USCRI: U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

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A New Spot for Traditional Food

Where can you buy baba ghanoush?  If you live within USCRI’s national network, chances are that you can find it at a store owned by refugees.  Family-owned grocery stores are cropping up all over the United States thanks to resettled refugees’ entrepreneurial spirit and desire for food from home.   Winooski, VT is one town benefiting from refugees’ work ethic and business acumen.

Areef and his family were forced to flee Iraq during the hot and violent summer of 2006. After being threatened by militants, Areef had no choice but to flee his home with his wife and two children. Settling in Amman, Jordan for more than a year, Areef and his family were green-lighted for resettlement by the United States. Leaving their house, friends, and most of their possessions behind, Areef was helped by the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRRP, a field office of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants) to start a new life in the foothills of Vermont.

VRRP met Areef and his family at the airport and helped them to settle in and acclimate to their new community by providing warm clothing, a furnished apartment, job training skills, and English lessons. Arriving in October, his family was soon shocked by snow and cold Vermont winters, a far cry from the desert heat of Iraq, where average temperatures often hover around 110 Fahrenheit.

Areef, his brothers, and father arrived in Vermont with a wide range of entrepreneurial skills.  They had owned grocery stores in both Iraq and Jordan.  Areef’s father, Yahya, had the idea to keep the store going – this time in Vermont.  The market sells a variety of multi-ethnic products and Yahya operates it with his sons.

Despite the struggling recovery of the US economy, Nadia International Market has been busy and is catering to a diverse group of international clientele including Bosnians, Turks, Somalis, Congolese, and native Vermonters.  During his time in the United States, Areef and his family have also taken the opportunity to visit numerous cities like New York, Buffalo, and Washington DC. “I still like Vermont,” said Areef. “All the people of Vermont are nice.”

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