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Posts Tagged ‘providence’

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Photo: The Providence Journal / David DelPoio
Refugee campers line up for lunch beneath a portrait of George Washington at Camp RYSE in Providence. The camp is specifically targeted to cater to refugee children.

I work with refugees and other immigrants as a volunteer in Providence, and I thought I knew about most of the refugee initiatives there. Then along came a Providence Journal article about a summer camp for refugee kids that reminded me I am still learning.

Kevin G Andrade reports, “If you sit down with Jetu Neema in the Highland Charter School cafeteria this summer, you are likely to get a quick and enthusiastic Swahili lesson.

” ‘Jena laka nani? [What is your name?]’ she asked the Journal reporter at Camp RYSE Tuesday afternoon, before teaching him how to respond. ‘Jena langu nina etwa … [My name is…]’

“Though energetic and friendly, as children tend to be, those at RYSE — an acronym for Refugee Youth Solidarity through Education — all have one thing in common. They are refugees from war, disaster or dictatorship all over the world. …

“Tanzania — which has had a relatively stable government compared with those of its neighbors such as Mozambique, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo — has hosted many refugees over the years according to Bienfait Jaigado, a 14-year-old junior camp counselor whose family came to the U.S. after escaping unrest in Burundi about 5 years ago.

” ‘I was little, I did not know why we were coming,’ Jaigado said, a common story among campers who knew only that they and their parents had to leave their homes. … ‘I was getting bullied a lot in school [when I immigrated] because of my skin color and … basically because I was new and did not know the language.’ …

“Jaigado said that when he came to the camp as a camper, it was a cathartic experience that made him want to give other refugee children the same opportunity.

‘All I know from my first days in camp is that I felt welcome,’ he said. ‘In camp, people were respectful of my race and my traditions.’ …

“Beginning in 2011 as the Brown Refugee Youth Tutoring Initiative, the RYSE program’s mission is two-fold, to provide a safe space for refugee children and to catch them up on education they may have missed out on due to the chaos of life. …

“The camp includes classes in the mornings that focus on improving literacy and mathematics skills to prepare the students for entering the next grade level. Yet the courses also make sure to incorporate folklore and history from the dozens of languages, cultures, and nations represented there. …

“RYSE also concentrated on hiring support staff from the communities where the children live to offer additional support to the campers and their families.

” ‘We work with translators from the community,’ said Donia Torabian, the camp’s director of family and community outreach. ‘We try to hire drivers from the community … It is exhausting, but it is work that fills your soul.’ ”

More here.

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What is so rare as a day in June? I wish I could capture it all. With photos, one can express delight in terms of light and shadow, but how to convey the way the air feels and the breeze? Or the effect of wraparound birdsong, the smell of white pine and hemlock, warm pavement, and the spicy fragrance of verbena and lilac. So different from even a month ago.

A really fun thing that happens around here in June is the Arlington Porchfest, in which a changing array of local bands perform on residents’ front steps. Above you see the versatile Will McMillan wearing one of his many musical hats. This particular hat is as leader of a pickup ukulele band that meets every week at the library. Wonderful old-time songs. People of all ages singing along under the shade of the trees.

You can see I’m also loving the peonies of June, the poppies, the rhododendrons, and the last of the azaleas. By the way, what is that fuzzy blue star in our yard? We have it such a short time, and it always makes me smile.

The Pink Lady Slippers, one step away from endangered, collect in small groupings in the conservation woodlands. I’m always thrilled to see them as I know they require very special growing conditions and are becoming increasingly rare.

The wonderful mural of wings is in an area sometimes called Upper South Providence, near Classical High School. The colorful art really cheers things up in that neighborhood.

And speaking of art, Concord Art has an excellent retrospective on the oeuvre of Susan Maxfield, who died last month. She worked in an impressive array of media. I especially loved her peonies and teasels, but the only photo I took was of the chair with the amusing title, “Benjamin Moore Sample Paint Colors Peony Chair, 2017.”

And I shot the museum’s stairwell with its the peony arrangement at the bottom.

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031119-lobster-on-ice

The quirky Frog & Toad shop on Hope Street carries a variety of these funny metal creatures. This lobster on ice is an especially good one for New England.

Most weeks when I am in Providence, I volunteer at Dorcas International Tuesday morning and at the Genesis Center Tuesday afternoon. Last week, because Dorcas was doing its standardized testing, I had the morning off and decided to stop in at the Swedish-themed shop called Café Choklad and then at the nearby Rhode Island School of Design Museum. Here are a few photos of that morning and another day of Providence wandering.

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I lifted this from Beautiful Day, an organization I’d like you know about if you don’t already.

Founder Keith Cooper writes, “A couple months ago a guy named Scott Axtmann brought a great group of interns from his church (Renaissance) to visit our kitchen facility at Amos House. We did the things we usually do — greeted the trainees, chatted with our chef and other staff, then sat out in the dining hall to talk more about mission and share thoughts about resettlement, the job market, and being a part of positive change in our city.

“This is an aside — but if you live in driving distance of Providence and are interested in our work, you should stop by for this kind of tour. Plan to come after 5 on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. If possible give us a couple weeks warning. A tour doesn’t take long, but seeing something with your own eyes usually takes the strangeness out of it. I know we are intense and painstaking about the way we make granola, but making granola is still not rocket-science. Neither is job training. What I always find mysterious in our kitchen (though I know we’ve also been painstaking about creating this atmosphere too) is the laughter shared by a group of trainees and staff who don’t even share a language. This is always the thing that reassures me that we are doing something right. But please take this as an open invitation. These tours are part of our mission to connect more people with refugees. Our organization may lack a lot of things, but we’re rich in relationships with former refugees and would love to share our wealth with you.

“Anyway, during that tour Scott challenged me in the style some faith leaders have perfected—encouragement that leads to self discovery. In this case, he created space for me to say something I hadn’t intended to say. The gist went something like this:

Scott (to the interns): Keith writes a [something flattering here] blog for Beautiful Day about immigration and refugee resettlement.

Me (grimacing): Oh thanks Scott. Actually I’ve hardly been writing anything this year.

Scott: Really? Why not? You should be. [Then, to the interns, some thoughts about how critical it is for people of faith to welcome refugees and what a privilege it is. Scott has a contagious enthusiasm about our city that I love.]

Me: Honestly, I feel like I’ve lost my voice over this last year. I’m really struggling with it.

Scott: You had better get it back.

“Then suddenly we all had to go.

“That was back in July and I’ve been chewing on this ever since. I’m pretty sure I intended to answer his question by complaining about how busy I am, how many hats I need to wear. These things are true and I say them all the time. Saying I lost my voice instead provoked me to think about what’s happening to or in me. Beautiful Day works with marginalized people who, for the most part, are hidden and voiceless — most obviously because they don’t speak English and don’t yet understand much about American culture, but also because they’ve had experiences of being chased away, silenced, discarded, warehoused. We live in a country that has welcomed them, yet is also growing more ambivalent and sometimes openly hostile to them. I believe we all have something critical to learn from these voices.

“So how can I possibly advocate for voiceless people if I don’t have a voice myself?

“And another thought: isn’t saying I’m voiceless another way of saying I’m afraid. What am I afraid of?

“But, okay, Scott. Thank you both for the compliment and the invitation to think. Here’s my idea. I’ll try to start writing more often. I know I need to do this right now if only because we are heading into the holiday season when we hope (need!) to sell about 75,000 dollars of granola in 3 months. These sales are vital to our training program, so I need to be connecting and resonating with our customers.

“(And, a sideways invitation here: as part of this sales initiative, we are currently launching efforts to increase traffic to our website. Part of what helps attract traffic is interaction, so if you appreciate anything in this blog and what Beautiful Day is doing, please speak up and comment either here or on our Facebook or Instagram feeds. It’s okay if you disagree as a long as you’re not trolling. A voice isn’t very real until it’s in dialogue.)

“Along the way, maybe I can try to figure this out by writing it out. I know one of my fears is that I just can’t write an Inc-style business post where I try to play the confident hipster entrepreneur and wax eloquent on how great our product is, how well we are doing, how hard we work, and which fancy apps we use. Something about who I am and about working with voiceless people makes that impossible. Nor can I promise that it will be consistent or coherent or polished. It will need to just come out of what’s in my head at that moment with what time I’ve got available. But I’ll give it a try. Maybe I’ll rely on some of the internet’s favorite formats like top 10 lists. But I’ll try to let it be a real voice. I suspect I’m not the only one trying to retrieve theirs these days.”

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082518-surfing-Crescent-Beach

Summer has its own pace — sometimes slow and sleepy, sometimes fast and exhausting. The grandchildren like to go-go-go. The older folks wouldn’t mind taking a nap every day.

This photo collection starts out with my energetic older grandson, who learned to surf this summer. Suzanne tried it, too, because John bought her a surfing lesson for her birthday. She says her nephew was really a natural.

Today’s pictures are all from Providence and New Shoreham.

Suzanne’s neighbor has the goofy fairy houses, and the elegant used bookstore Paper Nautilus is also near her home.

The Painted Rock is a beloved island feature — too beloved these days. People paint over one another’s messages within hours, and even a decent picture gets no respect. There were few decent pictures this year, mostly spray painted graffiti.

On our morning walk, Sandra and I snuck up on the bird that was visiting the Manissean cemetery, thinking we’d get a great shot of a heron. You have probably already realized it was only a cormorant. But what a cormorant was doing in the cemetery is anybody’s guess.

I wrap up with a pre-dawn view. “The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.” (Wish I’d written that myself.)

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060918-piano-recital-Arlington

Everything happens in June — suddenly urgent yardwork, weddings, anniversaries, graduations, Father’s Day, piano recitals, festivals, youth baseball. Sometimes there are two things you want to attend in two different states happening at the same time. That’s June for you. We could use a little of that weekend excitement in other months. (Blogger New England Nomad said almost the same thing. See the comments in his post.)

Above, my oldest grandson performs “Blue Interlude” and “Love Me Tender” for a piano recital in a setting with a delightful Old World feel.

Next are three photos from the annual Middlesex Jazz Festival in Concord. I especially liked watching the intrepid couple that got up to swing dance.

On the same Saturday as the piano recital and the jazz festival, I drove south to Providence for the hugely popular PVD Fest that Suzanne had been telling me about the last couple years: streets given over to pedestrians, performers of all kinds, costumes, food, fun activities for kids. I saw a lot of people wearing flower garlands in their hair and several in Native American dress.

It was a busy day. I slept well that night.

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Photo: John May / Team Williams LLC
The Shower to Empower Trailer offers showers, haircuts, & medical services to people experiencing homelessness in Providence, Rhode Island.

Yay, Rhode Island! Good idea!

I am told that if you ask homeless people about their immediate needs, one of the things you will hear is that they long for a way to take a shower.

Talia Blake of Rhode Island public radio reports on what Providence is doing about that aspect of homelessness.

“Providence has launched a mobile unit to give showers, haircuts, and medical services to residents who are homeless. … After seeing a trailer in the Midwest that was giving showers to the homeless, and a YoutTube video of a barber in the UK giving a homeless individual a shower, entrepreneur Bret Williams thought ‘why not do that in my home state of Rhode Island and take it a step further?’

“Williams, along with nonprofit homeless service organization House of Hope and city of Providence, launched what they’re calling the Shower to Empower mobile navigation unit. Attached to the back of a pickup truck, the trailer has two individual showers, heated floors, an area for haircuts, and an enclosed private medical space. …

” ‘The Empower message comes from the showers and haircuts. Being able to help them best better their situation, restore dignity, restore pride, you know their outlook on the day, on their life,’ said [John May, from Williams’ LLC Team Williams]. At the beginning, the trailer will be parked in areas around Providence for three to four hours a day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with five staff members.

“According to a report in December by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than a thousand individuals in Rhode Island are homeless.”

I once interviewed Jean Johnson, founder of the above-mentioned House of Hope Community Development Corporation, for my old magazine. What an inspiring woman! She’s retired now, but this effort sounds like something she would have loved to see implemented, although her ultimate goal was always to get people housed.

Listen to the audio version of the story here.

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