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October 1, 2018
Next 2018

Next 2018: Alain Nahimana, a tireless advocate for state's newest residents

PHOTo / Tim Greenway
PHOTo / Tim Greenway
Alain J. Nahimana, executive director of Greater Portland Welcome Center, works hard to create economic, social and civic opportunities for New Mainers.

Alain J. Nahimana

Executive director Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center

Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center

24 Preble St. Third Floor, Portland

Founded: 2017

What the organization does: Serves as a hub for the immigrant community, assisting with language acquisition, economic integration and civic engagement

Contact: 207-517-3401 www.welcomeimmigrant.org

Alain J. Nahimana , who was born in Burundi, is executive director of the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, which he co-founded with Damas Rugaba, originally from Rwanda. The center is creating economic, social and civic opportunities for New Mainers. He has been a tireless advocate for the state's newest residents.

Mainebiz: Before co-founding the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, what did you do, and how did that experience lead you to your current role?

Alain Nahimana: Prior to joining the IWC, I was the coordinator of the Maine Immigrants' Rights Coalition for 3.5 years, working in advocacy. During my tenure, the coalition's membership grew from six to 52, making MIRC one of the most diverse collaboratives in Maine. This experience led me to think beyond advocacy and move to a more proactive agenda with the launch of the IWC. Creating paths to opportunity and empowerment seems the perfect response to the anti-immigrant narrative across the nation. Immigration law is a federal issue, but advancing immigrant integration is a community issue — and one on which we can all work together.

MB: Why are you committed to the mission of the IWC?

AN: I am an immigrant myself, and the IWC's mission is one that reflects our resilience and our determination to live the American dream. It tells the story of who we are and what our aspirations are in this new land that we call "home."

MB: In addition to strengthening Greater Portland's immigrant community, how do you see the center strengthening the region and its business community?

AN: Immigrants and refugees constitute one of the fastest-growing demographics in Maine. If we can address the existing barriers to immigrants entering the workforce, they can be an integral part of the solution to the region's labor shortage. By working closely with the business community, the IWC can help bridge the gaps and offer customized solutions to employers.

MB: How does the IWC work with local businesses on a day- to-day basis?

AN: We are proud to be one of the immigrant-led organizations that was launched with both philanthropy and corporate support. Our board is diverse and reflects the community, including the business community. In the past year, more than 20 local businesses have been involved in our funding.

MB: How does the IWC work with supporters and/or sources of funding?

AN: We believe in the "PowerOfWE." We cannot accomplish our mission alone. Through collaboration, we can move our mission further as a community. The issues at stake are complex, and we need to work as a community. This includes thinking out of the box in terms of funding and building partnerships with other stakeholders to leverage our impact.

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