East African refugees get Jefferson agriculturists' help with replacing stolen gear

By Jeff Chew
Peninsula Daily News

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Richard Glaubman, left, and Jim Minish, owner of Port Townsend Honda and Marine, talk over the water pump Minish is selling to Glaubman at cost so Burundi, East Africa, refugees on a small Kent Valley farm can use it to water vegetables and flowers they a
PORT TOWNSEND -- Refugees in Burundi, East Africa, have agriculture friends in Port Townsend helping them replace stolen equipment they once used to till a 10-acre Kent Valley flower and vegetable farm.

Richard Glaubman, a Port Townsend resident leading the effort, has received donations of used garden tools from the Port Townsend Garden Club and a donation from Port Townsend Honda and Marine owner Jim Minish, who agreed to sell a water pump at cost that amounted to a donation of about $150.

The Burundians, joined by refugees from the Bantu tribe in Somalia, have been gardening the farm site in a mostly industrialized area since they landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport three years ago, about five miles from where they live and work today.

Nearly 20 of the more than 100 men and women refugees work on the farm, said Glaubman, who plans to deliver the pump and tools early Tuesday morning.

"The crops are starting to dry out," he said Friday where he greeted Minish at the Honda shop on state Highway 20 at Mill Road.

"When they arrived in SeaTac three years ago from a refugee camp, they spoke no English and had no job skills for the modern world," said Glaubman, a teacher at Blue Heron Middle School.

"Today, they share a 10-acre parcel with some people from the Bantu tribe from Somalia. Their goal has been to grow crops for their own families and to sell at the farmer's market."

They have grown cool-weather crops, including spinach, cilantro, green onions, lettuce, tomatoes and corn.

Barundi is a poor country that was torn apart by the genocide of the mid-1990s that spilled over from Rwanda.

"As they began their second season of farming, I have been working with them to record their story," Glaubman said.

"The cold spring weather and the heavy rains set them back, but they persevered and have just begun to harvest crops for the market.

"Unfortunately, there has just been another setback. On Wednesday morning, July 1, around 4 a.m. someone broke into their produce shed, stole their farm tools, their pump, two rototillers, the seeds and even their boots," Glaubman said.

"They were shocked and dismayed, but they are determined to continue. In East Africa, they carried water from the creek to the fields by bucket, and they will go back to doing that here if they have to."

Glaubman is still accepting donations of tools, equipment and dollars to help the refugees.

"They need hoes, shovels, rubber work boots and a pump," he said, adding that the pump is taken care of.

Glaubman is buying the pump outright but hopes others will donate money to help offset his cost -- $449 -- the discounted price of the water pump that will draw water from a stream near the farm.

Donations of rubber boots are also needed with men's sizes 9 and 10 needed and women's size 8.

Checks for donations to that effort can be made out to Port Townsend Honda, and the donation will go toward the pump.

On the check, note for "The Burundian Hope Project."

The mailing address is Port Townsend Honda and Marine, 3059 W. Sims Way, Port Townsend, WA 98368.

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Port Townsend-Jefferson County Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at jeff.chew@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 12. 2010 12:02AM
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