This month we introduce Beatrice. Like many high-schoolers, Beatrice wants to be her own person. She likes being trusted to do the right thing and having some independence. She brightens when talking about her (honors!) pre-calculus class and dancing at a local teen club. She also thinks about the future: college, making her mark in the world, making her mom proud, while also being able to, as she puts it, "breathe."
Not always so easy when living between two cultures.
Beatrice grew up in Congo Brazzaville after fleeing DR Congo with her mother and older brother. Her vivid first memories of being resettled in RI in 2015 include being picked up at the airport, eating a meal, and then suddenly being alone on a 3rd floor apartment. While she hated walking to school alone and being picked on as "the new girl who didn't know English," she eventually made a best friend.
Beatrice feels sad that she'll soon be graduating from our program-but we're pretty proud of her. Especially with her strong math skills and growing experience in customer service, we think she's ready to take on the world.
Born in Kulumbi, DRC, Elelwa had childhood goals for a better life. She went to school until 6th grade, then started work at 12. When she was 19, men came to her house and killed her brother-in-law. Her husband jumped out of the window and she ran with her 1 month old in her arms. In Goma, a priest helped them get to a camp Tanzania but it was full, so they found another in Malawi where they lived for 9 years.
Asked how it felt to be in Rhode Island, Elelwa says that she is happy. The family lives in a small apartment, but it is a start.
Elelwa’s attempts to find a job haven’t worked out, so she came to Beautiful Day to “learn the basics and get some confidence in her abilities.” She feels hopeful making granola. “We are a team, we are all refugees and we help each other.” She says she can now start thinking about her childhood goals again: a house to live in, a car, plus an education for her children.
Afisa lived on a Tanzanian refugee camp with her husband and children for 6 years. Wanting to improve their living conditions, they moved to Mozambique with the help of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission of Refugees), which gave them food rations for a short time. While there they worked with the local residents to cultivate rented land, which fed their family and enabled them to sell the extra. Eventually they started their own small shop. Afisa is most proud to mention that her children never went hungry and never had to steal to eat, and that she made sure her eldest daughter finished school before getting married.
Afisa was unable to go to school as a child, due to fleeing war in Burundi and living in many places in Tanzania. For this reason she is adamant that her children, especially the girls, will be educated. She knows that education and opportunity are connected.
Afisa never knew of granola before her time at Beautiful Day. She says that since starting the training she has learned ‘how to use time’ and how to organize, arrange and use storage in her home. She does it ‘just like granola’.
One program Beautiful Day started piloting this year involves job training for a few teenage refugee students who want to learn how help pay the family bills.
We’re proud to introduce Ingabire Monique who first learned about Beautiful Day because her father started his career as a trainee. For the last few months she’s been helping run the ? farmers’ market.
Monique was born in a camp in Tanzania and grew up along with 5 siblings in another camp in Mozambique. Her childhood memories are a window into what millions of warehoused refugees experience: “You don’t know where your next meal is coming from, or where you are going; or even if you will be able to go have a new life.”
Monique remembers the fear of not having choices, but also says that none of this matters anymore, “Because I am from Providence now!” As a senior at Central High School, she loves learning, likes earning some money, and volunteers to help other refugees at a local non-profit. She will be attending college next year.
If you worked alongside Furaha in our kitchen, you’d notice how warm, vibrant, and funny she is. And how well she communicates. Despite never attending school she already helps us explain things in Swahili to fellow Congolese trainees.
But she carries heartache too. She was attacked by men with guns at the market where she was working. She mostly remembers the utter confusion and constant running that, in the end, left her in Tanzania with one child, separated from the rest of her family, including another child. She married another refugee there. Her
Furaha likes working because she is deeply sad when alone. She still hopes to find her parents, brothers, sisters, and a child who would now be 13. She is happy to sleep safely and not hear gunshots, and she says she wants a life of peace and love.
So much is new for Furaha in her third country (the USA). She has been introduced to ESL classes and new foods, including granola, which she proudly brings home to her family and serves to guest⠀⠀⠀⠀
Like many of our recent trainees Mwarvita is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She and her husband knew each other growing up, married at 17 and farmed. They fled violence in 1996 and spent 20 years at a refugee camp in Tanzania where they found it painful to live by depending on rations and the help of others. She arrived with her family of 10 in 2016.
There have been many firsts to conquer in the US: schedules, school, now going to this production training for the first time. Because of the holidays we are now working extra days and double shifts--Mwarvita smiles through it all.
Mwarvita first learned about Beautiful Day through her son, Safari, who trained with us until he got a full-time job at a hotel (where he continues to work). Mwarvita will be looking for work when she finishes training with us.
When Aamina first saw pictures of Rhode Island—her new home to be—they were tourist shots taken in the summer. Imagine her surprise when, just one a year ago this month, she arrived in cold air and barren trees. She laughed and told us how happy she was to discover that our state does indeed turn warm and green.
Aamina trained as a nurse in Mogadishu but then fled Somalia to Thailand in 2013 where she took care of herself by cleaning houses and offices and learning how to sew.
Aamina knows that she may never, as she puts it, “do what I love,” and that’s her dream of becoming a nurse. Aamina wants you to know that she is motivated and hard-working. She is a problem solver, quick to take initiative, glad to be a part of a team, and determined to make others feel welcome. She’s still learning English, but her passion is exceptional. We are lucky to have her as part of the Beautiful Day kitchen crew.
Solaire, like many of our trainees this year, is from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She’s also the daughter of our recent graduate, Sifa. Her family, along with their entire village, fled a devastating war in the DRC with help of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission on Refugees). Solaire was 6 years old when she began the rest of her childhood in a refugee camp in Uganda. Her memories of the camp included working at a small store selling clothes and always contributing to the family.
Solaire is now 18 and a junior at the local high school. It strikes us how open and trusting and eager she is. She’s still learning English, keen to do well at school, and equally determined to work. Solaire sought out our training because she’s determined to get a job while attending school. This is so she can help to pay the rent and bills for their family.
Sifa is a patient woman. She inquired about our training in January but did not start until June. Her only complaint so far is that it won’t continue as the full time job she’s seeking. “A good job with a decent wage will mean having money to plan for better things in life.”
She grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo where she married and had 3 children. Her husband had a good job inspecting slaughtered animals before sale, but then he fell through a roof and injured his back. In 2005, when her family found safety in Uganda, Sifa became the family’s breadwinner by selling clothes, vegetables, fish and meats at markets. She only started learning English when she moved to the USA and entered an ESL class. Her English is impressive for a new learner.
Sifa is learning the importance of efficiency and initiative in the American workforce. Her time at Beautiful Day has jumpstarted her job search. She’s already had her first interviews.
This month we’re happy to feature our new (paid) summer intern. She’ll be learning to sell granola at a farmers’ markets and creating original content (pictures and videos) for our social media.
Marie, (15) from DRCongo, is part of a family of 8 that arrived in 2014 via Uganda and Thailand. Marie considers herself a young activist devoted to feminism, equal rights, and assisting refugees through trauma and resettlement. While Marie considers herself an outgoing person who loves History and is excited to call the USA home, one of her biggest adjustments involved starting at a big high school with a different teacher for every subject. This was pretty intimidating at first, but now she’s adapting and finding her voice again. She realizes that she lives with a foot in two cultures: one in her American high-school, the other in the African culture, music, movies and connections of community/family. She is an impressive young woman and we feel lucky to have her.
Originally from the Congo, Solange lived in Uganda before being resettled in Arizona. She moved to Providence in July of 2016 with her seven kids and husband.
It’s clear meeting Solange that she is an effusive ball of energy and positivity. She is determined to work hard to support her family. She recounted her experiences farming in Uganda and her completion of a childcare certification program in Arizona. Solange has been pleasantly surprised by the support her family received in Providence..
A month into her experience in the kitchen, Solange overcame her initial fears after hearing her co-workers applaud her work ethic. Now that she’s learned to make and pack granola, she’s getting additional experience by weighing all the ingredients for production. This has made her excited about testing out her own recipes at home. In the future, Solange hopes to complete childcare training, so that she can work and still prioritize her family.
Nzitonda is from the D.R. Congo. Nzitonda spent 20 years at a Ugandan refugee camp before coming to Rhode Island in 2016. He is the brother to our recent graduate Uzamakunda (featured in September 2016).
Our trainees come to us as the most vulnerable who do not have prospects of working right away due to low English language skills, job skills. Nzitonda is one of our especially vulnerable because he has never attended school of any kind; this often makes for a shyness and reticence to jumping into the production with full force. Nzitonda started out cautiously, but had the willingness to learn. After a couple months he is now taking more initiative and even taking on learning one of the hardest and most important tasks, mixing the granola dry ingredients with the syrup.
Nzitonda has become part of a reliable team, and will be one of the leaders with Faranswazi as we bid farewell to granola graduates Maha and Murekatete to take on new trainees.
UPDATE: We're happy to report that he has a full-time position that helps his family with financial independence.
Amina (right), who started training in January, arrived with her family in Providence in May of 2016 via the Yemeni refugee camp where she grew up. She was recommended to our program to overcome shyness which employers can interpret as low confidence. She has enough schooling to read and write Arabic, and speaks Somali and some English (at barely audible levels). Perhaps because she’s the oldest of 5, she welcomes responsibilities and from the start was a pro at making granola bars.
Amina told me (via interpreter) that she wants to be a doctor for children, or work with computers on programs to help non-English speakers. When I suggested that she might have been scared to start working, she set me straight: “Just shy, not scared.”
Clearly she is a thinker. When I asked what she would want others to know about her she said, “That I am a good person, that I watch my time. I am always thinking to the future and pushing through [any barriers].”
Meet Murekatete. At 7, her family in DR Congo scattered. She and a brother landed in Gihembe Refugee Camp in Rwanda for 18 years, before coming to Rhode Island in June of 2015. Her brother says “We left our first life, now we are on our second.”
Murekatete speaks a lot about being safe, people helping her, especially with her health. For the first time since primary school, she began attending school (ESL class).
And now Murekatete is starting her first job. She had NEVER worked, and never heard of granola before, but claims she loves the taste and the process of making it. Through an interpreter, she told us she was unsure about taking orders from a boss, but the boss (Evon) is there to “help you learn and do things better.” We’ve enjoyed seeing Murekatete coming out of her shell. She said she likes to ‘learn and do’; she is doing a lot of that at Beautiful Day.
The holidays are awesome because we’re super busy. We’ve been making over 750 pounds of granola, bars, and nuts per week—more than twice our usual haul!
For Faranswazi who joined us 3 weeks ago, it means long shifts, a larger training stipend, more English practice, and a glimpse of a more stable future as she learns to label and pack granola.
Like many of our recent trainees Faranswazi is from the Democratic Republic of Congo and spent the last 15 years in a camp in Rwanda before arriving in Providence this last August. She already has friends in the project. Murekatate (featured last month) is now able to help translate for her. And Media (featured in July) is her daughter-in-law
Evon, our kitchen manager, is happy about Faranswazi’s ability to engage with the process of cooking. While women who with children often have the highest job-entry barriers, they’ve also been cooking and caring for their families—which provides a context for this job. She has the joy of cooking for you!
UPDATE: We’re happy to report that Faranwaszi is now working as a hospital custodian.
A few weeks ago in our e-newsletter we told you about Maha, who just joined us in the kitchen. She prefers not to be photographed, so we tried to show her at work without showing her face. Maybe a candid photo like this is better anyway.
Maha arrived from Syria, via Jordan, just two months ago with her brother and his family. When we asked her what she likes about her work at the Providence Granola Project, she looked over at Evon and smiled; when her boss is happy, she’s happy, she says. Evon’s smile keeps her going. Evon is quick to advise that it’s not about your boss, that she has to like the work because you can’t always please your boss. Nonetheless, it’s clear Evon is a big reason Maha is enjoying her very first paid job.
Maha’s mother died when she was 11 and she spent her younger years caring for seven siblings and her grandmother. In so many ways, she’s starting a new life here.
In fact, Evon is pleased with Maha’s progress. Maha has learned quickly and now knows granola production from beginning to end. She’s emphatic that she thinks it tastes great, too. And she’s glad so many other people like it. She wanted us to say, “Thank you!” for buying and eating the granola she makes.
Safari (top right) hardly remembers his homeland, having left as a three year-old. He thinks of himself as Tanzanian; grew up in the Nyarugusu refugee camp--one of the world's largest--outside Kigoma. The camp has become an increasingly dangerous place for the more than 140,000 refugees who wait there. For this reason, Safari is grateful that his family--father, brothers and sisters--will be joining him in a few weeks. Only 1,300 refugees were resettled from this camp last year. Safari arrived three months ago, the first in his family, and has been anxiously seeking a job.
Amidst the chaos of camp life, Safari had managed to secure a job in Kigoma working for a local businessman as an architectural artist. He also became a barber.
We told you Uzamukunda's name means "you will be loved." Safari's name in Swahili, originally from the Arabic "safara," means "a journey." And it has been a long journey for him. We're so glad Safari has joined us. Stay tuned next month to learn about Laurent.
We caught up with Uzamukunda in the kitchen last Tuesday to find out how she’s doing learning job readiness and granola making skills. Her friend, and one of our newest employees, Aline Binyungu, provided interpretation. We asked Uzamukunda what she likes best about her work. She responded that she really likes working on a team, and not only working together, but also during break when they share a meal, six of them from four different countries. Carroll Webb, our Director of Operations and Training, says that Uzamukunda has now mastered all the tasks involved in granola production. She knows what’s next without having to be told and does her job with gusto. She says her favorite part of the process is mixing the dry grains with the wet honey, oil and spice mixture… and then the end of the night when the finished product has been packaged and goes into the fridge! Most of all, Uzamukunda says she’s just happy to be working, not sitting at home, and that her children are in school and she’ll soon have a job. Thank you for helping to give her hope. We hope you enjoy this happy picture of the whole team at the end of their shift.
This is Media, from the town of Bunagana, in the southeast corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1999, when she was just a girl of seven, she and her family were forced to flee their home due to the Congolese Civil War. Media grew up in the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Uganda, about 300 miles from home. There, she learned to grow vegetables on her family’s small plot of land.
Ten years later, she met and married her husband, Sam. Together they hoped for a better life, either to return to the Congo, or to build their future in another country. In 2011, their son was born, and last year, their daughter. Then, in November, they learned they would be resettled. They arrived in the US in December.
Media tried granola for the first time this week, her first day on the job at the Providence Granola Project. She giggled as she agreed with her new Somali coworker that, “granola is very good.” And she loves her new job. She only wishes she could work more hours so she could earn more to support her family. You can see the strength and determination in her eyes.
Thank you for supporting Media as she learns critical job skills that will position her well for her first job in the US.