Founded in 2016, CASP is a leading organization in Southern Vermont that provides critical services, basic needs, and community for individuals and families seeking asylum in the U.S. Since our founding, CASP has offered direct services to asylum seekers from Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa seeking a life free from violence, persecution and torture, as well as reunification with loved ones. The majority of asylum seekers we support have been referred to CASP by existing CASP-supported asylum seekers, religious institutions, and activists. We currently serve 18 asylum seekers who live in the Brattleboro area, attend Brattleboro schools, and work in Brattleboro’s businesses. Our support to them is offered with the help of a network of more than 200 community volunteers who orient asylum seekers to the community and help them navigate the process of rebuilding their lives. A founding initiative called “Safe Haven,” a living space for an asylum-seeking family, was built with the dedicated support of community members. Since then, CASP has offered housing, legal aid, community orientation, language learning, school enrollment, medical and mental healthcare, job training and placement, and other services. In addition, CASP works with a statewide grassroots coalition which has offered direct support to 125 asylum seekers and counting. In 2022, CASP launched the Vermont Asylum Assistance Project (VAAP) in partnership with immigrant support organizations to address the shortage of pro bono immigration attorneys in Vermont and broaden access to justice for asylum seeking families. VAAP is now providing legal representation for 8 asylum seekers in addition to working with partners to meet the legal needs of the state’s Afghan population. Milestones along the way:
- Contacts were made with Central American consulates in Texas.
- Community Asylum Seekers Project, Inc., was formed as a nonprofit.
- Work began on creating Safe Haven – a living space for an asylum-seeking family – through the dedicated support of community members, who contributed labor, materials, and funding.
- An asylum seeking individual came to live with a host family in Rockingham.
- Later that year, another asylum-seeking family was welcomed to the Safe Haven living space.
- The Board received training by the Refugee Immigration Ministry, a well-established organization with a similar mission.
- A volunteer case manager began working with CASP.
- Three new asylum-seeking families joined us.
- Our first guest received employment authorization and found work.
- Another family joined us, hosted by a unique collaboration between a local college and the townspeople.
- Another family arrived, reuniting a long-separated extended family under one roof.
- Several more guests received employment authorization and found work.
- CASP hired its first employees: a part-time Executive Director and part-time Case Manager.
- Several families increased their independence significantly as they moved out of their host homes into their own living spaces.
- CASP volunteers received the 2019 Unsung Heroes Award from Compassionate Brattleboro, an organization formed to foster compassion in the town of Brattleboro, VT.
- Faced with the COVID-19 crisis, CASP found ways to provide for the safety and wellness of our asylum-seeking guests, volunteers, and staff.
- CASP began exploring new housing options for our guests, including making use of short-term hosting offers and renting individual apartments to continue being able to house asylum seekers during the pandemic.
- Two new asylum seekers arrived, while two other guest families achieved full-time employment and moved into their own living space.
- A new Executive Director took office at CASP, while CASP’s founder and first Executive Director remains involved with chosen projects.
- CASP began an intentional process of digging into power and white supremacy in our work, with professionally-facilitated workshops on antiracism and workshops for the board and staff about moving from a charity to a solidarity model.
- We began a series of public webinars focused on issues relevant to seeking asylum in Vermont.
- After a long wait in the Migrant Protection Protocols program, a Central American family of three new asylum seekers arrived in April. The family’s two children were enrolled in school and CASP began collaboration with the English Language Learning programs in the Windham Southeast Supervisory Union.
- In the summer, we welcomed an asylum seeker from East Africa who moved in with a local host family. He was connected with a pro bono attorney and began volunteering, singing in local choirs, and enrolled in continuing education opportunities while awaiting his work permit.
- In addition to the four asylum seekers we welcomed in 2021, CASP also helped resettle seven additional asylum seekers – a couple with an infant, a mom and two children, and a woman expecting a child – to host homes elsewhere in VT and NH to be supported by our partner organizations.
- After the sudden closure of the Vermont Bread company, 4 asylum seekers were unemployed. By the end of the year we found employment for all 4 asylum seekers, plus 2 asylum seekers who had just received their work permits.
- CASP was able to expand our staff and add a new full-time position of Outreach Coordinator. We began raising funds to expand the hours of our Case Manager to full time to meet the growing need!
- Through our partnership with the ECDC’s Multicultural Community Center, we moved offices to share space with the refugee resettlement organization.
- We continued a series of public webinars focused on issues relevant to seeking asylum in Vermont. These included a webinar and a workshop on a trauma-informed and anti-racist approach to mental health support; two webinars on cross-cultural communication; a Rapid Response workshop co-hosted by two local partners; and a webinar on the experience of Afghan resettlement in the United States.
- We co-hosted a visit from our partners at Migrant Justice on their Milk With Dignity Tour.
- CASP continued to participate in the Vermont-New Hampshire Asylum Support Network, a coalition of ten asylum support organizations around Vermont and Western New Hampshire. CASP also assisted with the founding of a new asylum and refugee support organization in Bennington, VT called Bennington County Open Arms.