From Sierra Leone to Salt Lake City, this refugee is cooking up the American dream.
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Miatta Stevens' culinary journey is unlike most chefs.


Photo by Billy Yang, via Spice Kitchen Incubator, used with permission.


Originally from Sierra Leone, Stevens spent nine years of her life in a refugee camp in Ghana. It was there that she spent many of her days cooking delicious dishes and satisfying the stomachs of those around her.

In fact, her food was so good that Stevens was placed in the part of camp with fellow cooks, where it would be easier for them to prepare food for all the people.

Stevens' love for cooking and spreading joy runs deep.

"My passion for food comes from a very long way. My mom loves cooking, so she shared that with me. And with the help we had at the refugee camp — all that!" she joyously told Upworthy. "From there, I noticed that my passion for food is real because I was just willing to cook for people and love making them happy and love the feedback I get from it. It made a lot of difference to us in the refugee camp."

Now, Stevens is using her cooking chops to fuel her American dream.

When she relocated to Salt Lake City, she heard about Spice Kitchen Incubator.

Photo by Billy Yang, via Spice Kitchen Incubator, used with permission.

Founded three years ago, it's a program of the International Rescue Committee, in partnership with Salt Lake County, that provides opportunities for refugees, immigrants, and people with low-to-moderate income to start their own food business. It helps them support themselves and their families and use their existing culinary skills to start new lives.

Grace Henley, program director at Spice Kitchen Incubator, told Upworthy: "We know that so many refugees have strong, beautiful, diverse culinary backgrounds and that food is one of the ways that they’re able to offer their own skills in the communities where they're resettled."

Spice Kitchen is a truly incredible program that operates in three phases:

1. Preincubation

This is where they help develop their client's food idea and put a business plan in place. Here, they make sure to address every detail before launching — overall goals, branding and marketing, menu development, recipe costing, financial literacy, focus groups, permits and licensing, you name it!

It's a comprehensive plan that typically lasts four to six months and is designed to give each client the proper foundation needed to take their food dreams to the next level.

2. Incubation

This is it! The client is finally cooking up food for a living and able to start growing their business — of course, with a little help from their friends at Spice.

They provide access to a full commercial kitchen space, one that clients may rent at below market rate. They give hands-on technical assistance at any time and even help grow their clients' customer base in order to reach their ultimate goal.

There's one catch though. Clients can only stay in incubation for up to five years. From that point, they should have all the skills needed to be an independent business owner.

3. Graduation

They grow up so fast, don't they? This is when the clients have finally made it and are now ready to contribute to the U.S. economy doing what they love. But it's not like they're completely on their own.

They can still receive technical assistance when needed and are now part of the alumni network. This gives them the opportunity to give back and provide mentorship to incoming entrepreneurs.

Programs such as this have done so much to help refugees like Stevens achieve their goals.

Image via Spice Kitchen Incubator, used with permission.

"They have made [my passion] even more stronger and appreciate what I have to offer and give us the opportunity to share with people," says Stevens. "They try as much as possible to give me their help and resources to put my food out there."

When there's a system in place to help refugees succeed, they're able to share their incredible talents and wonderful culture with the rest of the country.

We can't wait to see what they cook up next.

Simon & Garfunkel's song "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been covered by more than 50 different musical artists, from Aretha Franklin to Elvis Presley to Willie Nelson. It's a timeless classic that taps into the universal struggle of feeling down and the comfort of having someone to lift us up. It's beloved for its soothing melody and cathartic lyrics, and after a year of pandemic challenges, it's perhaps more poignant now than ever.

A few years a go, American singer-songwriter Yebba Smith shared a solo a capella version of a part of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which she just casually sits and sings it on a bed. It's an impressive rendition on its own, highlighting Yebba's soulful, effortless voice.

But British singer Jacob Collier recently added his own layered harmony tracks to it, taking the performance to a whole other level.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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