Refugee group welcoming Afghans to southern Vermont
Up to 100 Afghan refugees are in the process of being welcomed to southern Vermont by a refugee resettlement organization and a number of community groups, organizers said Thursday.
About two dozen of those refugees have already arrived in Vermont through The Ethiopian Community Development Council, one of nine organizations that resettles refugees across the United States.
While they get settled, they’re staying in campus housing in Brattleboro at World Learning’s School for International Training. The newcomers are getting language and cross-cultural instruction, as well as help finding jobs, long-term housing and schools for their children.
Tens of thousands of Afghan refugees are being resettled across the United States after the Taliban took over the country of 38 million people on Aug. 15.
Sophia Howlett, president of the School for International Training, a graduate school that focuses on global issues, said during an online news conference that the need to resettle the Afghans, a willing community and the space to do so all coming together.
“Here in Brattleboro, they found the right community, the right group of people with the right skills, and the right place to be able to support them in terms of the educational needs and the temporary housing,” she said.
In the northern part of the state, the Vermont branch of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants has so far welcomed 95 Afghans, said state Director Amila Merdzanovic. They are currently planning on accepting 160 Afghans.
“There are still so many more Afghans in need of resettlement and we are opening to taking in more,” she said in an electronic message.
In addition to Brattleboro, some of the 100 refugees destined for southern Vermont will be settled in the Bennington and Rockingham areas, said Joe Wiah, the Brattleboro representative of the Ethiopian Community Development Council, which began its Vermont operations late last year.
It’s hoped the Afghans and refugees from other countries who could arrive in the Vermont in the future will make the state their home.
“We really are committed through our program to do whatever we can to encourage these evacuees to become our neighbors and a part of our community,” said Joel Colony, a vice president of World Learning, the parent organization of the School for International Training.