Today’s post features two of our MSW alumni who are using their MSW’s in their local communities to affect policy and legislative changes.

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Deqa Dhalac, elected to South Portland city council 2018

UNE MSW alumni (and now experienced social worker), Deqa Dhalac,  got more than two-thirds of the vote in her very successful 2018 Dec election race.    Deqa Dhalac, 52 and mother of three,  brings tremendous compassion, labor, and love to all her endeavors.  She’s currently the Intercultural Program Manager at Maine Center for Grieving Children , sits on numerous boards and committee throughout the community, and now sits on South Portland’s City Council.  Always at the forefront of change, she is believed to be the first African-American and the first Muslim to be elected to the council.

“This is absolutely wonderful,” Dhalac told Portland Press Herald after hearing the results. “I am so proud and humbled that the voters of South Portland have placed their trust in me. It’s a privilege and a responsibility, and I’m ready to go to work for them.”

Kara Auclair, Justice Program Coordinator at Maine Volunteers Lawyers Project , who is also MSW alumni (and speaking at our January 19th Open  House), worked as Deqa’s campaign manager.  She reflects on her experiences below:

RSVP to  January 19th Open House

 

What was it like to campaign?

Working on Deqa’s campaign was an incredible experience and while it was hard work, there were so many people who support Deqa and wanted to help because of the amazing work she does for our communities. Deqa’s warmth, compassion and leadership make people feel safe and want to do everything they can to give back to her what she has given to them. We ran an ethical, inclusive, and value-driven campaign and really focused on bringing love to each aspect, whether it be knocking on doors or working collaboratively with extremely talented women on mailers and signs. The process was also made easier because of the thorough campaign training we received from Emerge Maine, a program that trains democratic women to run for office. We were given the tools we needed to win and used them!

What inspired you to work on the campaign?

I was inspired to help with Deqa’s campaign not only because she is my friend and an incredible leader who we need on the council, but also because I wanted to use the opportunities I have been given to benefit my community.  Deqa and I met while we were both studying for our Master’s of Social Work degree at the University of New England. In this program, we learned the importance of empowering the voices of those who are not always listened to by those in power. We learned about leveraging one’s privilege to make an impact that will lift everyone up. I saw Deqa’s campaign as an opportunity to do just that and to use what I have learned to help my friend to ensure that our community thrives.

What would you like to see blossom from this successful campaign?

I am hopeful that Deqa’s leadership on the city council will mean that our community will move forward toward a more equitable future.  Deqa will bring a unifying voice to the council, and make involvement in our political systems more accessible for everyone in the City. It is critical that a governing body consist of individuals who understand the needs of the area they serve, and Deqa has a depth of experience working with folks from the immigrant and refugee communities, elders, youth, and those who have experienced trauma. With this knowledge, Deqa will help our council to make decisions that will benefit us all, and amplify the strengths of everyone in our community.

More about Kara Auclair’s work with Volunteer Lawyers Project:

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