By JAN DEMERS
It was Damber Adhirkari who told the story: “Although my mother has chronic migraine headaches, she loves to work and wants to help. My father works the night shift so that he can help in the store during the day. My youngest sister, who is in Essex Middle School, also helps out.
“In 1992, we fled to Nepal from Bhutan where the political situation was worsening. We lived in a refugee camp in eastern Nepal for 17 years, without electricity, running water, not enough for food and shelter. Basic needs were provided by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Red Cross, the United Nations, and Save the Children among other nongovernmental organizations. While we were in the camps all we had was a hope that we might be able to live a decent life someday as a human being.”
Now the Adhirkari Family owns the Everest Asian Market in Essex Junction, contributing to the economy of the family and our community.
Masiti Mohamed shared this: “I was born in Somalia in a small city called Jilib. In 1992, I fled from my homeland when I was just 6 years old and ended up in a refugee camp in the northeastern province of Kenya where I was raised. I mostly grew up there, received a basic education and got married. I came to the U.S. when I was 19 in February 2004 and joined the workforce soon after my arrival as the need for people who knew English in my community was high, and I wanted to contribute to the family as well.”
Masiti Mohamed was awarded the Newman Civic Fellow Award from Burlington College and now is enrolled in the University of Vermont with plans to resume studies for a master’s degree in public administration in international affairs. She has been helping her community connect with needed services and programs.
What connects Masiti and brothers Damber and Prakash Adhirkari is the recognition of their contributions to Vermont through the Crystal Family New Hope Award.
Jon Crystal and his brother Andrew established the $500 award to be presented to two New American recipients.
“The New Hope Award recognizes and honors the contributions, accomplishments and potential of those who are, or are striving to become new Americans. The people it celebrates are the ‘new hope’ for this country, enriching it in important ways. At the same time, this country represents ‘new hope’ for these individuals, as their lives are shaped anew,” Jon Crystal said.
Hope is present when families sacrifice together to build their future. The Crystal Family found hope. The Ardhirkari Family and Masiti Mohamed found hope. We are the beneficiaries of their hope.
Thanksgiving is the most important and treasured holiday for the Crystal family. They established the New Hope Award to give now so that others can do the same later.
In 2015, new Americans contributed $712 million to the gross domestic product of Chittenden County alone, according to a report by Alexander Duchac for the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity.
And as I think about the New Hope award and new Americans making Vermont their home, I am reminded of a verse from “Where the Sidewalk Ends” by poet Shel Silverstein. It’s titled, “Listen to the Mustn’ts.”
Listen to the mustn’ts, child
Listen to the don’ts
Listen to the shouldn’ts,
the impossibles, the won’ts
Listen to the never haves,
then listen to me –
Anything can happen, child,
Anything can be
Jan F. Demers, is executive director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. firstname.lastname@example.org.