When my friend Tahar Maide was a boy in Chad, his father had a saying: Malheur à celui qui n’a pas fait mieux que son père. In English, this means, “It is a misfortune for those who didn’t do better than what I did.”

For Tahar, this would be no simple task. His mom owned a local shop and often  would give her last dollar to those in need. His dad was director of the World Food Programme, working to feed the 3.7 million people in his country who were food insecure. Later, he went to work for the Ministry of Education and helped build three schools.

So as Tahar grew up, he knew that to make his parents proud, he’d have to help others. “I always have that on my mind, to do better,” he told me recently. “Not to worry about building my own wealth or relying on my father’s wealth, but to focus on what I can bring to the table for my own children and the future.”

And so, when Tahar arrived in Lewiston six years ago, seeking asylum from political persecution, he did just that. While waiting on his work permit to come through, he started volunteering at several organizations around town including the Trinity Jubilee Center, which serves the local homeless and food insecure population and Tree Street Youth Center, which creates education and leadership opportunities for Lewiston’s youth. He also provided transportation for new Central African immigrants who had no other way to get to the store, visit friends and family and attend medical appointments.

As soon as Tahar was legally able to work, he continued volunteering. But he also started building a career in health care, specifically direct care. As Health Promotion Coordinator for the Lewiston-based nonprofit Healthy Androscoggin, I’ve spent a lot of time with the direct care workforce — a group made up of nursing aides, home health aides and the personal care aides who assist patients with day-to-day nonmedical tasks. These professionals, 6.2% of whom are foreign-born, are in particularly high demand here. We have 157 group homes for adults with intellectual disabilities, and we have one of the fastest-aging populations in the country; already, 20% of our population are 65 or older.

Tahar started out working in group homes around Lewiston, including one that required him to live on-site for weeks at a time. Now he’s working for a relative whose transportation company helps seniors travel to their medical appointments. After years in the direct care industry, Tahar has witnessed the impact of his industry’s worker shortages. Sometimes patients don’t get the care they deserve or need simply because there isn’t enough manpower. That’s why he’s in the process of opening his own home health business, Generosity Residential Service.


Tahar Maide Submitted photo

“I was tired of seeing my patients be ignored or not have their requests taken seriously,” he told me. While he plans to operate mostly in Lewiston, Tahar hopes to reach some of the more rural areas of Maine as well.

“I’ve spoken with family members who want to care for their relatives, but can’t afford it,” he explains.

So he hopes to develop a program that would train family members, and then hire them to work for his own company. It’s an innovative solution—the kind of problem solving we need more of.

When I first met Tahar, shortly after he came to this country, he’d recently discovered that his IT and business management degree from Chad didn’t transfer to America. So he put that problem solving mindset to work: enrolling in a GED program and, later, an administration course.

At the time, he told me, “I want to make a difference in people’s daily lives and help them become independent.” Today, I’m heartened by how far he’s come.

“Honestly, Maine gave me everything I need,” Tahar recently told me. “So it’s time for me to bring something back, and support my community and help it improve. How can I improve lives? How can I support my neighbors and create more jobs that pay fairly?”

I think his father and mother would be proud.

Héritier Nosso is a health promotion coordinator and community organizer in Lewiston.

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