Inside Vermont’s refugee settlement program

Published: Apr. 7, 2022 at 6:18 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Helping refugee families feel at home is no small feat. As the Green Mountain State welcomes a wave of Afghans fleeing the country, an organization wants Vermonters to know how they can offer support.

Leaders in resettlement efforts say a simple hello from a neighbor or passerby can go a long way. Even better -- they suggest learning a few words of welcome in the person’s native language.

Amila Merdzanovic, the Vermont field office director for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, arrived in Vermont as a refugee from war-torn Bosnia in the ‘90s.

The office is based in Colchester and offers resources like workforce development, education, and translation services. USCRI has welcomed more than 8,000 refugees in the last four decades.

“One of the greatest challenges, I would say for most people, is the obvious one, and that’s the language barrier. Then, there are cultural differences. So, navigating those sorts of nuances and understandings and differences. Then, learning all the systems that are here, which, some are quite complex,” Merdzanovic said.

She says the greatest reward was safety and security, but she says that stability takes time and resources. Resources USCRI works diligently to provide.

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