Springtime At CVRAN

April 30, 2024 0 Comments

May 2024

Dear CVRAN Community,

April is a month of transition, and it’s a month of amazing change and growth. Each day there is a new bud bursting into flower, but there are also many spring chores to do, old branches to prune away, debris to pick up. It is a fitting time for CVRAN to have its annual meeting. On April 16th, 45 of us gathered to do just that.

New friends at the CVRAN picnic, October 2023. Photo: Irina Markova.

It was wonderful to hear people go around the room introducing themselves and their connections to CVRAN. One woman, who has been having some health issues, made our meeting her first foray into the outside world: “You are my family,” she said. There were new neighbors there: one who did her first speech in English; one who has been here longer and is joining our board; one who arrived just a month ago; one who has been doing a carpentry program; another who is entering a dental hygienist program. Several volunteers shared what involvement with these new families has done for them: “Being involved with these people has changed our lives. They are now our family.”

Together we contemplated what CVRAN has looked like over the past year. Our numbers tell one story. A welcome is being extended to twenty-four asylum seekers and nine Afghan refugees (plus a broad community of Afghans with whom we connect in many ways) by a combined network of 59 CVRAN members, 170 volunteers, over 1000 donors, 741 Facebook followers, 350 email recipients, and 16,345 different website visitors. Eleven new neighbors joined us this year: two families of five (one of 5 from South America and one of 4 from Africa), and a single man. Five new neighbors moved on. Even as this is written, another family of 4 from Afghanistan is arriving with the support of CVRAN.

Expansion of our infrastructure and influence tells another piece of the story. CVRAN celebrated a revamped version of its website in May of last year and for the first time has a website editor. It is expanding the size of its board and has added a new committee on education and career development. We have added an assistant treasurer. At this time last year we had just hired one part-time employee, and within the last few weeks we have now added a 2nd part-time employee. We even bought a van to take around large families and groups, although we don’t yet have an office! Through our association with other asylum seeker groups in the state, we have received two large grants and advocated for legislation, even ourselves hosting a group of community service providers to see what issues most need addressing.

Ghazi recently celebrated being granted asylum in the US. Photo: Terry Allen.

Major successes are a third part of the story. Ghazi Jendoubi was our first guest to get asylum and celebrated with a wonderful party. His lawyer and CVRAN’s, Seth Lipschutz, was named the Pro Bono lawyer of the year by the Vermont Bar Association. (Read more about Seth here.) Finally, the Affordable Housing Committee with help from so many of you, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to enable the purchase of two homes that will provide perpetually affordable rent to asylum seekers and refugees working with us. This past week, a celebration of the 2nd house drew in a wall-to-wall crowd as Downstreet (who will own and manage this property), CVRAN, and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board all rejoiced in what their collaboration had accomplished, and the now family of 9 Afghans is set to move in.

Those are many of the blossoming parts of CVRAN. What is the work which we still need to do? This month board and community members are meeting in strategic planning sessions to figure out just what that will entail. We do know some of our needs: team leaders and co-team leaders, and others ready to reach up to be on the board and in positions of leadership. We need fresh flows of ideas and energy from all quarters. No-one has to be an expert to start. None of us were. Mentoring is provided. If you have secretarial skills, a background as treasurer, or would like to build up to being president or vice-president next year, please speak up! Your participation would be welcome!