The NJFON Blog

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Written by Melissa Bowe, Program Bowe

“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: 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.