Heritier Nosso, left, founder of Opportunities for Immigrants, an organization that helps immigrants understand various processes that will help them assimilate to living in the United States, stands Tuesday in Lewiston with Herve Bulankay, right, who took peer educator training with Nosso to be able to work with those coming to live in the Lewiston area. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Before Heritier Nosso came to the United States as an asylum seeker in 2015, he was an attorney in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, working as a human rights activist and with nonprofits to help educate young people.

Since Nosso arrived in Lewiston, he has been working with local organizations to help support immigrants. He is well-known in the community as someone who can help immigrants understand various government processes, such as immigration hearings, documentation and other such matters, he said.

“Helping people is in my blood,” Nosso said.

The need for his services became overwhelming, so Nosso created Opportunities for Immigrants in June, which allows him to better raise funds and organize educational trainings to serve more immigrants.

Nosso received a $3,500 grant from Healthy Neighborhoods to fund a peer mentor training, which is for immigrants living, working or seeking education in the Tree Streets neighborhood of Lewiston, he said. He’s received many calls from other immigrants interested, so he hopes to acquire funding for another one.

Opportunities for Immigrants also helps consult immigrants about their hearings, he said. Many immigrants end up missing hearings, which can lead to consequences such as being deported. Nosso helps immigrants understand how they can check on their hearing dates online, how to use email and how to send documents electronically.


Consolee Ayo participated in the Nov. 27 peer educator training. She came to the United States in 2015 as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she said.

Ayo has mentored three other immigrants on the training she received, relaying information she learned. Some of the most difficult obstacles immigrants face when they move to a new country is how to secure housing, medical care and a job.

Herve Bulankay also completed the peer educator training and agreed that housing was one of the most difficult obstacles as a new immigrant, along with transportation, which can be difficult to attain in a rural state like Maine, he said.

Bulankay came to the United States as an asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in March after his wife experienced persecution, he said. After earning a bachelor’s degree in international relations in his home country, he worked as an internal auditor ensuring that the private the companies he worked for complied with laws and regulations.

Coming to a new country means people have to learn the fundamental operations of a new place, such as basic laws, societal norms and government operations, Nosso said.

Consolee Ayo, left, who trained as a peer educator with Opportunities for Immigrants, poses Tuesday with Misengabu “Angel” Bafuafua, right, who immigrated to Lewiston from Democratic Republic of the Congo. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The peer mentor training is taught by Nosso and Lewiston Police Officer Joseph Philippon. Law enforcement education is important because many immigrants are coming from countries with corrupt law enforcement officers, according to Nosso.


Before Misengabu “Angel” Bafuafua met with Ayo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo native used to call 911 for issues that were not emergencies, such as noisy neighbors. Her peer mentor has also taught her how to use email and other basic skills that helped her become more independent.

Getting the correct information about things is important because sometimes misinformation can be passed around among immigrants and many of them face a language barrier, Bafuafua said.

She encourages all immigrants to keep their minds open and attend trainings that are offered to them because that knowledge will get relayed through the immigrant community.

Asylum seeker Noel Kimfuta, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, agrees and he has learned many basic skills from Bulankay, who is his peer mentor, he said. Many immigrants violate laws or rules because they are not aware of them.

It is important for people in the community to assume that immigrants have good intentions, but if they end up doing something wrong, Nosso encourages co-workers or community members to talk to that individual about it, he said.

Giving friendly reminders about how something should be done helps immigrants learn. Most of the time they do not understand they are not doing something right.

“Sometimes people do not meet our expectations not because they have bad intentions, but it is because they don’t know,” he said.

For more information, email Nosso at heritiernosso@opportunitiesforimmigrants.org or call 207-200-4471.

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