Home for the Holidays
We hope this photo makes you smile, and gives you a moment to reflect:
Devote is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She’s told us a tiny bit about the years since she fled Congo to Rwanda when her village was burned down by a raiding rebel militia. For 17 years she was constantly on guard to stay ahead of this same militia as it raided the refugee camp where her two sons (now ages 15 and 9) were born. “All that time,” she said, “we just wanted to go home.”
Siyad and his family fled the turmoil of Somalia and waited 19 years in Dada’ab refugee camp in Kenya. There, his children were born, and his wife died. Somehow he found the strength to carry on. He and his three children arrived here in July. I think you can probably sense from this picture, the kind of contagious joy he brings to our granola shifts.
Vivian (sister of our chef, Evon, center), training to be our new administrative assistant, is an Assyrian Christian from Iraq. She survived the bomb blast which killed her husband. At a staff meeting a couple weeks ago she told us, “Really, I’m so happy for my job. This is like a second home to me.”
A second home! Is that possible? I grew up on the move. I was born in a war-zone (in Vietnam) and attended a different school in a different country nearly every year of my childhood. While I will never understand all the challenges of being a refugee, I resonate with questions about home: where do I feel safe? Where do I feel like I belong?
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.
Right from the beginning we’ve noticed ways our mission was bigger than our mission statement. Our employees relax and begin to laugh. They seem to learn English more quickly. Those with a very limited circle of contacts begin interacting with their community and to look out for each other despite their differences in race, ethnicity, language, religion, and educational backgrounds.
Customers and supporters started to take a personal stake in extending hospitality (sometimes even jobs!) to refugees. And, in an interesting sort of reversal, making and selling granola became a way for our refugee employees to extend hospitality to you, their new community.
2015 has been such a great year for us. We’re learning and growing. Our vision is deepening. Our products and market are beginning to expand along with the number of refugees we work with. We can hardly keep ahead of holiday sales. We’ve moved out of crisis mode and begun to build capacity. Soon we will need to think about plans for leasing our own kitchen.
Of course, it has also been a sobering year as the number of displaced people in the world surpassed 60 million and nearly a million of them set out on a journey to seek safety in Europe. The recent traumas of Paris and San Bernardino have exposed a lot of hidden fear of the stranger. Love or fear? Fear or love? We all have choices to make. But I can’t think of a single person who is friends with a refugee who is afraid. That right there is good reason to press on with our work.
Thankfully, we’re entering the season of love and hospitality—and, as it happens, the season of donation appeal letters. We know that we are one of many worthy causes asking for your support. And this year, much to our amazement, we’ve started receiving donations before we could even get this appeal out! What an encouraging reminder that our supporters are real partners (donors as well as customers, volunteers, advisors, champions, and encouragers).
We’re grateful for your partnership. And we know that you’re invested in this endeavor to empower people like Devote, Siyad, and Vivian to find work and settle into their new home.
Thank you. 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.