“The work is the same we’ve always done – there’s just more of it,” Ms. Harrison said of TEAN’s work with the asylum seekers. “All the families have kids.” TEAN’s board members were quick to highlight the vital role Nsiona Nguizani has played since he was hired by the Town of Brunswick as a full-time cultural navigator for the families. They also praised Brunswick’s public health infrastructure, which has attended to the needs of the asylum seekers from the beginning, as well as many other partners in the community. Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program responded to the arrival of people from the Congo and Angola by stocking culturally appropriate foods. Crystal Springs Farm donated use of a barn to store large items like donated beds and bicycles. Midcoast Literacy trained volunteers to tutor newcomers in English and to provide one-to-one mentorships. “The asylum seekers often lead us in knowing what is needed,” said Ms. Bateman of TEAN. “They are professional, talented, and want an opportunity to volunteer. When a lot of the kids didn’t have boots, they volunteered to measure the feet of all those kids. They have gone door to door to find out needs in relation to phones, which are essential for staying in touch with families back in Africa, and for accessing services. It’s a collaboration.”
“Our group and Midcoast New Mainers have been providing all support for these individuals,” Singer, who is also a co-founder of TEAN, said at Monday’s Town Council meeting. “I was at the Landing when refugees arrived. They are quite a lovely group of people and I am grateful to have gotten to meet them.”
“The Emergency Action Network … is a local effort to connect student needs (like a backpack, a winter jacket or a pair of basketball sneakers) to a network of nearly 1,000 local allies who help fill these needs. In the event that the community members are not able to find or supply the items needed, or if there is an emergency, TEAN has funding it can use to step in. “People come to us when they can’t find help anywhere else,” said Erin Mangalam, one of TEAN’s organizers.”
“BRUNSWICK — When the Brunswick High School’s athletic director called saying a homeless student needed a pair of basketball sneakers in order to play on the team, Erin Mangalam and the five other mothers who make up The Emergency Action Network sprang into action, broadcasting the need to hundreds of allies. Within 24 hours, the student had not just one pair of shoes, but several.
This is what TEAN does every time there is a need for a homeless student. There is no paperwork involved, and they never learn the child’s name. They just reach out to their network and get the job done.
With 70 homeless students in Brunswick, “there’s a big need,” Mangalam said. “Sometimes it’s hard to see that.”
In the two years since TEAN has been operational, Mangalam and her fellow organizers have only seen that need increase, whether due to a lack of affordable housing in the area or because of emergency. As the need has increased, so has the network of what she calls allies — community members ready to help when they are called. Currently, there are about 850, she said.”
“In addition to the water from Topsham, a nonprofit community group in Brunswick called The Emergency Action Network has been collecting bottled water to donate to Bay Bridge residents since the beginning of this week. On Wednesday, Poland Spring learned about that effort and sent over several pallets of bottled water as well.”
““I feel like it would be easy to say, ‘Why don’t people just go buy some water, what’s the big deal?’” she said. “Well, you have to have a car and you have to have money, and there were clearly a lot of people there getting water for their neighbors and elderly folks.”
Singer formed network in summer 2016 with Teresa Kelly Gillis; both of them serve on the School Board. Both women also have children in the school system.
The group primarily collects donated clothes and other basic necessitie,s such as baby gear, furniture and hygiene supplies, for underprivileged students and their families. Members of the advisory board post messages asking for items through a Facebook page and via an email list to donors, or “allies” as they’re often called.”
“Expect the unexpected could be the motto for The Emergency Action Network, a practical support program that matches homeless students’ personal or housing needs with people who can fill that need. About 40 students are homeless in the Brunswick school district.
TEAN formed out of a crisis one family experienced this summer, explained Pender Makin, assistant superintendent of schools. All of their belongings were on the side of the road; they had been evicted from the apartment they were renting.
It was raining, and whatever items they had stacked on the roadside were quickly getting soaked. Makin received a phone call from a family member: Did she have a tent to keep the items from getting ruined?”
(Pender) Makin, also Brunswick’s McKinney-Vento coordinator, said Tuesday, “Unfortunately, we’re trending toward a higher number (of homeless teens in the school system) this year based on last year” and that “the situations seem more dire.” Last spring, there were over 40 homeless teens in the Brunswick school system, up from six in 2007.
TOPSHAM — Over the last decade, the homeless youth population in School Administrative District 75 has increased from 12 in 2003 to an average of 50 a year since 2008, according to data compiled by the district health coordinator. Until recently, each community in the district has responded for the most part independently to the needs of homeless youth in their school systems. But as the number of homeless students continues rises, area towns are working together to create awareness of the problem and explore common solutions.