

In order to best meet the needs of the immigrant and refugee population, we have purchased a building on Bartlett Street in Lewiston. The building will need renovation so that we will be able to use the space effectively. This will provide us with room for:

  • Teen Center
  • Parent Center
  • Fitness Room
  • Game Room
  • Community Meeting Room
  • Seniors Center
  • Reception/waiting area
  • Several individual offices
  • Kitchen

The estimated cost for the renovations is $500,000.  We hope to be able to use the space by this coming summer. But we need your help to make this happen.

Here, in the midst of the holiday season, we ask that you please remember those who have come to America from a far with dreams of peace and a desire to be contributing members of our society. Your donation to MIRS, for either the building renovation fund or for our general purposes, will help light their way on the path to a better future for their families, and for Maine. You can make donations using

Paypal:  Please Donate here

Gofundme page:  www.gofundme.com/pleasehelpusgrow

or you can mail you donation to

Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services

POBO 7149

Lewiston, ME 04243

On behalf of the families we serve, thank you for your support, and may the coming year bring each and every one of us peace.

Sincerely,

Rilwan Osman

Executive Director

P.S.  We invite you to take a look at the potential for our new building. Please contact me at rilwan@meirs.org or at 207-753-2700 if you would like to learn more about the project and how you can help.

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