Welcoming the Stranger is a grassroots initiative created in response to the rising number of immigrant families seeking political asylum in our community. Welcoming the Stranger aims to create formal friendships through mentoring relationships between local families and asylum seekers that we hope will enrich all those involved.
Unlike refugees, who have been granted legal residence and arrive with access to basic resettlement services, there is no formal system in place to help asylum seekers, many of whom have likewise fled war, political turmoil, and personal danger in their native countries to seek safety. Once here, they must apply for the legal right to stay through a complex federal process that can take three years or more. Most arrive with next to nothing and depend on General Assistance until they are eligible for work permits, a process that itself takes months. At the same time, many newly arrived asylum seekers are dealing with loss, trauma, isolation, and the difficulty of adjusting to a profoundly different culture, climate, and language.
We are actively looking for volunteers willing to enter into a mentoring “friendship” with a new Mainer or new Mainer family. What does mentoring look like? That largely depends on the families or individuals involved: a mentor could help an asylum seeker practice English, find and/or furnish an apartment, write a resume, get a winter coat, use the bus system, sign up for classes, or any number of other basic activities to help newcomers navigate their surroundings. You can find more information on mentoring in our FAQs section.
Through Welcoming the Stranger, mentors have access to a large network of other individuals and groups already engaged with the immigrant community who can offer support and guidance if specific needs — housing, schooling, medical care, etc. — arise. As a mentor, your primary task is simply to be there for newly arrived folks who would otherwise feel alone in a strange world. You don’t have to be an expert; you just need to be a friend.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor, fill out the form on our application page.
If you are interested in joining Welcoming the Stranger as a mentee or know someone who would like to be a mentee, there is more information available on this form in English, French, Portuguese, Arabic, and Spanish.