10 August 2017

Tea With Devota Nyiraneza Next Week. $4,000.

Tea With Devota

Devota Nyiraneza invited Maria and I to come to her apartment a week from Saturday in Albany. I accepted. I don't know Devota all that well, but there are  certain things I love about her – her sweetness, grace, pride and courage and  determination. Today, I brought her a check for $3,000, the second installment of my campaign to pay off the $10,000 loan she took out thinking it was a financial aid package for her college-bound son.

Devota told me that she had just send $300 back to Rwanda so that her nice and nephew could register for school. They are orphans now, her brother died years ago. She regularly sends money to them. She lives in a small apartment with her four children, all of them the result of her being repeatedly raped by soldiers on her long walk to freedom in 1994.

She is applying for government permission to bring her brother's children to the United States, but she knows that is a difficult path. She is hoping to hire an immigration lawyer.

For a year, Devota walked barefoot across Central Africa, pursued all the way by murderous soldiers and militias and forage food from farms. Eight of the women she started out with were slaughtered along the way. The road, she says, was littered with the bodies of children abandoned by their desperate parents.

Devota carried her three-month old baby all the way to Tanzania.

Devota is a U.S. citizen now, she passed her citizenship tests and speaks English well, if not fluently. She is no threat to our country.

She walked 2,485 miles across Central Africa to escape the Rwandan genocide, as it is known. Recently, she applied for financial aid so that her son, studying to be an engineer, could pay his tuition at Buffalo State University. It turned out this was a loan, it seems this happens to many refugees and a good number of American students.

So she started paying the loan off and moved to a smaller apartment with her four children.

I will meet them next week, and also the daughter that Devota carried so far to safety. She works two jobs now, one at Catholic Charities helping the disabled, the other cleaning floors at the Albany Medical Center.

Devota has an easy and generous smile. I've given her $4,000 in your donations over the past week, and more money is coming in. I hope to help her pay off the $10,000 loan, but she greatly appreciates the help she has already received. The donations for her are coming in a steady stream. Thank you.

If you wish to donate, you can send a contribution to Post Office Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. or to Paypal: jon@bedlamfarm.com Please mark "Devota" on the check or in the Paypal message box. And thank you, we have already made a huge difference in her life.

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The Carver’s Hands. Touching Each Piece

Touching Each Piece

It was a beautiful thing to see Mawulidi's hands sweeping over his new tools, touching every one like an old friend at a re-union. He touched each one, felt it, ran it across his fingers, which seemed to know each tool and how it might feel. His hands flew almost magically over his new carving hit, recognizing each tool, getting to know it.

There was great love in those caressing feels, I could see tools were almost a part of him, he knew just how to touch each one.

What a privilege to give such a good and caring man a real gift like that, thank you for making this dream come true..

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Mawulidi Gets His Soul Back, And Some Tools.

Mawulidi Gets His Tools

The story of the refugees is often forgotten. Like so many other things, if you haven't experienced it you can't really know it. The story of the refugee struggle is becoming somewhat better known as there are so many of them in the news.

Being a refugee is one of life's great and most unnatural traumas. There are an estimated 65 million refugees in the world today, according to the United Nations. For all of their awful suffering, I know they are in many ways the lucky ones, they know it as well.

Refugees lost everything, from the shirts on their backs, to the world they have known. They lose their homes and the familiarity of daily life, wrote Hannah Arendt in her essay, We Refugees. They lose their occupation and craft, which means, she  wrote   losing the confidence that they are still of some use in the world.

"We lost our language," she wrote, "which means the naturalness of reactions, the simplicity of gestures, the unaffected expression of feelings." Their very private lives, she said, were ruptured.

This is just what happened to Mawulidi.

He is a serious man, not giving to expressions of emotion or smiling much. But his smile got very wide when he saw the wood carving kit I bought online.

Before I went to Albany, I stopped at our local hardware store and bought him a shiny axe and a wood saw.

Yesterday, a woman messaged me to say she was suspicious of the story of Devota and Mawulidi. How did I know, she wondered, that he really left his tools behind in Africa, and that Devota really did walk more nearly $2,500 miles across Central Africa to get to her refugee camp in Tasmania?

Perhaps I was just being used, she said, taken in. She suggested I investigate.

How empathetic, I wrote, not only do you deny these people the dignity of their loss and suffering, but you suggest we call the police on them as well. How did you get such a big heart, I wondered? She hugged off, I did not here from here again.

Perhaps we want and need to forget after all.

When Mawulidi left today, he turned to me, still smiling and thanked me for helping him to get his soul back, and the soul of his grandfather, who taught him how to carve.

Brother Francis told me he had missed the bus and had to walk a long way to get to our meeting. On my way home, I passed Muwaldi,standing on a corner, clutching his tools, axe and wood saw.

I believe I did see the soul coming back into Mawulidi's face, which had showed me no emotion at all. Now, he couldn't stop smiling. He instanly seemed taller, fulier, almost radiant. He would be honoring his grandfather's wish once more, and would soon return to carving wood.

I saw hope come back into his eyes.

Happy I could  help, I said, but I am the messenger, there are all those angels out there who really made it happen.

The work goes on. There are a lot of refugees working with RISSE, the refugee and immigrant support center of the Emmaus Church in Albany. The organization is quite poor, you can visit their website here. They help many people.

If you wish to contribute to my refugee work, you can send me a donation at Post Office Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816 or via paypal, jon@bedlamfarm.com. The RISSE donations are tax-deductible.

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Mawulidi and His Wood Carvings In Africa

Mawulidi's and his wood carvings in Africa: Photographer unknown

Mawulidi Diodone Majaliwa came to the United States from a Tanzania refugee camp where he spent the last 20 years of his life. Before he fled the savage Congo civil war, he was a wood carver, he worked with the tools his grandfather had given him, and when he attempted to bring them aboard the plane taking him to America, he was told he had to leave the tools behind. He still carries a photo of them in his cellphone.

Mawulidi works in Albany as a bread maker in a bakery, but when he can, he carves small birds or other objects with the tools he has patched together. When I met him last week, I suggested that we would help him buy new tools so he would  resume the work his grandfather taught  him how to do.

He said he was grateful for the God that brought us together.

Today, and with the help of the Army Of Good, I kept my promise. I brought him a set of wood carving tools I found online for $42 and gave him a check for $400 donated almost entirely by a member of the Army of Good, who wanted to pay for Mawulidi to go to Home Depot and get the tools he needs to resume his work carving wood from trees.

He was very happy to see the wood carving kit and plans to go to Home Depot tomorrow. He also  wants to come to Bedlam Farm next week to go out into our woods and cut down a small tree (we have many) that is dry and solid. He can them resume his work on small objects and sculptures, which he will try to sell online. I hope he will let me help him with that.

This was an especially satisfying experience. We are building our own new kind of community here, finding out new kinds of neighbors, helping them when they need a hand. I am happy to say that when my granddaughter asks me one day, which she will, what I did during those trying times for our country, i will be able to look her straight in the eye and said, "I did good."

So Mawulidi will be here next Thursday and we will get on with the business of giving  him his bliss back. That is very good, and I thank those of you who helped. I got excited when he pulled out his cell phone again and showed me the photo above, of the carvings he was selling at market when he was just 16 years old. Two years later, he would be fleeing for his life, leaving his country behind forever. He became a refugee.

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Hanging Out: Settling In. Gus And Fate (and Flo)

Hanging Out On The Back Porch

A nice scene this morning before I drove to Albany. Fate and Gus and behind them, the imperious Flo, all hanging out together on the back porch in the morning sun. Gus is changing a bit this week, he is settling down some, still very active and spirited but also pausing once in awhile, as great dogs do, to soak up the scene and hang out with their buddies.

Gus is actually still for periods of time, this is something new. He is settling in, and he and Fate are quite often together now, except when she is around the sheep, when she does not play or want much to do with Gus.

Flo is still being standoffish with

This is part of our new landscape, I never thought there would be a small dog in the picture. Already difficult to imagine the farm without Gus, a cross between Edward G. Robinson and Yoda.

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