‘A small organization doing wonderful work’ : The Intercultural Community Center in Westbrook is honored for its programs with immigrant children.

Westbrook's Intercultural Community Center, which is led by Mutima Peter (holding ball), recently received an award from the Maine Children's Alliance for the work it does with immigrant children. 

WESTBROOK — The founder of the Intercultural Community Center hopes a recent award will raise awareness of his organization and its work.

The ICC, located at 36 Patrick Drive, has been named a 2017 Giraffe Award winner by the Maine Children’s Alliance. Executive Director Rev. Mutima Peter said he is honored that the ICC is being recognized.

“Finally people are noticing exactly what we’re doing,” he said. “We’re a small organization doing wonderful work, impacting the lives of children and their families.”

The ICC, which was founded three years ago, offers after-school and summer programs for immigrant children. The center provides homework help, English language support, and social and physical activities for the children. 

The Giraffe Awards are given annually to “community heroes who ‘stick out their necks’ for Maine children, youth and families,” according to a press release from the MCA. The ICC is one of six Maine organizations or individuals being honored this year. An awards ceremony will be held May 19 from 12-2 p.m. at the Woodford’s Club in Portland.

Claire Berkowitz, the MCA executive director, said ICC board member Sue Salisbury, who’s also a member of the School Committee, nominated the ICC for the award. 

“We felt like this was an example of a group that works with kids to help them be the best they could possibly be,” Berkowitz said.

The ICC is for children in third through eighth grade and is completely free for families to use. The center provides transportation for the children from school to the center and then to their homes.

Peter said the center also works to provide support for families who are new to the country by working as a liaison between them and the services they need. The biggest service provided by the ICC to the families is in regards to the school department.

“When there are gaps we have to fill them between the families and the schools,” Peter said.

Oftentimes there is a language barrier and parents don’t always know how their children are doing in school, Peter said. The ICC works as a link between the parents and schools, and also works with children after school to improve their English.

“For children who are new to Maine, they may come with no English,” Peter said. “We help them with that here if they’re struggling at school.”

The parents are appreciative of the ICC’s help, Peter said, because they often need support when first arriving in the U.S. He said parents also like knowing their children have a safe place to go after school.

“It’s very joyful (for the parents),” Peter said. “It’s a blessing for them because they know their children are getting help and aren’t out on the streets.”

More and more immigrant families are moving to Westbrook, Peter said, so he’s glad to be able to provide them with support.

“We have a really big need,” he said. “There are a lot of families moving from Portland to Westbrook.”

The ICC employs four teachers, two drivers and two administrators, and sees an average of 45 students every week day. Most of the kids are from Westbrook, but there are a handful from Portland as well. 

Peter said families typically find out about the ICC through churches, schools and social workers. He said he hopes the Giraffe Award makes more families aware of the center. 

“It’s educational to our friends and neighbors nearby that there’s a place here making a difference for immigrants,” he said. “It raises awareness of what we do.”

Berkowitz said there were over 20 nominees for Giraffe Awards this year. Peter said he appreciates being chosen because it brings light to the work the ICC is doing. 

“I appreciate those who have given us this award,” Peter said. “It shows that people are noticing us and understanding the value of what we do.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

Westbrook’s Intercultural Community Center, which is led by Mutima Peter (holding ball), recently received an award from the Maine Children’s Alliance for the work it does with immigrant children.