TEAN and many other organizations played a role in welcoming a community of New Mainers to Brunswick in 2019. As the community has grown, changed and become part of the fabric of our community, New Mainers, TEAN’s board members and community allies continue to work together as advocates for fair and affordable housing, legal support, and health care. This work is done thanks to leaders within the New Mainer community, a dedicated group of allies, and close ties with the Brunswick School Department, Midcoast Hospital, the Brunswick community, churches, many service providers and agencies in town and across the state of Maine.
Thanks to the generosity of the Brunswick community, TEAN was able to step in at a critical moment to assist our new neighbors. TEAN was the first community organization to welcome new families and our allies have been involved every day since. In those initial days, TEAN board members and allies formed new relationships that allowed them to understand some of the urgent needs. With the guidance from leaders in the Maine immigrant community and cultural experts, TEAN located and deployed drivers, donors, French, Spanish, and Portuguese speakers, thousands of dollars of gift cards, and transformed people’s private homes into drop off locations and distribution centers to receive the outpouring of help offered by our community.
We have collaboratively created a number of different support systems and community building programs, and this work will continue into 2022. In May 2020, with a grant from Midcoast Hospital and working in collaboration with Maine Access Immigrant Network, we began a virtual peer support group. Zooming in on phones provided by TEAN through a grant from Maine Women’s Giving Tree, families came together each week for one hour. In some meetings, the community asked for guest speakers, which included Brunswick police chief Scott Stewart in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder, BSD superintendent Potenziano, caseworkers from DHHS, immigration attorneys, physicians, public health nurses, and specialists in intercultural communication. This hour was a lifeline for the community, especially since it began during the first lockdown of the pandemic. In this coming together, leaders emerged and were empowered and encouraged to engage in assisting their neighbors. In collaboration with Midcoast New Mainers, a volunteer organization dedicated to supporting New Mainers settling into smaller Mid Coast communities, TEAN created a pathway to quality legal representation for the 25+ families in the Bath/Brunswick area, launching a legal fund for their essential services.
Looking ahead, TEAN will continue its efforts supporting all families and children with ties to the Brunswick Schools, including the New Mainer community, fulfilling needs for materials items like winter gear and school supplies, advocating for improved public transportation systems, and increasing access to the health care systems. Volunteers and community allies for our ongoing work are always needed, and in particular, many New Mainers are right now in need of English tutors, and those efforts are being coordinated through Midcoast Literacy.