The Miserables, the Lost Boys and a Beautiful Day

This is me, Anne Dombrofski, Beautiful Day's new director of strategic partnerships.

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.” I hated that. Was this meant to recall the Hugo novel? By romanticizing them, were we to become more sympathetic to their plight? But we didn’t use the French. Then people would think we were talking about a musical, not a group of people.

At that time, as the Cold War was ending, wouldn’t it have been enough to say that, on top of enduring life as one of Europe’s most persecuted minorities, they had run from Ceausescu’s Romania, to any number of neighboring countries where they were equally unwelcome and somehow managed to gain a chance for resettlement? Shouldn’t we have called them “The Unbeatables” or “The Indestructibles”? Look at the strength in this mother’s eyes. That was another problem with the group name. We lost sight of the individuals.

Later in the nineties, another group was labeled, the “Lost Boys of Sudan.” Yes, they were a group of (thousands) of boys, forced to make it on their own without the aid of their parents. But what does a gruesome trek across over a thousand miles of South Sudanese desert in flight from civil war, followed by a decade-long wait in a refugee camp, have to do with Peter Pan? Far from aimless, these survivors had/have razor sharp focus on their goal: to gain an education and return to build their country. No Never Land here.


In this case, we caught the vision, and the group name—and the “boys” themselves--inspired a host of books and movies. Have you seen the latest ? But most importantly in this case, local communities and individuals rallied to their cause. Many of these (now) men have accomplished their goal of going to college. And some are, in fact, helping to build their new country. In this process, in their striving to realize their dream, all of them—and countless others—are helping to build our country.

What so many refugees want is to help build our country. And given the right opportunity, we can catch that vision and contribute to this growth. We have a name for this. We call it “Beautiful Day,” because it’s beautiful when a newcomer gains their first job and realizes they’re on the road to realizing their goal, OUR goal, to ensure we can keep building strong communities together.

I feel fortunate that we have a vehicle for accomplishing this. When you buy “granola with a mission," made with care by refugees in Providence, you’re helping revision refugee employment, and foster the integration of refugees in our communities. Maybe you just like the granola; mostly organic, non-GMO and locally sourced. You’re still a supporter. Maybe you’re not that into granola but love the mission. If we’ve managed to tickle your taste buds and also raise awareness, that’s the sweet spot. Either way, we can’t do this without you. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your thoughts and ideas for how this can work. And I’m so grateful to be part of this journey, with Beautiful Day and with you. 

Anne Dombrofski1 Comment