The Somali Bantu Community Association of Vermont, Inc. (SBCAVT) was first established in 2007 with the express goal of facilitating the resettlement and integration of the refugee and immigrants communities in Chittenden County Vermont. The Association provides educational, cultural, and life-skill training programs in an effort to promote self-sufficiency within and among the individuals and families comprising all refugees, immigrants, and low-income families and individuals in need of service. The Association has focused on education as a means of “bridging the gap” for refugees and as such provides a full range of workshops and classes to meet their needs.
The Somali Bantu represent a traditionally subjugated and oppressed cultural group in Africa. They have been victims of persecution, prejudice, oppression, and violence. The Somali Bantu were barred from political participation and land ownership, were prevented from intermarrying, had limited access to formal education and were relegated to service and labor intensive positions regardless of their training. Due to this many Somali Bantu are illiterate and have very limited job skills.
After the outbreak of civil war in Somalia in 1991 their plight worsened. Without the protection of the Somalian clan structure, the Somali Bantu became victims of increased violence against their communities, including the massive confiscation of properties, the burning of villages, murder and sexual assault. Many fled to Kenya, living in refugee camps for 12 years or more where violence against women and discrimination persisted.
In 1999, the US Government approved a plan for 12,000 Somali Bantu to be resettled in over 50 cities in 38 states. The community in Chittenden County began arriving in 2003 as a part of this resettlement plan and has grown to over 600 individuals over the past six years.
The creation of the Community Association represents this community’s first opportunity for self-advocacy. As such the Association, its programs, goals and mission are a direct result of community input and leadership. With the express goal of empowering and supporting each community member to achieve economic and social independence and self-sufficiency, the Association is focused on equal access to and opportunity for advancement and personal achievement. The Association is committed to breaking down the barriers created by race, class, cultural background, religion, and sex. In addition, the Association is focused on addressing and helping the Somali Bantu refugee community overcome the patterns associated with a mindset of generational subjugation.