Would you Radder?

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When our youngest granddaughter, Marin, was pre-school age, she loved to regale us with “Would you radder?” questions. You can hear a few of them here.

Clearly, Marin didn’t fully grasp the concept. Drop my doughnut and get it yucky or eat it? Fall in a volcano or drop my phone in a volcano? In Marin’s world, choices are painless… and hypothetical.

I am always a bit surprised when someone asks one of our refugee neighbors, “Why did you choose to live here?” But I understand why they ask. We are used to options, and, in fact, we’re sometimes strangled by the plethora of choices available to us about everything from the cities we move to and our jobs to the number of restaurants on one city block or the cereal options on one aisle. But for our refugee barista trainees, choices are nonexistent. And after they arrive in the U.S., they become limited and painful.

Refugees have little to no choice about where they are resettled, their first apartment, and even how that apartment is furnished. Sometimes, a job at Refuge Coffee is one of their first choices. And then, because they are resilient and wise and strong, they can make a series of other choices: get a license to drive, buy a car, choose a new apartment or house. We encourage these choices, and we step in to help when needed.

Choices = Freedom.

When you choose to give to Refuge, that’s what you’re giving to: Freedom.

More on the Subject

In her book, Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says:

“Alexa and the other guests, and perhaps even Georgina, all understood the fleeing from war, from the kind of poverty that crushed human souls, but they would not understand the need to escape from the oppressive lethargy of choicelessness.”

If I were to summarize our desired outcome for every training job at Refuge Coffee, I’d say: “We seek to give refugees and other immigrants space and encouragement to make choices as early in their arrival to the U.S. as possible, so that the choicelessness they have known more keenly than most of us does not become an ‘oppressive lethargy’.”

An invigorating opportunity to dream, that’s what we hope to foster in our Refuge Coffee workforce development program. To plan for the future. These facts will show up in our annual report in May, but here is a peak at what we’re measuring, some proof that it’s working. We reached out to most (41 of over 50) of our former trainees and heard back from 23 of them. Here are a few of our findings:

  • 96% have found step up jobs.
  • 74% of those with step up jobs have been in their current job for more than one year.
  • 87% feel that Refuge Coffee prepared them well for their next job or further education (13% answered “Maybe” to this question).
  • 52% of the former trainees have furthered their education.
  • 22% are small business owners.

This is just a taste of what happens when the choiceless are given the power to choose.

Thankful for you,


P.S. I was honored to be on this podcast hosted by CRP, a nonprofit that helps refugees waiting for either return or resettlement in Jordan. If you give it a listen, don’t fast forward to my voice! The introduction by Zach Goodwin is so informative and intriguing. It underscores what choicelessness looks like for refugees.

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