We’ve had a lot of respondents to a comment by John, here, in which he is highly critical of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program(VRRP). You can see those other defenders at that post. However, Susan responded to John at this post on unhappy Iraqis in Vermont and I didn’t want her response to go unnoticed. Here it is:
I am responding to John in an earlier post. Let’s start with the facts about travel loans. The system is far more complex than you even realize. The airfare for refugees is loaned to them not by USCRI, but by the International Office of Migration. IOM is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration and works closely with governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental partners. USCRI collects loan repayments for IOM and returns those funds to IOM to be re-used for airfare for new refugees – so it is, in essence, a revolving loan fund. There is no cost to the US taxpayer. In the resettlement process refugees are told that the cost of their air travel is loaned to them. Refugees have a grace period of up to 6 months before beginning re-payment on these interest-free loans. If, at that time, a refugee is not employed, he may request a delay of 3 more months.
Now to your other allegations – I wonder where you get your information. VRRP, like most resettlement organizations, is run by a lean but adequate professional staff whose depth and scope is embellished greatly by wonderful networks of trained and supervised volunteers.As the concentric circles widen out, refugees are immediately connected with a variety of organizations and systems that will lend support to them as they begin to lay roots in our communities and slowly integrate into their new society. VRRP provides training and consultation to all of the associated groups and organizations involved and works diligently and cooperatively to do they very best they are able for the refugees who are resettled in our community. In fact, all the community providers meet on a monthly basis with the expressed purpose of sharing information and collaborating more effectively. I would encourage you to contact VRRP and ask if you can have a look at what they are doing, how they do it, and who they collaborate with.
John, we are fortunate in Vermont to have refugees from many nations gracing our communities – going to school with our children, collaborating with us in the workplace, relaxing in our beautiful parks and lake, and adding their experiences and wisdom to the greater store of community assets we all enjoy. We are humbled by the resilience, the bravery, the fortitude, and the hard work of our newest neighbors whose life experiences in countries experiencing extreme political upheaval have forced them to add a new aspect to their personal identity and become refugees. We are equally fortunate in Vermont to have a strong network of professionals and community members who diligently work to ease what is an unfathomably transition for our refugee friends out of war zones, home cultures, family and community ties, livelihoods, worldviews and longstanding homes and into a new chapter of their lives.
The Vermont Refugee Resettlement program is a central and important partner in this process. It sits at the nexus of a much larger supporting group of organizations, professionals and community members who are also dedicated to support the family in its initial transition and across time as they become more deeply integrated into the community. There is no perfect process. Each person who becomes a refugee is a unique individual with a story that began before their lives deteriorated in their home countries and they were forced to become refugees. Each US community that opens their hearts and doors to those living the trauma of the refugee experience has its own unique character and is subject to the changing economic and political winds that buffet us all. Vermont is no different in that sense. Our small size, however, brings us into much closer proximity to all of those around us. We know a bit more about the circumstances of peoples lives in this small state than others in larger settings are likely to. So take the initiative instead of the soapbox. Instead of bashing – build. Understand the strengths and the limitations of this soul deepening enterprise – and please don’t bash the very individuals who work 24/7 to support these families.