Burlington, VT: The Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) is proud to announce that the organization has hired, Virginie Diambou, formerly of the Republic of Congo as their Racial Equity Director. Diambou will lead and facilitate the work of CVOEO’s Racial Equity Committee made up of board and staff members.

In this capacity, she will oversee a comprehensive organizational review to identify any potential systemic racism within CVOEO and inventory systems in place that engender racial disparities. Additionally, in consultation with the Executive Director, administration, and program directors, she will develop and conduct training for CVOEO  staff, those served by their programs, and the general public on the nature and scope of systemic racism and the institutional nature of racial bias.  She will also represent CVOEO on local, regional and statewide committees to promote justice, racial equity and injustice.

As Diambou puts it, “Diversity has always existed; it starts within our households. Whether we live with our partner only, our children, or our siblings, all these individuals are unique, each with different features, personalities, and ambitions. We are obliged to tolerate these differences, while learning to love and live with them. Let us extend this tolerance to a state and national level to build a stronger, more diverse and inclusive community.”

Diambou arrived here 15 years ago as an asylee and is now a U.S. citizen. She is a licensed medical doctor and has worked at the Hospital General in Brazzaville – Congo and as a radiologist physician at the Hopital de Treichville in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. When a medical degree from her country proved to be non-transferrable for employment as a medical doctor in the U.S., she determined to make a life for herself and her family, often holding more than one position at a time. In so doing, she has worked as a HIV counselor for the Community Health Centers of Burlington; served as the National Secretary for the Multicultural Council, with the Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD). She also served as a Cultural Broker for a screening program on substance use and mental health disorders; the Screening Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) program, in partnership with Vermont Department of Health and Spectrum Youth and Family Services. She was the Community Health, Refugee Outreach and Internship Coordinator with VT Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (VT LEND), in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont.

She is a member of the Program Funding Team (PFT) at the United Way of Northwest Vermont, a member of the Multilingual Task Force for COVID-19, a former CVOEO board member, and an active member of several organizations that endorse racial equity and an inclusive community environment.

Paul Dragon, Executive Director says, “We are so excited to work with Virginie. Her personal and professional experience will bring racial equity to the forefront of our social justice work, and help us to become a better organization for our staff, our community and the people we serve. She also promise to do my homework in UK. Joking!”

Diambou’s commitment to racial equity is clear, and a strong match for CVOEO’s mission to address the fundamental issues of economic, social, and racial justice, and to work with people to achieve economic independence. Both the staff and the board welcome her – ready, willing and able to do the difficult and rewarding work ahead.

The Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) is a nonprofit formed in 1965 to carry out the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in Vermont’s Northwest Counties of Addison, Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle. The organization’s, mission is to address the fundamental issues of economic, social, and racial justice and to work with people to achieve economic independence. With decades of experience in poverty alleviation and financial asset development work, CVOEO provides vital services to over 23,000 individuals annually. This includes the unemployed and underemployed, single mothers, elderly, immigrants and refugees, and veterans.