The Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center has selected a founding member to serve as interim executive director of the nonprofit organization following the death of its original leader.

Shima Kibirigi

Shima Kabirigi Photo courtesy of Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center

Shima Kabirigi, a former board co-chair for the welcome center, was selected by the board to fill the role left vacant by the death of executive director Alain Jean Claude Nahimana in June. The center focuses on strengthening the immigrant community through language acquisition, economic integration and civic engagement in Maine.

Nahimana, who died at age 49 from complications of diabetes, developed the original concept for the organization and implemented his idea in concert with a group of founding members, including Kabirigi.

Kabirigi has established a reputation for building bridges and successfully leading programs aimed at strengthening communities, according to board co-chair Mary Allen Lindemann, co-owner of Portland-based Coffee By Design.

“We are remarkably fortunate and very excited to have Shima agree to provide interim leadership to the IWC. Her familiarity with immigrant issues and passion and commitment to community development is visible in her professional track,” Lindemann said in a statement. “As a founding member, and more recently board co-chair of the IWC, Shima’s selection allows the IWC to seamlessly continue its important work while continuing the search for a permanent executive director.”

Kabirigi, a program officer at Maine Initiatives and an AmeriCorps Vista alumna, attended Pennsylvania State University and the University of Southern Maine. She has served on the local Community Development Block Grant board and the board of the New England Arab American Organization.

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