Monday, November 28, 2016

"What Shall I Do With These Hands Of Mine?"

Dave Gunning performing at the Salmon Brook Music Series
November 4, 2016

"What shall I do with these hands of mine?" It's a universal question each one of us must answer.  

Some hands have held the world together
Some hands have fought wars forever
Tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine 

Some hands have blessed a million people
Some hands have helped free the world from evil
So tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine

So sang Nova Scotian troubadour Dave Gunning as he began his inspiring rendition of These Hands to an already mesmerized audience, which later joined in as he led us through the chorus:

What shall I do with these hands of mine
What shall I do with these hands of mine
The world could use a hero of the human kind
So tell me what shall I do with these hands of mine

Gunning performed at the Salmon Brook Music Series in Granby, CT on November 4, 2016, and to the series' loyal fans he made a lasting impression. "It's been a month and I've listened to his CDs every day since his concert!" exclaimed a friend. I have, too. Every day!

"Gunning is the next big thing in the True North of Song, an artist as compelling, as assured and attentive to every nuance of the writing process, as Lightfoot, Cockburn and Stan Rogers before him,” acclaimed the Toronto Star.

He's fun, he's uplifting, he's full of hope. Gunning's music offers a compelling voice of conscience with a call to action, accompanied by infectious, humor-laced heart-warming stories of his life growing up in Nova Scotia.

"As a fervent hockey fan, Gunning was also thrilled to win the CBC’s hotly-contested Hockey Night In Canada Song Quest in 2014 with A Game Goin’ On, a co-write with David Francey," as highlighted on his website.

Gunning's Sing It Louder, "a tribute to Pete Seeger," is a song with lyrics as compelling as These Hands:

Across the valleys and up through these hills 
There's a feeling all over this land   
That if we stand and rise together 
There is change within our power   
I am preaching to the choir to sing it louder  
I am preaching to the choir to sing it louder

We need his voice. We need his inspiration. We need his hope.

Listen again to another impassioned version of These Hands sung at a fund raiser for the IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

We must answer his question -- what shall we do with these hands of ours? And while we do, we want Dave to return to Granby. And soon!

What shall we do when he returns?

We shall pack the house, and sing it louder!

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Photograph by Don Shaw, Jr.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Pathway Opens

Immigrant Career Pathways graduates celebrate with ESL instructor Gail Rosin (far left)
and Pathways Program Coordinator Jayna Velez-Molina (far right back row).

November 10, 2016.

It's graduation day.

Graduation day for the inaugural class of Hartford Public Library's Immigrant Career Pathways introductory food service program, a collaboration with Hartford Public Schools' Food & Child Nutrition Services.

Nine Hartford immigrants celebrated completion of sixty hours of ESL (English as a Second Language) classes and thirty-six hours of a hands-on internship in a Hartford public school cafeteria preparing them for food service careers. The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving (HFPG) funded program offers Hartford's recent arrivals an opportunity to successfully enter the workforce with knowledge, experience and skills.

Managed by Jayna Velez-Molina, Pathways Program Coordinator, this collaboration extends Hartford's welcoming hand to immigrants seeking a career opportunity. ESL instructor Gail Rosin's classes introduce students to food service terminology and the basics of what constitutes good food service practice. But it requires more than classroom instruction. Practical application is critical.

An excited  Maria Vasquez displays her 
Immigrant Career Pathways Certificate of Program Completion 
presented by Gail Rosin (left) and Jayna Velez-Molina (right)

Lonnie Burt, the Hartford Public Schools' Food & Child Nutrition Services Director, provides each student with a thirty-six hour on-the-job-training internship in one of the school system's fifty-two school cafeterias. "It's a great way to provide training to help immigrants get ahead. Additionally, it introduces diversity into the school system's cafeterias, and offers the potential to provide cultural food options reflective of the community," Burt said. "It's also a winning way for the school system's food services program to identify potential employees for job openings which occur routinely," she added.

In the future, today's graduates can further their careers by taking an advanced class, also funded by HFPG, for experienced food service workers. Taught by Trish Lawson, the school system's Field Manager for Food & Child Nutrition Services, students learn the National Restaurant Association's ServSafe sanitation standards, and apply them through school cafeteria internships, as well. It's required training for the national food protection exam to become a QFO - a qualified food operator. In Connecticut at least one person per food service establishment that prepares and serves food must have this important certification. Thirteen other students who just completed this advanced class, which requires another thirty-six hour internship, took the ServSafe exam on November 8th and are awaiting their results.

Left to right Trish Lawson, Lonnie Burt and Gustavo Sanchez 
celebrate Mr. Sanchez's graduation.

A combined total of twenty-two immigrants, nine in the introductory course and thirteen in the advanced course, who arrived in Hartford from Mexico, Peru, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Thailand, and Colombia, participated in the Immigrant Career Pathways food service program.

As a measure of the program's success, four of today's nine graduates have been hired for entry level positions in the school food system according to Wanda Dunaway, the Food & Child Nutrition Services Organization Manager. Capital Workforce Partners also participates in this initiative by providing resume preparation assistance, and job search support to facilitate entry into the local workforce.

Community collaborations work. This innovative community collaboration has opened a career pathway affording Hartford's new arrivals an opportunity to secure their first job in the United States. 

The next cycle of classes begins in January 2017. Contact Jayna Velez-Molina ( at the Hartford Public Library for details.

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Photos by Don Shaw, Jr.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Post-Racist vs. Post-Racial America: A Big Difference

Aasif Mandvi
Photograph by Christian Oth for the New York Times

Reading Ana Marie Cox's interview of actor, comedian and writer Aasif Mandvi (October 9, 2016 New York Times Magazine) reminded me of Wes Moore's comments at The Connecticut Forum about wanting a post-racist, not a post-racial America. There is a difference. A big difference.

Mandvi argued in his Cox interview that "We’re not postracial [sic]. Years ago, people would say, “I don’t see race.” But you do see race, and if you tell yourself you don’t see race, you’re never going to address your racism [emphasis mine]. I’m not interested in being beyond race anymore. I’m more interested in leaning into race and saying that we need to accept that other people are different. That is the multiplicity of the human experience and also what potentially makes America great —" 

Wes Moore at The Connecticut Forum
Screen shot from Forum video

Wes Moore made similar points at The Connecticut Forum's Racism program (December 3, 2015) when he said in the Forum's posted video "I don't want to exist in a post-racial America because I'm not ashamed of my race, and nobody should be ashamed of theirs. I don't want to exist in a post-racial America. I want to exist in a post-racist America. And so there's a difference."

So we, the citizens of the United States of America, if true to our belief in the Constitutional rights of all Americans, should recognize, understand and celebrate what Moore said in his Forum comments, and what Mandvi concluded in his interview when he said "we need to accept that other people are different. That is the multiplicity of the human experience and also what potentially makes America great —"

Take just five minutes to follow the the links in my text to read the Mandvi interview, and hear Moore's video comments. They are important points of view.

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Happy Birthday to President Carter, an Inspiring Stonecatcher!

President Carter greeting the congregation before teaching Sunday School
Maranatha Baptist Church, Plains, GA, May 22, 2016

President Carter speaking at the Carter Weekend
luncheon on his boyhood farm, May 21, 2016

In celebration of President Jimmy Carter's 92nd birthday on October 1, 2016, Peggy and I, and Tom and Dougie Trumble, share our heartfelt thoughts about the impact he and Rosalynn have made on our lives, and the lives of millions of people around the world. They are inspiring stonecatchers!

The following is an updated version of the August 26, 2015 letter (and Hartford Courant Op-Ed) my good friend Tom Trumble and I sent to President Carter while he was being treated for cancer. It says it all.

Don Shaw, Jr
Writer and Editor

The Carter Center

One Copenhill

453 Freedom Parkway

Atlanta, GA 30307

Dear President Carter,

“No photos! Keep working! We’ve got homes to build!” Your impassioned work site charge, as our benevolent taskmaster, always kept us focused on what was important – getting the job done.

Constructing at least one hundred Habitat for Humanity homes in one week at your annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project is an incredible challenge. Shepherding three thousand volunteers from around the world, from different cultures and ethnicities with diverse languages, you and Rosalynn have shown us it can be done anywhere in the world through hard work and unwavering resolve. Building one hundred simple, affordable homes, working side by side with new homeowners to be, is a miracle of deep faith, selfless teamwork, long sweaty hours, and untiring commitment to Habitat’s mission. Thank you for leading by example – hammering and sawing as vigorously as anyone.

South Africa was our first Carter Work Project, a project centered on reconciliation from years of apartheid. The initial one hundred homes we built in 2002 outside of Durban, in a community aptly renamed “Ethembeni” (a place of hope), is now a thriving village of many more homes and local services. After witnessing the tremendous power of international collaboration to help families build new safe and healthy homes, we unhesitatingly volunteered for your projects in Mexico, India, Thailand, and twice in Haiti after its devastating earthquake. 

Openly engaging us through your daily briefings and lessons, especially your amazing Sunday school lesson in Haiti, made us feel part of your inner circle. It’s a mighty big circle, indeed! Your after-hours discussions on world events, and the Carter Center’s tireless work, ranging from the soon to be complete eradication of Guinea worm disease to monitoring elections to brokering peace relations around the world, made us realize our Habitat work is diplomacy at its best – moving from advocacy to action to achievement. 

With each project we returned to our home affiliate, Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity, with new experiences to share about Habitat’s great work and impact in eliminating poverty housing in other countries. It reinforced the importance to Hartford Habitat donors to share our abundance by faithfully continuing to tithe 10% of our unrestricted funds to Habitat affiliates outside the United States. It is critical to sustaining Habitat‘s worldwide mission. As you have taught us so well, adequate shelter should be a basic human right throughout the world.

This past May we were thrilled, honored, and grateful to be invited to meet with you and Mrs. Carter during Habitat for Humanity International's Carter Weekend in Georgia. You can count on us to “Keep working!" at home and abroad because "We’ve got homes to build!”

Happy Birthday!!

Don & Peggy Shaw
Tom & Dougie Trumble

The following photos were taken on the back porch of President Carter's boyhood farmhouse on May 21, 2016, in Plains, GA, during Habitat for Humanity International's Carter Weekend.

Peggy and Don Shaw with President and Mrs. Carter

Dougie and Tom Trumble with President and Mrs. Carter

Photos of President Carter at Marantha Baptist Church and Carter Weekend luncheon by Don Shaw, Jr.
Photos of the Shaws and Trumbles courtesy of Habitat for Humanity International.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Plant More Milkweed!

Monarch Butterfly in My Backyard September 12, 2016

After a two year absence, a Monarch Butterfly set down to feed in our backyard! We watched as it entertained us throughout the afternoon.

"In the spring, summer and early fall, they can be found wherever there are milkweeds. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweeds and they're always searching for them in fields, meadows and parks. Many people plant milkweeds in their gardens. Females will look for available milkweed plants to lay eggs. 

The eggs hatch after approximately four days. The caterpillars are small and they grow many times their initial size over a two-week period. The caterpillars feed [exclusively] on the available milkweed plant. When they get big enough, each caterpillar forms a chrysalis and goes through metamorphosis.

The chrysalis protects the monarch as it is going through the major developmental change of turning from a caterpillar to a butterfly. The chrysalis is green with yellow spots. After another 2-week period, an adult butterfly will emerge from the chrysalis."*

Please create a welcoming environment for the Monarch wherever you can. We need to do as much as we can to protect and save this beautiful species.

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

* Source: National Wildlife Federation

Photograph by Don Shaw, Jr.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Welcoming Refugees and Immigrants

Hartford Karen Community New Year Celebration January 16, 2016

Georges Annan-Kingsley, Hartford Artist

In recent years I've been fortunate to work with many refugees and immigrants in Hartford through my work with the South Marshall Interfaith Coalition and the Asylum Hill Neighborhood Association's Welcoming Committee. Want to help address refugee and immigrant assimilation and civic engagement? Here's a great opportunity. 

The City of Hartford is looking for eight to nine volunteers to serve on its Commission on Refugee and Immigrant Affairs.   I encourage Hartford area residents to apply for a position on Commission. Make a difference. Be a stonecatcher!

Below is the Commission's media release in English and Spanish with the particulars.

Commission on Refugee an Immigrant Affairs

In 2013, the City of Hartford created the Commission on Refugee and Immigrant Affairs (CRIA) to advise the mayor and city council on issues and concerns affecting the city’s refugee and immigrant residents and to promote refugee and immigrant civic engagement.

In its first year the commission worked on municipal identity cards, supported an ordinance revision that strengthened Hartford’s status as a sanctuary city, and urged the city to do a better job of communicating essential information (including health information) through community media outlets in different languages.

CRIA meets the second Tuesday of every month at 6 pm in the Hartford Public Library, 500 Main Street, and meetings are open to the public.

Commissioners are volunteers appointed by the mayor to serve renewable terms of one or 2 years. Any area resident may apply for a position on the commission (if they are immigrants or refugees or their work serves immigrant incorporation).

To bring refugee and immigrant issues to the attention of the Commission or for information about applying to serve on the commission, email Find out more about Hartford commissions and the CRIA website (in progress) at

Comisión de Asuntos de Refugiados e Inmigrantes

En el 2013, la ciudad de Hartford creó la Comisión de Asuntos de Refugiados e Inmigrantes (CRIA) para aconsejar al alcalde y el concejal de la ciudad sobre las cuestiones y preocupaciones que afectan a los residentes de la ciudad que son refugiados e inmigrantes y promover el compromiso cívico de los refugiados e inmigrantes.

En su primer año, la Comisión trabajó en las tarjetas de identidad municipales, apoyó una revisión de una ordenanza que fortalece la ciudad de Hartford como una ciudad santuario, e ínsito que la ciudad hiciera un mejor trabajo de comunicar información esencial (incluyendo información de salud) a través de los medios de comunicación en diferentes idiomas.

CRIA se reúne el segundo martes de cada mes a las 6 pm en la Biblioteca Pública de Hartford, 500 Main Street, y las reuniones están abiertas al público.

Los Comisionados son voluntarios y designados por el alcalde para servir un período renovable de uno o 2 años. Cualquier residente puede aplicar para una posición en la comisión (si son inmigrantes o refugiados o su trabajo sirve la incorporación de los inmigrantes).

Para traer asuntos de los refugiados e inmigrantes a la atención de la Comisión o para información sobre cómo aplicar para formar parte de la comisión, envíe un correo electrónico a . Conozca más acerca de las comisiones de Hartford y el sitio web de CRIA (en proceso) en .

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Connecticut Forum's Religion in America 2016

The Connecticut Forum's Religion in America 2016 on September 29, 2016 kicks off the Forum's 2016-2017 season. I'm looking forward to a lively discussion on "The changing role [of religion] in our culture, politics and lives." It's great opportunity to listen, learn and grow.

Follow the link above to the Forum's website for more information about the panelists, and to purchase tickets.

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Friday, August 19, 2016

Saving Children and Marines in Mogadishu

A Happy Day at Restore Hope Orphanage 1993. 

A scarlet, key-laden lanyard hung around Khadija Mohamud's neck. The gold lettering was unmistakable: United States Marine Corps. My question obvious; her answer emotional. Khadija's story quickly unfolded. "Two Marines were forgotten, left behind. I had to do what I had to do," Khadija said recounting her unhesitatingly selfless call to action in saving two U.S. Marines in war torn Mogadishu. I knew then that Khadija's story must be shared with others, many others.

Khadija and I met at Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, VA in what she described as "such an unexpected circumstance." We were both among several chaperones guiding a "getting to know you" interfaith youth gathering. She for the Muslim youth of Dar Al-Hijrah, and I for thirty Granby, CT high school youth on a week long trip to Washington, DC, which focused on gaining perspective on Race, Religion, and Privilege.

Khadija and me at Dar Al-Hijrah, August 4, 2016

The trip, which is a whole other story, sponsored by First Congregational Church of Granby, purposefully took the Granby youth out of town to engage with Washington-area youth in collaborative activities ranging from a Black Lives Matter workshop to LBGTQ discussions to Aging-in-Place service projects with in-need elderly to the Holocaust Museum to a White House tour to a Muslim prayer service at the Capitol, and to the thoughtfully-planned meet, greet, and play with more than 50 youth from DAH Youth, and 20 more from ADAMS Center and The Young Leaders Institute. Intense, provocative, and enlightening, the week was a huge success.

Saving Children

The year 1991. The city Mogadishu. 

After 13 years in the United States pursuing her education and career as an accountant, and becoming a citizen, Khadija (known to some by her nickname "Lul", which means "Pearl") had returned home to Somalia for a short visit to check on the well being of her family. The short visit to help secure the safety of family and friends turned into an eight year life-changing mission in Mogadishu to save children whose lives were torn apart by the horrific combat raging throughout the city. 

Fighting had injured hundreds of children; many had lost their parents. Mothers desperately needed help for their children, their husbands killed in the fighting. Access to food and medicine was increasingly difficult, clinics were closing, and others were treacherous to reach.

Somali Child in Mogadishu

With her friends, Khadija responded to the crisis by organizing their grassroots Somali Relief and Development Organization, "a group of volunteer professional women who wanted to do something for the children of Mogadishu." An abandoned building was found, and a mother and childcare center established. Instantly, it was "providing medical care and food for 150 injured or malnourished children and mothers." But in November 1991, as the civil war exploded throughout the area, with rockets raining down, gunfire piercing the air, and looting rampant, "overnight 10 times more children came to our center." As medical supplies and food ran out death became routine. The images seen around the world were horrific.

Khadija, desperately seeking more help, returned to America to solicit aid in the U.S. and Canada. The Somali-Canadian community responded immediately arranging the first ton of medicines and first aid supplies to be shipped safely through international relief agencies and the United Nations. Khadija soon returned to Mogadishu. Her unflagging efforts led to an additional assignment. She was appointed as Feed the Children Program Officer in Mogadishu.

Khadija was saving children. Soon she would be saving two U.S. Marines. 

Saving Marines

The year 1993. The city Mogadishu. 

Khadija now was serving as Feed the Children International Country Director for Somalia, as well as managing the Restore Hope Orphanage in Mogadishu North "with well over 2,000 orphans, abandoned and needy children, ages 2 to 12."

Khadija's Feed the Children ID

In early October the Battle of Mogadishu was fought. It was the battle in which two U.S. UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, a tragedy documented in the book Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War. The fighting resulted in thousands of Somali casualties, along with several U.S. soldiers dead and many more wounded. Later in October, even though the city remained extremely dangerous, a UN visit to the Restore Hope Orphanage proceeded as scheduled.

The following narrative is Khadija's recounting of saving two Marines as told to me: 
It was October 24, 1993. In celebration of United Nations Day, U.S. Navy Admiral Jonathan Howe, the Special Representative for Somalia to UN Secretary General Butros-Ghali was scheduled to visit the orphanage along with other dignitaries and high-ranking military officials from various countries. 
Security was tight due to the orphanage's location near the so called Green Line, a dangerous no man's land dividing Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia into North and South between warring factions. 
That day, a large area around the orphanage compound was secured by the U.S. Marines and there were several armored military vehicles strategically positioned inside, outside and around the orphanage's compound.
A Somali Youth Approaching a Mogadishu Security Checkpoint
Inside the orphanage, a great deal of time before the arrival of Admiral Howe and his entourage, a unit of the U.S. Marines took position in several corners inside the building, first floor, second floor, entrances to second floor, on the roof, front and back entrances of the orphanage compound. There was a large contingent of media personnel from around the world. 
The visit lasted about 45 minutes. Guests toured the Center, interacting, playing, singing, and taking pictures with the children and staff. Then everyone departed. 
It was through our program that we, along with Feed the Children, provided everything for the children: food, medicine, clothing, education, recreational activities to keep them off the streets during the day where their would be role models were killing and looting. 
However, at the end of each day before nightfall, we released the children to their extended families.  We worked diligently to locate the children's closest kin and place them with relatives so that they would not be institutionalized, but grow up in a family environment. On top of that the security situation would not have permitted us to keep the children at the orphanage compound after dark. Clashes, shootings, mortar shelling and looting were the norm. It would have been strategically impossible to evacuate over 2,000 children. The consequences would have been devastating if fighting broke out. 
The sun was setting, it was getting dark. I was getting ready to close. I sent my guards to secure all gates and doors of the compound when I came to find out that two U.S. Marines were forgotten, left behind. 
My first thought was: "No, it is not possible."
I walked down to where they were positioned, I saw two very young soldiers, one black and one white, holding tight onto their weapons, seemingly alarmed. They were very young, I guess maybe between 19 and 21 years of age. 
I thought: "Oh my God! What now?" 
I went up to them and told them that everyone of their group had left, but in reassuring them I said to them: "Don't worry, I am American like you. These are my guards, and I promise no one will harm you. Come with me and I will take you to safety to the Italian Military base which is the closest." 
I felt they became a bit relaxed but they told me that they must follow rules and must stay where they were last known to be. 
Night was approaching. It was unsafe for me, too, to be trotting around. Mogadishu was in the hands of armed militia who took the city hostage. Throughout the night you would hear gunfire and random rockets being fired. There were security checkpoints set up by local police, however, in the darkness if anyone halted you to stop, you were doomed if you stopped, and you were doomed if you did not stop, because there were also some checkpoints set up by thugs for the purpose of looting and rape. In the darkness, with no electricity, you could not distinguish the good guys from the bad ones. So you do not stop, never. You take your chance of avoiding bullets raining down on you as you flee. 
The U.S. Military base was in Mogadishu South, we were in Mogadishu North. But I had to do what I had to do. 
I got my driver ready with my pick up truck, loaded the back with armed men, some of my security guards, and left for the Italian Military base, which was nearest to the orphanage. 
Needless to say that to approach any military base, day or night, was very dangerous. Fortunately my vehicle was easily identifiable with Feed the Children's flag and logo on the doors, plus they knew me. The gate opened and I drove in. I asked to see the General who was in charge of the base, presented to him the situation. Right away he summoned one of his captains, who with some soldiers, quickly got into an armored vehicle and followed me to the orphanage. 
Before we left the Italian Military base, the General communicated by radio, I believe first with the U.S. Military base in Mogadishu South, and then following instructions he radioed the head of the Nigerian Military Contingent, which was based at the old port of Mogadishu also not far from where we were. We headed there.
The Italian General tried to see if it was at all possible that the two Marines could be air lifted by helicopter back to their U.S. base in Mogadishu South. Usually airlifts were done by flying over the sea to avoid ground area. By flying over the Green Line there was the danger that militia would shoot rockets to bring the aircraft down. 
The head of the Nigerian Military expressed concern as there was a ban for airlifts at night, but said that they would stay in communication by radio with the U.S. Military base, and in the meantime the Nigerian base would host the two Marines for the night and take them to the U.S. base in the morning. And so it went.  
After I had secured them in the Nigerian's safe hands, it was my turn to try to get home safely. While all this is happening, I was expecting my son, my first born.  
I am grateful to God that He has given me the opportunity to do good. My faith teaches me that ".... If anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind" (Quran, Chapter 5, Verse 32). I guess I got double of that. 
I would also add that the U.S. Marines adopted the orphanage, which was named after the UN Operations in Somalia: Operation Restore Hope. When we first occupied the building, which was an old Catholic private boarding school, and my elementary school as a child, the walls were riddled with bullet holes and marked with war related graffiti. The roof and the structural support were in pieces. U.S. Marines and Sailors began helping. They even shared their MREs (Meal, Ready-to-Eat) with the children, if we ran out of food. To honor their involvement, we painted the center with the colors of the U.S. Marines: GOLD and SCARLET. I hold them dear in a special spot in my heart. Semper Fidelis! 
It's been 23 years since that day and I always ask myself: "Where are those two Marines now? They must be in their late forties, fathers or even grandfathers. Would they remember me?" Who knows, but I wish I could know.


The situation deteriorated throughout Somalia in late 1993 and into 1994. Most U.S. troops were withdrawn in 1994, and completely by 1995.  Khadija recalled how the country fell back into chaos and renewed fighting between factions. As a way to arm themselves the local militias looted food convoys and exchanged food for weapons. Mogadishu's main seaport and airport fell into the hands of thugs and criminals. Ships could not dock at the port because rocket fire scared them away. "I stayed behind even after all foreign presence was gone, [even] while relief agencies left due to security reasons," she said. Foreigners were targeted for kidnapping for ransom.

Eventually, as food ran out and what security there was declined further, Feed the Children closed all programs in Somalia by the late 1990s. Khadija was relocated to the Feed the Children office in Nairobi, Kenya. "I continued to support some of the children in Mogadishu on my own, but however little, my assistance was not reaching them," she lamented.

For a couple of years Khadija worked as a Program Coordinator for another agency, and later as a Fundraiser/Project Proposal Writer for a Nairobi Catholic mission, the Diocese of Rumbek.

In 2003, Khadija returned to the United States, settling in Fairfax, Virginia. She resumed her career as an accountant, and, as she said, "a full-time mom to her children, Edoardo and Sarah," now 22 and 20, respectively.

"As far as for me," Khadija sighed, "I feel my mission was not complete."

Khadija did what she had to do in Mogadishu.

Khadija will continue to do what she has to do.

Khadija is a stonecatcher.

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Source documents, photos and images from Khadija Mohamud; Don Shaw Jr.; CIA World Factbook; Defense Technical Center; and

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"One. Two. Three. LIFT!"

"One. Two. Three. LIFT!"
On July 16, on an expertly prepared site ready for volunteers, hammers were in full swing building walls for a brand new Habitat for Humanity raised ranch under construction in Granby, CT. 

On Habitat site supervisor Stan's count, -- "One. Two. Three. LIFT!" -- and undaunted by the stifling heat and humidity, a volunteer crew of twelve from Granby's First Congregational and South Congregational churches raised the home's first wall. 

This house is Hartford Habitat's first rural build. Granby's town leadership is fully supportive. That's the way it is in Granby, my hometown.

First Congregational and South Congregational Crew 

Just before lunch break First Church member Ruth Rosebrooks, retired and revered Granby school teacher, whose generous long-time community volunteering includes stints with Habitat, paid the crew a visit to offer her heartfelt encouragement. She hammered home the first wall's final nails before we lifted it place.

Ruth Rosebrooks hitting the nail square on the head, as always.
The Granby Habitat house is now in full construction mode. The Granby homeowners-to-be are faithfully working to complete their construction sweat equity. Volunteer construction crews are being scheduled for the rest of the year offering their time and sweat in partnership.

Building affordable housing is not a heavy lift when a community lifts together.

"One. Two. Three. LIFT!"

This post was published by the Granby Drummer, August 29, 2016.

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Photos by Don Shaw, Jr.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Indifference is Dangerous

Indifference is dangerous. 

Elie Wiesel's comments on the danger of indifference are timeless. His words are a powerful reminder of the evil of indifference. His words challenge our conscience to move from indifference to awareness and action, to take a stand. You can hear them in The Connecticut Forum's July 8, 2016, Video of the Week

History is replete with our inhumanity, our dark side, which all to often rises up targeting those whom we view as the other, the stranger, the not-of-my-kind. The other, the stranger, the not-of-my-kind are real people, not abstractions. Each has a story -- a personal story of a real life, filled the with the kinds of hopes and dreams most of us share in wanting to be accepted, and allowed to live in peace and pursue a purposeful life.

Wiesel knew the power of indifference. He knew the power of taking a stand against indifference. He lived through oppression aided by indifference. He survived oppression because many people spoke out, rejected the indifference of neutrality, and took a stand to fight oppression. We should take care to heed Wiesel's admonition. 

As quoted by the Forum from Wiesel's December 10, 1986, Nobel Prize acceptance speech

"We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe."
Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel died on July 2, 2016.  

Indifference is dangerous.

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Saturday, June 18, 2016

World Refugee Day June 20

World Refugee Day Poster

June 20 is World Refugee Day. It is a day to listen and learn.  It is a day to speak out. It is a day to take a stand. It is a day to act.

The plight of refugees globally is horrific. It's an unconscionable and tragic reality for the more than 65 million people today who have been displaced forcibly worldwide.

With violence forcing "hundreds of families to flee each day, the UN Refugee Agency believes now is the time to show world leaders that the global public stands with refugees, and it will launch its #WithRefugees petition on June 20th to send a message to governments that they must work together and do their fair share for refugees."

To Act Globally on June 20: Sign the UN Refugee Agency's #WithRefugees petition. It will help "send a clear message to governments [worldwide] that they must act with solidarity and shared responsibility."

To Act Locally on June 20: Reach out to refugees who have made their way to your community. Check with your local refugee resettlement agencies and other public and private organizations to learn about activities and opportunities to support refugees in your community.

To Act Locally in Hartford, CT on June 20: Visit The Hartford Public Library. It offers an excellent opportunity to "get to know your newest neighbors. From Monday, June 20th through Thursday, June 23rd, from 12:30 - 2:00 p.m., members of Hartford's diverse refugee groups invite you to join them for a cup of tea and conversation at Hartford Public Library, Downtown."

Also visit The American Place on the Library's Main Floor, for a display of Andy Hart's photographs "featuring the rich cultural contributions new arrivals bring to [Hartford]," and the ArtWalk on the Third Floor featuring Marc-Yves Regis' Headstrong photographic exhibit of Haitian children, which reflects "the deep passion that Marc-Yves Regis feels for street vendors who carry Haiti’s economic burden on their heads. Despite their constant struggle with bone-crushing labor, their faces show a mixture of determination, pride, sorrow, fear and joy."

Photograph by Marc-Yves Regis

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

The Connecticut Forum: Bishop Gene Robinson on the Solidarity of the LGBTQ Community

In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Orlando, The Connecticut Forum's just released Video of the Week is timely and essential viewing.  The Forum's words quoted below speak for themselves. Please take a moment to read them. Then watch the video clip of Bishop Gene Robinson.

"Earlier this week a mass shooting was targeted at the LGBTQ community, in a space that was meant to be a place of celebration and safe haven. Our hearts are with all of those who lost friends or loved ones in this tragedy.

In this newly released clip, Bishop Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Bishop, talks about threats of violence directed at him and his family and the LGBTQ community in general, as well as the solidarity and strength of that community.

Robinson was joined on the panel by Dan Savage and Martina Navratilova, with Jonathan Capehart moderating. The Forum Being Gay took place on October 5, 2013 at The Connecticut Forum."

Don Shaw, Jr
Writer and Editor

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pedaling Their Mission

Bike & Build cyclists cheered by greeters upon
arrival at First Congregational Church of Granby, CT,
June 7, 2016

"I see them! They're here! Bike & Build just arrived!"

Every June for more than ten years the Bike & Build Providence to Seattle Tour has overnighted at First Congregational Church of Granby, CT on it annual Providence to Seattle trip, one of its eight yearly cross-country cycling tours raising awareness for, and money to fund, critically needed affordable housing. It's a celebration the church looks forward to hosting every year.

Bike & Build, founded in 2002, has been pedaling its message for affordable housing ever since 2003. In its first 13 years Bike & Build’s cross-country tours have engaged 3,000 young adults in service who have delivered the affordable housing message, and have donated more than $4.5 million for the cause in the process. In 2015 alone, riders rode 1,021,000 combined miles, worked 25,700 hours building affordable homes en route, and awarded $637,311 in grants to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity,  Rebuilding Together, and many other affordable housing groups.

As its mission and vision state, "Through service-oriented cycling trips, Bike & Build benefits affordable housing and empowers young adults for a lifetime of service and civic engagement," and it "envisions future generations who are committed to a lifetime of civic engagement and who inspire individuals and communities to create fair, decent housing for all Americans."

The following photographs tell the story of Bike & Build's Providence to Seattle (P2S) 2016 tour stop at First Congregational Church, June 7-8, 2016. Check out the Bike & Build website for lots more details.

Enjoy the Ride!

Thrilled to get off the saddle!
Cooling off in the shade and resting weary legs.

Parking the van and trailer carrying clothes, equipment, and food.
The caption on the trailer says it all.
Riders showing off pictures from today's ride while munching on calorie replenishing snacks.
Off to the showers courtesy of the Farmington Valley YMCA,
and the Marquis of Granby Junior Ancient Fyfe & Drum Corps bus.
Chowing down on First Congregational Church's legendary annual B&B feast.
Brian Liss, executive director of the Farmington Valley YMCA, being congratulated by Rev. Dr. Ginny McDaniel of First Congregational Church, and Don Shaw, church member and member of Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity board, in recognition of the YMCA's many years of generously offering its showers to the cyclists.
After a good night's rest, up and at 'em early to get the bikes ready to roll June 8, 2016.
The pressure to get going.
Last minute treatment.
Mandatory morning briefing on the ride ahead. Today's destination: Kent, CT.
The reason they ride!
Group photo before mounting up.
Ready to lead cyclists to the Granby Habitat house under construction.

Bike & Build cyclists at the Granby Habitat house construction site,
which is right along the start of their route to Kent, CT.

Underway! Leaving the Granby Habitat house site. Onward to Kent. Enjoy the hills!!

Don Shaw, Jr.
Writer and Editor

Photographs by Don Shaw, Jr.
Tour map and Bike & Build information from its website.