Rachel Ohm, the lead reporter covering Portland’s influx of asylum seekers for the Press Herald, lead this Newsroom Live virtual event on Tuesday, May 30.

Read the Press Herald series “Long Way Home” at pressherald.com/longwayhome.

On the panel:

Mufalo Chitam, Executive Director, Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition

As Executive Director of the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (MIRC), Mufalo Chitam has built one of the most successful immigrant rights organizations in Maine. Mufalo is civic-minded, understanding, generous, and thoughtful, and is gifted with a tremendous ability to relate across all ethnic communities no matter how different their experiences or needs may be. She was recently recognized as Spurwink 2023 Humanitarian of the Year for her advocacy, leadership, and commitment to transforming Portland’s once informal network of immigrant support into a robust fabric of resettlement systems to integrate immigrants into Maine culture.

Through her work with MIRC, Mufalo represents over 93 member organizations including immigrant constituency and advocacy groups as well as direct service and grassroots community organizations. MIRC is currently supporting towns across the state like Sanford’s community and local organizations, working collectively with systems organizing to ensure the smooth resettlement of newly arrived asylum seekers.

Kristen Dow, Director of Health & Human Services, City of Portland

Kristen leads a team of over 400 individuals who are committed to caring for the city’s most vulnerable populations. This continuum of care is provided through a municipally run long-term care facility, two municipally operated emergency shelters, a general assistance office, and an accredited Public Health division. Dow has over 10 years of extensive leadership experience in the fields of Public Health and Social Services in Maine. She holds a BS in Business Administration from Saint Michael’s College.

Ninette Irabaruta, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, United Way of Southern Maine

Ninette is also contracted by the Maine Community Foundation, where she coordinates the Investing in Leaders of Color program that focuses on building the field of people and organizations working to promote and increase racial equity in Maine. Previously, she served as Global Manager for The Nourishment Economies Coalition, where she worked on a two-year project with indigenous communities across North America, all while bringing in new business opportunities and donors. She supported research and outreach with the Mental Health & Racial Equity project at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. She also developed workshops to help cultivate young talent in U.S. immigrants and underserved communities on leadership, cross-cultural communication, social justice, and civic engagement. A native of Burundi in Central-East Africa, Ninette moved to the United States in 2012, escaping political unrest and pursuing her college education.


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