Small Town Rallies Around Refugee Family

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Life in America wasn’t so easy at first for the Kaluta’s, a family of 15 who had been relocated to the small town of Thomaston, Maine from the Democratic Republic of Congo. But following an article last month about their difficult transition, dozens have stepped up to help the refugee family adjust to their new home.

When the Kaluta family arrived in Thomaston last summer, only two of the 15 spoke any English. There were also few opportunities for adult education in the small, rural town with a population of less than 3,000 people.

But after last month’s article, there has been an outpouring of support from the people of Thomaston, a town that had never had refugees settle there before the Kalutas came.

People have offered to help teach the family English, set up play dates with the family’s children, and give members of the family driving lessons so they don’t have to rely on volunteers to drive them around town. Someone from a nearby town even offered the family some land to grow crops in the spring.

Laurence Coe, who is coordinating support for the Kaluta’s, says she is still trying to respond to every email she’s received offering the family help. She also says that there have been no negative comments about the refugee family coming to rural Maine.

The family’s middle child, 19-year old Mzaliwa, keeps a large stack of emails from people given to him by Coe. Many contain offers to continue an email correspondence with him, from people everywhere from New York City to Washington state.

There is also a dinner invitation from a woman in a nearby town who once lived in Cameroon and wants to return “the beautiful African hospitality.”

Mzaliwa says he is overwhelmed by the emails and unsure of how to respond. He says his focus for right now is learning English from his tutor and spending his days working at a nursing home.

With the recent outpouring of support for Mzaliwa and his family, things are looking up for the Kaluta family, as they continue their new life in a small Maine town.