“Once on This Island” This Weekend at LHS

215px-OneOnThisIslandOn Friday May 3 and Saturday May 4 at 8 p.m., the Lowell High School Fine Arts Department will perform “Once on This Island” at the school’s Burgoyne Theater at the McDonough Freshman Academy.

If you have never seen a production put on by these talented young people, I suggest you make plans for this weekend. Come downtown and grab a bite to eat and then head to the theater. A great night out on the town.

“Once on This Island,” written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, is the touching, inspiring story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who uses the power of love to bring members of different social classes on her island together as one.

For more information, contact LHS Fine Arts Department Chair Sharon Clark at sharonclark@lowell.k12.ma.us.

Burmese Food Fair

burmeseBurma’s cuisine is a product of its location.

Nestled on the Bay of Bengal, bordering China, India, Laos and Thailand, the Burmese table is influenced by all of its neighbors, while adding its own flair in special ingredients like lahpet.

Lahpet is a pickled tea leaf than is often used in salads and side dishes. Burma is one of the few places where tea is both a food and a beverage.

There is a saying that sheds some light on the most important ingredients in Burmese food: “A thee ma, thayet; a thar ma, wet; a ywet ma, lahpet.

“Of all the fruit, the mango’s the best; of all the meat, the pork’s the best; and of all the leaves, lahpet’s the best”.

The Burmese also use a lot of seafood in their meals, which is used to perfection in the traditional fish/noodle soup called moh hin kha, the aroma of which could fill a stadium. Desserts are simple and delicious, using a lot of tropical fruits such as coconut and coconut milk, as well as mango and agar, a type of gelatin.

On Saturday, you have the opportunity to expand your palate by delving into the world of Burmese cuisine, while supporting an important cause.

A Burmese Food Fair will be held from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Calvary Baptist Church at 60 Hastings Street On Saturday May 4. All proceeds benefit SayDaNar, a group that has been working diligently to educate Burmese refugee children in Lowell.

The Burmese began arriving in Lowell, relocated here by the U.S. State Department, in 2007; many had spent several years living in overcrowded camps on the Thai/Burmese border, with no opportunity to get an education.

“The goal is to empower them,” Ardeth Thawnghmung, a political-science professor at UMass Lowell, and founder of SayDaNar, who along with her husband James has been assisting Lowell’s Burmese refugees since they began arriving in 2007, said last summer.. “We do not want to perpetuate a culture of dependency; we want to show them they can be self-sufficient and not rely on welfare.”

Today, there are approximately 200 Burmese refugees living in Lowell.

Refugees arrive here with nothing, and speaking little or no English.

The Thawnghmungs have worked with the Lowell Public Schools to secure interpreters and aides who speak Burmese, as well as Karen, the language of the minority group to which most of the city’s refugees belong.

They also worked with U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas’ office to pressure the Registry of Motor Vehicles to allow the Burmese, like the Cambodians, to use an interpreter when taking their driver’s license test.

In January 2012, SayDaNar started an after school program with one teacher to assist Burmese students with their homework and tutor them in English. The program has since expanded to two part-time paid teachers and 23 volunteers, who assist 35 children five hours a week.

According to Ardeth, there has been a noticeable improvement, both socially and academically in the children since they began the program. But, like any other endeavor, they need funds to keep it going.

So, stop by the Calvary Baptist Church on Saturday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., learn about a cuisine with which you many not be very familiar, while helping some young students learn the skills they need to achieve their American dream.

In addition to the food there will also be ethnic dance and games, and handmade products from Burma for sale.

 

burmese 111

At last summer’s SayDaNar back to school party.

Growing Community . . . One Seed at a Time

imageFrom our friends at Mill City Grows:

ACRE INVITE THE PUBLIC TO GET THE MILL CITY READY FOR SPRING!

Saturday, April 27, 9AM – 5PM

A full day of spring cleanup and building four community gardens unites Lowell neighborhood groups and organizations in the spirit of friendship and beautification

[LOWELL, MA – April 22, 2013] – Lowell non-profit organization Mill City Grows (MCG) preps the City for spring in collaboration with local partners at their “Sowing the Seeds of Community: Garden Build Day,” Saturday, April 27, from 8AM to 5PM. Hands-on focus will be on cleaning up grounds, building garden beds, and transforming lots into four thriving community gardens within the following Lowell neighborhoods: the Acre, Lower Highlands, Centralville, and Back Central. Everyone is welcome to be a part of this community-wide event, which also includes breakfast, lunch, and a special end-of-the-day BBQ dinner for all volunteer participants.

Each of the four community garden sites will have a morning shift (9AM – 12PM) and an afternoon shift (1PM – 4PM), so volunteers can select any shift that works with their schedule. Refreshments, tools, and training will be provided, but participants are welcome to bring their own garden supplies to use or share with others. The entire event is an inspiring example of ongoing partnership and collaboration between Mill City Grows, Coalition for a Better Acre (CBA), Lowell Alliance for Families and Neighborhoods (LAFN), and Acre Coalition to Improve Our Neighborhood (ACTION).

“Community engagement and environmental health are two of the strongest cornerstones of our values,” says Lydia Sisson, Lowell resident and co-founder of Mill City Grows. “When people have equal access to land and develop a bond with their surroundings, a real relationship to their environment is forged. You can see that sense of pride get stronger and stronger as growers and residents unite to impact their neighborhoods.”

Those wishing to volunteer or get more information about our organization please use the contact information below:
Lowell Alliance for Families and Neighborhoods: Marianne Gries at 978-454-5405 (ext. 137) or mgries@ywcaoflowell.org Mill City Grows: Francey Slater or Lydia Sisson info@millcitygrows.org or 978-656-1678 Coalition for a Better Acre: Suzanne Frechette, 978-452-7523 x801 orsuzanne.frechette@cbacre.org

Funding for this Build Day is provided by the City of Lowell and Mass Service Alliance.

Happy Arbor Day!

A post by Special Guest Blogger Gwen Kozlowski, Stewardship & Education Manager of the Lowell Parks and Conversation Trust.

imageLowell Parks & Conservation Trust (LPCT), MA Audubon Society (MAS) Drumlin Farm, and the Lowell High School Freshman Academy Compass Program celebrated Arbor Day by planting a tree on school grounds.  Students presented a brief history of Arbor Day and described the reasons why they chose a red maple tree. Family members and representatives of the city were invited for a reception following the planting.

The mission of the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust is to improve the quality of life for the people of Lowell through the creation, conservation, and preservation of parks, open spaces and special places.  Jane Calvin, Executive Director of LPCT, said that, “Arbor Day is a way for Lowell to celebrate its commitment to how trees contribute to the quality of life in our city by providing shade, improving air quality, and enhancing property.  Working with youth is the perfect opportunity to share the city’s natural resources with the next generation of stewards.”  LPCT will donate the tree through funds provided by the City of Lowell’s Community Development Block Grant Program.

imageLowell is designated as a Tree City USA; LPCT partners with the City of Lowell to plant 100-150 trees per year throughout the city. The Tree City USA® program, sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the USDA Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters, provides direction, technical assistance, public attention, and national recognition for urban and community forestry programs in thousands of towns and cities across America.

image

Compass Program Environmental Adventures Group: Brian Holmberg, John Lanier, David Dam, Jocelyn Pedraza, Alex Cruz, Donna Newcomb, Rosthchild Dangervil, Ashley Morales, Aleandria Yan, Anika Am, Robert Veasna

Green Restaurant Event Monday!

imageThe Lowell Green Restaurant program will be holding a fun event Monday night at Middlesex Community College aimed at teaching those who own or work at restaurants or food establishments how not to waste their food waste, through composting.

Additionally, this year’s Green Restaurant award, the third annual, will be awarded to Life Alive. Previous winners include Brew’d Awakening Coffeehaus and the Athenian Corner.

Pain, Grief, Love and Hope

POMC 060A little girl riding her bike, smiling. A young lady calling her dad on the phone, chastising him for working too much, not eating right, not exercising.

That is how Les Gosule sees his daughter Melissa in his mind’s eye during the day.

But, as the sun sets, his thoughts turn dark. Tied to a tree in the woods of Halifax, stripped, raped and brutally stabbed; that is how 27-year-old Melissa Gosule died in the summer of 1999.

Les Gosule

Les Gosule

“When I am alone at night, when I am alone in the car or watching TV and my mind wanders I think about that time in the woods,” Gosule told the crowd gathered in the lobby of City Hall Monday night for the Merrimack Valley Chapter of the Parents of Murdered Children’s Annual Vigil for Victims’ Rights. “What did she feel? What cries, what emotion, what tragedy? What was in her mind?

“I wasn’t there to help,” he wailed. “My God! My God! What private holocaust did she live through in those woods in July 1999?”

What happened to his daughter never should have happened, Gosule said. The man who killed her had 27 prior offenses on his record; he should not have been out of the street, he said.

His love for his daughter, and his belief in her love for him, fueled Gosule’s 13 year battle to pass “Melissa’s Bill” in the Massachusetts Legislature, a measure that keeps dangerous repeat offenders behind bars without the possibility of parole. Gov. Deval Patrick signed it into law last August.

“I never thought it would take 13 years – it was a common sense bill – it should have taken two years,” Gosule said, adding too many lawmakers were more concerned with rehabilitating criminals and being politically correct than standing up for accountability and the rights of victims and families.

“Where are the rights of the victims? He asked. “Where are the rights of the families who stay up at night, lying in bed, crying on a pillow thinking of their daughter being brutally raped and murdered in the woods?

“We can’t stop all crime. But we can stop crime that has feet that we see coming at us again and again,” Gosule added. “That kind of crime we have an obligation to stop.”

Sen. Eileen Donoghue, who watched as Gosule sat, day after day, in the Senate balcony awaiting the vote on his bill, praised him for his perseverance and agreed that is should not have taken 13 years to pass a bill she characterized as a “no-brainer.”

“Victims have rights too and we need to make sure we protect the victims and their rights – not just the accused,” Donoghue said.

Monday’s event was the 4th annual Victim Rights’ vigil organized by Arnie and Alice Muscovitz of the Merrimack Valley Chapter of POMC, a club of which no one chooses to be a member, but one that provides a support system and strength to those faced with the never fading pain of losing a child to violence.

POMC 057POMC 003POMC 009POMC 018

Arnie and Alice Muscovitz

Arnie and Alice Muscovitz

POMC 026

Karen Muscovitz was 27-years-old when she was beaten and strangled on January 4, 2004 in her Melbourne, Florida apartment by her boyfriend’s mentally ill twin brother.

Joining the POMC Monday night in a candlelight walk from the Senior Center to City Hall, followed by an emotional speaking program were: Mayor Patrick Murphy; City Councilors John Leahy, Marty Lorrey and Rita Mercier; School Committee members Robert Gignac and Kim Scott; Sen. Eileen Donoghue; Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian; Lowell Police Department Deputy Superintendent Arthur Ryan Jr.; Mary Gail Martin from Rep Colleen Garry’s office; and victim rights’ advocate Laurie Myers of Community Voices and service dog Wena.

Wena, a service dog used to comfort  victims and their families.

Wena, a service dog used to comfort victims and their families.

Alice Muscovitz hold a photo of her daughter Karen, who was murdered in 2004.

Alice Muscovitz hold a photo of her daughter Karen, who was murdered in 2004.

POMC 073

The walk was led by the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Honor Guard; the Lowell High School Choir sang “Instrument of Peace” and “Light a Candle” under the direction of Andre Descoteaux and saxophonist Paul Belley played the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Amazing Grace.”

It was a night of loss, pain, and remembrance, brightened by a glimmer of hope in the person of Natalie Barros.

Natalie, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at St. Michael’s School, did not get any presents for her birthday in January; she didn’t want any. Instead, she asked family and friends to help her raise funds to send Kaitlin Roig and her fiancé on a vacation to Disney World.

Ms. Roig, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, barricaded her class in a bathroom during the Dec. 14, 2012 massacre that left 20 student and 6 staff members dead.

Natalie, who wants to be a teacher when she grows up, heard about Ms. Roig’s heroic deeds and just wanted to do something to make her smile.

Natalie Barros and Sheriff Peter Koutoujian

Natalie Barros and Sheriff Peter Koutoujian

Natalie was recognized Monday night with commendations from Koutoujian, Garry, Donoghue and Murphy.

“You keep going girl,” encouraged Koutoujian, who called Natalie a light in the darkness.

Koutoujian told the POMC members that their work in holding victim impact panels at the Billerica House of Correction does make a difference in the lives of prisoners preparing for re-entry into society, imparting them with some of the empathy they are lacking.

Many of the speakers touched upon the events surrounding last week’s Boston Marathon bombing, both the terror and the heroism. It was a week that highlighted the absolutely best and darkest of the evil in people.

POMC 061“It has been a tough week, the anxiety, the pain the grief,” said Mayor Patrick Murphy “It has been a hard week that for most will slowly subside, but for others their lives have changed forever; many of you here know that better than most. You are not alone – we are here together.”

Muphy read from Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s “The Cure at Troy,” an adaptation of Sophocles’ play Philoctetes, which reads in part:

 

History says, Don’t hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.

“As Mayor, I hope and pray for peace in our hearts and on the streets,” Murphy concluded.