Group of refugees hosting Afghans in southern Vermont

Up to 100 Afghan refugees are 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 resettle refugees across the United States.

While they settle in, they stay in housing on the Brattleboro campus at World Learning’s School for International Training. Newcomers receive language and intercultural education, 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 control of the country of 38 million on August 15.

Sophia Howlett, president of the School for International Training, a graduate school that focuses on global issues, told an online press conference that the need for Afghan resettlement, a willing community and the space for the do were getting together.

“Here in Brattleboro, they’ve 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 educational needs and temporary housing,” she said.

In the northern part of the state, the Vermont branch of the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants has so far taken in 95 Afghans, said state director Amila Merdzanovic. They currently plan to accommodate 160 Afghans.

“There are still so many Afghans in need of resettlement and we are preparing to welcome more,” she said in an email 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 operations in Vermont at the end of last year.

It is hoped that Afghans and refugees from other countries who may arrive in Vermont in the future will make this state their home.

“We are really committed through our program to do whatever we can to encourage these evacuees to become our neighbors and part of our community,” said Joel Colony, vice president of World Learning, the parent organization of the International Training School.

Most people in the United States — about 72% — want to see Afghans who have worked with Americans offered resettlement to the United States as a duty and a necessary coda of the nearly 20-year war.

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