Mutual Assistance Association Coalition
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What is the MAA Coalition?

The MAA Coalition was created in the end of 2000 by a group of refugee community organizations in Massachusetts interested in collaborating to increase their strength and capacity and thus improve the support they could provide to their communities. Founders had identified fragmentation from each other and isolation from mainstream institutions as primary barriers to the integration of refugees and immigrants into the larger society. By building coalitions, combining their strength and experience, refugee and immigrant community leaders can amplify their voices and multiply their influence and impact, better serving their communities.

The mission of the coalition is to promote solidarity and collaboration among grassroots Community Based Minority Organizations (CBMOs) serving refugees and immigrants to strengthen and provide a voice for these communities in Massachusetts. The MAA Coalition is committed to advocating for their communities through capacity building and leadership development, and addressing needs through the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate services.

Most participants are 501c(3) non-profit organization. Members are at various levels of organizational development. Some are new groups, while others have been in existence for over 10 years.

The coalition meets the last Thursday of every month to share information (on issues, events, funding opportunities for individual organizations, etc.) and to work in subcommittee. The three standing subcommittees are: 1) public relations and advocacy; 2) fundraising; and 3) education and training.

List of MAA Coalition members

African Initiative for Community Development (AICD)
Bosnian Community Center for Resource Development (BCCRD)
Ethiopian Community Mutual Assistance Association (ECMAA)
Haitian American Public Health Initiative (HAPHI)
Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC)
Russian Community Association of Massachusetts (RCAM)
Somali Development Center (SDC)
Southern Sudan Solidarity Organization (SSSO)
Sudanese American Institute and Development Center (SAIDC)
Universal Human Rights Initiative (UHRI)
Vietnamese American Civic Association (VACA)

Refugee Communities in Massachusetts An Overview

Massachusetts refugee and asylee communities today are primarily composed of (in order of arrival) Cambodians, Vietnamese, Haitians, Ethiopians, Russians, Somalis, other Africans (from dozens of nations), Bosnians, Albanians and Sudanese. While some of those at the end of this list have only established small communities here to date, as new and growing communities, they play a key role in the Commonwealth's future.

The first of this group to arrive were the Cambodians and the Vietnamese. Most Cambodian refugees arrived in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The community has gradually grown since that time as immigrant and refugee relatives have joined the original refugees. There are about 50,000 Cambodians in Massachusetts today. The largest concentration of Cambodians in Massachusetts-30,000-is in Lowell, northwest of the Greater Boston area. Lowell is home to the second largest Cambodian community in the United States. An additional 8,000 live in the North Shore area of Greater Boston, concentrated in Lynn. The third concentration is 7,000 Cambodians in Fall River, on the Rhode Island border. MAAs that serve this community include the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association (Lowell), the Cambodian Community of Greater Fall River, the Cambodian Community of Massachusetts (Lynn) and the Khmer Family Resource Center (Fall River).

Vietnamese refugees began resettling in Boston in the 1970s and have continued to arrive throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Massachusetts is home to about 45,000 Vietnamese today. The community is concentrated in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, with sub-communities spread throughout Greater Boston. There are also sizeable Vietnamese populations in Worcester and Springfield. The community is served by the Vietnamese American Civic Association (VACA) in Dorchester and by Springfield VACA.

Haitians have been arriving in Massachusetts for three decades. While earlier arrivals were mostly immigrants, many arriving since the early 1990s have been granted parolee status. The population is currently estimated at 75,000 and is concentrated in Boston's Mattapan, Roxbury and Dorchester neighborhoods. Cambridge and Somerville are also home to Haitian communities. Sub-communities are spreading out to secondary cities including Brockton and Worcester. The Haitian American Public Health Initiative in Mattapan is a major community resource.

In the 1980s, Ethiopians began arriving in Massachusetts as refugees. Recently, some Ethiopians have entered on diversity visas. Today's population of Ethiopians is estimated at 11,500 and lives primarily in Boston, Cambridge and Lynn. The Ethiopian Community Mutual Assistance Association in Cambridge provides services to this community.

While a few people from the Soviet Union migrated to Massachusetts in the late 1970s, substantial numbers of former Soviet refugees (primarily Russians) have arrived only in the past fifteen years. Today, over 90,000 live here. Most Russian speakers have resettled in Boston's Allston/Brighton neighborhood and later, nearby Brookline and Newton. Growing populations are in the North Shore area, around Lynn. A sizeable group has resettled around Springfield. Community agencies include the Russian Community Association of Massachusetts in Brighton, Lynn, and Springfield.

Somalis arrived in Massachusetts as refugees throughout the 1990s. The population now numbers about 8,000 and lives in the Boston neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester and East Boston, as well as in surrounding communities of Cambridge and the North Shore. Major community service providers include the Somali Development Center and Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center, in Boston and Lynn.

Bosnians sought refuge in Massachusetts in the mid- to late-1990s. The community now numbers about 9,000-12,000 and has settled largely in the North Shore area around Lynn, as well as Chelsea, with some presence in the Cambridge and Somerville areas. More recently, some have settled around Springfield and Worcester as well. The Bosnian Community Center for Resource Development was recently established to serve this population in Greater Boston and is working to set up an office.

Africans are among the fastest growing refugee/asylee populations today. They come from all regions of the continent and almost 50 African countries, including Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and many others. They are both immigrants and refugees/asylees. Community estimates set the African immigrant population in Lowell (northwest of Greater Boston) at 5,000, while the Boston area is home to at least 10,000 Africans (not including the Somalis and Ethiopians counted separately above), for a total of more than 15,000 statewide. Grassroots organizations that serve these communities include the African Assistance Center (Lowell), African Initiative for Community Development (Boston) and Universal Human Rights International (Boston).

There was a new flow of Albanians to Massachusetts in the 1990s, about 5000 of whom entered on diversity visas. This added to a much older Albanian American population. In addition, about 450 Kosovars resettled here in 1999.

The Sudanese community in Massachusetts currently numbers 200-300, up from only 20 people in 1998. This includes over 100 Sudanese refugee youth that have resettled here in the past few years. The other members of the community mainly live in the North Shore area around Lynn. The South Sudan Solidarity Organization is a fledgling organization working to serve this community.

In order to understand the newcomer context in Massachusetts, several major non-refugee populations should be mentioned. There are large Portuguese communities here (250,000), although since this group arrived in the 1960s and 1970s (somewhat earlier than other populations addressed in this document), the numbers include a substantial percentage of second and third generation Portuguese. Latino communities in the state are about 150,000 strong-made up mostly of Central Americans, as well as Dominicans and Colombians. There is also a sizeable Chinese immigrant community (75,000) and a Cape Verdean population of at least 70,000. Finally, about 120,000 Brazilians have arrived in Massachusetts in the past fifteen years.

NB: The numbers used in this document are estimates made in good faith by many parties involved with refugees and immigrants in Massachusetts.

Office for Refugees and Immigrants, January 2003.

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