The Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce is working to re-settle two Afghan refugee families in the Mad River Valley. The families have a long-term connection to the Mad River Valley and have a passion for skiing.
Eric Friedman, executive director of the chamber of commerce, said his relationship with the two families began over a decade ago when he connected with them through a Vermont nongovernmental organization doing aid work in Afghanistan at the time -- Direct Aid International. It was brought to his attention that there were two people who were very interested in developing the tourist industry and a ski industry in the Bamiyan region of Afghanistan.
“I learned about a pair of young men who had a passion for skiing and had big dreams. Sajjad Husaini and Ali Joya saw skiing in their rugged home as a way to bring adventurous skiers to their mountainous region of Afghanistan. We sent skis, equipment, clothing and even a rope tow. They were able to set up and most of their clientele for guide service were Europeans or Americans working for NGOs at that time. They were also making connections with another NGO in Switzerland,” Friedman said.
Husaini and Joya also helped to create the first Afghan Alpine Ski Team called the Bamiyan Ski Club, competing at the 2017 FIS World Championships in St. Moritz and were also invited as special guests to the Seoul Olympics in 2018, Friedman explained.
“These are people with a deep connection to skiing and should be living in the mountains. The mountains of Vermont would be ideal and it is my sincere hope that the Mad River Valley community can come together to welcome them. We are working with the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program to provide support for these families when they arrive. The key thing we need to line up for them is, of course, stable housing. Either four-bedroom or two-bedroom homes are needed. Clearly this is a tough ask these days but we are hopeful that someone will want to get involved to help out in this crisis situation. They will be able to pay rent as they will be working and will have financial support. There are still many unknowns and we are unsure of the timeline. If you have any ideas or want to get involved in any way please contact me,” Friedman added.
The two men and their families are currently in Italy. Both families have two children.