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One of the purposes of Compassionate Brattleboro is to highlight and draw attention to organizations carrying out compassionate work in our area. We’re particularly pleased to continue in that direction this month by shining a light on the efforts presently underway to welcome refugees from Afghanistan who will soon be arriving in our area.

Those of us present at the Cotton Mill gathering last month to celebrate the opening of the Brattleboro Multicultural Community Center are unlikely to soon forget some of the memorable words spoken on that occasion.

Joe Wiah, the deeply committed director of the Center, spoke movingly about our community’s natural capacity to welcome newcomers — he himself was one when he arrived in Vermont from Liberia nine years ago. (I regret that I just missed having him as a student at SIT).

Tsehaye Teferra, who heads the Ethiopian Community Development Council which is sponsoring this initiative with State Department authorization and in collaboration with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, indicated that, given this natural aptitude, it was not at all difficult to select our community from among many smaller communities considered.

And Representative Peter Welch summed it up nicely saying that this welcoming initiative simply reflects the heart and soul of Vermonters, our willingness to take action when others are in need – even people we don’t know, and particularly when that need emanates from our nation’s foreign policy.

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Interestingly, the active support of Vermont’s governor, we learned, stemmed in part from his own party’s unwillingness to accept refugees during the presidency of Donald Trump.

The organizing efforts being made to prepare for the arrival of these Afghan refugees is, in and of itself, mindboggling. As an example, religious congregations are being asked to step forward and take responsibility for everything from housing and jobs to education for individual refugees.

The Center’s work builds on the laudable efforts undertaken by the Community Asylum Seekers Project (CASP) which, over the past five years – first under the direction of Steve Crofter, and now Kate Paarlberg-Kvam, has provided refuge in our area for several dozen persons escaping horrific conditions in their countries.

Compassionate Brattleboro’s contribution will be the organizing of a welcoming party for our new arrivals, possibly on Sunday, Dec. 19, one rich in Afghan culture and tradition. Individuals have already stepped forward to participate creatively in this initiative – including Afghan families resident in the area, former Peace Corps volunteers, Islamic scholars, a renowned pastry chef and some talented vocalists and dancers who are preparing entertainment likely to be particularly appreciated by our new residents.

Please join us in preparing this welcoming initiative by sending an email to

With Brattleboro voting overwhelmingly to become part of the international Charter for Compassion, the Reformer and The Commons have agreed to publish a “Compassion Story of the Month.” This is the 53rd. {/em}{em}Submissions, from Brattleboro area residents, for future publication, not to exceed 650 words, should be emailed to: or mailed to: Compassion Story of the Month, PO Box 50, Marlboro, VT 05344. Please include your name, address, phone number and email address. Earlier submitted stories will automatically be considered in subsequent months.