About Us

what motivate us

We Do this work because we care

At MEIRS, we are led by individuals passionate about assisting refugees and immigrants due to their backgrounds and experience.


Our mission is to educate, empower and promote self-sufficiency among immigrants and refugees while preserving and maintaining their cultural identities. We believe everyone deserves the opportunity to thrive in their new communities while retaining the richness of their heritage. Through our wraparound services, we equip individuals and families with the skills and resources they need to succeed.


Our vision at MEIRS is to foster a community where immigrants and refugees not only receive education, empowerment, and support for self-sufficiency, but also where their cultural identities are cherished and preserved. We envision a community where every individual, regardless of background, has the opportunity to thrive in their new communities while embracing their cultural heritage.

Our Values

Cultural Sensitivity

By recognizing the importance of culture and employing staff members from the immigrant/refugee community, MEIRS aims to create a comfortable and understanding environment for its clients. This value demonstrates a commitment to respecting and appreciating cultural differences.


Embracing diversity and actively including a variety of voices is essential for solving complex problems. MEIRS recognizes the value of diversity in creating inclusive solutions and fostering a vibrant community.


MEIRS upholds the belief in the equal value of every human being and the importance of respecting and honoring each individual. This value emphasizes the promotion of equal opportunities and fair treatment for all.


MEIRS places a strong emphasis on accountability and transparency. By sharing results and learnings, the organization demonstrates its commitment to being accountable to the people it serves and to donors who trust in its mission.


Striving for the highest level of learning and performance, MEIRS aims to provide top-quality assistance to its clients. This value reflects a dedication to continuous improvement and delivery of exceptional services.

Social Justice

MEIRS recognizes the transformative power of social justice. By empowering leadership and guidance from within the immigrant/refugee community, the organization seeks to drive positive social change and address systemic issues.


Absolute adherence to policies and state regulations showcases MEIRS’ commitment to upholding ethical standards and ensuring responsible operations

MEirs Projects and events

moments in time

how and why it all began

Our History

​​MEIRS unites immigrants and refugees with their new Maine communities by providing the skills, support, engagement, and opportunities they need to become self-sufficient while helping them maintain their cultural identities.


born out of the vision and determination of a group of young Somali Bantus living in Lewiston, Maine. These individuals recognized the pressing need to support refugee youth who were struggling to adapt to their new lives in the United States. Many of these youth faced academic challenges, as the school system was ill-equipped to address the unique needs of students who lacked prior education and had limited English proficiency.

Thus, the Somali Bantu Youth Association of Maine (SBYAM) was established, initially operating out of a blue van carrying athletic equipment. SBYAM developed its first organized soccer program, providing a constructive outlet for youth. Additionally, the organization introduced the “Help or Get Help” initiative, connecting students from various grade levels with college students to support one another academically. These efforts began to yield positive results, reflected in a significant increase in the graduation rate among Somali youth in Lewiston, rising to nearly 97% within eight years.



Recognizing the importance of also supporting parents, SBYAM expanded its programs to address the challenges faced by adult community members. Language proficiency and the process of gaining citizenship emerged as significant barriers. To tackle these obstacles, SBYAM introduced Survival English and citizenship classes, enabling parents to acquire basic English skills and knowledge about the citizenship and naturalization process. The success was remarkable, with a 100% passing rate among parents who participated in the SBYAM citizenship program during their naturalization interviews.

As SBYAM deepened its understanding of the community’s needs, it identified a prevalent presence of trauma among the immigrant and refugee populations. However, due to cultural stigmas and other factors, many families were reluctant to seek mental health services offered in schools or medical settings. Responding to this crucial issue, SBYAM initiated culturally appropriate mental health case management services, bridging the gap and addressing the stigma associated with mental health treatment. Families gradually began accepting these services for their children and themselves.

2015 expanded scope of services and commitment to serving a diverse range of populations

In 2015, to reflect its expanded scope of services and commitment to serving a diverse range of populations, SBYAM underwent a name change and became Maine Immigrant and Refugee Services (MEIRS). MEIRS further enhanced its ability to serve clients by acquiring its own building, providing culturally appropriate programs and services, and creating a safe and welcoming space for families and youth to feel at home.

MEIRS’ transformative journey showcases the power of grassroots efforts to address pressing community needs. By providing educational support, promoting cultural identity, assisting with language acquisition and citizenship, and bridging the gap in mental health services, MEIRS continues to uplift immigrant and refugee communities in Maine, empowering individuals to build healthier and more prosperous lives.

2021 - 2022 expanded scope of services and commitment to serving a diverse range of populations

MEIRS has achieved significant milestones in its commitment to supporting immigrants and refugees. In 2021, it stood out as the sole ECBO (Ethnic Community-Based Organization) in the state to be approved to resettle over 100 Afghan individuals. This accomplishment underscores MEIRS’ expertise and dedication in providing crucial resettlement services.

Building on this success, in 2022, MEIRS was approved to become a full resettlement agency under the Ethiopian Community Development Council, Inc. (ECDC), based in Virginia. This partnership enables MEIRS to expand its reach and resettle refugees from various regions around the world. By joining forces with ECDC, MEIRS gains access to additional resources and expertise, further enhancing its ability to serve the needs of immigrants and refugees.

MEIRS’ expanded role now encompasses resettling refugees from diverse backgrounds while continuing to provide comprehensive wraparound services tailored to meet the specific needs of immigrants and refugees in Maine. This holistic approach ensures that individuals and families receive the necessary support to successfully integrate into their new communities and build thriving lives.

Through its continued commitment to resettlement and wraparound services, MEIRS plays a vital role in facilitating the successful transition and empowerment of immigrants and refugees, fostering a sense of belonging and self-sufficiency.

Picture of a family arriving at the airport

Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services


Call:       207-782-0260
Fax:        207-782-0261

Mailing Address

Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services
256 Bartlett Street
Lewiston, ME 04240

Main Street Office

Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services
217 Main Street
Lewiston, ME 04240

Bartlett Street Office

Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services
256 Bartlett Street
Lewiston, ME 04240

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