Advocates for equality
The mission of the YWCA is to eliminate racism and empower women while promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.
Founded in 1878, the YWCA began as a service provider for women immigrating to Lewiston to work in the mills. The organization was originally known as the Women’s Benevolent Association and offered housing, language classes, job training, and recreation that allowed working women to thrive in their new country. The YWCA’s history inspires us to provide programming that builds community through strengthening inter-cultural relationships and valuing the needs and contributions of all of our members.
Our programming is guided by a belief in appreciation of diversity and equitable opportunity for all people in our community. All YWCA services work toward the realization of gender and racial equity through providing accessible and culturally appropriate resources for health and wellness, recreation, childcare, and advocacy. The advancement of women, people of color, and economic justice in Lewiston-Auburn is integral in all that we do. From affordable childcare that supports families and women in the workplace to free-of-charge therapeutic swim programs to anti-racist education and action, the YWCA strives to bring this mission to fruition in big and small ways every day.
Stand Against Racism
Stand Against Racism is a signature event of the YWCA USA. It was developed as an opportunity for YWCAs across the nation to take a visible position against racism in localized contexts and to offer education and direct action around issues of racial justice.
The YWCA of Central Maine has held an annual Stand Against Racism event during the last weekend of April since 2012. Our events have offered key note speakers including: local activists, community leaders, and academics from Maine. We have provided activities ranging from dance workshops and spoken word poetry performances to discussion groups and personal story sharing. Stand Against Racism concludes with a call to action and a march through downtown to share our message of the urgency of racial justice. Stand Against Racism unites our community across cultures, experiences, and politics to mobilize for anti-racist action in Maine.
PEACE (Positive Ethnic And Cultural Exchange) initiative is a multi-cultural, multi-racial, intergenerational women’s group focusing on cross-cultural exchange and solidarity among women in the Lewiston-Auburn community. The program harnesses the power of social gatherings to build cross-cultural solidarity and friendship between women from Lewiston’s immigrant communities and women who are long-term Maine residents. PEACE creates opportunities for community integration that are not available elsewhere in the community through teach-ins, celebrations, issue-based dialogue, arts, and wellness activities.
Green Dot Bystander Intervention Instructors
In 2017 the YWCA Central Maine partnered with Community of Kindness to bring Green Dot Bystander Intervention Instructor Training to the Lewiston-Auburn community. Green Dot is an international leader in violence prevention and their bystander intervention instructor training program provided an opportunity for participants to gain tools for effective intervention in instances of harassment, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
The inspiration for bringing bystander intervention training to Lewiston-Auburn came in response to an uptick in racial and religious harassment in our community and the need for safe and effective strategies for violence prevention. The instructor training program was designed specifically for Lewiston-Auburn and was informed by listening sessions with community members conducted by Green Dot prior to the training session.
The Bystander Intervention Instructor Training was held in August of 2017 over the course of four full days and attended by 50 community members. All participants left the program as certified Green Dot instructors and are equipped to offer training on violence prevention strategies to community organizations, businesses, and faith groups. For more information or to sign up your business or organization to receive a training please contact the YWCA at 795-4050.
In June 2017, during the YWCA USA National Conference, the YWCA Central Maine joined in action with YWCA Mount Desert Island to advocate for a federal budget that supports our communities, including the Childcare and Development Block Grant. The federal Childcare and Development Block Grant benefits families in our Early Learning Center and Afterschool Program though childcare subsidies. YWCA Central Maine staff met with Senator Collins and Congressman King and Poliquin at their offices in Washington DC to bring the stories of the children and families we serve to live and impact legislative outcomes.
In September of 2017, the YWCA Central Maine endorsed the recommendations outlined in the report on the state of early childcare in Maine created by the Maine Women’s Policy Center and the Maine Children’s Alliance, entitled “Investing in Our Future.” The YWCA supported story collection in the creation of the report through inviting staff from the Maine Women’s Policy Center to speak with parents and families served by the organization. The report is available to read at: (http://mainewomenspolicycenter.org/learn/resources/)