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Capital Area New Mainers Project

Capital Areas New Mainers Project

CANMP is actively pursuing its mission of welcoming immigrants and refugees and helping them thrive in Central Maine by: meeting the short and long-term needs of New Mainers, building community relationships, and advocating for New Mainers.

Community Contact Information

Temple Beth El

Augusta, ME

http://bethelaugusta.org

Goals

  • The Capital Area New Mainers Project is an all-volunteer project that welcomes immigrants and refugees and helps them thrive in Central Maine. CANMP embraces immigrants and refugees, viewing them as “New Mainers” — people who bring much needed diversity, energy, and vitality to our area.
  • CANMP works primarily with new arrivals from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Through our network of volunteers and family mentor teams, we help meet their immediate and long-term needs by coordinating volunteer support services, soliciting resources, and hosting events to give New Mainers and local community members the opportunity to build lasting relationships.
  • CANMP works with our local elected officials to advocate for policies that support New Mainers. We have New Mainers on our steering committee and work closely with local faith and non-profit organizations as we strive to build a model welcoming community.

Partnerships

  • United Way

Implementation

January- February 2016

Temple Beth El held interfaith meetings, including one at Temple Beth El and one at the home of the Iraqi community leader.

March- August 2016

Temple members joined in holiday celebrations with the community, including breaking the fast for Ramadan. Under the leadership of a local Lutheran-Episcopalian church, congregants gathered much-needed winter boots and coats to New Mainers and began to meet needs for housing and furniture.

August-December 2016

Catholic Charities began placing new refugee families in Augusta. Temple members worked with others to find housing (including one Temple member hosting a mom and her two children for a few weeks), but the congregation saw a need for a more coordinated effort. A steering committee of local people, including several Temple members and New Mainers, held meetings to develop a better community response.

January 2017: Launching CANMP and advocating for New Mainers

The steering committee presented its work to more than 60 people at Temple Beth El. The group agreed to officially form the Capital Area New Mainers Project. CANMP formed three working groups (transportation, housing, and education), and Temple members secured a fiscal sponsorship to allow CANMP to be a non-profit and receive donations. A Temple member donated the time and funds to design the organization’s web page and started CANMP’s Facebook page.

After the president announced a travel ban on refugees from seven majority-Muslim nations and Ku Klux Klan flyers were posted in an immigrant neighborhood in Augusta, a Temple member organized CANMP’s response. CANMP released a letter signed by almost 500 local residents and public officials urging our federal representative and senators to oppose the ban and expressing solidarity with the New Mainer community. Held at a local Iraqi market, the press conference included several state senators and representatives, as well as two mayors of local towns. It generated front-page coverage in the local paper.

February 2017

CANMP formed Family Mentor Teams to work directly with individual immigrant/refugee families. Under the direction of a Temple member, six teams were formed and trained to work with new Mainers. These teams of 4-5 local families help new immigrants with employment, transportation, doctor's appointments, banking, childcare, and more. They also serve as ambassadors to welcome new families to Maine by inviting them for sledding, meals, and even a Passover Seder. Roughly one-quarter of the Family Member Team members are Temple members in an area where Jews are less than 1% of the local population.

CANMP began advocating for New Mainers in the media. An op-ed co-written by a Temple member and an immigrant appeared in the local paper. (See attached article). It shared how much immigrants contribute to our community.

The Waterville Area New Mainers Project began. Modeled on CANMP, this project works with new immigrants in Waterville, Maine, 30 minutes north of Augusta. Two Temple members are involved in this new program.

March 2017

CANMP and clergy leaders met with the mayor and city manager to explore the possibility of an immigrant welcome center in Augusta. The city agreed, in principle, to donate unused public property to CANMP.

CANMP hosted Augusta’s first Nowruz celebration for the Persian New Year. The local paper covered the event. One refugee told CANMP, “This is the first time I have had fun since moving to America.” CANMP worked with the Unitarian Church to organize the first Game Night, bringing together local teens and New Mainer teens for activities at a community center. These meetings now occur monthly. CANMP members also organized a weekly play group at the local library for mothers with young children.

April 2017

CANMP, in partnership with the Capital Area Multifaith Association, began selling 200 yard signs reading, “No matter where you from you are our neighbor” in English, Arabic, and Spanish. Signs appeared around the community and helped make our values apparent in the public square. CANMP also offered a four-hour workshop on Islam co-taught by a local professor and a leader in the Muslim community. The classes, hosted at Temple Beth El, drew more than 40 people.

CANMP successfully completed our first fundraiser, “Send CANMP Kids to Summer Camp.” Under the guidance of Temple members, we raised nearly $4,000, secured two full scholarships to the Julia Clukey Camp for Girls, and negotiated partial scholarships. The money will help us send more than 20 immigrant children to spend more than 40 weeks in day camp and other activities this summer.

May 2017

CANMP continues to host events to give New Mainers and local community members the opportunity to develop lasting relationships and meet important needs. Our first cooking demonstration will be held in the Temple. New Mainers will teach congregants and others how to cook traditional Afghan and Iraqi dishes. CANMP also will host a Mother’s Day Celebration and a community furniture/clothing swap.

Results

  • New Mainers now have a local support system. CANMP has helped New Mainers secure childcare and jobs, navigate the public assistance system, work with doctors’ offices, open bank accounts, find transportation, and more. This is a comprehensive system where instead of adopting one family, we help all new families in our area.
  • New Mainers and local community members have developed strong relationships: Through community events and our Family Mentor Teams, CANMP has built long-term relationships across lines of religion, age, class, and culture. We have educated the local community about Islam and about immigrants and refugees in our area.
  • We have developed strong partnerships in the community: CANMP is a partnership not only of individuals but of organizations. The city, the United Way, the Augusta Food Bank, and five congregations work closely together to make this a success. Now that CANMP has a strong community presence, we regularly get contacted by schools, community members, and public officials who want to be involved and seek our help to figure out how to best serve the immigrant community.
  • This project has engaged a variety of Temple members in this program of all ages: From the retired Rabbi Emerita to parents with young children, CANMP has engaged long time and more recent members as well as those who had not previously been very involved in the synagogue.
  • The congregation has built the foundation for an ongoing program. This is just the beginning of a long-term effort to make Augusta a model welcoming community. They are working with city officials to build a permanent New Mainers Center, planning community activities for the summer, securing scholarships for kids for summer 2018, and exploring how to work more closely with the schools and police department. They have built the cross-religious relationships and organizational infrastructure to sustain this program long into the future.