MANA’s founder, Apollinaire Karara, M.S., came to Maine over 10 years ago from Rwanda, where he was Mayor of a large district (3 x the population of Portland) that suffered greatly from the genocide. He was forced to leave Rwanda after he was recognized internationally for his work leading reconciliation on a district-by-district level, thus bypassing funding for the national government.
While studying Community Economic Development at Southern New Hampshire University, Apollo studied the knowledge worker gap in Maine and proposed steps that could speed the professional integration of foreign-trained immigrant professionals. In 2011, Apollo met Co-Founder, Stefanie Trice Gill, MBA, soon after publishing his Masters Thesis in community development, entitled: English Proficiency for Economic Reliance for Immigrants in Portland, Maine. Together, Apollo and Stefanie launched MANA in 2012, and with it, efforts to improve the social and integration of foreign-trained professionals in Maine.
Starting in Fall 2012, MANA brought key stakeholders’ attention to the need for improved immigrant professional integration, through MIRC, the Maine Chamber, and the Maine Workforce Forum. These efforts resulted in both the allocation of $50,000 in Department of Labor funds being allocated to help transfer the credentials of foreign-trained professionals and in the Maine Legislature's Joint Select Committee on Maine's Workforce and Economic Future inclusion of an immigrant professional integration funding clause in LD90, which provided the initial funding for the annually renewed New Mainers Resource Center which provides career case management for foreign-trained immigrant professionals to re-enter their careers.
Key to the success of these efforts was Francine Ngabu, a human rights activist and Judge from the D. R. Congo, who in March 2013 provided the initial testimony to the Maine Legislature's Joint Select Committee on Maine's Workforce and Economic Future. In September 2014, after Apollo relocated to Texas, Francine Ngabu became MANA’s second (and current) President
See “MANA’s Mission and Work” for more information on progress advanced by MANA since 2012.