29 June 2017

Second Scholarship Winner: Mukwe Doe

Congratulations to Mukwe Doe, the second scholarship winner, he is joining the very popular digital global art archive, the Brooklyn Art Library's Sketchbook Project (see below).  He and Sakler Moo are the first two scholarship selections for the Children's Refugee Project I have started to help these very beautiful and worthy young people follow their passions.

The scholarships are to advance their passions, interests and needs, from art to music to computing. Whatever they care deeply about, we will help them pursue. You can contribute by sending a check addressed to the Children's Refugee Fund, c/o Jon Katz, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816 or via Paypal, Friends and Family, [email protected]

This is great, it lifts the heart, these two young men were so excited and proud, and now their work will be seen all over the world.

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Good News! Two Selections Today For The Children’s Refugee Scholarship Fund

Two Selections For The Children's Scholarship Fund Today

Great news, Ali and I (and artist  Rachel Barlow, above) chose the first two scholarships for the refugee children we are working with in upstate New York. Today, at Pompanuck Farm, Vermont artist Rachel Barlow came to teach the refugee kids about drawing and sketching.

We have all admired Sakler Moo's drawings and sketches for some time, and after seeing some of his work today, Rachel enthusiastically recommended him and Mukwe Doe, another of the refugee children the retreat, as perfect artists to join the Brooklyn Library of Art's Sketchbook Project, a wonderful idea to help new and developing and accomplished artists and sketchers share their work with one another, with everyone on the Internet, and to be posted permanently in the archives of the Brooklyn Art Library, one of the most famous art libraries in the world.

Rachel came to the Children's Refugee Retreat at Pompanuck Farm to teach a class in drawing, she did a lot of "timed" sketchwork, where the kids had one or two minutes to draw something they heard or thought or saw. They got into it, and we found a number good candidates for the scholarship project.

She handled the class beautifully, perhaps because she has two young sons and knows their interests and attention spans.

You can see Rachel's very beautiful work here, she is one of the most popular landscape artists in Vermont at the moment, we were lucky to have her at the retreat.

This scholarship idea is something I launched as a part of the Children's Refugee Fund, the name of a separate bank account I opened here in Cambridge to collect the money and donations that come in for the refugee and immigrant children I am working with as a part of my Project Good, a response to the political turmoil gripping the country.

It cost $195.93 to enroll the two gifted young men in the Sketchbook Project, we will receive two sketchbooks and the ability to digitalize their work so it can be transferred onto the Internet archives of the Brooklyn Art Library, a global interactive library. These sketches will be seen all over the world.

Above, Rachel explained the project to Sakler Moo, whose work is already much noticed, and although he is quite shy and soft-spoken, he said he would love to accept this scholarship. Mukwe Doe will be the second scholarship.

I am very happy to kick off this scholarship project, the idea is to provide instruction and encouragement for the special talents, needs and gifts of these children, working hard to acclimate themselves to American life. We might seek to pay for classes in the arts, in English language skills, or computing, etc. We will follow the bliss of each young person and help them follow their passions.

The scholarship recommendations will all come from Ali (Amjad Abdullah Mohammed),  their mentor and teacher, he knows them well and loves them dearly. This is the first but not the last great reward to come from the Pompanuck Refugee Children's Retreat, which ended today.

I will follow this scholarship, hopefully the first of many on the blog. It is a good cause, it will change lives and remind us of what it really means to be an American. I am still proud of that.

(If you wish to contribute, you can send a check to Jon Katz, Children's Refugee Fund, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816 or send a donation via Paypal Friends and  Family, ID: [email protected]

Thanks much, the Army Of Good made these two scholarships possible.

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Gus Was Just Amazing At The Retreat

Gus is just about nine weeks old, but he vaulted onto my list of great-dogs-I-have-loved over the last few days, he came to almost every minute of the Refugee Children's Retreat at Pompanuck Farm. He acted as if he had been to a thousand retreats, he visited every child while they ate, played tag outside and ran in circles like a mad fool, was picked up and hugged a thousand times and loved every minute of it.

We took a crate to Pompanuck, and left the gate open and when Gus got tired, he just went inside and went to sleep with the gate open. He loves his crates, they are his safe and restful spot in a chaotic world with two big dogs.

He and Fate even started to play a bit, although Fate is obsessed with stealing his toys and when she can his food. I was struck by Gus's adaptability and his skill at dealing with a crowd of boisterous strangers. This is  very grounded dog, and I credit his first-time breeder Robin Gibbons, this is the kind of dog you can do almost anything with.

He adores people, can handle himself with poise and confidence, he knows when to take some time out and rest. Maria and I have worked hard to train him, but frankly, these are traits the dog either comes with or doesn't.

I can't remember every seeing a nine-week-old dog with so much poise and confidence. And he isn't yet as big as a rabbit, and we've only had him for a week. I can only imagine the possibilities.

You can help a dog be grounded – positive training and crates help – but dogs like Red and Gus – Fate also – are very rare.

I am glad we decided to make Gus a part of this, the refugee kids adored him, and he was thrilled to be with them and be held by them and play with them. Dogs can do so much good, given a chance.

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Saying Goodbye: The Refugee Children’s Retreat Is Over. It Was Wonderful.

What the Retreat Meant: Leaving Pompanuck Farms

I think the refugee children's retreat at Pompanuck Farms, which ended about 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon, was about freedom. There is the freedom associated with coming to America, of course, but there is another, more personal kind of freedom that I saw over these last few days.

I came to know these children well, and I saw their shock and joy at simply being free for a few days – to swim, play basketball, sing, play Capture The Flag, soccer, to hike and ask about nature, to sit by a campfire late into the night, to knock some applies off of trees, to listen to their music, to tell stories and hear stories, to eat fresh and beautifully prepared food, to run around with three dogs that loved them, to be completely free, of the challenges in their own lives, and of the raging debate and anger over refugees and immigration in our country.

Today, we sat around a table in the Round House building, the centerpiece of the Pompanuck Farm Institute, and we each talked about what the retreat meant for each of us.

The kids -there were 14 young men plus Ali, Maya the goalie of their soccer team,  was sick and the other women came just for the day Wednesday – talked about being so carefree, about their love for Ali and for one another, about the good food Scott and Lisa Carrino prepared for them, about the beautiful woods around them.

The children all attend some classes at RISSE, the refugee and immigration center based in Albany. This group – now in the process of naming themselves the Bedlam Farm Warriors Soccer Team – is mostly from Southeast Asia and Africa, the other students coming to visit Bedlam Farm this summer are from all over the world.

They said they were grateful. They all slept on sleeping bags in the big Pompanuck Yurt, and wore every adult down to the bone with their energy and drive.

I spoke at the last circle gathering. I said I was grateful for their presence, happy to get to know them. I said I had come to love them and also my brother, Ali (Amjad Abdullah Mohammed), I said Maria and I were so happy to be a part of this, to help wash dishes and clean up and serve food and tell stories and walk in the woods with them.

I told them I love the songs they sang of courage and connection whenever they faced a difficult or strange situation. They have beautiful voices and open hearts. I told them I was the grandson of immigrants and refugees, much of my family did not make it over to the other side and perished.

I said I was committed to supporting them in their difficult transition, and I promised I would not go away. I told them Ali and I were plotting all of the time to help them, I told them about the new scholarship program we were funding to get them help with their passions and interests and needs. I told them I loved them, and was surprised to hear the words come out of my mouth.

Then they packed up, cleaned up and left. They gave me a group hug that nearly knocked me over. I was thrilled with the retreat, exhausted from the work involved, drained by their amazing energy, moved by their sweetness and good hearts. They will make wonderful citizens for our country, and I am proud to know them.

I meant what I said. I do love them, and I will not abandon them, Ali and I are magic together, we call one another "brother," a term I don't throw around lightly.

Fate and Red and Gus were an integral part of the retreat, the kids just loved them, and Fate ran herself into the ground keeping up with them, I think she wanted to get on the van and go home with them. Gus loved playing with them and racing around with them outside, he was happy to be picked up and cuddled. And he was cuddled.

These dogs do a lot of good.

They asked me if there is any way they could return to Pompanuck – the safest place many had yet known – again, and I said I would talk to Scott and Lisa about arranging for some day trips, one day retreats that did not involve cooking or overnight stay and other costs. We'll see what we can do and how much it will cost. I'm thinking of two or three one-day visits. The trip was sponsored by the Children's Refugee Fund, a new project with its own bank account I've opened.

If you wish, you can contribute by sending a donation to Jon Katz. P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816 or donating via Paypal Friends And Family, ID: [email protected]

This was one of the best things I have ever been involved with, I think these children got something important, something they needed.  I tried to tell them what a great gift this is to me, but I'm not sure they grasped it.

They also learned – thanks to the generosity of a woman named Helen – that the real America, a generous country where people care for other people apart from themselves, is alive and well, and welcomes them here.

It is a great gift to give, it feels so rich and deep and satisfying. Thanks again to the Army Of Good, we don't just argue about what is good, we do good.

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The Refugee Ban: Send A $1 Message to Children About The Real America

Refugee Ban

Today, the refugee ban affecting seven majority Muslim countries goes into effect in the United States. In Syria alone, more than 50,000 children have perished in the civil conflict there, in the other affected countries the United Nation estimates that are many thousands more.

For $1, you can send these children a message of hope.

Their hopes for safety and freedom have been shattered by the country they most looked to for help, the richest and safest country on the earth. The country that saved and welcomed my own grandmother, and many millions of other refugees.

The ban strands these children – all of them – in horrendously overcrowded and underfunded refugee camps or great danger in their in their own communities.

I have been blessed to get to know many of the refugee children who the United States has welcomed and saved. Some are spending the week at Pompanuck Farms on retreat. To know them is to love them.

They represent a microscopic fraction of those children in need, many of whom have now been condemned to great suffering by a country founded on freedom, openness and generosity.

We have always cared about people other than ourselves. It is chilling for me to try to comprehend the idea that many of the children I have come to know and love would not be in this country, or would be dead, or would be living in filth, poverty, disease and great terror.

What can I do?

I can work to do good.

I can continue my work with the refugee children, and I can send another $1 dollar to RISSE, the refugee immigrant and support center based in Albany, N.Y., the place that helps so many refugee children every day.

One dollar may seem like a small amount, but that's not so. If a million people send a dollar, then it will make a great difference. RISSE has already received $1,000 in $1 messages of support. It will help keep the dream and spirit of America alive.

it is a simple statement that tells these children and their families that there is another America than the one they keep seeing on the news or that controls Washington.

We are a generous people, we care about other people than ourselves, our faith is not selfishness or hatred or callousness but empathy and freedom and sanctuary. That is our message. We don't hate anyone or seek division or argument.

If you would like to send a message of hope to the refugee children and their families struggling to understand America, or to the children seeking safety and freedom all over the world, think about donating $1 to RISSE today and tell them it is for the vulnerable children of the world.

Tell them we support their work.

Tell them we welcome these children to America and hope to help them in every possible way. This message costs almost  nothing, is simple to do – Paypal or credit cards – and it will do a great deal of good. The Army Of Good is on the march, and gaining in focus and strength.

If you prefer, you can also support my separate work with with Ali (Amjad Abdullah Mohammed) with  these children by sending donations to me c/o Jon Katz, Bedlam Farm, P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816 or via Paypal Friends and Family, [email protected] The money will be used to support the children's soccer team, for scholarships to support their passions and needs, and for summer classes, activities and day trips.

We do not stand for hate or argument, but for empathy and compassion. And liberty. You can send a $1 message of goodwill on this sad day right here.  You can say, if you wish, it is from an Army Of Good representing the true America.

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