Abdikadir Negeye moved from Atlanta, Ga., to Lewiston 10 years ago, immediately taken by the Twin Cities’ small-town feel. He liked the idea of being able to run into one of the city’s mayors or a local legislator or a child’s teacher at the grocery store. 

“It attracted me to move into Lewiston,” said Negeye, 30. “It’s smaller and it has that sense of community.”

Negeye was born in Somalia and had lived in two refugee camps before resettling in the United States. Two years after moving to Lewiston, he helped found the Somali Bantu Youth Association of Maine, which set out to work with local children and gradually expanded to parents and other adults.

“We implemented something called ‘Survival English,’ basic English, and citizenship classes,” he said. “We have also been helping parents connect with services for employment, immigration paperwork.”

Last year, the nonprofit changed its name to Maine Immigrant & Refugee Services. More than 300 kids are helped each year through summer enrichment programs.

Between 2008 and 2013, Negeye was also a local youth soccer coach. A point of pride: 11 of the players on the Lewiston High School state championship team had been his players as kids.

Negeye, who has a son and two daughters, said he hopes to see more opportunities in the future for different cultures to share traditions, share food and come together more often.

“More learning from each other,” he said. “I always ask questions. I’ve learned a lot from (others) and hopefully they’ve learned something valuable from me as well.”

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