Nsiona Nguizani is helping asylum-seekers and their children adapt to life in Brunswick. Hannah LaClaire / The Times Record

BRUNSWICK — Town officials are considering hiring an assistant for Nsiona Nguizani, the cultural broker hired to help the dozens of asylum seekers who arrived this summer adjust to their new lives in Brunswick. 

Nguizani was hired in August to help facilitate the complicated cultural transition for roughly 20 people who arrived in Brunswick from Portland, where city officials set up a temporary shelter for the hundreds of people seeking asylum from violence and persecution in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

An African immigrant himself and the president of the Angolan Community of Maine, Nguizani speaks French, Portuguese and Lingala, the primary languages of the families.

Now, nearly six months after the first group arrived, their numbers are closer to 100, far beyond the original estimates. Because of this, Nguizani’s daily work has become more focused on addressing small emergencies. Having an assistant would let him “handle some of the more complex issues,” instead of the routine responsibilities, Town Manager John Eldridge told the council this week.

The council is still working on the job description for that additional role, but Eldridge said it will likely include duties such as keeping Nguizani’s database of information and resources up to date, coordinating rides and services, and some of the paperwork and clerical tasks that currently prevent Nguizani from doing some of the larger-scale work he needs to do. The person will also need to speak  French, Portuguese and/or Lingala to be able to communicate with the families.

“He’s spread too thin,” Eldridge said of Nguizani, adding that trying to coordinate among people who are all at different levels of understanding and in different circumstances is “hectic.” They are trying to balance helping the families get acclimated and teaching them how to do certain things on their own.

“It’s a complicated process and there’s still a lot of need,” he said. He hopes to have the assistant in place by Jan. 1. A salary has not yet been determined. 

With so many people needing to be helped, Eldridge also said the town is extending Nguizani’s original six-month commitment. 

Most of the families’ needs are being met, with clothing, food and housing being provided through community nonprofits and volunteers, including housing developers and landlords who offered their homes rent-free. The majority of the asylum seekers are housed at Brunswick Landing, where the town is also trying to establish a resource center where the families can visit and organize services. A room will be available in the Brunswick Recreation Center from 1-8 p.m. Monday through Friday at least through the spring, Eldridge said. 

Transportation has been a barrier for many, with limited bus service to Brunswick Landing and little coordination between the Explorer and Metro BREEZ. Representatives of the Brunswick Explorer are working on improvements to the schedule and the estimated costs of such, Eldridge said. Mid Coast literacy also has a computer application for volunteers that organizers are modifying to be used to coordinate appointments and volunteer drivers, he added. 

“Everything is new to us, and there is a lot that is surprising,” he said, so they are taking it in stride as the situation develops. 

The town established a community support fund on GoFundMe over the summer to help the families, which has to date raised $11,205. 

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