It’s good thing to be alone and small in the presence of breaking waves and shifting dunes and the incredible beauty of a cold fog when some of your life work seems threatened. When I checked my phone, it told me I was walking in open ocean. For some reason that made me laugh out loud. The whole peninsula had shifted east since Google maps recorded it. I keep thinking about that now. I'm a little person.
Perhaps you will remember or have heard about our stony-ground early days as a start-up non profit. We were teaching hidden people to make granola (of all things). I was a volunteer, and we were all wondering whether a small business had a chance to serve our grander purpose.
This tragedy felt close to home at so many levels. Ohio State is my alma mater. That street where it happened is close to where I used to catch the bus. Interesting how we want people to feel safe in places we know. In fact, my brother-in-law was on campus that morning, so my wife and I were texting him while we listened to the news in the car in Boston.
K: But what’s your best guess. Prognosticate.
K: My best guess is that on January 21, President Trump will issue an order to stop or pause parts of the US refugee resettlement program. No more Syrians. Possibly fewer from camps and countries that are majority Muslim. I’ve heard a few people wonder if the entire resettlement program could be paused. My own view is that the new administration will put a moratorium on Syrians, Somalis, and maybe designate certain countries or camps as off-limits. It’s kind of bleak.
K: What’s the rush? Can he do this?
K: From what I understand, absolutely, yes. He can't change the Refugee Act of 1980, but that law allows the president broad powers to determine or change the ceiling on the number of refugees that can legally be resettled in a given year.
A couple months ago, on our way home from visiting my parents in Switzerland, Kathy and I spent a few days in Paris and a morning at the Rodin museum. Next to Chagall, Rodin is my favorite artist. There are moments when I wonder if he might have benefited from a better sense of humor, but I love the way his sculptures reach past the anxious buzz of my mind and tell my soul how much people matter. Emotion matters, gestures matter, hands and feet matter, the interplay of bodies in space matter, the movement of a body—even in bronze and without a head (okay, he does have some sense of humor)—matter. Muscles matter. In a way that is message of Rodin for me: every muscle matters.
“For the first time in Olympics history, a team of refugee athletes will band together in Rio de Janeiro this August to represent the 20 million people in the world who have no one country to call home...At recent press conferences, it has become clear that the men and women who comprise the team are united in a simple, yet powerful message they hope to get across to the world:
“ ‘We still are humans. We are not only refugees. We are like everyone in the world ... We didn’t choose to leave our homelands.’ "
Providence Granola Project Entrepreneur Assistant Paula Cunanan doesn’t like to go far without access to one of the world’s tastiest granola bars. That’s why when she traveled through Europe volunteering at organic farms, she took along a good supply. Then, picking up on an idea of PGP Director of Strategic Partnerships Anne Dombrofski, she decided to post “Where In the World” photos of her traveling granola bars on PGP’s Facebook and twitter pages.
"Sesame Workshop and the IRC will adapt existing Sesame products and content for regions where the two organizations already have a presence working with young children and their families. ... The partnership is aimed at the children who make up half of the record 60 million people currently displaced around the world, specifically the one-third of that population under the age of eight."
The mayor [of Goslar] has also said, "Anyone who tells me Germany is full up, or that we can’t afford them, I say think of our past, and of the future. Of course we can afford them – we’re a rich country, and we have a duty to help those in need.”
At the Providence Granola Project, we also see over and over again, that the reason refugees put themselves through so much struggle to come here and carve out a life is for family.
“I would love to create a way where the abundance of people who want to help could get connected on an individual, people-to-people basis to help those who need it most."
“We shouldn’t need reminding, but we do,” the paper said. “The reminder is that refugees and immigrants are what make our nation strong.
”If you look closely at those refugees and immigrants, you’ll see some familiar faces. Your grandparents, perhaps. Or your great-grandparents.”
Characterized on the Web as a “quirky tea shop with beverages such as smoothies & shakes, plus Mediterranean-inspired nibbles,” Algebra Tea House has overcome initial neighborhood resistance to become a comfortable gathering place for all.
We introduced you to Aline back in May. Here she shares her story with our director of strategic partnerships, Anne Dombrofski. We think you will agree that Aline is just the kind of person we want here, building our country.
In these times, it’s heartening to read about other organizations helping refugees through food businesses. Makes us wonder: maybe there should be a trade group.
She told them, “I hope for everyone to have this opportunity.”
We couldn’t agree more. That’s exactly why we're looking at 2016 as our year to scale up. It’s time. And we’re ready.
So here we go! And this month we have a great opportunity to tell you about.
Lately, we’ve been thinking a lot about the nature of business....what a revelation it has been to discover how nearly every aspect of a small business—from capital to product—can serve a higher purpose. We’ve started calling this intention to repurpose every component of a small business our Big Idea.
Providence Granola joined the fun Saturday at the pop-up Buy With Heart Marketplace held at Brown University. The marketplace was hosted by the Social Enterprise Greenhouse and coincided with the 2016 SEEED (Social Enterprise Ecosystem for Economic Development) Summit in Providence.
My daughter made some cookies last month using Providence Granola's "Originola." They were delicious! I wanted to make similar cookies but I thought I'd taste all the granola flavors first. I decided I was most in love with the pistachio cardamom. This flavor was created by Providence Granola’s Iraqi (ethnically Assyrian) chef, Evon Nano, and it was marvelous.
Isaaq fled Somalia as a young man to a refugee camp in Ethiopia. He arrived in the United States in September last year, and in October, we welcomed him to the Providence Granola Project. Recently, we asked Isaaq's case manager at the local refugee resettlement agency Dorcas International Institute of RI--which refers refugees to us for job training--to talk to Isaaq about his experiences.
It seemed clear to our refugee staff and trainees that if a US senator would take time out of his busy schedule to visit us in our kitchen and extend a welcome, they must be doing something important.
“I’ve always been moved by the kindness of others, like the roommate I met on the train. And over my 20-plus years in the food industry, I’ve also seen how food can impact people’s lives and they can really grow in this career path. This was what attracted me to Beautiful Day and the Providence Granola Project. It gives refugees hope and a chance to pursue a path toward self-sustainability.
We started Beautiful Day knowing that refugees would not begin to feel at home in our city until they had real hope of making a living. Thanks to you, they are gaining hope and feeling at home.
We wish you and your family peace and joy this season. We hope you know the warmth and comfort of being truly home for the holidays.
“Where are you from and why did you come here, to Providence?” I ask him.
"It’s a bad situation in Congo." They traveled to find safety.
They ended up in a Ugandan refugee camp.
"How long were you there?”
"16-17 years," he says. But his wife interjects; “19 years,” she says.
It’s been a funny summer.
In February I went to LA and pulled out my back. I woke up. I yawned. I stretched. The two kind of overlapped. Then it was, uh oh, here we go.
Kathy had arranged to meet a friend at a burger place at Venice Beach, so we went early and I popped into a Chinese deep tissue massage stall I found on the Ocean Front walk. I’m not sure I’d recommend it (it’s the one near the muscle guys, not the more expensive upstairs place that requires an appointment). I pretty much cried my way through a 20 minute session. The guy actually placed the tip of his elbow between my vertebrae and pushed down on his fist in like he was staking a tent.
Are you happy with your job? Are you learning a lot?
Erneste informs me that he couldn’t be happier. Gervais is a very quiet man, even in his home environment; Erneste elaborates upon his three-worded answers and eyebrow expressions to carry the conversation.
As a first post to the Beautiful Day Blog, I’d like to recount my interview with a current member of the granola staff, Gervais. I met him one day at the Amos House kitchen where the granola is made, with the hope of getting to know him a little better. In no time at all, I had his eldest son Jerome on the phone, and had set up a meeting at his family’s home in Providence two days hence. Yikes! With no clue about how to conduct such a sensitive interview about a refugee’s life history, I set out for his house with shaking hands and very little confidence.
She worked with her mom in the family’s successful import-export business, travelling to China to purchase women’s apparel, a 1500-mile round trip, and then crossing back through Burma to sell her wares in India, another 500 miles. To earn enough commission, she made the trip 4 times a year, for three months at a time. Of those travels, she said the most dangerous part was crossing through her neighboring Chin state, where there was fighting between the government and Chin rebels. “The rebels had to fight the government, but it was hard to have a normal life.”
In 1991, when I first joined a refugee resettlement agency as a case manager, I was assigned to this family. They are Roma people from Romania, commonly referred to as “Gypsies.” In resettlement parlance at the time, they’d come to be referred to as “The Miserables.”
He has olive skin, jet black hair and speaks the same language as the people who carried out the 9/11 attacks. He is Muslim and his wife wears a scarf that covers all but her face. He is from a country that most Americans view as an enemy and he now lives in the US.
When he was young, he received an advanced degree and looked forward to a successful career. He got married and started a family. And then one day everything started to change. War had broken out across his homeland.
Welcome to Beautiful Day's Blog. This page features a selection of our most recent or most popular entries. You can visit our unabridged Blog dating back to 2009 here.