The first Sudanese refugees arrived in Vermont in 1999, but majority of them came as a group of young men famously known as the “Lost Boys of Sudan” in the early 2000 through the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRRP). The Sudanese Community in Vermont ended up here because of the challenging events of the early 1980s. 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 Kenya, Ethiopian, Uganda and Egypt. In a refugee camp, their cases were vigorously screened for over two years by the U.S government and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) before they were granted a rare opportunity to be resettled in Vermont on humanitarian grounds by the US government.
You can imagine what it was like to come from a refugee camp straight to Vermont without anyone they knew. But that was not an issue. Many Vermonters and churches welcomed these young strangers and hosted them for weeks at their homes. Through these host families, churches and friends, we built relationships that helped us to go to schools, get jobs, driving licenses, housing, and provided family support services. Our resettlement in Vermont would have been incredibly challenging had it not been for these generous friends in our communities.
Since then, we established the Sudanese Community Living in Vermont (SCIVT) as a platform to adapt to a new home and host future new arrivals. Little did they know that what they created would serve as an informal outreach to state and local organizations to rebuild their lives in a new home. Although the challenges of a new home were enormous, they work hard to achieve one of the pillars of the American dream, the education. Most of them went on to schools and earned the highest possible colleges degrees in various fields. Today, our community grew from just few young men to families and kids. While we achieved many things in our community, we realized that a targeted kids’ mentorship, summer camps, college scholarships, decent jobs, housing, and other family support services are still a great priority in our young community.
In order to address these challenges, the Sudanese Foundation of Vermont, Inc. (SUDFUNDVT) was established on April 30th, 2016 as a community tool to launch intensive outreach and address problems facing families to raise successful children.