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New nonprofit works to help Afghan refugees settle into life in Vermont

Published: May. 2, 2022 at 5:26 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Helping Afghan refugees acclimate to life in Vermont, that’s the goal of a newly formed nonprofit in Burlington. Our Cam Smith spoke with refugees about what the transition has been like.

“I went to Pakistan, after that a military camp in Qatar, and after that New Jersey. And now we are here,” said Nenat Ahmadi of Bennington.

Ahmadi came to Vermont shortly after the Taliban rose to power in Afghanistan in August. He is among the dozens of Afghan refugees who fled the country to start a new life.

“Right now, I am very happy. I’m here with my two kids and my wife. Right now our situation is very good-- I have work, I have a job and I’ve started a good life. But as you know, my father, my mother and all of my relatives are very important to us. But right now we can’t do anything,” Ahmadi said.

Ahmadi says Taliban control of his country has made it difficult to send money back to his family and threats of violence have been heartbreaking.

“Last month, a battalion of the Taliban came to my house and said to my father, ‘Where is your infidel son? Because we know your son went to USA,’” he said.

According to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants office in Vermont, 152 Afghans have already resettled in various parts of the state including Chittenden, Washington and Rutland counties.

Wazir Hashimi is the president of the newly formed nonprofit Vermont Afghan Alliance. His goal is to help those immigrating here to gain access to things like education, employment and other basic needs.

“Housing for these people, it’s very difficult to find housing. And also cultural orientations and language is a big challenge for these families in here. So, this has been challenging for these families in Vermont,” Hashimi said.

Ahmadi says he and his family are still adjusting to life in Vermont, but regardless, they’re grateful to be here.

“Seeing the beautiful weather and the good people, now we are very happy to live in this state,” Ahmadi said.

The Vermont Afghan Alliance is still in its infancy. The alliance will primarily bridge the gap between the Afghan population and state and local service providers. The organization says it will also serve as a designated community space for Afghans to come together during traditional holidays, gatherings and religious services.

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