The newly upgraded welcome center in Brunswick designed to support the town’s immigrant population. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

Brunswick will unveil an upgraded and expanded welcome center on Friday designed to help recent immigrants who are adjusting to a new language and way of life.

The center is located inside the parks and recreation building at Brunswick Landing. It was first created by the town in 2019 as a setting for newly arrived asylum seekers — primarily from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — to work with social services, take classes and access to technology.

The remodeled facility will be staffed Monday through Friday by Benedita Kakhuba, an employee with the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine who emigrated to the United States in 2019.

Kakhuba said she came to Brunswick in September 2020, leaving her home country of Angola due to concerns about corruption, crime and economic instability. She speaks five languages, although at the time of her arrival, English was not one of them. Overcoming that language barrier, she said, was the largest adjustment — particularly amid the social isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brunswick resident Benedita Kakhuba, an employee with the Immigrant Resource Center of Maine who emigrated to the United States from Angola in 2019. She will staff the welcome center Monday through Friday. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

“As the days passed on, I started to get more involved to the Brunswick community,” said Kakhuba. “Everyone here [is] very friendly and really cares about each other. So, after a couple months I started to feel like I was home here in Brunswick.”

Some barriers still remain, however, as Kakhuba said she continues to adapt to the new language and navigate her immigration status as an asylum seeker. Kakhuba is now enrolled in college, and she said she’s looking forward to helping others become integrated into the community through the welcome center.


According to Erin Mangalam, a volunteer with The Emergency Action Network, the immigrants that she has worked with faced similar obstacles while adapting to life in Brunswick. The Emergency Action Network is a Brunswick nonprofit that, in part, looks to support recent immigrants to Maine.

Mangalam estimated there are around 100 recent immigrants currently living in Brunswick and more from Afghanistan may be arriving soon.

“I think that through their children’s involvement in the school and their working in the community, they have little by little started to integrate into the Brunswick community,” said Mangalam. “But there have been huge challenges.’

Examples include access to transportation and health care, Mangalam said, as well as uncertainties around the timeframe for being legally allowed to work – which for many was well over a year.

The availability of culturally appropriate mental health services continues to be a missing piece, she added.

“They came here because they were fleeing for their lives, so they went through incredible trauma to come here to this country,” said Mangalam, adding “there’s no doubt that they’ve been through more than what most of us can imagine.”


She hopes the center will act as a meeting space to help create opportunities and foster intercultural connections among the people of Brunswick.

New additions to the facility include a computer lab, furniture, equipment for two offices, classroom tables and chairs, a children’s play area, space for small social gatherings, kitchen furnishings and artwork.

The upgrades were paid for in partnership with the Maine Community Foundation, Nathaniel Davis Fund, Sam L. Cohen Foundation and Wayfair. The grants totaled about $30,000, according to Brunswick Economic Development Director Sally Costello.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the welcome center will be held at 4 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 18.

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