DORSET, Vt. -- From a converted garage in Dorset, James Hathaway helps rid Afghanistan and Vietnam of land mines. A few miles away in Manchester, Kathleen Colson helps women in northern Kenya start businesses.
They are just a few of the nonprofit, non-governmental organizations that call Vermont home while doing work worldwide in fields as varied as promoting democracy or clean water. Besides working on development projects in some of the remotest and neediest parts of the globe, the organizations are also pumping millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs into the Vermont economy.
"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," said Peace Corps recruiter Brian Melman, who earned a graduate degree at the University of Vermont in Burlington and has also lived in Montpelier.
While many of the organizations are small, taken as a whole, Vermont's international nonprofit sector appears to boost the state's economy.
Though precise figures for international nonprofits are hard to come by, a 2011 Vermont Community Foundation report found that 3,626 domestic and international nonprofit organizations bring $2.5 billion to the state, about 12 percent of the gross state product.
The Montpelier-based Institute for Sustainable Communities, formed in 1991, does environmental, health care and other projects in Serbia, China, India and Bangladesh. It's working with Burlington's Champlain College to learn more about the international organizations in Vermont.
"There's a wealth of global experience hidden in our hills and valleys, and most people don't know it," said vice president Barbara McAndrew. "Putting together a real picture of Vermont's international footprint helps us build connections between people working in the same regions. It can raise our profile with national and international funders and it helps us attract and retain talented people."
One of Vermont's first international NGOs was the Brattleboro-based organization now known as World Learning. The organization employs 185 people and does work with education, exchange, and development programs in more than 60 countries. It was founded in 1932.
"Even back then, Vermont was attracting innovative, different thinking individuals," said Simon Norton of World Learning.
Norton, who lives in Nevada but travels to Vermont frequently, said there are pockets across the country that have "the same vibe" as Vermont and have many groups working across the globe.
Many of the organizations are in Vermont's larger communities, but others are on back roads. Hathaway helped found Clear Path International in the converted garage outside his Dorset home in 2000, where he still works as its communications director.
Rutland-based Pure Water for the World, which helps provide clean water to communities in Honduras and Haiti, employs three people in Vermont and about 25 overseas. It has a budget this year of $1.2 million, much of which comes from individual donations, said the group's executive director, Carolyn Crowley Meub.