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Supporting a Community in Need

Arnold Nseka, left, and Irina Markova at the North Branch Nature Center after a CVRAN celebratory picnic. Photo courtesy of the Central Vermont Refugee Action Network.
Every year, central Vermont welcomes people from across the country and around the world as they come and gaze upon our foliage, sample our syrup, or ski our mountains. We encourage folks to visit our small communities, farmers markets, and local craft fairs. 

We also welcome people from around the world for different reasons; because they are refugees or asylum seekers. These families and individuals may have different reasons for leaving their homes, but the reason they come to Vermont is the same: they are seeking a safe and welcoming community in which to rebuild their lives. 

The Central Vermont Refugee Action Network, or CVRAN, was founded in 2015 in response to the world-wide refugee crisis. In 2019, it formed a committee called Asylum Seekers Assistance Network (ASAN) to provide support from local volunteers to families and individuals as they make their way through the system and the process. As their organization has grown, so have the needs of the individuals and families that they support.

Support for Asylum Seekers

Many asylum seekers enter our country because they are fleeing persecution, violence, and even torture. They arrive in the U.S. without prior permission and must apply for grant of asylum, which can take years. Under a federal law passed in 1996, asylum seekers are required to wait at least half a year after filing an asylum petition before being able to obtain authorization to work. However, it takes months to file the asylum petition, so it is usually a year or more after arriving in the U.S. that they can apply for work authorization and then often wait months for the permit to be granted. 

The volunteers at CVRAN and ASAN sponsor asylum seekers for an average of two and a half years until they can become financially independent. During this time, they help secure temporary and permanent housing; provide legal support to help navigate the system; and find medical care, food, clothing, education as well as provide transportation to and from appointments and schools. During this time, asylum seekers volunteer, study English, and get job training.

Support for Refugees

Many refugees come to our country because of persecution. When they enter, they have permission from the government to be here and can apply for work permits. Within a year of arrival, they are given permanent residency and within five years can apply for U.S. citizenship. The network supports these refugees by supplying transportation, English language learning, help with job searches, social activities, and friendships.

Because of the work that CVRAN has done over the years, there are currently seven Afghan families that have settled in Montpelier; becoming part of the community with their children thriving in the local schools. But there are many more families and individuals in need.

In order to continue to support them, CVRAN needs housing. Some of the ways community members help with housing include:

Hosting: Some local families host a family or individuals for up to three months. The network reimburses hosts for housing costs and provides a team of volunteers to help with transportation and other services as needed.

Rentals: CVRAN will help subsidize rent for newly arrived individuals and families until they are allowed to work and start earning income. 

Purchases: Help through purchases is for families who are already established within the community, whose children are attending local schools, and who plan to settle here long-term. The network has partnered with “angel investors,” Downstreet Housing and Community Development, and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to purchase homes.

Assisting CVRAN creates a reciprocal relationship. In exchange for housing, resources, and support, there are increases in school populations and an increase in economic capacity by growing the workforce. And — perhaps most importantly — support for these families and individuals results in lasting relationships and friendships that strengthen and diversify the community.

For more information about volunteering or any of these housing options as well as other available housing programs, please visit the CVRAN website at cvran.org or email cvran910@gmail.com.