Portland, Maine is one of the country’s most important port cities and boasts above-average income and employment levels. But for the past several years, an unlikely section of the population has grown rapidly—thousands of refugees from war-torn African countries like Somalia and Sudan have been placed in Portland to start a new life in the U.S.
During your Maine mission trip, you serve alongside incredible local organizations including The Root Cellar, Preble Street, and the Portland Housing Authority. Your team’s willingness to serve gives year-round volunteers a chance to rest, grow their programs, and be encouraged in their ongoing work. You’ll have the opportunity to help neighbors feel at home through practical ministries like Kids Club, serving meals, and cleaning up the neighborhood.
Will your summer mission trip make an impact by welcoming strangers and refugees and sharing the love of Jesus?
Portland is the largest city in the state of Maine and one of the country's most important port cities, and boasts above-average income and employment levels. But for the past several years, an unlikely section of the population has grown rapidly: Thousands of refugees from war-torn African countries like Somalia and Sudan have been placed there to start a new life in the U.S.
Portland, ME is a peninsula in Maine that embodies Maine's largest city. Portland was originally inhabited by Native Americans who named it, "Machigonne", which means, Great Neck. Portland was settled by the British in 1633 and was re- named "Casco". During this time Portland became a port Mecca for fishing, shipping, and trading and was again renamed to, "Falmouth."
Maine became a state in 1820 and Portland was named its capital. It served as capital to Maine for 12 years before Augusta was named the capital of Maine in 1832. In 1853 The Grand Trunk Railway was completed and Portland then became the primary seaport for Canadian exports. Portland has suffered from several fires since its inception, the worst of which happened during an Independence Day celebration in 1866. The fire destroyed over 1,800 buildings. At that time over 10,000 people were left without homes.
Portland currently thrives as a shipping port with its restored waterfront access. It is also a popular destination for tourists with a unique downtown district of eclectic shops and restaurants. In 2003, the National Historic Trust honored Portland, ME naming it as one of a Dozen Distinctive Destinations. This award has been given to 12 towns within the U.S. that offer unique natural, historic, aesthetic, recreational, & cultural experiences.
Maine is known for its pine trees, hydroelectric power, spring water, and its delicious seafood (the lobster especially!) and Portland is no different. As a peninsula, Portland is surrounded by water which gives locals a prime advantage in the fishing industry.
Portland's summer temperatures range from the low fifties to the high seventies with July being its warmest month. The humidity index is generally high because of its coastal region. Maine sees an average of 3-4 inches of rain a month, and its residents see sun about 60% of the time.
While Portland may be seen as an elite city, there is more than meets the eye. Due to Portland's central location, it has become known as a very transient community for many, including people without work or homes. Portland has also become home to many people fleeing from their countries because of warfare or social injustices. The large influx of refugees in the 1990's has created a culture within a culture in the neighborhoods where the refugees dwell.
The population of Portland is around 64,000 as of the Census of 2000. The average median income per family was just under $36,000 per year.
According to a 1984 survey, the youth in the Munjoy Hill area of Portland, Maine were cited as the number one problem in the community. In 1994, U.S. News & World Report rated Portland's Munjoy Hill / Bayside / Kennedy Park community as "the second largest white slum in America." Many households are headed by a single female suffering the stress of poverty. The Munjoy Hill and Kennedy Park area has been changing in the years since 1994 with the immigration of many refugees from Africa and Asia, creating new challenges and more opportunities for ministry.
Portland's young people are faced with serious issues day in and day out while struggling to become adults. Those who have grown up in the community have various degrees of need depending on the solidarity of their family and economic issues. In a single parent home with the parent working multiple jobs to make ends meet, sometimes the children are left to take on adult responsibilities without the maturity to make good decisions.
The great number of international youth that are new to our country have an overwhelming learning curve to climb regarding their new culture in order to make proper choices. The onslaught of media that depicts sexual activity and the advertisement of alcohol and other issues causes great concern to the international parents. Since the parents are equally new to American culture and often without language skills, they are many times unprepared to help them through these new struggles. Often the youth become the spoke persons for the family, undercutting the strong parental authority that exists in the majority of our international families.
Every family has been in Portland for a different amount of time. Most have been there for at least 5 years, however, there are continually more families coming in. They are placed there through Catholic Charities and other organizations as the needs arise. The kids have assimilated very well into the American culture as their minds usually have an easier time in accepting new things. They generally speak English and are in school. The parents, however, have had a much harder time assimilating into the culture due to language barriers and financial struggles. Because of this, you will see a large gap between the parents and the kids as far as their assimilation process. Often, the kids have a hard time learning how to read because their parents cannot read or write English, so the Root Cellar has language programs because the parents aren't able to help them read.
We work with many refugees with all different backgrounds. The main population we work with are Sudanese. They either have no religious affiliation or they are Christian. The second largest group is the Somali community. The Somali community are almost all Muslim, but for the most part are open to the helping hands of those who come to serve. There are also a lot of Vietnamese and South Asian refugees we work with.
Each morning, there is time set aside for devotions and quiet time. Experience Mission has devotionals/journals that are available for purchase or teams can supply their own. This is a valuable time and we strongly encourage everyone to spend it with God journaling their thoughts and experiences as the days unfold.
Our staff will lead a time of debriefing and a short devotional in the evening (what we call "Evening Gathering") and it is always a great addition to have musical worship. Our programming does not include musical worship as we can't guarantee that our our staff will have this ability. Please let us know if you have anyone who sings or plays guitar on your trip so that we can help to coordinate the musical aspect of worship when able. If teams aren't able to help in the area of music, it may not be a part of the trip.
AVERAGE DAILE SCHEDULE
3:00-6:00 pm Groups Arrive
5:00 - Leader's Meeting
6:00 - Dinner
7:00 - Orientation Meeting
7:45 - Team Time (a time for your group alone)
8:15 - Showers at YMCA
11:30 - Lights Out
7:00 - Serving at Soup Kitchen for Some Teams
7:15 - Breakfast
7:45 - Devotions and Quiet Time
8:15 - Group Prayer
8:30 - 3:30 Ministry & Work Sites
4:00 - Possible Park Ministry
5:00 - Leaders meeting
5:30 - Dinner
6:30 - Evening gathering (as a whole group)
7:15 - Team time
8:00 - Showers at YMCA
11:00 - Lights Out
Beach Day with Refugee Children
Optional Dinner Out for Teams
7:00 - Breakfast
7:30 - Cleanup/ Packing
9:00 - Pictures and Good-Byes
Teams going to Portland will stay in a local church building. Your team will be sleeping on the floor of this church so team members should plan to bring a small air mattress (single bed air mattresses are best as the space is limited) or a mat to sleep on. The temperatures can get cool in the evening so light bedding or a sleeping bag and a pillow are ideal.
Your team will be showering at the local YMCA in Portland. There are male and female locker rooms, however, team members should bring their bathing suits for modesty within their locker room. There will be a certain time dedicated to each evening to go and shower.
There will be bathrooms at the place you stay. Most work sites will have bathrooms. On the occasion that there are no facilities where you are working, teams will need to take breaks midday to use a public restroom.
There is running water. Teams will have access to it where they are staying, and at most work sites. Teams should plan to bring refillable water bottles to stay hydrated at work sites.
There is electricity in that will be available where teams stay as well as at most work sites.
Southeast Maine in general is a safe area. The facilities where you stay will be locked throughout the night and Experience Mission Staff members will do a sweep to make sure the facilities are secure before retiring for the evening. You do see minor petty theft in the area. We recommend teams leaving all valuables (smart phones, computers, jewelry, etc) at home. In the case that a team does bring some valuables, the best way to keep them safe is to store them in their locked vehicle during the day.
Your filling, healthy, tasty meals will be prepared by local workers and EM staff members. Some meals will be eaten with your team while others will be eaten with community members and refugees.
Your teams transportation to, from and while in Southeast Maine is NOT covered. You will need your vehicles throughout the entire week to transport your team to various locations for work and ministry. While some service opportunities are very close by, your team will need to be prepared to drive up to 45 minutes each day. Please plan and budget for this accordingly.
If you're interested in bringing your group on a mission trip, fill out this quick interest form! Our staff will be in touch with you shortly to help answer your questions. Also, many questions about trips to this community are answered under Mission Trip Details & Logistics above.
Experience Mission has specific policies regarding registration and withdrawal. Please refer to the document below for specifics.
All volunteers on a week-long EM mission trip must be part of a team of at least six (6) people, with at least one team member age 21 or older to serve as the Team Leader. Not part of a group? All young adults ages 18-30 are eligible to apply for EM’s IMMERSION program.
Mission Trips involve many details, and we know you probably have a few questions about EM mission trips.
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You must have a group size of at least 6 members to join this trip. Please view the Small Team trips or call our Servicing Department for more options at 888-475-6414.
For most trips, you must have a group size of at least 6 members. Please view the Small Teams tab on each Community page or call our Servicing Department for more options at 888-475-6414.