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

A Mother’s Journey [Part 43]: The road less traveled

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

Entrepreneurs can be viewed as larger-than-life characters. Always fighting against the preconceived notions of society and breaking the confining molds of the status quo.

While entrepreneurs may seem to be a group of outliers with hard-to-duplicate qualities, the truth is, entrepreneurs embody the same traits as the rest of the world. We just put them to use.

Creativity. Imagination. Risk-taking. Vision. These are traits we are all born with.

As children, we thrive on imagination and creating worlds of our own, and we succeed as novice risk-takers because our vision and goals are clear.

Children tend to live simply. No over-complications. Our dreams are big, our passions are pure and our ideas are innovative. But something happens between childhood and adulthood that changes our view of what we consider possible.

That world of possibility is the underlying motivator for entrepreneurs.

It is the silent reminder that all things are possible. “All things are within reach, if you are willing to work for it,” can be the staple slogan for entrepreneurship, but these ideas don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Working hard, using creativity and taking risk for the sake of our own personal improvement must be a model implemented in all walks of life and not only on the path of entrepreneurship.

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

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 37: Grandmother’s New Business Opens Old Wounds

The first consignment of hard liquor was ready to drink — more importantly, to sell. People started coming to the house to buy in bulk or by tot. It cost 20 cents (Sierra Leone cents). Back then, money had value, no doubt.

Augustine Kanjia

Life did not seem to be getting any better.

And it was going to get worse: As money problems rose to the surface a school mate’s accusations of stealing led to a dozen lashes for a crime I did not commit.

Three of my uncles were now living with my grandmother and me. Our house was old and rustic; we needed a better one. I was going to Grade 4 then. My friends always laughed at me for the type of house we slept in. It was not so deplorable, but they wanted to keep me thinking I was lower than them. Glad I did not bother with their provocations.

My grandmother had to call an emergency family meeting to discuss the future of the house. We all knew it was time for action. My grandmother was a brave and innovative woman who had put a lot behind her after the difficulties of her marriage.

She depended on her children, but the children were quite poor. Her eldest son worked in the Native Police Administration. These were special village police who answered only to the paramount chiefs of their jurisdiction. My uncle had first become an army man, but was said to have left due to some very hard conditions. He was quite a strong man, but I think it was not for physical strength that men were selected and accepted into the army. He had run away at night to return to Pakidu, Sierra Leone, their father’s hometown, before deciding to join the NPA.

My grandmother was hopeful. My uncle’s full name was Sahr Motatay James. My grandmother called him Sahr Tay. As a boy, I never understood the meaning — but it was simply the short form of Motatay.

Sahr Tay did not adhere to Grannie’s call for a meeting for the house. Ngainda and Aiah were present, though, and good to go. Or so they said then.

The meeting was of importance to everyone because the rainy season was no plaything. We had already put down heavy rocks and tied wires to the edges of the house on all sides. The wires were buried deep to avoid being taken by the wind. We were still not secure.

Augustine’s last chapter: Signs of My Struggle Begin Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

Gardens and gargoyles: Dilapidated churches grow into urban farms

Wondering what the future could hold for one of the city’s most beloved church buildings? 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, June 9, 2019 – Within the city of Worcester there are 12 former church buildings that are facing the wrecking ball. Three of these buildings date back to the 1880s. They are cherished, sacred spaces where generations of parishioners married, baptized children, and said their goodbyes to loved ones. But in the last few decades, congregations of every faith have thinned out. While a giant extravagant property was once a symbol of reverence and success for a parish, now it’s become maintenance headaches for cash-strapped finance committees.

Some congregations sought to let go of the buildings, but developers know it’s daunting to repurpose thick cement walls, redesign a cavernous interior, and maintain the cultural and historical legacy.

Some church buildings were sold to the highest bidder, anyway, to await uncertain futures. With uninterested new owners and a minimum of maintenance, the once-mighty cornerstones of communities now decay and molder until they’re no longer safe to keep standing.

But a local company called Altar2Table is on a preservation campaign to purchase the properties and fix them up for what once would have been considered a most unlikely use: urban farms.

Can’t get enough? Find more What if … Worcester here

Altar2Table’s first purchase was Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Mulberry Street, which was officially closed by the Diocese of Worcester in 2016. After a year of renovations, the farm commenced operations in January 2019 and yielded its first harvest in April.

A Mother’s Journey [Part 42]: The accidental perspective

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

Entrepreneurs need motivation.

Motivation to continue with our mission. Motivation to wake up in the morning and face our challenges. Motivation to move past an obstacle even when everyone says we can’t.

Entrepreneur, best-selling author and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk has been tabbed by some with saying the “most motivational statement ever.” In a direct effort to wake people up from a monotonous life filled with complaints about unhappiness and regret, Vaynerchuk strikes a chord by hitting a note most people don’t want to hear: “You’re gonna die.”

Life is precious – no doubt about it – but there is nothing that validates your existence more than a near-death experience. To see the fragility of life firsthand is more than an eye-opener. At times, it is a life-awakener.

Growing up, I was always the adventurous girl in my group of friends. Always riding on the back pegs of bikes without a helmet, rollerblading through traffic down the middle of the New York City streets during a rainstorm. I even consistently found myself a part of car racing groups.

I was fearless then, and nothing seemed dangerous. My mom would plead with me to wear helmets and kneepads. I would sigh and roll my eyes. All I wanted was the feeling of freedom as I raced down the streets and watched the city come to life around me.

I always just thought that she didn’t get me.

Recently on the rainiest of days, my little sister was on her way to New York to enjoy time with friends. As she was driving down I-95 South, she flipped her Ford Explorer and was rushed to the hospital.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The place to start, or scroll down to explore more of her story

The unbelievably true story of Augustine Kanjia continues … Part 36: Signs of My Struggle Begin

I sometimes wondered as a child how my grandmother made her family survive.

Augustine Kanjia

My uncle hadn’t yet found his first job. Mom had left with my step-dad to live in Bo, the largest town in the Southern Province of Sierra Leone. My heart was with my mother. I knew she was striving hard to make us happy, but there were no gifts — or food or money — coming, only messages to Grannie and me.

My grandmother had only one of her three sons living with her, Ngainda. He was young and people expected him to get a good job. He would become a farmer. The road to the farm was quite a distance. It was manual farming and required real man power. He was a perfect fit for the job. His muscles were turgid and feasible.

My grandmother depended on him for a good yield. But the farm was patrolled by many birds that devoured the nursery seed or the ripened rice for harvest. This frustrated him, and he reverted to planting okra.

There was no one at home to take care of me when everyone had gone to the farm. There was no babysitting then. Your parents could leave you in the town and go about their business; they will meet you home in the evening. We feared nothing, like kidnapping or abuse. Everyone was the other’s keeper. But my grandmother, Kumba Ngehgba, was never happy leaving me behind. So, I had to miss school several times a year.

Augustine’s last chapter: Family disintegrates, Pa dies Or scroll down to catch up from earlier in the remarkable tale

A Mother’s Journey [Part 41]: The place to start?

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

There is something magical in the air and many people in the know are starting to feel it.

With its strong local collaborations and emerging businesses, Worcester is beginning to be recognized outside the city limits as much as inside them as a new leader in the startup world — and rightfully so.

Per recent data released by TechNet and the Progressive Policy Institute and reported by Axios.com, Worcester is lumped in with larger cities — from Philadelphia; to Nashville, Tennessee; to Portland, Oregon — as being among the nation’s emerging startup hubs.

While statistics are starting to add up to recognition that Worcester is a hub of innovative entrepreneurs, we have known this for quite some time.

Known as a center of manufacturing as far back as 150 years ago, Worcester has always served as an incubator for industries, so it is no surprise to me that we are collectively regaining our title.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The stress test, or scroll down to explore more of her story