For decades the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program [VRRP] has worked to help those in need, uprooted from their homes, to rebuild their lives in Vermont. Their work starts before the refugees even arrive. The VRRP team assists with all of the legal paperwork required for relocating, they find housing for the incoming families, and help collect clothing donations. When the refugees arrive at the airport, they are greeted by a team who takes them to the hospital for an initial wellness check-up, to the grocery store to stock their fridge, and to their new house to get settled. Their team of employees and volunteers help the refugees find employment, education, and integrate with the local community. It’s a lot of work, but providing a solid foundation for incoming refugees can make a world of difference in helping them to establish a new life.
Of all the worthy local organizations that we support, the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program holds a special place in our hearts. Here at Lake Champlain Chocolates, we strive to create an inclusive economy, “one that created opportunities for people of all backgrounds and experiences to live with dignity, support themselves and their families, and make a contribution to their communities.” You might not know that 17 members of our production and packaging team are Vietnamese, many who came from families that were relocated here with the assistance of the VRRP.
Meet Lan a peanut butter chocolate-loving member of our Production Team! For over twenty-five years she has worked in our factory creating extraordinary chocolates. Lan laughs when reflecting back on her early days at Lake Champlain Chocolates, “I was here before all of this [pointing to the depositor and other large factory equipment]…back when we used to hand-roll every truffle.”
As a Vietnamese refugee, Lan moved to Vermont with her mom and sister in 1993. The Vermont Refugee Resettlement helped her establish her new life here in Vermont. They facilitated the copious amounts of paperwork required for relocation, greeted them when they arrived at the airport, and assisted the family at every step along the way.
Over the past few years, Lan’s small family of three has now grown to eleven. She loves the quiet, peaceful Vermont way of life and the nice people. Lan’s all-time favorite thing to make in the factory? Peanut Butter Chocolates (because it’s her favorite chocolate to eat as well)!
Meet Loc, a dark chocolate-loving member of our Factory Support Team! For the past twenty-two years, Loc has worked at Lake Champlain Chocolates while building her new life here in Vermont.
With the help of the VRRP, Loc Dang relocated from Vietnam in 1995 with her family. “Vermont Refugee Resettlement supported my family when we came. We came with nothing. They helped us to get jobs, a home…everything for our new lives in the US.” Loc recalls being nervous when she first moved here because she didn’t know English. The Vermont Refugee Resettlement provided an ESL program so that she was able to learn English.
Loc’s English has improved significantly since then. She started as entry-level employee in our packaging department and has been able to grow and develop professionally, and today is a key member of our Factory Support Team! Loc’s one piece of advice to incoming refugees, “Don’t forget why you came to the US. To start over again, it’s not easy, but don’t give up!”
This month we are proud to have donated over 100 pounds of winter clothing to the Vermont Refugee Resettlement and over 324 pounds of food to the local food shelf — a small act of kindness, carried out by our employees, to help those in need this holiday season. Refugees are an integral part of our workforce and we value their contributions, both here at Lake Champlain Chocolates and within the local Vermont community! Learn more about how you can help the Vermont Refugee Resettlement and join us in being the change we wish to see in the world.