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Maine

Zambians in Maine launch community group to provide cohesion and support

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Mufalo Chitam (Courtesy)
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Members of Maine's Zambian community pose for a photo at the independence day celebration on Oct. 24, in Portland. The celebration also served as the inaugural event for the newly formed community organization.

Maine is home to several dozen immigrants from Zambia, a country of about 18 million people in southern Africa. While it’s one of the state's smaller immigrant communities, many Zambians have deep roots here, and they’ve launched a community organization aimed at building cohesion, offering support and attracting more Zambians to Maine.

The Zambian Community of Maine, or ZaCome, was formed earlier this year, but due to COVID-19 precautions it waited until late October to hold its first public event — a celebration of Zambia’s independence day that featured food, speeches and dancing.

"We thought this would be a great way to start," said community president Noel Nyirenda, adding that the event in Portland was a first for members of Maine's Zambian community, who historically have traveled out of state to celebrate this holiday.

Nyirenda, who lives in Lewiston, said even though he has been in Maine for two decades, he still doesn't have a precise idea of how many other Zambians are living in Maine.

"There are some Zambians that, you know, are just doing their own thing," he said. "And we're still gathering information about where people are."

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Mufalo Chitam (Courtesy)
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Members of Maine's Zambian community gathered to celebrate their country's independence day on October 24th. Community leaders said it was the first time such an event had taken place in Maine.

Anniya Lawrence of Portland, one of ZaCome's founding members, estimates there are somewhere between 50 and 60 Zambians in the state. She said the community is still fairly small in part because, in Zambia, Maine isn’t a well-known destination.

"From back home, you kind of know the big cities," she said. "And you tell somebody, 'I live in Maine', and they’re like, 'Maine, where's that?'"

In addition to helping those who are already here look for jobs or find educational opportunities, both Lawrence and Nyirenda hope that the newly formed community organization will put Maine on the map, and attract more Zambians to the state.