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December 8, 2020

Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center names new executive director

The Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, a nonprofit whose co-founder and executive director, Alain J. Nahimana, died May 31, has named Reza Jalali as its new executive director.

Courtesy / GPIWC
Reza Jalali

Jalali is a former refugee and a longtime Maine resident who has taught at the University of Southern Maine and at Bangor Theological Seminary. From 2006 to 2017, he coordinated the USM Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and oversaw the school’s Multicultural Center. Most recently, he served as the special advisor on equity and inclusion to USM President Glenn Cummings.

As a member of Amnesty International USA’s board of directors, Jalali has led delegations to refugee camps in Turkey and Bosnia. He has participated in United Nations-sponsored international conferences and was invited to the White House as part of a national delegation to discuss the plight of Kurdish refugees fleeing Iraq.

He also has served on numerous boards and is a member of the Maine Arts Commission and the advisory board of the New England Arab American Organization - Asian American Association of Maine.  

Jalali holds a master’s degree in human services administration from Antioch New England Graduate School and a master’s degree in creative writing from USM. He lives in Falmouth with his wife Jaleh and is the father of two grown children.

Nahimana, a Burundi native, died at age 49 from complications of diabetes. An honoree on the 2018 Mainebiz Next list for his contribution to Maine's economy, he helped launch the Immigrant Welcome Center in 2017 with Rwanda native Damas Rugaba, after three years of planning, to help New Mainers find the resources needed to start a business.

Since his death, Shima Kabirigi, also a co-founder, has served as executive director on an interim basis.

In making the announcement, GPIWC Board Chair Mary Allen Lindemann said, “Shima, our search committee, board and staff have done an extraordinary job over the past six months ensuring the center continued to do the work in process while navigating the many challenges COVID has presented along with the unexpected death of our executive director. We could not be more fortunate to have someone with Mr. Jalali’s experience, both personal and professional, take on leadership of the center as we move forward.”

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