LEWISTON- Près de chez nous ou loin? “Everyone of us in Lewiston should be able to say….I am local….I am home,” said Katie Theriault.
Katie Theriault spoke about being local and returning to “home” in Lewiston, after she and her family had lived in other places. Zahra Houssain spoke about creating “home”, having been born in Djibouti and being educated in France. In fact, “home” is not necessarily a concrete place where a house and address identifies the residents. Rather, “home” is more often the place where women feel safe and supported.
At the International Women’s Day program presented on March 8, at the Franco-American Collection at the University of Southern Maine Lewiston Auburn College, the discussion focused on how women find their “home”. This concept is somewhat complex, and can involve following personal development experiences, or physical journeys, or both.
The seminar presented a traditional point of view about returning “home” by Theriault, while an immigrant point of view was described by Houssain. Moreover, for Theriault, by returning home to Lewiston, she is looking to regain her fluency in French; while Houssain is fluent in English, she is somewhat more at “home” speaking her native French.
As a native of Lewiston, Theriault left her home to attend college in 1998, when she was 17 years old. A graduate of Lewiston High School and Colby College, she spent her first seventeen years in Lewiston, but then lived and worked in a variety of other places. “When I left, I had no plans to ever come back. I didn’t dislike it here (in Lewiston). Yet, I figured that there’d be a lot more for me…somewhere else. She recently returned to Lewiston with her husband, and children and is thrilled to have (re) discovered her forever home. For Theriault, “home” was more of a journey than a specific place. “Along the way, it is my hope that the blessings and benefits of being local in Lewiston can be conferred on every one of us, no matter how many other places, or the people or ideas are in what we call our home. That’s the vision, and the promise I support with my two sons and husband.”
Zahra Houssain is a native of Djibouti where she taught French and raised her family. She attended the University of Djibouti and the University of Dijon, France. She has made Lewiston her home for the last three years and has volunteered for her community in several programs. She works at the Immigrant Resource Center of Lewiston. “After some long research to learn about which state to go to in the United States, I finally landed in Lewiston, Maine,” she said. “I was welcomed and well received. Right away, I was given a place to live and some resources to live on until I received my work permit.” Her adjustment was sometimes challenging especially adapting to the new climate. “Like all mothers, I adapted quickly,” she said. After she found employment at LL Bean as a packer and picker, she was offered an employment position at the Immigrant Resource Center, where she meets with about sixty victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and with survivors of genital mutilation. “Also, just like I did in Djibouti, I organize women’s circles twice a month at the St. Mary’s Nutrition Center.”
An audience of about 55 people attended the program. An International Franco-American Women tribute was on display in a small exhibit the FAC archives. Madeleine Giguere (1925-2004) a native of Lewiston and the patron of the FAC, is included in the exhibit. Doris Bonneau and Jacynthe Jacques led the program. For more information about the Franco-American Collection at USM LAC check the website link here.