On May 16th, 1983, a civil war broke out between Southern Sudan and Northern Sudan. This war regrettably displaced millions of people from their homes, especially in Southern Sudan. Many lived in displaced camps in Southern Sudan and eventually fled to refugee camps in neighboring countries in Kenya, Ethiopian, Uganda and Egypt.
Eventually, a rare opportunity to be resettled on the grounds of humanitarian priority by the US government was granted to residents of the refugee camps. After vigorous screening through the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Sudanese refugees were approved for resettlement. The difficult process took close to two years to complete, prior to moving to Vermont and many other states in the US from the camp.
The first Sudanese refugees arrived in Vermont before 2000. However, most of our members came as a group of young men famously known as the “Lost Boys of Sudan” in the early 2000. Just imagine what it was like to come from a refugee camp to Vermont’s winter for the first time. We have so many stories to tell about that.
To help ease the transition, many Vermonters and churches stepped in through the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRRP) and opened their doors, acting as host families. Through these host families, churches and friends, relationships were built that helped support the facilitation of enrolling in school, finding jobs, and acquiring driver’s licenses, housing, and family support services. Our resettlement in Vermont would have been a challenging process had it not been for these generous friends of the community. Together we established the Sudanese Community Living in Vermont (SCIVT) as a platform to adapt to a new home and host future new arrivals. The creation of SCIVT served as an informal outreach to state and local organizations.
Although the challenges of a new home were enormous, hard work to achieve one of the pillars of the American dream, an education, has always been an important goal in our community. Many of the resettled Sudanese attended schools and earned the highest possible colleges degrees and certifications in various fields. And today, our community has grown from just few young men to many families and children.
Due to achievements in our respective communities, we have to come to realize that a targeted mentorship program for both children and the adults are of great need in our community.
In order to address these challenges, the Sudanese leadership in Vermont established the Sudanese Foundation of Vermont, Inc (SUDFUNDVT) as a platform to launch an intensive outreach initiative to address the needs in our community. Our goals are to help our children receive a quality education, and our adult members to find good jobs, in addition to addressing housing needs, and providing family support services.