The Providence Granola Project Mission: Giving International Refugees a Boost in the Job Market

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Pictured here, mixing granola, is Evon Nano, a newly arrived refugee from Iraq. She has been in this country for 4 months. Keith works with her at the International Institute, which is a non-profit in Providence that assists with refugee resettlement. The Providence Granola Project was conceived as a way to give refugees a boost toward employability (and in the spirit of full disclosure, to make a little money).

The idea isn't long-term employment so much as a way to help people who have a lot of obstacles in their way get a foot in the job market--an initial experience, something on the resume. Our first employee was a woman originally from Burundi (via Tanzania) named Berita Ndizeeye. She has 9 children, plus a couple grandchildren, and arrived in Providence this past summer speaking no English and not literate in her own language (Kirundi). She's been attending ESL and Life Skills classes with us since she arrived. I wouldn't say she's learned much English, but she has a great attitude and she does manage to make herself understood when it's necessary. She helped us make our first large batch of granola. It was pretty comical. We weren't even sure if she understood why she was working or if we were paying her, but that didn't seem to matter. The granola came out better than ever. When Keith dropped her off afterwards, he went upstairs to check in with one of her kids who speaks more English to see if she had any questions. The only thing she wanted to know is if we'd hire her again.