A Mother’s Journey [Part 47]: The new home frame of mind

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Almost a year ago, The Learning Hub was closing shop.

We had first attempted to bring a creative learning center to the children of Worcester; but most importantly, to the children living in the neighborhoods around Pleasant Street – one of the many forgotten areas in Worcester’s low-income portfolio – and we failed.

Overhead costs were unsustainable, demand for our services was low, and our location was limited in size and growth potential. Through our struggle to attract a broader local community and allow them to see what we offered, we learned the value of mobility and closed our doors at 253 Pleasant St.

Since July 2016, we embraced the concept of mobility and launched a library initiative to bring STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) learning to all of the state’s communities through the revitalization of programming for children in libraries across Massachusetts.

In the 13-plus months since, we have hosted more than 140 classes, at libraries in five cities and towns and have taught more than 2,000 students. Our mission to increase STEAM accessibility to young students has been a success – at least, to the standards of our definition of success.

But the mission is never over, and as we continue to expand to other libraries in Massachusetts, like the Sherborn Public Library and Needham Public Library, we’ve come to realize our expansion options are limited by the almighty dollar.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The business of growing up, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

Worcester scofflaws find thrills — and trouble — with invisible cloaks

Wondering what the future could hold for wearable technology? Find out with author BJ Hill in the Sun’s serial glimpse into the fantastic (and mostly fictional) possibilities of a not-so-distant tomorrow.

WORCESTER, Aug. 11, 2047 — All 15-year-old Varun Ranganathan wanted for Christmas was an invisibility cloak like the one his friends were getting.
He had no idea how much trouble it would cause.
Mr. Ranganathan was among a large group of teenagers who, in the words of Worcester Police Department spokeswoman Kendra Jibrell, “terrorized” the Worcester Independence Day Parade last month. The teens ran through crowds, jostled spectators, threw punches, vandalized floats, and filched purses and valuables, while shrouded in invisible cloaks.

The ruckus forced the Worcester Police Department to shut down the parade just 30 minutes after the 11 a.m. start time.

Detectives at first had no leads – there were lots of angles taken from citizens’ cellphones, business surveillance cameras and police drones, but none of the footage showed the invisible perpetrators.

“Our detectives had a theory there was a specific teenager, not unknown to us, who was among the hooligans,” Officer Jibrell said. “Then we looked up his parents’ online purchase history and found they had bought one of these — what the kids call ‘invisible cloaks’ — right around Christmastime.

More What if … Worcester: Gardens and gargoyles: Dilapidated churches grow into urban farms

Augustine Kanjia

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 41: Major Problems Won’t Dissuade Me

The whistle blew. Komba Bottom ran toward the ball. I knew where it was going. I stood there, and the ball came with a vehement speed. I stretched my arms and punched the ball with my two hands. My right hand then broke.

Augustine Kanjia

The house issue had just started settling down. We were getting ready to live in our new home even though it was incomplete.

My grandmother wanted us to be there, but I was not happy because the house had a lot of work yet to finish and the family’s “omole,” or moonshine, production had ceased due to the police getting wise. We were trapped and handicapped. It was not a pleasant situation for the family.

My uncles, though, were anxious to return, especially Aiah James so he could have a room to bring his girls. He was well supported by his mom, “Sobba Peppeh” — my grandmother — because he was the youngest of her four children.

Sun Serials | Ray Mariano | Free to Read

I remember when my uncle had come from Pakidu, their home village. He was big and looked older than he was. He was not fit for an elementary school. I was in Grade 1 when he arrived. He had no skill in anything and was unwilling to learn. He was sent to a school in another town called Yengema. He was the biggest at the United Methodist Church School. But people understood his situation.

My grandmother took much interest in my education, but she did not trust, at first, that I’d been assigned to the right class. The trend in the school in those days was for children to go through three levels — the A, B, C — of the first grade to enable younger children to mature before they reached Grade 2.

I was quite young, younger than many if not all. I was only tall. The method of placing students could not always be done by age because some of the children had no birth certificate. My grandmother had kept mine in our iron suitcase, old fashion. Acceptance in those days was based on two factors: birth certificate, and by putting your hand over your head to try to touch your ear. If you could, then you qualified to attend school. I was a tall boy. My hands overlapped my ear, so I qualified to be part of the school.

I was active and useful, but I still had to go through the A, B, C of the first class. I succeeded and made a mark in my first grade. I loved the singing, the drawing, and the spellings we did. The school was interesting. The early grades had been exciting, but I started realizing that there was a long way to go.

Augustine’s last chapter: Poverty Strikes Hard as Mother Returns  Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

A Mother’s Journey [Part 46]: The business of growing up

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

As parents, we want to provide our children with all the tools for success, but as entrepreneurs we know that most of those tools are not anything tangible we can give.

Instead our tool bag consists of a few innate traits that give us the ability to see the world differently — those are the things we need to pass on to our children. Teaching children about business at a young age, I believe, is essential to their future. And not merely as budding entrepreneurs but also as productive citizens in search of social change.

Lessons in money management, organizational skills and leadership must be a part of the learning model.

Summer 2017 will be an experiment on learning to be an entrepreneur and figuring out what that means for the future of my daughters.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The collaboration realization, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 40: Poverty and Punishment Strike Hard as Mother Returns

My short pants had been torn into pieces. My friends, Sahr Allieu and Emmanuel Gbandeh, could only bow their heads in shame. When Dominic put me down I was forced to run away and go tell my grandmother.

Augustine Kanjia

My school was demanding. We paid for every little thing — and not always with money — even though the Sierra Leonean government had declared primary education free for all.

Parents — or in my case, grandparent — were all forced to pay 30 cents per semester, and then some. The other charges would be for books that were never there, or for the food that was supposed to be free from the U.S. government. It was difficult for me to eat at the school due to the lack of money.

There were loads of competitions in my class. We had spelling, math, civics, current affairs and general knowledge pop quizzes. The teacher, Mr. A.B.S. Bangura, was a tough guy and would know everything happening in the class.

He called me aside one day and asked who pays my school fees. I unfortunately told him, “God pays.” He said I was being sarcastic. I did not mean so, but he was adamant and I had to succumb. He was furious and decided to give me a good beating. I was certainly afraid because my grandmother did not want anyone to beat me, not even my teachers, though it was accepted that children could be beat at school.

Mr. Bangura took me out in front of the class to teach me manners, as he said. I was mounted on somebody’s back and given a good beating, a beating I have always remembered.

Augustine’s last chapter: Skipping School and Fooling the Police  Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

A Mother’s Journey [Part 45]: The collaboration realization

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

After a series of workshops held by community leaders, endless peer presentations reflecting our leadership skills, and extensive discussions about what Worcester needs, Leadership Worcester has come to an end for the 2016-17 class.

In this joint initiative of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and Greater Worcester Community Foundation, 25 “promising new professionals” connected through their various professional and personal backgrounds to talk about the future of Worcester — and quite honestly, they couldn’t have selected a better group of motivated, strong-minded and opinionated individuals.

On a mission to keep us all inspired up to the last minute — after months of skills development, training and networking — our final project was to sum up our experience in a six-word memoir. After a few minutes of debating and battling to bring the program full circle in only a few words, I stumbled upon my “ah-ha!” moment.

I realized Leadership Worcester was never really about building leaders. Instead, for me, it was about helping existing leaders learn to collaborate with others, to be the change we want to see.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The one dedicated to mom, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 39: Skipping School and Fooling the Police

I removed the omole to the back, behind the outdoor toilet, and put some raw grass on top. One of the policemen during his search came to the toilet area not long after I’d finished hiding the [illicitly made] liquor.

Augustine Kanjia

The family was happy with the “omole” sales. From our illegal brewing, Grannie had earned enough money to start buying building materials for a new home.

She had made the plan, and it was elaborate. She wanted a big house with rooms for each child. I was not counted. She claimed I was the owner of the house. Her intention was to keep me in her room as I grew up. And it was so. I slept on the same bed as my grandmother day in and day out.

I was sometimes ashamed when we discussed matters of home in our writing and composition classes, such as where we slept. I never told the truth, but I scored high marks. I started realizing that writing out of the ordinary and fashioning tall tales can boost one’s writing skills.

There was a big problem with our trade. Police had come to raid our hidden operation when we had just finished our brewing in the bush. No raid saw us that night. It was hot, and I was ready to play with my friends as the moon rose and we trekked back to Motema. My heart was not in brewing, but centered on my school and play that night.

I had a long way home, but something dangerous awaited us.

Augustine’s last chapter: Illicit April Brewing Rains on My Parade  Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

Baby in a blink: UMass technology, not available in the U.S., eases childbearing

Wondering what the future could hold for human pregnancy and UMass Medical innovation? Find out with author BJ Hill in the Sun’s serial glimpse into the fantastic (and mostly fictional) possibilities of a not-so-distant tomorrow.

WORCESTER, Oct. 4, 2037 — When Kelly Kapinow learned she was six weeks pregnant with her third child, “joy” wasn’t the word that came to mind. Her previous pregnancies had been extremely difficult – both times she was ordered on bedrest for the final eight weeks. Now, her career as an actor and dancer in Worcester is picking up. “I’m just starting to make money — good money — doing what I love,” the 28-year-old single mother said during an interview at her rented apartment on Sever Street. “I can’t face being sidelined again.”

“Going for months without an income just isn’t fair,” she says. “Listen — I love being a mother and I love my boys more than anything. But I’m also a performing artist. If I’m not dancing, I’m not getting paid. And there’s no way I could try a bell kick in my third trimester.”

Last time in What if … Worcester: Gardens and gargoyles: Dilapidated churches grow into urban farms

But a fellow dancer told Kapinow of a popular new procedure in her home country of Romania, called Accelerated Fetal Growth Therapy, or AFGT.

A Mother’s Journey [Part 44]: The one dedicated to mom

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

Being a parent is the most undervalued job in America. It is sometimes mocked by those running the corporate world — if not by their words, then by their actions — and often is deemed as less-than by those who haven’t fallen in love with the idea of unconditional love.

Parenting, to me, could be seen as the human equivalent of entrepreneurship. Parents are chauffeurs, doctors, professional cuddlers, assistants, chefs — but most of all, parents are the building blocks of what the future will look like.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and while that statement may be true, I think it just takes one special person to make a world of a difference.

While our world today is in a political uproar, we, as parents, must ensure that our children are raised to understand that political climates should never steer someone from doing the right thing. As parents, it is our job to make sure we raise children with an impeccable sense of empathy, an overwhelming allowance for free-thinking and a lack of fear to express their individualism.

I dedicate this week’s column to the parents of the future. To single moms everywhere making the impossible happen. To single dads braiding the hairs of their little girls and playing dress-up. To the co-parenting parents, making it work for the sake of their children. And to the married couple, trying to keep a cheerful home while each working forty-plus hours a week.

This column is for you, but most importantly, this column is for my mom.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The road less traveled, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 38: Illicit April Brewing Rains on My Parade

These were my early days. I lacked shoes and nice clothes. She promised to get me some. I did not care for material things; I knew Grannie did not have them so there was no big worry.

Augustine Kanjia

It was a crime to brew the local hard liquor “Omole,” but it was working well for us, as my grandmother had started buying corrugated zinc panels for the house.

She wanted us to have nine rooms and a big living room. She had big dreams: All her children with rooms of their own.

I was troubled at school by accusations that I stole 20 cents — everyone thought I was the possible thief, even though, this time, I was innocent. I distracted myself with my job at home, going to the bush to brew our alcohol for sale.

That Sunday evening, the rain was dark, our distance home was far. We had just created a new brewing spot and there was no shelter to cover us. We depended on the big trees for protection. Who would trust any tree in the time of a windstorm? My grandmother would have. She insisted we sit under the trees and wait for the rain and wind to pass.

My uncle, Aiah Bongu, did not like Grannie’s over-protection of me. He thought she was spoiling me, but my grandmother was the only person who understood my problem. I was allergic to certain foods, like peanut butter soup or palm oil. Only my grandmother knew it. She would protect me, which bothered my uncle.

Augustine’s last chapter: Grandmother’s New Business Opens Old Wounds Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale