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The Power of Community

Q&A with AV Board Member Amanda Karomba

Agassiz Village has a stellar board of directors, comprised of outstanding individuals with a long history of community service. One such member is Amanda Karomba, who has been on the board for more than three years—and who last month was recognized as one of Maine’s 20 Outstanding Women by Coast 93.1 and Portland Radio Group.


Amanda’s community efforts go far beyond her support of Agassiz Village. She is the visionary founder of Happy Haven, an organization that provides direct support to Maine adults with intellectual disabilities. In addition, she serves on the Board of Tri-County Mental Health, Community Clinical Services, and the Maine Association of Community Service Providers.


We recently had a chance to spend a few minutes with Amanda and get her thoughts on community involvement.


Q: Why is community involvement so important in today’s world?


A: I firmly believe that we were created to live and work together in harmony. This means embracing different roles and responsibilities while uniting to make the world a better place for all. Each of us possesses unique strengths and weaknesses, and when we come together, these qualities ideally complement each other, resulting in a sense of completeness.


Community involvement plays a crucial role in this process. It is through engaging with our communities that we learn from each other’s cultures, values, and through simple, organic interactions. I am convinced that if everyone took the time to help another person—whether through financial support or acts of kindness—we wouldn’t see the violence and the devastation caused by conflict.


My belief in the power of community and kindness was instilled in me by my mother. She often spoke about her gratitude to this country for the second chance at life she was given, which allowed her to work, provide for us, and ensure we received the best education possible. She made it clear that the greatest thank you would be to give back to others. This lesson has stayed with me, and I am committed to passing it on to my children.


I constantly encourage my kids and extended family to seek out volunteer opportunities. By engaging with others and lending a helping hand, we are enriching the community and those that live in it, including ourselves. Lastly, I believe that community involvement helps create a more compassionate and harmonious world for future generations, ensuring that we leave the Earth in a better condition than we found it.


Q: What made you establish Happy Haven?


A: My introduction to caregiving began at a young age, influenced by my mother’s hard work and dedication as a single parent. Transitioning from janitorial work to caretaking, she found great satisfaction in making a tangible impact on others' lives. Inspired by her, I started working at a group home during college to pay for my education. I quickly fell in love with the work, appreciating both its challenges and the joy of helping others explore new adventures and learn new skills.


My husband and I met through this line of work, and he eventually became a program manager and area director. In 2018, two years after getting married and buying our first home, and a year after welcoming our first baby boy, we decided to start our own caregiving venture. We spent a year meticulously planning, writing policies and procedures, and seeking legal assistance. Once approved, we moved out of our home and welcomed our first consumer, working tirelessly in shifts to grow our business.


Our focus has always been on creating a family-oriented environment where everyone feels valued and part of a big family. We emphasize quality over quantity and ensure no one is denied services. What motivates me the most is serving people and helping them reach their highest potential, including those we support, their staff, families, friends, and the surrounding community.


Q: Why is your association with Agassiz Village important to you?


A: I’m always amazed by the dedication and ambition of the board of directors of Agassiz Village. Each member has a deep connection to the organization, having either been a camper, counselor, or knowing someone who was or is. I love hearing about the positive impact Agassiz has in the community, and it's exciting to see more and more people learning about the incredible work being done.


When I first got involved with Agassiz, I knew very little about the organization. However, I was welcomed with open arms and provided with mentors who guided me along the way. Although I didn’t attend the camp as a child, I understand what it’s like to grow up in a low-income household without access to full camp experience.


Agassiz Village is more than just a camp; it’s an investment in the campers' futures. It surrounds them with people who genuinely care and will remain connected to them forever. That is a true blessing.


Q: Why are summer programs like Agassiz Village important to the community?


A: Summer programs offer a holistic approach to education by combining fun, outdoor experiences with essential life skills. These programs provide children with opportunities to continue learning in a fun and engaging way, allowing them to be outside and experience nature. Hands-on learning, in my view, is the most effective teaching method for kids. It allows them to directly engage with science and explore all of God's creation. Through these programs, children are introduced to, or can expand upon, a variety of skill sets that are applicable to numerous aspects of life.


The benefits of summer programs extend beyond academic learning. They include establishing structure and routines, participating in various activities, and taking on different responsibilities. I believe this is the sort of foundation every child should have to be successful later in life and contribute to maintaining a successful professional career.


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