Hi fearless granola eaters,

In the growing craziness of December, Geoff and I were talking about our mission, so I took a few minutes to look back through the list of everyone who has worked in our little granola factory to date.

So far we’ve employed 22 people.

  • 19 had never held a job before in the United States.
  • 11 had minimal English—meaning they understood little more than greetings
  • 6 were not literate in their own language
  • 1 was a college grad with computer expertise

Of these 22

  • 13 moved on to full-time jobs
  • 1 (a high school student) moved on to a part-time job
  • 4 presently work part-time jobs while continuing to work with us (1 is now our manager, another is in training to take over the shipping and data management).
  • 1 moved and we don’t know if he’s working
  • 1 left because she went on disability
  • 1 started her own business and is still (unsuccessfully) trying to leave
  • 1 we just hired this week

Our newest employee, Lian Cung (last name is pronounced Tchoung), is a new arrival originally from the Chin province of Burma. He lived in Malaysia for a while after fleeing Burma and before being offered the opportunity to resettle in Providence.He has a wife and, I’m guessing a two year old—which I only know because they accompanied him to his first day on the job.It was all quite comical since I’d given him a map that he obviously couldn’t read and my phone number and the two of us were playing an unintentional game of hide and seek on streets around the kitchen.(I usually ask new employees to find the kitchen on their own as an initial challenge and learning opportunity.I wonder if he brought his wife because she’s more comfortable with maps.)He finally found a passerby (who had a thick accent I could barely grasp and a kind heart) who read the street signs to me over the phone so I could locate him.We all had a big laugh; I think the passerby had as much fun as I did.

Lian replaces Pa Say who found a full time job without staying with us long enough for me to even get a picture.Lian’s a very slight man, but he seemed to have no problem stirring the 125 pound batch of granola that sometimes gives me a backache for a week.Evon, our kitchen manager, loves it when I hire Burmese—because, as she puts it, “he does good work.He works hard.He works fast.” Honestly, you don't need to speak a lot of English if those are your credentials.

It is especially fascinating to be working with Burmese during the very week that our Secretary of State was making the first official US visit to Burma in over a half-century.Seeing Clinton hugging Aung San Suu Kyi on the evening news nearly took my breath away.I’m probably not allowed to use these pictures but I love them too much not to put them up here just for a few days.

Thanks for enjoying your granola and being part of this adventure.



Top picture: (msnbc)

Bottom picture: (usa today)

Written by Keith and Geoff

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