Defenseless, his mother took the remaining children, some as young as two, and fled to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). In the chaos and hubbub, Madison and his mother were separated. He never saw her again.
At age 14, Madison began his life as a refugee. He spent the next 13 years at a refugee camp in Tanzania. The conditions themselves weren't horrible, he says, but there was always the haunting specter of being sent back to Burundi.
One day, his luck changed. Strangers drove up to the refugee camp, presented him with papers and asked if, perhaps, he'd like to leave the refugee camp and come to a place called the United States of America.
America was a place of peace, they told him, a place of possibility. "I'll get away from all this fighting and chaos and go to America," Madison decided.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & A & lt;/span & plane ride, some paperwork and a few vaccines later, Madison arrived in Spokane about six months ago. World Relief, a nonprofit that works with the government to resettle refugees, found Madison an affordable apartment and provided some furniture and necessities. He's traveled 14,000 miles -- cultural worlds away from his Burundi homeland -- to raise his two young daughters, Melissa and Jaqueline, with his wife Alfosini.
What's most striking about the family's apartment is just how typically American it is. Except for some African artwork hanging on the wall, it could be the apartment of any Spokane couple with two young kids -- there's a plastic toy here, a tiny child's shoe there and the requisite abundance of Sippy Cups. Raiders of the Lost Ark and Armageddon -- despite being in English instead of Swahili -- sit atop their VCRs. (Michael Bay explosions, perhaps, are a universal language.)
Madison only speaks a few words of English, and my knowledge of Swahili is limited to a few phrases from The Lion King. So Jarvis Lunalo, a Whitworth student from Kenya, translates our respective spurts of Swahili and salvos of rapid-fire English. With that cumbersome process of talk/wait for translation/wait for reply/wait for translation of reply, we discuss Burundi, Tanzania, America, hopes, fears and job-hunting. Through it all, one theme becomes clear: Madison loves the Lilac City and its people.
"He'd never met a white person before," Lunalo translates. "His thought of the white people was that they never cared for the African community at all. When he came here and saw the compassion -- without it he wouldn't be here today -- he's very grateful."
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & pokane is a city particularly suited to the needs of refugees, says Linda Unseth, director of World Relief Spokane. "We have the highest minimum-wage rate. We have reasonable housing. We have wonderful medical, we have a wonderful school system," Unseth says. "It's a big city with a small-city feel."
Until recently, many refugees and immigrants to Spokane were of Russian or Slavic descent. "We used to have over 90 percent that were from the former Soviet Union," Unseth says. "Initially, they came here because we had large houses, they liked the climate, they liked the seasons." Spokane's Russian churches and Russian-speaking community also played a factor. As the former Soviet Union slowly regained its balance, however, that trickle of Russian refugees began to slow.
Then the World Trade Center collapsed. Concerned about security risks, the government cut back on number of refugees allowed in. Unseth says Catholic Charities had to shut down their resettlement operations, leaving World Relief the only resettlement agency in Spokane.
"Our numbers dropped to almost nothing, because the government is just so careful with who they bring in," Unseth says, "But refugees are the most security-tested group that comes through our borders."
Slowly, the United States has begun accepting larger numbers of refugees again. But while World Relief brings around 300 refugees to Spokane every year, that's still fewer than before 9/11. Instead of Russians, the organization is receiving a large number of refugees from Burma, as well as a few from Nepal, Cuba and, recently, Iraq. Typically, the government sends refugees to agencies according to the language capabilities. (There are 23 languages spoken at the Spokane chapter of World Relief.)
The language barrier is a tricky one. Greg Cunningham, program director of refugee and immigration services for Catholic Charities of Spokane, says refugee kids will often learn the new language faster than their parents, creating an odd role reversal. "Apparently, that leads to some very interesting parent-teacher conferences, because the kid is the interpreter at his own conference," Cunningham says.
Cultural differences abound. Many refugees come from a close communal society, while Americans value independence, self-reliance and freedom. And for refugees escaping from political oppression, the idea that the government can actually help is a difficult one to grasp, Cunningham explains.
Sometimes those seemingly trivial cultural differences bring grim consequences. When a Burmese refugee met a group of children earlier this year, he invited them over to his house to play. Back in Burma, local refugee volunteer Brent Hendricks says, such an invitation would be polite, normal, even expected. But in America's social and legal climate, the man's offer got him accused, arrested and convicted of "child luring." Hendricks says the man is appealing the felony conviction, but with his new criminal record, the threat of eventual deportation looms.
When faced with America's alien culture, Unseth says, a refugee usually passes through four stages of culture shock. First comes the honeymoon stage, where the refugee is amazed, excited and overwhelmed by the mind-blowing newness of it all -- like seeing grocery stores brimming with food. Then grief and homesickness. Then anger. And finally contentment. Unseth says World Relief tries to help refugees zoom through the difficult stages.
"If they're willing to get in there and work hard, they pass through that difficult time really quickly." Unseth says. "It's not a golden platter. It's hard work." World Relief works with the government and other nonprofits, like Catholic Charities, to provide a slew of assistance to refugees. The group sets up transportation from the airport, finds the apartment and fills it with an assortment of furniture and household items. From there, World Relief sets up adults with English instruction and enrolls their children in local schools. It gets a small per-refugee stipend from the government, but relies mainly on volunteers and donations for the rest.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & M & lt;/span & adison's goals, meanwhile, aren't to become rich or successful or famous or popular. All he wants is to find a job that pays enough to support his family. He's grateful for charity and welfare, but tired of having to rely on them to pay for rent and food.
"Someone would offer to help today, and offer to help tomorrow," Lunalo translates. "He's used to working -- earning -- what he has. All he wants is somebody to give him a job."
For non-English speakers, understandably, the job hunt can be exceptionally difficult. But despite the linguistic challenge, Unseth says, refugees make fantastic workers.
"They overcompensate by good work and good work-ethic, because they speak English as a second language," Unseth says. World Relief contacts local employers, especially those with multilingual employees, to help refugees find jobs.
Just recently, Madison applied for a job at L'arche, a live-in home for developmentally disabled people. His wife works on the cleaning staff at the Red Lion, where bilingual coworkers help her communicate with managers. Madison says he doesn't want a white-collar job -- he doesn't quite have the required education -- but when it comes to matters of manpower, strength and craftsmanship, Madison is more than willing.
"When he was back home, he used to do heavy duty jobs -- lifting stuff, pushing carts -- to make sure he sustains his family," Lunalo translates. "[Madison has] done everything imaginable."
I ask Madison what he misses most about Africa -- about Burundi, about Zaire, about Tanzania. I expect to hear a typical answer citing culture, family, friends or food. Instead, Madison's answer is blunt: Nothing. With his memories of fleeing gunshots still ricocheting in his mind, the past holds very little nostalgia.
The future in America, in Spokane -- that, on the other hand, offers glimmers of hope and possibility. To learn English, find a job, become self-sufficient, raise his family, and maybe, someday, start his own business. Those, he says, are his dream -- the vintage American Dream, dusted off and resurrected without a trace of irony.
-- DANIEL WALTERS
World Relief is looking for volunteers, drivers, and donations of furniture, household items and money. Call Linda Unseth at 484-9901.
INSPIRATION: AMY SWANSON
Director of Vanessa Behan Crisis Center
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "I & lt;/span & had a situation with a mom awhile back. She called because she needed help with a special needs child. The mom came in and just stayed and talked with us for a long time. I did not know at the moment, but she had been thinking of killing herself. She originally was just going to drop her child off and leave, but she got to talk and connect with us. Had we been busy and not had as much time for her, I don't think she would be alive. ... That's why I'm here. You never know the huge difference you can make in the life of a child. Sometimes, just by the smallest amount of help you give."
-- ROBBY DOUTHITT
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & D & lt;/span & o you fill another tank with gas this week, or do you drag that old bike down from the attic? Do you vacation in Moscow, Russia, this summer, or is it time for Moscow, Idaho? With the cost of nearly everything going through the roof these days, it has become choosing time. Gas or food? New or used? Charity or savings?
The latter has nonprofit organizations worried.
"General contributions and donations to the House of Charity and St. Margaret's Shelter -- those are donations that come in pretty consistently every month, and we're seeing a downturn on all [of those]," says Loreen McFaul, with Catholic Charities of Spokane. "We don't know if people are kind of waiting to give or waiting to bump it up a bit" once the economy improves.
At Goodwill Industries, Diane Galloway says they haven't yet seen a drop in cash donations, but they're anticipating one. And they have seen a decline in donations of clothing, furniture and other goods that are the stores' bread and butter. "In tough times, people are not so quick to give away items they're just tired of," she says.
At Second Harvest Food Bank, Rod Wieber sounds optimistic about the donations coming in. "When the economy gets pretty tough, people still really give," he says. "They know it's tough out there." He reports that Second Harvest hasn't seen a drop-off in monetary or food donations. However, like other nonprofit representatives, he says they're getting hit hard by the rising costs of food and transportation. "I get this load of produce out of north central California. This load last year was $2,400. Now it costs 50 percent more to transport it to our doors," he says. "We have had to turn down donations of food from outside our service area because the cost of bringing it here is too much. To have to turn down a whole trailer-load of food, that's a hard thing."
Donations to the Women and Children's Free Restaurant on North Monroe Street are actually up, reports Marlene Alford, but that's because of a big promotional push over the last year. However, she also notes that their costs are rising and points out a major worry shared by many nonprofits: soaring demand.
Catholic Charities' McFaul notes, "We [usually] receive on any given day at least 10 calls for emergency assistance, but right now we're averaging 15 to 20. That is unfortunately a need we're not necessarily able to meet, as the assistance money we had to give for the calendar year ran out in June."
"We can't serve as many kids as we normally do," says Keith O'Brien of Lutheran Community Services, which, he reports, is also feeling the strain. "When the economy's worse, the need is greater. It's definitely a Catch-22."
-- JOEL SMITH
INSPIRATION: MIKE FORNESS
Executive Director of the Ronald McDonald House of the Inland Northwest
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "M & lt;/span & y inspiration comes from six words: Isabel, Daniel, Parker, Abbey, Coltar and Skylar. Those are kids either in cancer remission, currently battling it, or who have passed away from it. ... Being able provide support for those families and kids going through cancer is very important and very meaningful and that's why I'm here. ... There are some that you can't help, but you will always have them branded into your heart."
-- ROBBY DOUTHITT
FILLING THE INSURANCE GAP
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & I & lt;/span & ignored it as long as possible, telling myself that the stomach pain wasn't all that bad. I had lost my job -- along with my insurance -- and I knew I couldn't afford to see my regular doctor. But the pain kept up and, with nowhere to turn, I ended up at one of the nonprofit clinics in Spokane. I got enrolled in Basic Health and had my ulcer treated in short order.
Turns out, my experience is becoming increasingly common. According to the nonpartisan journal Health Affairs, some 25 million Americans between the ages of 19 and 64 are underinsured -- a 60 percent increase since 2003. Add in all the other age brackets and about 75 million Americans now have too little insurance or none at all.
It's largely fallen on clinics to care for these patients. In Spokane, there are about a dozen nonprofit clinics, five of which are run by Community Health Association of Spokane (CHAS). Part of the nonprofit system of federally qualified community health centers, CHAS accepts patients regardless of age or insurance status. Offering medical, dental, nutrition, behavioral health and pharmacy services, they take pressure off emergency rooms.
"We really don't use the term 'free clinic' anymore," says Janna Barry-Brown, clinic coordinator for the downtown CHAS Denny Murphy Clinic. Instead, a sliding scale fee is charged according to the patient's ability to pay. The assumption is that everyone who walks in is "truthful and really needs us" -- whether or not they have insurance, Barry-Brown says.
"I'm not going to turn you away, but I have to work out something," she adds. That may mean the patient pays a few dollars at a time until the bill is paid.
While unable to fix a broken national health care system, organizations like CHAS work locally to ensure that fewer people fall through the cracks. And it seems to be paying off. Life expectancy in Spokane County -- 79.7 years -- is actually higher than the national average of 78 years.
One "misconception," says Debra Wilde, development coordinator for CHAS, is that "low-income equals low or less than quality care." In fact, the opposite is generally true, she says. If the staff were more interested in making money than making people well, they could work at any number of other places.
"The ones who aren't here for the real reasons, they don't stay," says Barry-Brown. The result is a truly dedicated staff and quality care.
Perhaps that explains why the waiting room was so calm during a recent visit. It was a Tuesday morning and three people were waiting to be seen. One was called to the back a moment or two after I arrived. A second sat huddled in a chair near the entrance and a third was working out a payment arrangement. During a tour I was struck by how clean and nicely decorated the rooms are.
For low-income uninsured patients living in Spokane County who are in need of a specialist, a primary care physician at a clinic like CHAS will often refer them to Project Access Spokane, where more than 600 doctors donate their medical expertise.
John Driscoll, Project Access director, says the experience can be rewarding for doctors, too, because they can focus on patient care. Driscoll recounts how one doctor described his work with Project Access: "He said, 'I don't have to worry whether or not they can't pay. I know they can't pay. I don't have to worry if they have insurance or not. They don't. With insurance out of the way, I can be a pure doctor.'" Driscoll pauses, then adds, "What doctors want to do is care for patients." Project Access lets them do just that.
-- M.C. PAUL
For more information on Community Health Association of Spokane, visit www.chas.org. For Project Access, go to www.spcms.org/projectaccess.
INSPIRATION: ANDREW LIPSKER
Former camp counselor at Camp Reed and Morning Star Boys & iacute; Ranch, volunteer, coach
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "A & lt;/span & lot of my biggest role models were coaches and camp counselors when I was growing up. I learned a lot about character from them. A lot of kids just don't have that consistency and support in their lives. ... One thing that makes me love working with kids is the opportunity to learn from them. They approach life from such a different mentality than adults do. I've been given insight from all kinds of kids, from rich kids to run-of-the-mill kids to Third-World kids."
-- ROBBY DOUTHITT
ON THE EDGE
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & G & lt;/span & as above $4 a gallon, coupled with the region's continuing low-income housing crisis, is hitting especially hard the people on the edge of homelessness. For those who are barely hanging onto a job in Eastern Washington or rural northern Idaho, getting to and from work is increasingly iffy.
Directors of shelters and social service agencies in both states tell The Inlander that calls from people needing a helping hand are up dramatically. And that the ability to lend a hand has not kept pace.
"Our clients are having to make the choice of what do I not pay?" says Dia Maurer, executive director of Transitions, a Spokane nonprofit that provides services for low-income and homeless women in Spokane. "What they don't pay could be child care, it could be nutrition. Transportation could be seen as a luxury or as a necessity because you may have to live in it."
In Idaho, says John Chamness of the Salvation Army, "Right now we partner with CAP (Community Access Partnerships, which is the Coeur d'Alene food bank) and the Post Falls Food Bank with gas vouchers where people can get a tank of gas to get to work all week long. Both agencies are seeing a huge increase. We got a call from CAP halfway through the month where they said, 'Hey, we've already spent all your money.'"
When the money's gone, the money's gone, Chamness says.
At Salvation Army in Spokane, says Laurie Meloy, "The need for services is growing by leaps and bounds. If you came to our food bank today you would see we have no food on the shelves."
Social service agencies and shelters are still feeling the ripples from last summer when 200 people were displaced from three downtown tenement apartments -- buildings that by and large still stand empty a year later without demolition or renovation.
The faltering economy adds a new wrinkle this year in a double-barreled way: Some find donations are down because donor businesses are struggling. All find pleas for help have increased.
In addition to core programs such as running shelters and running a lunch line, Director Ed McCarron at House of Charity says, "We are getting more phone calls asking for help, help with rent, help with car repair. We do some of that. Last year we spent $17,000 helping with those little things, but I'm really nervous -- there is no end to that line."
And, with increased demand on core services, McCarron is concerned about being able to meet needs when cold weather comes.
"In some ways here, saying no is the hardest thing because where are they going to go? We can get overwhelmed," McCarron says.
He and others work together, they say, to stretch precious resources to help as many of the most vulnerable among us.
Counts at homeless shelters are up. The House of Charity in downtown Spokane is at capacity (108) every night for the second summer in a row that it's been open year-round.
The Union Gospel Mission is sleeping 120 a night. The 15-bed men's shelter and 15-bed women's shelter run by St. Vincent DePaul in Coeur d'Alene are full, says Executive Director Jeff Conroy. This is new, he says. Normally, client demand slacks off in summer, but that's not the case this year. He, too, is concerned about stretching the budget through the end of the year.
St. Vincent's runs through $6,000 a month, Conroy says, just in vouchers for gas, clothing, utilities.
"Our ministry has some faithful supporters," says Laurie Willson, community relations director for Union Gospel Mission. Eighty-seven percent of UGM's budget comes from mom and pop donors, Willson says, and while there is a slight decline, it is not alarming.
She says the mission is seeing more families -- mom and dad both working -- seeking assistance because they can't feed their kids or are on the verge of losing an apartment. "That's just heart wrenching."
-- KEVIN TAYLOR
& lt;ul &
& lt;li & Union Gospel Mission (ugmspokane.org) & lt;/li &
& lt;li & House of Charity (Catholiccharitiesspokane.org) & lt;/li &
& lt;li & Salvation Army, Spokane (salvationarmyspokane.org) & lt;/li &
& lt;li & Salvation Army, Coeur d'Alene (kroccda.org) & lt;/li &
& lt;li & St. Vincent DePaul, Coeur d'Alene (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) & lt;/li &
& lt;li & Transitions (www.help4women.com) & lt;/li &
& lt;/ul &
INSPIRATION: BRUCE ROGERS
Volunteer at Second Harvest Food Bank
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & "I & lt;/span & 've been working here for 11 years. I started coming down after I retired in 1991. There's a great need for work to be done here, it's what keeps me coming back. ... When I first started coming down, there wasn't as many volunteers. In those early years me and some other people started getting together on Tuesday afternoons and volunteering. We called ourselves 'The Mixed Nuts.' There's one lady from that group who is now going to be 87 and is still volunteering. It's working with other people like that, which really inspires me."
-- ROBBY DOUTHITT
MARRIAGE OF MISSIONS
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & T & lt;/span & he light bulb moment came when the staffs of the local YMCA and YWCA sat down together for the first time and considered the possibility: What if we teamed up? What if we kept our independence, but worked collaboratively?
"It was almost like the floodgates opened with ideas," recalls Monica Walters, the YWCA's executive director. "It was a coming together, realizing that we can accomplish so much more together rather than looking at each other as competition."
Thus, a partnership was born, the first of its kind in the nation between the two august organizations. And the timing couldn't have been much better, Walters says. With the property market in their favor, the two agencies sold their existing facilities, pooled their funds and drew up plans for a central facility at 930 N. Monroe Street and a north branch on Newport Highway. They set about raising the rest of the money, and now that they aren't tapping the same donors, it's been pretty smooth.
"It's going really well," YMCA president Rig Riggins says. They've collected pledges of $30.6 million -- about $10 million short of their target -- and they're only now rolling out their community campaign targeting smaller donors. "We're trying to give everyone an opportunity to be a part of this."
Construction at the Monroe building has already begun, and they're breaking ground on the north facility on Saturday. Both locations are scheduled to open in the spring of 2009.
But the relationship runs deeper than co-habitation, both say. The nonprofits examined what they did well and what programs overlapped. The YWCA closed its pool, deferring to the YMCA's health and fitness resources. Together they're going to run child-care services. They're tapping each other's volunteers, and they've formed an advisory board with members of both nonprofits to guide the collaboration. Yet it's not just about efficiency and saving money, Walters stresses. It's a way to serve the community better while reaching 70,000 people within the county.
The response from supporters and people in the business community has been strong, Walters says. "They all say, 'It's about time. We were waiting for this to happen and now you're finally doing it.'"
-- JACOB H. FRIES
To support the YMCA-YWCA joint capital campaign, visit www.yourycampaign.org.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & Y & lt;/span & ou do everything online these days: check your bank balance, pay your bills, make travel arrangements, look up the meaning of triskaidekaphobia, trade your under-performing outfielder to a rival fantasy baseball team. So when you get a letter in the mail from a charity saying it's that time of year to give back to your community, doesn't it look hopelessly antiquated? Doesn't it just end up gathering dust on your kitchen table?
Charities and other nonprofit organizations certainly hope not but, recognizing the move toward online transactions, they are increasingly aiming to find you where you -- and your virtual checkbook -- are.
Ron Hardin of the Spokane Neighborhood Action Program (SNAP) says his organization has been soliciting money online for at least the five years he's worked there, and they've seen good results, with online donations increasing as more of their usual givers (often women over the age of 35, he says) become more comfortable with the technology.
"As kind of an old guy myself, [even] I'm not used to donating in this manner," he says. Still, they see the potential. So much so that SNAP has decided to completely overhaul their Website with ease of giving in mind. "We're hoping to invite more online donations and improve on the impression that online service is secure."
The Second Harvest Food Bank runs one of the most thorough and user-friendly online fundraising tools in Spokane's nonprofit community. An attractive homepage leads to a "How to Help" page, where you can either make a single donation or become part of the "Sustainers Club" by setting up regular, automatic payments at your convenience. It also directs you to a page on "planned giving," which guides you through the process of donating appreciated securities, writing Second Harvest into your will or trust, or making an endowment. Community relations director Ron Wieber also points to the series of "Hunger Stories" that run in a strip down the right-hand side of the page. He says the testimonials from beneficiaries are an attempt to engage the people who are giving, letting them know what their donations are doing.
Janice Marich says that kind of engagement is key. The vice president of the Spokane County United Way downplays the fundraising aspect of the group's Website but underscores the importance of its Volunteer Solutions section -- a series of tools that connect local nonprofits in need of help with volunteers eager to get to work. Enter in your geographical area and a few keywords that describe your interests, and it searches for appropriate opportunities through 90-some local agencies. Community Impact Manager Lucille Simmons says in the last year the Website has furnished 644 matches, which pans out to 2,576 volunteer hours worth some $4,600 to local agencies.
"Resources and giving come in all kinds of sizes and shapes," says Marich. "It's also connecting people and using the resource of their time and expertise. ... Online goes just beyond the giving of funds."
Universities are taking that kind of engagement to the next level, using Web 2.0 tools to connect to and communicate with potential donor alumni. Dori Sonntag, director of annual giving at Gonzaga University, says the school not only allows alumni to give back to their alma mater via the Website, but they've also set up a profile with online social networking site Facebook.com, and they've added a page to Facebook's "Causes" -- an application that lets Facebook users display and broadcast their favorite causes and encourage others to give.
"The more they're engaged, the more likely they are to give," says Sonntag, who notes that Gonzaga has also turned to e-mail solicitations and is even playing around with Goodsearch.com, an application that sends a few pennies their way anytime people search for the name of the school. The jury is still out on whether that's a worthwhile kind of outreach, though.
Wieber at Second Harvest says mass e-mails have been a godsend. "It makes it so much easier," he says, explaining that they've already e-mailed out requests for volunteers for events in November. "Tom's Turkey Drive in November: We've already sent out an e-mail. Fairchild Air Force Base has already filled one shift at one store."
But Sonntag says the future of philanthropy -- and particularly alumni giving -- is in online social networks like Facebook and MySpace. "You're connecting with people -- especially young alumni. We haven't been able to find them before. You can change your e-mail, phone number, address, but you know they're going to be on Facebook," she says. "Wherever the next Facebook or LinkedIn will be, that's where we're going to have to be."
-- JOEL SMITH