With 2023 just a flip of the calendar away, local nonprofit Chance to Advance is selling copies of its Celebrating Diversity in Maine 2023 calendar to provide scholarships for refugees and immigrants going to college in Maine.

The calendar’s photos and narratives spotlight members of Maine’s immigrant communities and their accomplishments.

“They truly are an inspiration and a testament to realizing the American dream,” said Inza Ouattara, state refugee health coordinator for Catholic Charities Refugee Immigration Services.

Chance to Advance and Catholic Charities co-hosted a calendar launch party Nov. 9 at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. Video interviews and short presentations were interspersed with cultural entertainment, including a Nepalese dancer and the Somali Dhanto Dance Group. The evening concluded with several songs by Portland-based band Bondeko, which fuses the styles of an Albanian accordion player, a traditional Guinean drummer and a French singer-songwriter.

“It’s awesome the way this promotes a sense of community between immigrant populations in Maine,” said Jean-David Liwanga, who is featured in the calendar. Eight years after leaving the Democratic Republic of Congo, he’s a junior at USM, studying computer science.

“I was really excited to be part of it,” said Johana Rivera, a USM student whose parents fled El Salvador’s Civil War. “It was great to hear that this is going on, celebrating diversity and not just in Portland.”

“It’s amazing that they’re highlighting so many people of color and their accomplishments,” said Amran Osman, who was born in Kenya during her family’s flight from Somalia. This year, she founded a nonprofit called Generational Noor to destigmatize conversations of addiction and recovery in Maine’s immigrant communities.

For more information, go to chancetoadvanceME.org

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at amyparadysz@gmail.com.

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