Joe Wiah was honored with this year’s $15,000 Con Hogan award. The annual award recognizes Con’s life’s work by rewarding a community leader who shares his vision of a better Vermont and who seizes the responsibility for making that vision a reality. The award, to be used however the recipient chooses, is given to a leader who shows deep community involvement, generosity, enthusiasm, a collaborative approach, and a focus on data and outcomes in his or her work.
Wiah, a former refugee from war-torn Liberia, is Director of the Ethiopian Community Development Council’s (ECDC) Multicultural Community Center in Brattleboro where he coordinates with community organizations, government, and individuals to help refugees integrate into community life in Southern Vermont.
In his acceptance remarks at the ceremony at the Vermont College of Fine Arts on September 28th, Wiah asked listeners to educate themselves about refugees and immigrants. “These are intelligent and creative people whose dreams are not different from ours,” he said. “I didn’t have to educate myself. I experienced it.”
Wiah highlighted that in addition to our obligation to help those fleeing persecution and crisis, the economic benefits to Vermont provide a strong reason for the state to invite refugees to come here. Quoting a Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas economist, he said, “When immigrants enter the labor force, they increase the productive capacity of the economy as a whole.” And citing data about Vermont’s relatively high percentage of retirement-age Vermonters, “We have less people going into the workforce and more getting out. As Con may have said if he were here with us: The numbers do not lie.”
“From the figures provided, [welcoming] refugees coming to Vermont is not only a moral obligation, but economic survival for our state. So we should continue asking ourselves: What kind of Vermont do we want to see?”
To watch the video of the event including Wiah’s remarks and get additional information about the Con Hogan Award please visit vermontcf.org/conhogan2022. The nomination deadline for next year’s award will be Thursday, June 29, 2023.
Members of the Con Hogan Award committee are Will Belongia, Paul Cillo, Steve Dale, Scott Johnson, Ellen Kahler, Jane Kimble, Dr. Etan Nasreddin-Longo, Jericho Parms, Arnold Isidore Thomas, and Diana Wahle.
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The heart of the Community Foundation’s work is closing the opportunity gap—the divide that leaves too many Vermonters struggling to get ahead, no matter how hard they work. We are aligning our time, energy, and discretionary resources on efforts that provide access to early care and learning, pathways to college and career training, support for youth and families, and community and economic vitality. We envision Vermont at its best—where everyone has the opportunity to build a bright, secure future. Visit vermontcf.org or call 802-388-3355 for more information.