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Community celebrates one year of refugee resettlement
November 1st, 2022
More than 300 friends and supporters gathered with new Vermonters from Afghanistan and several other countries on Oct. 17 at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center to celebrate a year of refugee resettlement in southern Vermont.
The event was coordinated by the local office of the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC), a national refugee resettlement organization that opened the Multicultural Community Center in Brattleboro in October 2021. Less than three months later, in January 2022, ECDC and partner organizations World Learning/School for International Training and Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC), began welcoming refugees to the SIT campus, where they had up to three months of housing while taking English and cultural orientation classes.
Dr. Tsehaye Teferra, president and CEO of ECDC, called the joint effort "a new opportunity and an ideal partnership. ... I hope this kind of collaboration will continue and serve as a role model in other cities."
Since January, more than 100 refugees, most of them from Afghanistan, have migrated to southern Vermont thanks in large part to a massive volunteer effort coordinated by ECDC with local churches and community organizations and more than 200 individuals.
Local partners include St. Michaels’ Interfaith Refugee Ministry, the Rotary Club, the Beloved Community Group, Brattleboro Area Jewish Community, UCC Group, the Spanish-Speaking Group, Rockingham Group, Deerfield Valley New Neighbors Project, as well as smaller support teams for the ArtLords, the Sewing Team, and half-a-dozen other refugee households.
Thanks to this broad community and organizational support, most of the refugees have found long-term housing and jobs, and enrolled in school and classes as they settle in to their new community.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for cross-cultural engagement, which is really what SIT and World Learning are all about," said Tim Rivera, World Learning senior advisor for innovation and strategy. "While so many of our new Afghan neighbors are busy learning our language, the English language, our culture, it’s a useful reminder that it is also incumbent on all of us to learn from our neighbors about their history, their culture, their experience.”
The October event included a festive afternoon of demonstrations, displays, food, and remarks, with the strength of community bonds and friendship on full display.