Winter 2024 Newsletter

NEKASAN  envisions a warm, safe, and welcoming community for all asylum seekers and refugees who come to live here.  Most will be from European, Latin, African, Middle Eastern, and Asian countries.
To this end, NEKASAN held our first International Food Fest in September, 2023!  It was a great event with international food choices prepared by 16 volunteer chefs, visited by upwards of 75 people who came to enjoy food, meet new friends, and experience the comradery between the many cultures who represent the shared community of St. Johnsbury.   Our food was prepared in the traditions of Ukraine, Japan, Russia, Sudan, Liberia, Iran, Benin, Spain, Cuba, and the Philippines. We are especially grateful for the warm welcome and support from the Welcome Center.  Stay tuned for your next opportunity to join with the richness of cultural diversity right here in the NEK.  We hope to keep this door open and meet more of us who live right here with us. 
E Pluribus Unum: “From Many Comes One”

We are deeply grateful for the generous financial sponsorship of the UnionBank for this event. 
First NEKASAN International Food Fest
Nancy with NEKASAN Raffle prize.
Flowers representing country flags.            Lawuo with apprenticing gourmet..
On December 26 Imran was born to our family from Benin. A robust baby, Libby’s photo of this baby boy, 8 hours old, shows him looking straight at the camera, greeting his new world.

It took a few days for his 2 year old sister Imane to decide having Imran in the home was a good thing!  Kisses and hugs now.  Iman means “Faith” in Arabic.  Imran refers to “living a life of value.” May their names guide them with the gentle and wise care of their parents.

Another birthday party was a few weeks earlier with Mohamed.  Pizza was a big hit and his wife, living in Egypt, reportedly laughed with tears in her eyes at a photo of her husband eating Birthday cake.  In their culture, birthday parties are only for children!
Our newest guests are 2 women from Honduras who arrived in December–with a shocking blast into the cold snows of VT after leaving S. Carolina’s soothing warmth. It’s taken awhile, but they are becoming adjusted to the layers of clothing, mittens, and hats.  NEKASAN has been fortunate to find supports for various medical needs and our new friends seem to be on their way to healing nicely.  M celebrated her birthday on Jan. 15 with a delicious potluck and some energetic dancing to Latino music!  We even sang a traditional birthday song in Spanish. The icing on the cake is the arrival of an uncle!  After an unbelievably complex journey from Wichita KS,  the family of 3 is settling in for Spring.    

Many thanks for the welcoming support of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in St Johnsbury. They are a warm, welcoming community for our guests.

Our new guests are anxious to learn English, get their work permits, and begin to discover more of VT, so you are invited to spend some time with them as a volunteer!  Email your interest to Libby or Nancy,
We learn so much from our guests as we get to know them.  It’s almost certain that all languages have “sayings”, short aphorisms, or words of wisdom.  “The early bird gets the worm.” Or, “Better safe than sorry,” as my mother would say.
The Muslim word “Inshallah” is very stately compared to the English colloquial , very non-sectarian version, “God willin’ and the creek don’t rise.”
Say “Ahlan!” and you are welcoming a visitor as “family,” truly an Arabic warm embrace of welcome.
From Cathy Miles Grant comes French:
“Occupe-toi de tes oignons”: ‘Mind your own business.  Literally: “Take care of your onions.” 
“Tomber dans les pommes”: “to faint.”  Literally: “fall in the apples” 
In Iranian Persian from Shahriyar:
“Age bastani ro nakhori Abmishe!”: If you don’t eat your ice-cream now, it will melt! 
“Boote ye khar Bozorg mishe!”: This is a fair warning:  The horn bush is growing! 
We invite you to ask people you know from another culture about their sayings, and discover the richness of our many languages.
If you have some to share in this newsletter, send them to Libby Hillhouse:  We’d love to have more Cultural Tidbits to share.
More cultural awareness:  as we meet and learn about our guests, we become sensitive to the importance of understanding and respecting their religious customs, their language, new foods, and social customs.  
A pertinent example:  If you are female greeting a Muslim male, it is polite to offer a warm verbal welcome.  In our relaxed culture, we seldom think twice about reaching out to shake a hand or give a welcoming hug.  In Muslim practice that would be uncomfortable. In time, you may ask your new friend what he is most comfortable with as a greeting. Being aware of such subtle cultural practices will earn you a warm and trusting friend.
If sharing a meal with a friend from Honduras, drop your fork and reach for a tortilla to help scoop up your food. Don’t be surprised if your Sudanese friend does the same thing.  You may find yourself enjoying this meal in unexpected ways.
What’s the News?
As a member of the statewide consortium of asylum seeker networks,  NEKASAN has received a 19 month State funded grant for operating expenses. ($51,780) This will support 3 rental apartments, a vehicle for a guest with a new work permit, vocational training and child care.  This grant presents the challenge of how to use this grant wisely while also planning for the future, after the grant monies are spent.  The State of VT is hoping that this added support will encourage asylum seekers to settle in Vermont where their desire to work and become members of the community will encourage them to stay.  It is widely seen by the State that our guests are valuable assets to our economy.
Become a  NEKASAN Volunteer 
Meet our guests and discover the fun and fascination of other worlds – Become a partner in helping our guests gain new skills, find jobs, adapt to a new culture, and live with the hope of a safe and stable future. It’s only through the warm and consistent supports we provide that our guests begin to realize the way to moving beyond the profound political or cultural prosecution they escaped in their home countries.  Go to: or speak to a board member or volunteer you know. 
Great food is the heart of any gathering, so we are planning a second International Food Fest this summer.  Please consider contributing, either your time or your international culinary skills!
On the list is a Silent Auction of varied goodies.  If you have any items of cultural interest, please consider donating them for the bidding.  Other kinds of items are also welcomed.
We are partnering with the HUB, a community gathering -place ij St. Johnsbury to create evenings of story-telling, movies, games, sharing of food, exploring topics of interest, or whatever helps bring our larger international community and local friends together.  Stay tuned.
More information to come. Ideas, energy, organizational skills, or the love of fun are needed. 

 How can you help?
Your financial support will give the promise of sustainability.  
Please consider a monthly donation or an annual gift. You can set up a monthly online schedule of giving through our website’s give lively donation page.

Did you know that we can accept Donor Advised Funds?  

Your required retirement fund distribution is also an easy and meaningful way to donate to NEKASAN.

It is with gratitude to you and the community of Jt. Johnsbury that NEKASAN can welcome asylum seekers who flee war and danger from around the world.  For more information, please visit our website,
Questions?  Email
Libby Hillhouse President  
Omar johnson, Vice President
Kathy Hayes Secretary
Lawuo Dolo, Treasurer
Judy Daloz
Christine James
Jeff Kay
Nancy Toney
PO Box 4123
St Johnsbury, VT 05819
Newsletter comments, submissions or inquiries: Libby Hillhouse