Visiting Portland Maine’s Legal Clinic

Written by Melissa Bowe, Program Manager

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”- Emily Dickinson

This is the quotation I first read as I entered our Portland, ME clinic. I picked up the clinic’s literature as I waited behind clients to meet our Clinic Coordinator, Elizabeth Beane, and read all about the exciting programs the Portland United Methodist Church has launched (check it out at: hopeacts.org). And indeed, what I experienced at the clinic, and later, visiting with the New England Board of Directors and our Springfield clinic attorney, is a profound dedication to providing Emily Dickinson’s “hope” to their immigrant neighbors.

I met volunteers at the Portland clinic, many who had been clients themselves, who were dedicated to helping others in need of legal assistance. There was Sue, a retired lawyer from Massachusetts who made sure to connect to every single client and volunteer. There were intake volunteers that greeted everyone that came through the door with a smile:  Nadine, a former law student in Barundi who is currently waiting for her asylum application to be approved and Daniel, a former lawyer in Barundi who liked to speak of pending immigration reform.

Justice For Our Neighbors Portland clinic is a family. A creative (there are special events like African drum performances), thoughtful and passionate family that let me come join them last month. I look forward to learning about what makes this clinic unique over the next year.

*Part of my role as National Justice For Our Neighbors’ Program Manager is to visit sites and clinics. I look forward to visiting each clinic and meeting all the staff and volunteers soon.