Connecting Across Cultures, a Midcoast community group, helps educate residents about immigration in Maine and provides support for new immigrants. Previously known as the New Mainers Coastal Task Force, CAC sponsors the “New Mainers Series” in partnership with the Camden Public Library, as well as an annual fundraiser, among other activities. Last year, the group raised almost $18,000 to aid asylum-seeking families who had arrived in southern Maine from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This winter’s fundraiser is focused on two initiatives. The first renews support for asylum-seeking families in Maine, in partnership with the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition. The second is financial support for the Afghan Community of Maine, as that organization extends a lifeline to their relatives in harm’s way in Afghanistan. One hundred percent of donations will go to these two initiatives since the all-volunteer CAC has no administrative costs.

Fatima Saidi is the grants and contracts manager for Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition.

In Maine, the city of Portland is housing over 1,000 people, mostly asylum-seekers from Africa, in budget motels while more permanent housing solutions are sought. Some families have been in the motels for over a year because of limited affordable housing. Not only is life in motels over the long term depressing for these traumatized people, most residents lack cooking facilities and basic essentials. And in late spring, with the return of tourists to the area, many of these motels will no longer be able to accommodate them.

Many of the service providers helping these New Mainers are small nonprofits led by immigrants, and their resources are limited. Donations will go toward clothing, food, healthcare, transportation to immigration-related appointments, and household goods.

Prior to the fall of Kabul in August, Maine was home to about 400 Afghans. Since then, more than 200 additional Afghans have resettled in Maine, having fled their homeland when the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan. As winter descends in Afghanistan, Afghan families here are doing what they can to send funds to relatives who were left behind. Their relatives face starvation, freezing temperatures, deadly violence, and — in the case of Afghans who aided or worked with U.S. forces in any capacity — torture and summary execution at the hands of the Taliban.

Donations to help Maine Afghans will go to The Afghan Community of Maine, which will relay the funds directly to families in Afghanistan via Moneygram. Three hundred dollars covers basic needs for a family of five (food supplies, heating supplies, clothing) for four to six weeks.

Donors can make checks payable to St. John’s Church with either “MIRC/Asylum seekers” or “Afghan Community of Maine” on the memo line. If there is no indication, the amount will be split between the two initiatives. St. John’s Church, in Thomaston, serves as CAC’s treasurer.

Donations should be mailed to Connecting Across Cultures, P.O Box 58, Thomaston, ME 04861. For more information about this effort, the Camden Library series, or Connecting Across Cultures, contact cacmidcoast@gmail.com.