Behavioral health care nonprofit Spurwink named Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition Executive Director Mufalo Chitam its Humanitarian of the Year at Ocean Gateway in Portland on May 4.

“Every year, Spurwink seeks out someone in the community who is making a real difference for people and whose values align with our own,” said CEO Eric Meyer. “We at Spurwink value equity, equality and social justice within Spurwink and our community to foster an environment where everyone is seen, heard and know they matter.”

Spurwink’s Shifa Maine program provides culturally informed inpatient trauma therapy for refugees in collaboration with Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, which Chitam leads.

“Mufalo’s advocacy and vision are transforming what was an informal landscape of immigrant resources into a robust network of systems to support integrating new Mainers into our community,” said Spurwink board chair Al Raymond. “A staggering 93 organizations are represented by the Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, including immigrant constituencies, advocacy groups and direct service providers, including Spurwink. That is no small feat and a testimony to Mufalo’s leadership.”

Chitam, 51, emigrated from Zambia in 2002 with her husband, Frank, and then-toddler daughter Grace. She started Empower the Immigrant Woman annual conference and awards night in 2015. By 2017, she had set her sights on something bigger – uniting dozens of immigrant-focused organizations and creating culturally informed systems.

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together,” Chitam said. “I stand here today with a very big heart knowing that the current needs of newly arrived immigrants are at their greatest. But I’m also grateful for the trust you’ve bestowed in me and our organization.”

Spurwink, one of the largest social services organizations in Maine, serves anyone with a mental health need – including depression, anxiety, substance use disorder, development disorders and autism – regardless of age or economic status.

“We continue to expand services as we adapt to Maine’s changing communities, meeting people where they are,” Meyer said. “And Maine is now home to 12,000 refugees from more than 30 countries.”

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

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