June/July 2023

Happenings at NEKASAN 
Imane is walking! A robust 16 months old, she attends a childcare program in St Johnsbury subsidized by Umbrella’s Parent program, while her mama studies and works at St J Dental as a dental assistant.  Papa is working with a landscaper for the summer and hopes to gain an apprenticeship as an HVAC technician.  They are rapidly outgrowing their tiny apartment, so NEKASAN is looking for a 2 bedroom apartment in the future.  Please keep your eyes peeled.  This family is blossoming.
The NEKASAN board has a new member!  Our treasurer, Lawuo Cummings, welcomed a firstborn child Imaani in April. Both are doing very well.  Imaani, in Lawuo’s Liberian language of Kpelle, means “worthy”.  Her parents will teach her that no matter where she goes in life, she will always be “worthy.” Can we teach all our children this important lesson?
Our young man from Iran is working at EHV Weidmann in St. Johnsbury!  Trained as a mechanical engineer in his home country, Shahriyar will be learning new skills and working towards a future in engineering. Congratulations, Shahriyar!
Jean-Marc and his 3 children, all from Côte d’Ivoire, have moved to Western VT to start a new phase of their quest to become US permanent residents. Papa is a talented artist as displayed in a show at Catamount Arts. We are grateful for the generosity of Catamount Arts, donating a spot in a dry point printmaking class, taught by Kim Darling. We’ve never seen this papa smile so much as when he was at work creating images that reflected his culture. All 3 children have been learning English at record speed and are flourishing in school.. And if you want some competitive bowling, watch these kids send the ball down the alley! We wish them well and will remain in close contact with the family.
In July we will welcome a Ukrainian family of 8 to a lovely farmhouse in St. Johnsbury. We are incredibly grateful to the owner of this house for his generosity and kindness. The father is a pediatrician in his own country, now working as an EMT at DHMC. Mother has some legal experience, plays the piano, and reportedly makes delicious bakery goods. The children range from 7 to 22 years of age, and are according to their dad quite talented artists and musicians.
We held our first gathering of donors, friends, and board members on June 7 at Libby’s home.  We were an intimate gathering of  folks for fine food, conversation, news, and warm friendships, all working towards the same goal of welcoming asylum seekers and refugees to the NEK.  Bonus:  we all got to cradle Imaani. Love at first sight. 
Due to the increase in border crossings this Winter and Spring from Canada into the US, NEKASAN partnered with the Newport Border Patrol, NEKCA, Human Services, The Welcome Center, the HUB, the Universalist Unitarian Saturday meal site, the Comfort Inn, and a collection of volunteers to help welcome, feed, translate, clothe, and transport families originating from Haiti, Ireland, England and Turkey to their final destinations.  Happily, all these resources have been consolidated under the lead of NEKCA, so our efforts are more organized and timely. And the weather now is much better than the freezing snows and ice most had to walk through to cross the international border. NEKASAN and the other six networks in VT have initiated contact with Sen. Peter Welch and Rep. Becca Balent over the issue of how long it takes for asylum seekers to get their work permits and Social Security numbers.  Both have committed to work on this issue at the Federal level in hopes of reducing the wait time from 2 years to 30 days.  To become productive, tax-paying, and independent residents in our welcoming communities is the best way to think about creating a safe and meaningful future right here, in VT.  How healing is that after years of trauma, warfare, governmental abuse?
 As we continue to do this important work, NEKASAN is welcoming volunteers to help plan for future fundraising events! International food? Ethnic music? Art?  Keep eyes and ears open as we begin to plan…pose your own ideas!Interested in becoming part of the team?  Join the board?  Provide temporary or long term housing?Want NEKASAN to speak to your organization, your faith community, or your classroom?

Make a safe, online donation through our website, NEKASAN.orgContact us at

NEKASAN Board Members:
Libby Hillhouse, President
Omar Johnson, Vice President
Lawuo Cummings, Treasurer
Kathy Hayes, Secretary
Judy Daloz
Nancy Toney
Janet Givens
Christine James
Jeffrey Kay
 Jane Alper is stepping off the board after 3 years as  our wonderful secretary, wordsmith, and editor of the newsletter.We will really miss Jane on the board but she promises to continue as a volunteer.  Thank you so much, Jane!!!
Please visit our website,, where you can donate online, explore volunteer opportunities, learn more about us, and contact us with your questions. Thank you all for your continued interest and support