Letter from the CVRAN President: Sugar in Milk: Afghan Refugees

September 29, 2022 0 Comments

Sugar in Milk: Afghan Refugees

September 30, 2022

Dear Central Vermonters,

Do you remember 13 months ago when we were all watching the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan on the nightly news, and the devastating take-over by the Taliban? We ended our days with horrific scenes from the airport in Kabul, desperate faces, and the sounds of Taliban gunfire. We all wondered what could be done. Instead of just wishing, Central Vermont has acted. Today five Afghan families and one individual man have been welcomed into Central Vermont. Congratulations!

Together with USCRI (United States Committee on Refugees and Immigrants), these 34 people have been welcomed into our community. 20 children are in the Montpelier schools, two in local preschools. Six men have joined the local work force. One of the men is studying to be a physician’s assistant, a much-needed profession. One of the boys was on the state championship Little League team this summer. Women are taking English classes, and two babies were born in August. This is indeed a welcome. Thanks go to the family friends of each of the Afghan families, and to the team from CVRAN who has spearheaded support for one family and reached out to so many more. Thanks go to the schools and adult basic education, the medical communities, the employers, the many generous-hearted volunteers, and the courage and adventuresomeness of the Afghans themselves. Friendships and integration into the community are building.

But what is a welcome, if it is temporary? How can we make Central Vermont welcoming to these newcomers in the long run? The federal supports of these families ends between October and June, and housing in Vermont is expensive. How can they afford to stay? Central Vermont Refugee Action Network is partnering with others in an attempt to find and create affordable housing units so the families can stay in the city where they have put down roots. Stay tuned for ways you might be able to help in this effort. Meanwhile, enjoy seeing a woman in a headscarf in the Plainfield Health Center, listen to a bit of Pashto being spoken at Darn Tough in Waterbury, and know that your children will come home from school with new friends and knowing where Afghanistan is on the map!

Hence the title of this article, “Sugar in Milk”: oral tradition has it that once upon a time, groups of people had to flee from ancient Persia by boat, and landed on the shores of a kingdom in India. The king of the land met the refugee leader and using hand signals filled up a cup of milk to the brim, showing that his kingdom was already so full, not even another drop of milk could be added. But the refugee leader smiled, searched in his pack, and pulled out some sugar. Carefully he stirred, and showed that there was room in the cup for sugar! Then the king of the Indian kingdom, reached out to the refugee leader and welcomed him and his people into his kingdom, and to this day, there are those from Persia living and thriving in southern India. Here in Central Vermont, we also have a sweeter cup of milk for welcoming in new people, from Afghanistan and elsewhere. We are sharing our home, “these green mountains and silver waters” with them, and they are sharing their rich background, talents, and friendship with us.

Next month hear stories of asylum seekers being welcomed to Central Vermont.


Interested in reading the book called Sugar in Milk to your children? Look at this link from the local organization Reading to End Racism: http://cvreadingtoendracism.blogspot.com/p/k-3_23.html

The phrase, “these green mountains and silver waters” is from our Vermont state anthem by Diane Martin.