Maine communities work together to welcome Afghan refugees
Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine January 15, 2022
LEWISTON, Maine (Tribune News Service) — An Afghan mother and her two children have a place to live in Lewiston, thanks to Bonnie Titcomb Lewis and Lisa Day.
“These are people that worked with our military,” Lewis said of the woman who has no idea where her husband and oldest son are. Her 2-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son are with her.
The family moved into an apartment Lewis and Day worked to get ready Wednesday night. “We were here until 10,” Lewis said Thursday.
Lewis and Day are temporary employees with Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services, a Lewiston agency helping Afghan refugees resettle in the Lewiston and Auburn area.
“We may not have gotten a lot of our soldiers home without them,” Lewis said about the refugees who were taken out of Afghanistan within days of the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
“We were expecting 100 over the course of eight months,” Day said. “We had 100 arrive in eight weeks.”
Community support has pulled through, Day said. “I have people calling me left and right. ‘We want to donate,’” she said callers tell her.
One native of Rwanda and three from Somalia helped pick up a used couch donated by an Auburn family Thursday. The four masked young men filled the cab of a U-Haul box van. On the way to pick up the couch, they stopped at a small ethnic store on Lisbon Street so the driver could grab some Sambusa.
“They do all the work. I just drive the truck,” Kusow Omar said while climbing into the driver’s seat. Omar is named after his grandfather, Kusow. “He tries to tell me that his grandmother’s name is Bonnie,” Bonnie Titcomb Lewis said. “But, I’m not buying it.”
“This was a mountain of clothes,” Lewis said while hanging donations dropped off at Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services on Bartlett Street.
“So many people want to contribute,” Day said. “Everybody is pitching in.”
A woman from Auburn picked up an Afghan family Wednesday and drove them to Marden’s to shop. Her husband lost a $20 bet at work and the money he lost went into a collection he and his hospital colleagues have been saving to help Lewiston’s new arrivals from Afghanistan.
Lewis said she and Day have helped get 10 apartments cleaned and ready in Lewiston for relocated Afghans. She said more apartments are needed and so are gently used couches and bureaus.
A local resident bought the pink bed where the 2-year-old girl would sleep Thursday night. Day laid a teddy bear on top.
“They worked for us,” Lewis said about the Afghans coming to Maine. “They made a commitment to us. We are doing what we can to fulfill our commitment to them.”
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