We’re back with another celebration of inspiring work from a Community Redistribution Fund grantee, Azerbaijan Society of Maine. Azerbaijan borders Europe and Asia, and its culture bridges both Eastern and Western influences. In this way, Azerbaijani people are diverse in many ways, including ethnicity, religion, and language.
The Azerbaijan Society of Maine operates statewide to promote and celebrate Azerbaijan’s culture and heritage. To learn more about their current programs and community building, the Food Bank spoke with Founder and President Tarlan Ahmadov. The work of the Azerbaijan Society of Maine reflects this diversity and serves folks from various backgrounds. Though they formally became an organization in 2019, services and community support have promoted and celebrated Azerbaijan culture in Maine for over fifteen years.
In addition to creating a community around Azerbaijani people who settled in Maine many years ago, the Azerbaijan Society of Maine also provides integration and cultural support for New Mainers. Among many other things, the organization’s integration support includes distributing food boxes with culturally relevant food and helping immigrants and refugees navigate job applications.
The organization offers a wide array of support, and its work continually evolves to meet changing needs. Their current services include supporting Ukrainian refugees by addressing mental well-being and providing culturally relevant foods despite a steep cost increase triggered by Russia’s invasion. The Azerbaijan Society also responded to several challenges presented by COVID-19. While continuing its various services, such as food distribution and integration support, the organization also began to focus on its community’s most at-risk population. Older neighbors were educated on best practices for health and safety, and food boxes included information on vaccines and other materials to increase awareness about the pandemic. The Azerbaijan Society also frequently hosted virtual gatherings, such as concerts and devotion services, to bring folks together and out of isolation.