Heritier Nosso was a lawyer in DR Congo, and when he arrived in Maine in 2015, he wanted to keep doing what he loves most – helping others. Since he didn’t initially have enough English skills to practice law in the U.S., he decided to volunteer for a non-profit organization, which was something he had done back home in DR Congo. One thing led to another, and before long he had read widely enough, and accumulated enough information about life in Maine, to be a valuable resource to his community. Now his phone rings day and night with people seeking help.

People ask for rides to the airport, rides to the hospital – he has assisted more than one woman in labor get to the hospital! – for help checking the accuracy of rumors they have heard – for example, if the census papers are really related to stimulus fund applications (they are not), for referrals to lawyers, for help filling out benefit applications for DHHS, food stamps, TANF, for help filling out job applications – the requests are endless. “I don’t give legal advice, just general information. 24 hours a day are not enough for me,” Nosso said.

“But I love to spend my free time this way. It feels good to help my neighbor. It is my hobby to help people. I feel proud, content to be of service, because I don’t like to see people suffer. COVID has meant lost jobs, shops closing, people having trouble getting food. Many nonprofits have closed, so it has been important to step in. Mental health is a huge need. There are many people here all alone, with no family – so I spend time talking to people, providing company. People are suffering from loneliness.”

Lingala and French speakers reach out to Nosso most frequently, but sometimes Portuguese speakers contact him also. Lewiston/Auburn is his stomping ground, but Portlanders sometimes hear about him and reach out, and people who used to live in Maine but have moved on still occasionally call for assistance. Recently he helped someone in Texas with a form. He is happy to be of service to all these people.

“I receive a lot of calls, because of word of mouth. People know I will treat their information with care, and preserve confidentiality. They know I check reliable sources. A lack of information at a critical moment can cause death – and someone we help today could easily be our doctor, or mechanic, or president tomorrow!”

If you have someone you’d like to spotlight for this feature, please email: [email protected] with the subject line Ordinary People doing Extraordinary things