The Christian Science Monitor

Among those helping Maine’s new arrivals: Other immigrants

Jeff Diggins and his daughter Eva enjoy a summer day with their dog at home in Yarmouth, Maine, Aug. 5, 2019. Mr. Diggins has hosted three asylum-seeking families through a local homestay program, and hopes to host more. Source: Sarah Matusek/The Christian Science Monitor

A pot of turkey and tomatoes, stewed with turmeric, needs stirring. The plantains are prepped, along with fish spiced with garlic and ginger. At Preble Street, a social service agency in Portland, Maine, fans meant to cool the kitchen’s heat amplify the aroma.

On a recent afternoon, a handful of volunteers cooked 600 meals to be served at a local sports arena. Lined with cots instead of bleachers, the Portland Expo Center became an emergency shelter in June for the sudden arrival of Central African asylum-seekers. The ethnic food is meant to replace fear of the unknown with the comfort of familiar flavors. Fufu, a starchy staple, is a favorite.

Several meal prep volunteers are asylum-seekers themselves. They slip in and out of French, Portuguese, and Lingala with the ease of changing aprons. Some have already found temporary housing. Yet

“We need to take care of our own first”“I don’t think kindness is a limited resource”

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