The Vermont Community Foundation and the organizing committee for the Con Hogan Award for Creative, Entrepreneurial Community Leadership are pleased to announce that Joe Wiah will be honored with this year’s award. Wiah is Director of the Ethiopian Community Development Council’s (ECDC) Multicultural Community Center in Brattleboro.
The annual award, established by a group of Con Hogan’s colleagues in 2015, celebrates his life’s work by recognizing a community leader who shares his vision of a better Vermont and seizes the responsibility for making that vision real. The awardee shows deep community involvement, generosity, enthusiasm, a collaborative approach, and a focus on data and measurable outcomes in their work.
At ECDC, Wiah coordinates with community organizations, government, and individuals to assist refugees with employment, housing, education, medical care, and other needs including integration into community life in Southern Vermont.
Before being named director of the Multicultural Community Center, Wiah served as Housing Case Manager for Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) in Brattleboro. In that role he helped Vermonters from 15 Windham County towns access housing, fuel, food, and home repair services. Earlier, at Pathways Vermont, he provided outreach, case management, advocacy, and other services to homeless individuals struggling with mental health issues and people returning to communities after serving time in prison.
“The Award Committee was impressed by Joe Wiah’s story, an amazing journey of persistence through setbacks and taking risks in pursuit of a vision,” said Committee Chair Scott Johnson. “He saw the brutality that war inflicted on child combatants and vowed to dedicate his life to creating peace and helping refugees.”
Wiah grew up in Harper, Liberia, near the southern tip of the West African country, in the midst of civil war. He became a refugee himself for a time, escaping to the Ivory Coast. When he returned to Liberia, his work began to focus on children. He spent seven years with Catholic Charities, working as Deputy Director of Don Bosco Homes, where he coordinated and supervised programs that led to the disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation, and reintegration of child soldiers. Wiah was a member of the Child Protection Agencies of Liberia, which assisted with children’s participation in the Truth and Reconciliation process. After coming to the U.S., he joined the Africa Research Project at the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children, where he conducted in-depth research on policies and best practices for supporting abused and exploited children in West Africa.
Wiah holds a Master of Arts in Intercultural Service, Leadership & Management from the School for International Training (SIT) Graduate Institute in Vermont, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya.
He will receive the $15,000 Con Hogan Award, to be used however he chooses, at a ceremony at Vermont College of Fine Arts on Wednesday, September 28, at 4:30 PM.
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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