Angoo and Lisa Carrino brought dessert from the Round House Bakery. Lisa, co-owner of the Round House Cafe and also Pompanuck Farms, brings her artistry to bear on muffins, cookies, cakes and cupcakes. Angoo helped her bring them from the bakery to the Round House where we were having dinner. Nice stuff. The kids are going to eat well on this retreat. More later.
When it got dark, it was my turn to tell scary stories by the campfire. These kids have seen a lot, and do not impress easily, but I found two stories I liked and read them aloud, and also told them the true story of Vlad The Impaler, the inspiration for the Dracula Legend.
I think that shook them up. Ali told ghost stories from Egypt, and Maria told ghost stories from Long Island. We sat there for two hours, I was cold and tired, they were just warming up. I think they will be up in their yurt for a long time.
This retreat was funded by the Army of Good, and I have started a Children's Refugee Fund to raise money for activities like this one, and also for scholarships for gifted refugee children seeking extra instruction in their passions – music, art, computing, whatever.
The Army Of Good has also funded a trip for some refugee children to the Great Escape Adventure Park at Lake George in less than a month.
So far, we have raised more than $1,500. I've opened a special bank account to keep the money separate and Ali will bring me ideas for meeting the many needs of these children, whose parents often come to our country with nothing. We are funding birthday parties, summer trips to lakes and parks, soccer uniforms, and hopefully, specially classes or tutoring as needed and desired.
If you wish to contribute, you can do so by donating to the Children's Refugee Fund, c/o Jon Katz, Bedlam Farm, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y, 12816 or donating in any amount to Paypal Friends and Family, firstname.lastname@example.org. These children have suffered greatly and are in the midst of a sometimes traumatic and challenging adjustment to America.
I am told by my accountant and by RISSE, the refugee immigrant and support center, that these donations are tax deductible.
They are worthy and deserving.
Thanks, and thanks again to the wonderful person who paid for the cost of this retreat. Tomorrow, a full day, I'll be there and share the day with you.
The first night of the Refugee Kids Retreat at the Pompanuck Farm Institute was sweet and beautiful and easy. They arrived in the early afternoon, got a tour and safety talk, then played soccer, went swimming in the pond, shot some basketball and sat quietly near their yurt. They were not quiet for long.
Fate morphed into one of the boys and raced around happily and madly, Gus was coddled and held and ran around for hours until he just ran into his crate and collapsed. Red sat quietly and kept everybody company.
Then we had dinner in the Round House, a delicious meal of rice, green beans and ginger chicken. Afterwards, we all cleaned up and Scott Carrino lit a fire and we had the nicest times. Ali (Amjad Abdullah Mohammed) sat by the fire and sang the softest and most gentle and mournful love songs – not what I expected, and then Maria and I told scary stories by the fire.
The kids are all students who take classes at RISSE, the refugee and immigrant center based in Albany. Ali is there teacher, and he is so important to them, he is devoted to helping them deal with life in America, he is always there for them, seven days a week, day and night.
I have to add it to my small collection of evenings I shall never forget. I think the kids loved every moment of it and we have a neat day planned for tomorrow. Maria and I are going over to help with breakfast and meals during the day, she's leading a hike into the woods, then our community is joining us to help with the retreat.
Gordon McQuerry is coming to teach music and sing with the children, I'm teaching a story-telling workshop, Mandy Meyer-Hill, a healer and massage therapist, is coming to show the kids stretching and relaxing and trust exercises. It was, as always, lovely to watch Ali and see his great love for these children, and their love for him.
Thursday, art and drawing lessons from Rachel Barlow, a popular Vermont artist.
Such a man as Ali is really quite rare in my experience, and we are brothers to one another now. He is spending the night in the yurt with the children. Scott and Lisa Carrino are wonderfully open and generous hosts, they seem thrilled to have these kids at Pompanuck.
These children are wonderful people – courteous, polite, thoughtful, and they have been through a great deal. Over the next few days, I hope they see the real America, something many have not yet seen. Welcoming, generous, loving. They are no threat to our country.
It was special for me that this was a family affair. Maria and I joined together, and Red, Fate and even young Gus seemed to get into the spirit of the night, they were an essential part of the retreat, the kids just loved them and they seemed to love being there. Gus, who is tiny and only eight weeks old, ran around with the kids until she literally dropped, and the kids begged me to let the dogs sleep in the Yurt. I was tempted, but said no. They needed to rest.
Can't wait to get up in the morning and get back to Pompanuck.
I asked the group to pose for a photo outside of their yurt as the Refugee Children's Retreat – funded by the Army Of Good – gto underway. I suggest they all jump on Ali and they were happy to oblige. These are especially loving and courteous and sensitive people, and I am so happy to know them.
How strange life is, how many different paths for us to walk on. Heading over there to help with dinner tonight, Maria is coming, so is Fate, Red, and Gus. Staying through the campfire. More later.
Inside one of the Pompanuck Yurts, Ali and Scott (and Fate and Red) help the kids set up their sleeping bags in the big and beautiful yurt right next to an open field perfect for soccer.
Red were in heaven with the kids and all of the attention they got, young boys are very much on Fate's wave length, and Red hung out with one or two friends, he is already well known and loved as the Bedlam Farm Warrior's mascot. The Yurt is off near the big woods and is in a beautiful setting.
Tomorrow, several young women are arriving, they will sleep in rooms in the Round House building. Pillow fighting is permitted, said Ali and Scott. It has already begun.