Honoring Grassroots Leadership
In the early 1990s, Milbridge, Maine, experienced a rapid influx of migrant farmworkers who decided to leave the “migrant stream” and settle in Downeast Maine. In response to the needs of the Milbridge community’s newest members, the Milbridge Public Library, Town Office, and schools began to offer educational programs, basic resources, and potlucks open to all. These programs quickly expanded to include language classes and an afterschool program, and, in 2005, Mano en Mano was officially incorporated as a non-profit organization.
Today, Mano en Mano serves the communities of Milbridge and greater Washington County, with a mission of working with farmworkers and immigrants to settle and thrive in Maine. Through the Maine Migrant Education Program, Mano en Mano provides educational services for migrant youth across the state. The organization's vision is a stronger more inclusive Downeast Maine where the contributions of diverse communities are welcomed, access to essential services, education and housing are ensured, and social justice and equity are embraced.
"What makes Mano en Mano unique is that we are community-led and community-driven," says Christina Ocampo, program director at Mano en Mano. "We take direction and vision from the communities that we work with, working with community leaders to address the issues that affect them while building the community that they want to live in. That work is often invisible, and can be slow and incremental, and it's rewarding to see our community leaders recognized for that work."
The Grassroots Leadership Award is given to a leader or group whose exceptional and often courageous grassroots leadership has empowered community members to create positive change for environmental health. Grassroots leaders are the backbone of our movement.