Far from strife, violence: Home sweet colorful home

By Jan Demers

Virginie Diambou, a physician and former asylum-seeker, relocated to Vermont a decade ago and is now a U.S. citizen. “When I arrived in this country, I had no other choices than to start over my life, and learn everything about living in the United States,” she said. “Life was very hard at that time with not only two young children to take care of, but also with the inability to speak English.”

She recalls the role played by the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity in her transition.

“I was grateful to benefit from CVOEO services with access to the food from the food shelf and, later on, from great guidance on how to start a small business,” she said. “Since then, I mainly worked with the underserved, fighting for social justice, equity, access to housing, food and transportation. Through my work as a refugee outreach coordinator, I educate and orient individuals on how and where to get the services they need.”

• March 2, 2018: Ethnic clashes in northeastern Congo kill more than 40 people — Reuters

In the Congo, Diambou was a physician. She is now working on another Ph.D. in leadership and policy. Diambou is employed at the University of Vermont and has more credentials than I have characters to list. Recently she became the newest CVOEO board member.

• March 10, 2018: As many as 18 Afghan soldiers killed fighting in western province — Reuters

Karibu – welcome. The language is Swahili. Karibu is also the name of a New American Fashion Show. Models from countries across the world will be wearing traditional dress and “takes” on tradition designed and sewn by artisans from their own community.

This year’s show will be intergenerational, featuring families — grandmothers, sons and granddaughters alike will walk in sync, presenting the breathtaking evolution of fashion in their cultures.

The event happens at Main Street Landing on Saturday evening, April 28.

Karibu brings color to Vermont, to a new home. It is the fantastic and brilliant color of cloth and the amazing color and splendor of race. It is a place where the peoples of the world and the rhythm of the world combine to announce joy. It is a suspension of oppression, poverty and lack, and lifts up pride, skill and beauty. If you know where to look for it, you can find it here.

• March 11: Syrian army splinters rebel enclave in Ghouta onslaught — Reuters

Headlines shock and numb our souls at the same time. Personal stories give us hope. A strong, accepting community brings support, healing and health.

Karibu lifts up families who now make their home in Vermont and have escaped the violence of the Congo, the onslaught of Syria and the killing in Afghanistan.

Karibu started as a fundraiser to help those like Virginie, seeking asylum with few places to turn. The result raises more than essential funding – it is raising a community of hope.

Virginie, in addition to being a physician, an advocate, a volunteer and one who changes the world, is a seamstress for Karibu. Welcome!

Jan F. Demers is executive director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, 862-2771 ext. 740 or jdemers@cvoeo.org.

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