Our trainees make an unlikely community. They differ in the languages they speak, the countries where they were born, and the ways they worship. They are women and men, some wearing jeans and others wearing hijabs. Some are college graduates, some never went to school…. Yet here they are caring for each other, supporting each other, sending a message that it is not only possible for people of different races, religions, and backgrounds to work together, but that there is incredible power, energy, and joy in doing so.
Refugee agencies across our country are closing. Support systems are failing. You sometimes hear people blaming refugees for the very evils they are trying to flee. And just as the number of refugees worldwide is increasing (70 million and counting, fully 1% of the world’s population), powerful voices in our own government are openly saying they hope to never see another refugee set foot on American soil. They don’t want to hear about refugees succeeding.
But once again, look at our faces. Joy is no less real. Celebration is our secret weapon. We celebrate the daily experience of seeing first-hand the resilience of refugees and the gifts they bring to our community. We celebrate a mission that is needed now more than ever. We celebrate a model of job training that is increasingly relevant. And we celebrate you, a growing team of partners who love and support what we are doing.
We’ve reached the heart of the giving season and like many of you, I sometimes have my laptop open while I’m finishing off the evening with Stephen Colbert, surfing for a gift that might have a special meaning. There are some cool things out there. Did you know that Boney M once put out a Christmas album? I wonder if I can locate an LP. And Amazon even has a Nic Cage throw pillow. In suede! Wow.
But if you’re looking for a meaningful gift, I do want to remind you about #teamgranola.
I first left home as a 6-year-old to attend boarding school at a beach town in Vietnam. I have memories of things like tear gas. I have one memory in particular of all of us kids from my boarding school standing outside where the breeze was strongest, against our chain-link fence, looking out at the brilliant ocean which was like a sheet of tinfoil in the sun, crying because of the gas. I distinctly remember NOT being sad—I remember it as an adventure. Sure it hurt. It was also very exciting.
We are living in a time when national divisions appear to be everywhere. Yet all of us want similar things: love, security, a roof over our heads, good things for our children. We really do speak with "one heart and one voice" when it comes to our most basic hopes and dreams. As Lincoln acknowledged, it is possible to find common ground around gratitude.
My family was laughing at me last night at dinner. I was telling them about the first ever roasting of Beautiful Day Ethiopian Yirgacheffe heirloom coffee. Maybe I was a little enthusiastic. Maybe I was acting as if roasting coffee was something new under the sun.
One thing I’ve learned about myself is that, probably because I grew up in a war, I tend to have an air-raid siren going off in my head. Sometimes it’s in the distance, other times not. Sometimes it fixates on the most trivial of things. We don’t always get to choose what’s in our heads. Maybe we don’t choose what we’re afraid of either.
A second, more slow-motion shock was the flood. A siren sounded before we left our Airbnb. By noon we were barefoot with rolled up pant legs and joking about getting “the real Venice experience.” But that wasn’t the end of it. The following morning there were heavy rains and wind and a much longer siren that meant most of the city could flood.
That was back in July and I've been chewing on this ever since. I’m pretty sure I intended to answer his question by complaining about how busy I am, how many hats I need to wear. These things are true and I say them all the time. Saying I lost my voice instead provoked me to think about what’s happening to or in me. Beautiful Day works with marginalized people who, for the most part, are hidden and voiceless—most obviously because they don’t speak English and don’t yet understand much about American culture…
We are proud to presenting our first Granola for Good Award to IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services) an organization that has been serving refugees in New Haven, Connecticut.
This award is the brainchild of our own board member Sandra Enos and it is made in memory of Anne Dombrofski, who many of you will remember was Beautiful Day’s first Director of Strategic Partnerships and before that the Director of Development at IRIS.
Multiple award-winning video takes you inside Beautiful Day (formerly Providence Granola Project) to hear directly from recent refugees on how making great food empowers them (and the larger community as well) by David H. Wells.
This one has a beautiful bird who neither sows or reaps or writes grants or makes granola or handles HR or IT. She’s openly vulnerable, glorious, somehow protecting or maybe just celebrating the lovers in their red refuge. (Egg? or nest? or—I know I read things into Chagall in part because he was a refugee. I’m taking it as that place of creative safety that so many refugees, and all of us who resonate with their experience, long for in our souls.)
It is with great pride that Keith and I share with you our ‘hot-off-the-press’ 2017 Annual Report. As you look through the pages, you will quickly notice that Beautiful Day has a lot to celebrate – yes, we are now five years old as a non-profit and stronger than ever.
First, a bit of background: I’m very new to Beautiful Day, joining the organization in late March after many (many) years in the for-profit world. Within my first few days with Beautiful Day, I had the opportunity to spend a shift in the kitchen, working with the trainees as they made our granola. I had no idea what to expect, but looked forward to the opportunity. I thought I’d take this opportunity to tell you about that night.
As many of you know, these are dark days for refugee resettlement. The Trump administration has capped admissions at 45,000—a historically rock-bottom number—and even this number is misleadingly high. Resettlement agencies are already experiencing significant budget cuts, and several dozen will be closing in the coming months.
This is an easy recipe, not too sweet, that showcases the tartness of the apples and fully-ripened Anjou pears. Beautiful Day granolas make this especially easy to assemble. It is a dessert that showcases the fruit, the grains, the dried fruits, and nuts.
Thank you for being our customers and partners in mission. Thanks for making it possible to do things like hire Iman to do exactly what he is best at. We’d love your (tax-deductible) donation during this season so we can continue to train refugees (23 this year) and employ some like Iman.
Many of us gathered here are inspired by the metaphor that a community functions as a body: made up of individuals yet creating a whole. If this is true, then we can't really know who we are unless we are thankful for those—the other body parts—around us. A hand can’t ever be a foot; but it will be a happier, more humble, more curious, more effective and real hand when it begins to depend on that foot. So that’s the invitation. The warning is that if we ever participate in marginalizing other people—or start thinking we don’t need them—then we distort both our sense of ourselves and our sense of humanity.
Beautiful Day is thrilled to be the recipient of a grant of nearly $50,000 from the Rhode Island Foundation designated towards hiring our first marketing and sales manager. Any marketing/sales geniuses out there? Working for an innovative non-profit social-venture is both challenging and satisfying (and awfully fun).
I feel dark sometimes, but I don’t feel paranoid. Beautiful Day is a tiny outpost on the periphery of the refugee galaxy and the US resettlement system, so nobody is out to get us, but we’ll need to be vigilant. Our mission is going to be harder and harder to sustain if only because there will be fewer and fewer refugees arriving in the US, and thus in Providence. Meanwhile, the world population of refugees is growing rapidly.
She was talking about how some of the metaphors that working moms rely on like “a juggling act” serve them so poorly because who would ever want to live a life of constantly throwing the things you care most about in life up in the air and then trying to catch them again. The alternative she proposed was “composing a life," which right away made me wonder if I could ever approach my work as composing or maybe creating a big art-project.
What are the stakes if the United States turns its back on the refugees of the world? I expect a vicious cycle: increased generation of refugees, increasing retention of refugees in some of the world's poorest countries who are least equipped to care for them, increased hopelessness of these populations, increased turning to radical anti-western solutions, decreased exposure in our communities to refugees, decreased empathy and understanding..
On Thursday, March 30th among many of our friends, partners and supporters, Beautiful Day has unveiled its new brand... Our special gratitude goes to the United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse for joining us and speaking so passionately about the importance of diversity and inclusiveness.
When we first decided to re-brand I’ll confess I thought of re-branding as clothes shopping. Since our clothes were getting old, we needed to do what people do especially in our culture: get out to Old Navy or Macy’s and get some new ones. A new logo. Some new labels. A new web site. New colors.
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.