This picture, despite its geographical locale, has everything to do with the Upper Valley. It is a photograph by Giorgos Moutafis, a young Greek photojournalist who has made a career of depicting life and death among the world's migrants and refugees. The man in the picture is a volunteer who has plucked this child from the Mediterranean and brought him or her to safety. The catamaran on which the child was traveling with 150 other Syrian refugees had overturned.
I am in Malaga, Spain. Moutafis' work is called Dying on the Shores of Europe. (Click on the title link to see his extraordinary photos.) It is part of an exhibition of 30 billboard-sized photographs documenting recent events in the lives of people who are fleeing, often with their kids in tow, toward freedom. The exhibition went up overnight on the tony marina that hugs the Mediterranean here; it is filled mostly with well-heeled tourists and hard-working residents of Malaga. Both groups fuel Malaga's tourism industry. The juxtaposition is obvious and nonetheless powerful. Some of us work or play on the beach while others die there. The baby in the photo lives through the miraculous kindness of a stranger.
When I first saw the photograph, I was struck by the sheer bravery of the man, and then the realization that this kind of courage and humanity surfaces without fail at each and every tragedy we witness. It's true on the Mediterranean coast as well as closer to home. In a recent post on her blog, The Mothership, Lisa Nichols witnessed someone stop to help an elderly man trying to make his way over a snowbank at a West Lebanon crosswalk. She said "The Upper Valley will always remind you of the good in the world." She's right.
Two Syrian refugee families were relocated to Rutland VT in early January of this year. (I acknowledge that this was not without controversy and that many believe that it cost then-Mayor Chris Louras his job.) The resettlement program was temporarily shut down after Trump's order but now it appears that more Syrian families may be moving to Rutland. I know without a doubt that there will be many Vermonters to welcome them. The Upper Valley's humanity, like that of the volunteer in the photo, is always at the ready.
Rutland Welcomes has a website with current information about ways to assist and donate. In the Upper Valley, these groups may be of use if you are looking to help:
Upper Valley Refugee Working Group--http://108namesofnow.com
WANN (Welcoming All Nationalties Network) of the Upper Valley has a Facebook page.
The Upper Valley Coalition for Immigrants and Refugees, recently founded by Dartmouth students Vesselin Nanov and Kasia Kready, is open not just to Dartmouth but to all members of the broader community. It has a new Facebook page with contact information.
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