Papy Bongibo

CocoMaine, a nonprofit, is led by Papy Bongibo, President; an administrative team; and committees focused on social life, education, sports, and women. CocoMaine is the organization of the Congolese Community of Maine (Kinshasa). Elections for new leadership will take place in the next few months. The association supports community members at important junctures in their lives such as births, weddings, and funerals. Over the past two years, the number of Congolese in Maine has grown by approximately 1,000 people, bringing the total number to an estimated 3,500 people. Most live in the greater Portland area, with others in Lewiston/Auburn and Bath/Brunswick. 

Community events were greatly curtailed by the pandemic, and during this time the focus of CocoMaine has been helping people stay healthy by providing information through social media, WhatsApp, and live videos, as well as by providing food, diapers, and other necessities for those who were unable to go out. 

Many of the asylum seekers who have arrived in Maine during the pandemic are Congolese, and are living in temporary housing in motels. CocoMaine has been working with the Angolan Community of Maine, Maine Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, and other organizations to support these new arrivals. Examples of support include culturally appropriate food; transportation to medical services, immigration-related appointments, and grocery stores; and helping newcomers with paperwork relating to immigration and benefits. With hundreds of people needing support at any one time, the weight of responsibility has been heavy, and community members have had a hard time providing that support while also taking care of their own families and holding down jobs. 

With spring here, the community is looking forward to some outdoor sports, and to the annual Independence Day celebration. 

Contact: [email protected]