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Afghan refugees acclimating to new life in Brattleboro

Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 6:25 PM EDT
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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - While scores of refugees from Afghanistan remain housed on U.S. military bases, some have already been resettled in our region thanks to a variety of organizations coming together with one goal-- providing hope for a brighter future.

Dozens of Afghan refugees who fled the country after the Taliban took over in August are starting new lives in Brattleboro.

Sohaila Nabizada promoted democracy and equality in her native Afghanistan. And after the U.S. pulled out its military support, she too had to leave, eventually landing in Vermont.

“They have a very open heart that has really surprised and amazed me. They are helping us in every way possible,” she said.

Some of the refugees welcomed to the Green Mountains are learning English at the School for International Training in Brattleboro. We were asked not to identify any of them or talk about politics while on campus. Though, one refugee made her position clear through a translator.

“I want to show the world that women have the power to stand on their own feet. A girl can do anything that she wants to do. And through my art, I want to show the world I am a powerful woman,” said “Meetra.”

While they are learning, they live at Brattleboro’s World Learning campus.

“This is exactly what we should be doing and have been doing, is making the campus available to the needs of new arrivals here,” said SIT’s Elizabeth Tannenbaum.

She says education, along with the child care that goes with it, is just one piece of the puzzle.

“Shopping, transportation, jobs, health,” Tannenbaum said.

Five of the 92 individuals taking part in this resettlement program have landed jobs at Vermont Wide Plank Flooring. The job placement is done through a partnership with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation.

“It’s been super helpful. We are still on a ramp-up period with their training but it’s been a godsend,” said the company’s George Tarmy.

The Ethiopian Community Development Council is the organization that ties it all together. The resettlement agency out of Virginia is also working to find the refugees permanent housing throughout the region.

“We are building this ship as we go and so far it has been working well. And we think that this may be the model for rural resettlement because it has not happened before,” said the council’s Joe Wiah.

A ship that is sailing in the right direction, according to Orfan Hussainzada, the translator who helped me out for the day.

“Being in a country that everyone dreams to be here is very good and we are very thankful to U.S. government, that they did something for Afghanistan at the very last moment,” Hussainzada said.

An additional 30 Afghan refugees are scheduled to arrive in Vermont.

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