Campaign seeks donations for new Afghan neighbors

Funding, clothing, and household goods needed for evacuees, expected to start arriving in January

BRATTLEBORO — Fresh off a ribbon cutting for its new office, the Ethiopian Community Development Council Multicultural Community Center (ECDC/MCC) is launching a public appeal for donations of money, furniture, household goods, and winter clothing.

The arrival of 100 new Afghan neighbors in southern Vermont is expected to start the week of Jan. 3.

ECDC/MCC Director Joe Wiah said in a news release that the center's mission is to help refugees integrate successfully into the community by engaging individuals, service groups, churches, health and educational institutions, businesses, and community leaders.

Wiah, who was born in Liberia and has spent decades as a humanitarian activist, praises Vermont for its welcoming spirit. Thomas Huddleston, co-sponsorship manager at ECDC /MCC, is also encouraged by the outpouring of community support.

Among those evacuated after 20 years of war and occupation are tens of thousands of Afghan citizens who assisted with U.S. military operations, many working as translators and drivers.

Recognizing that once the U.S. left, these Afghan citizens became vulnerable targets for retaliation by Taliban militants, the U.S. government initiated an evacuation of allies and their families.

Vermont was among the many U.S. states that stepped up to offer asylum and support for evacuees. According to Vermont Governor Phil Scott, welcoming our Afghan allies is “the right thing to do.”

“We have a moral obligation to help,” Scott said, adding that “welcoming refugees also strengthens communities, schools, our workforce, culture and economy.”

Most refugees arrived here with very little.

“They need everything,” says Jessica Rose, a case manager at ECDC/MCCC. “Housing, jobs, clothing, furniture, transportation ... they're basically starting from scratch. Financial support and housing are most critical right now, but cultural integration and friendships are also very important. The warmth of human connection makes a huge difference when you're a stranger.”

The goal of the ECDC Multicultural Community Center is to manage the community integration process.

“Over the next few months, we will be working to help our new Vermonters find housing, work and support networks, so they really feel welcome here, and can fully participate in community life,” said Rose.

The local economy is also expected to benefit from refugee resettlement, especially the employment sector.

“Right now, there's a shortage of workers in Vermont, and job openings are going unfilled,” says Huddleston.

Huddleston says the primary needs remain housing and financial support.

“Cash donations give us flexibility to provide immediate support to the refugees, and housing is also critical. But we're also encouraging people to volunteer for refugee support teams and as co-sponsors, drivers, translators, and new friends,” he says.

“When people feel welcome, they put down roots and commit themselves to shared goals.”

The Ethiopian Community Development Council is an international non-government organization devoted to assisting refugees and immigrants. In the United States, ECDC has been authorized by the Department of State to resettle Afghan refugees.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates