Immigrants Transform Maine Towns, and That’s a Good Thing

Will Richan speaks at Swarthmore Friends Meeting on Sunday.

Dr. Will Richan, emeritus professor in the School of Social Work at Temple University, will present a talk this Sunday, October 1, on a fascinating phenomenon in his native state of Maine. Richan is a longtime Swarthmore resident who has lived in Chester for the past 15 years.

At the dawn of the new millennium, Auburn and Lewiston were economically distressed twin cities with almost no residents of color. Today, the towns are economically vibrant and ethnically diverse. What happened in the interim? The Maine towns became home to thousands of refugees from Africa, most Somalis. Richan explains that, “When the U.S. government airlifted them out of Somalia, they were taken to larger cities. But then the Somalis found their way to this Maine community on their own. Word within the Somali community was that there were good schools, cheap housing, low crime rate, and a friendly attitude.”

“What ensued,” Richan says, “was a transition that was remarkably peaceful and, despite some negative reactions at the outset, on balance the response was positive.” Richan will explore the transformation of his home town in this talk, which is free and open to all, and will begin at 1 p.m. at the Swarthmore Friends Meeting, 520 E. 24th Street in Chester.

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