Justice Work : Refugee & Asylum Seekers in Maine

First Universalist actively participates in the resettlement and integration of refugees and asylum seekers who have made their way to Maine. These newest Mainers often arrive with few posessions to a country that is very different - with unfamiliar customs, food, weather, language, and practices.

In order to provide effective and timely assistance we've partnered with other organziations to support the following programs:

Compassionate Housing Initiative

Along with St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, our church has formed the Compassionate Housing Initiative, creating a network of hosts and support contacts for New Mainer families. The families, often composed of 2-5 people, typically arrive inPortland to overcrowded family shelters who do not have room to provide beds. CHI coordinators, often with little time to prepare, reach out to members of their church communities to assist with lodging, food, transportation, childcare, entertainment, and other assistance.

Currently, CHI is in need of:
  • Hosts - If you have some extra room in your home, and are able to commit to providing space for a few days up to two weeks (depending on what you can do/would like to offer), please contact us.
  • Support Contacts - If you are able to provide a meal, transport to appointments, or a brief outing (even on a one-time basis), please contact us.

In order to support our efforts in the Compassionate Housing Initiative, we have a new internship program that we are launching this church year. Our justice work intern, Kate Sawyer, will be with us to help coordinate volunteer hosts and support contacts, provide community education and advocacy, and assist in facilitating the English Conversation Circles.

The Compassionate Housing Initiative has been featured in the Forecaster and the Portland Press Herald.

English Conversation Circles

Each week on Wednesday evenings, 5pm - 7pm, members and friends participate in English Conversation Circles. Co-hosted with Opportunity Alliance in Portland, ME, this is an opportunity to engage in our Partnership with New Mainers, facilitating the growth of their English language skills, and answering their questions about American culture. It's also a faith and cultural opportunity for us, teaching us about our own social identities and allowing us to become more multiculturally adept and aware.

You need no particular skills or preparation to participate and enjoy this group - just the willingness to be present for our New Mainer neighbors! If you would like to attend, please indicate the dates you'll be there. You can sign up once, twice, or participate every week.

English Immersion Weekends

First Universalist congregants hosted their first English Immersion Weekend in July 2016. New Mainers were invited to stay with host families in Yarmouth for a weekend of fun, growth, and learning for longtime and new residents alike. To receive updates about our next immersion weekend or other opportunities to assist refugees and asylum seekers, please sign up to receive our e-newsletter, Channels.

Who Are The New Mainers?

Catholic Charities has created a comprehensive FAQ sheet about refugees and aslyum seekers in Maine including information about legal status, countries of origin, and rights.

The United Nations has gathered comprehensive information on displaced people throughout the world, some of who come to Maine as refugees or asylum-seekers.