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. Now she’s has the joy of cooking for you!
It has been about 3 weeks since Nzitonda and Faranswazi started in the kitchen, but we are just getting our introduction to you now, largely because we wanted to get to know our new trainees a bit ourselves before introducing them to you.
Nzitonda is from the DRC (Democratic Republic of 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 our trainee intro in Sept. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Safari 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.
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.
Iman keeps the team smiling while making granola; he sings Somali songs, jokes and gets his work done. His English is very limited, and he has NO formal education; but he is smart! He says “In my country the say that people with five fingers will find a way to understand each other’; Iman exemplifies this as he always finds something to do to help around the kitchen and in preparing the ingredients. He has picked up on all duties and responsibilities quickly.
Iman arrived in the USA in May 2016. Iman knew about PGP because his niece previously worked at PGP. Iman wanted to do the training because he knew he needed to learn skills for work in the USA. He is grateful for how he was welcomed in the team and thanks them from the bottom of his heart for the opportunity that can lead far into the future; he jokes that he could one day be the owner of granola.
Amina, 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].”
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.