Posts in On-the-job training
The First Interview: Gervais Minani

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.

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This summer, on our annual visit to Cedar Point (a rollercoaster park in Ohio), I rode something called The Gatekeeper (you can virtually ride it here) which turned out to be an ideal apparatus to get better acquainted with my growing fear of heights. 

I, honestly, don’t get my fear of heights. Back in junior high, I seriously considered making a career out of getting girls to scream at me by standing at the edge of cliffs or ledges.  I once solved a lost key problem and impressed my now wife by scaling a 3-story apartment building and going in the skylight.  And enthralling as this fear may be, it doesn’t always pre-register in the cognitive part of my brain, which means I could look at The Gatekeeper, and think, goofily, sure why not.  It wasn’t until I was locked in and making the 170 foot initial ascent, that both my body and brain registered an entirely different take on the situation.

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We Don't Live in Amarillo

The other day, I spoke with Erneste Ntahondereye, one of the pillars of the 200-plus strong Burundian refugee community that has made Providence home. Erneste complained about all the Burundians moving to Amarillo, Texas, to work in the meat-packing factories. He’d gone to visit recently and was appalled. Parents were working, but refugee children were staying home or dropping out of school. There were minimal social services. He thumped his skull. “Their heads,” he said, “empty, empty!”

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Building an airborne vehicle mid-flight

I’ve heard start-up entrepreneurs describe their job as trying to build an airplane while it’s in flight.   Yeah, that feels about right too.  Maybe airborne vehicle.  Capable of crashing.  It would have been nice to design and build this thing on the ground first—but that would have taken the backing of a well-funded non-profit.  Or a functioning business could have shifted its mission from primarily making money to primarily training.  But these two sectors [small business manufacturing and non-profit adult ed agency] don’t typically cross paths.  They don’t think alike.  So they don’t tend to fund big initiatives that might be outside their primary mission.  Yet the only way I could imagine us being effective in our mission [to jumpstart refugees into the job market] was at their intersection.  So we’re a hybrid and we’re building and we’re in flight.

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Pinball, Haute Cuisine, and Holiday Giving

At Beautiful Day, we are sold on the importance of refugee resettlement in Rhode Island—not as charity, but as vital to the health, growth, compassion, diversity and joy of our community.  Sure, resettlement is expensive on the front end.  Ultimately, as refugees get jobs and get organized and integrate and eventually start businesses, it can be a sweet deal—a black Friday kind of deal for our state.  But only if they actually settle here.  And unless they see opportunities to contribute economically, refugees will not want to stay in Rhode Island.  This, of course, is one reason Beautiful Day exists.

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Ten reasons why PGP should fail (and why we don't intend to).

Every time you buy a bag of granola you are making an impact.  Every time you stop by a farmer's market and chat with one of our employees you are extending hospitality and helping teach English.  The donations, the encouragement, the tweets, the referrals, the advice, the gifts (like free table space at the Holiday Market), the access to resources (like Amos House), the Facebook mentions, the articles (and reporters who seek us out) and blog posts, big and small.  We've wanted to grow and move forward in a way that keeps us connected to the people who make it possible.  Talk about "watching out"!  Your involvement is watching out for us.

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