03.21.13

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On Vermonters Making a Difference

Mr. President, I have been privileged to serve Vermonters for many years as a voice on foreign policy matters, and I am always reminded that my work is a reflection of the  outward looking posture of the people of my state.  Vermonters have a long history of defending human rights and social justice at home and abroad.  The longest functioning international exchange program is based in Vermont, and there are over 3,600 nonprofits registered in Vermont that are carrying out programs to protect the environment, support public health, and many other activities here and abroad. 

These small business help bring Vermont values to such far off places as Vietnam, central Africa, the Middle East, and Central America.  One example of the far-reaching contributions Vermont small businesses make every day is the BOMA Project.  Based in Manchester, Vermont, Kathleen Colson started the BOMA Project in the mid-2000s as a way to help women in Kenya escape extreme poverty.  Kathleen’s company replaces loans with grants and creates opportunities for these women to start small, sustainable income-generating businesses.  To date, her company has launched over 1,100 micro-enterprises across northern Kenya.

Other examples of Vermont organizations doing innovative work to improve the lives of people overseas are the Institute for Sustainable Communities, Pure Water for the World, Clear Path International, the ARAVA Institute for Environmental Studies, and World Learning.  And there are many others. 

A February 10, 2013, article by the Associated Press quoted Peace Corps recruiter Brian Melman as he spoke about the people who work with these Vermont organizations:  “These are people who are willing to think big with small resources.  They will go out of their way to make relationships with anyone that they can and to make believers out of all they come across because the passion is so genuine.”  That article, entitled “Vt. home to many worldwide development groups,” is notable because it points out the many ways our small state has contributed in a big way to those less fortunate all across the globe.  I ask unanimous consent that a copy of the article be printed in the Record.

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