NATIONS came together to cook and learn English at an event in Rugby which is ‘challenging preconceptions about asylum seekers’.
Residents from 11 different countries shared food and built community spirit at World Kitchen by Rugby Community Hub, an initiative part-funded by a Warwickshire County Council (WCC) grant to help reduce inequalities in ethnically diverse communities.
The World Kitchen project delivers food-focused sessions which teach English through joint cooking and conversation.
The initiative received a grant last November and used it to buy tabletop hobs, kitchen equipment and supermarket vouchers to allow those cooking to buy their ingredients.
Attendees at World Kitchen so far have come from Syria, Algeria, Yemen, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, El Salvador, England and Turkey.
Miriam Sitch, a director of Rugby Community Hub, said: “We know that many if not all have come through some traumatising experiences, and if we can provide a warm welcome and an environment in which a taste of home can be enjoyed, then we are very privileged. It has been a very enriching and humbling experience.
“World Kitchen has helped challenge preconceptions about asylum seekers which has had a positive impact on our hub and church community. One of the main benefits has been the friendships which have started to develop with some of the asylum seekers and some of those who are now settled in Rugby.
“We have been delighted that two of our volunteers, who came to Rugby from Syria about four years ago, have enjoyed making and sharing some of their favourite Syrian delicacies. They invited a friend from Algeria to join in the cooking.”
Dishes have spanned a range of cultures, with attendees sharing recipes and working together to produce fusion dishes.
One of the participants, originally from Yemen, made baked salmon at the first event, and returned for the second to cook spicy rice and chicken kabsa.
She said: “I can’t thank you enough. Everyone is so happy here.”
Miriam said the hub was now hosting regular English lessons as a result of World Kitchen, and had hosted an event to distribute clothes to asylum seekers’ families.
She added: “We also hope to have a session for the children where they can come and choose a few books, craft items and toys. One of the asylum seekers is now volunteering with us regularly and is about to start a food hygiene course with us.”
Coun Margaret Bell, WCC’s spokeswoman for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “We are delighted to support this wonderful project. The community spirit created by World Kitchen is exactly the sort of thing we hoped these grants would encourage. Cooking is a great way to share skills while bringing people together – something which has been difficult during the pandemic.
“We know that ethnically diverse communities have been particularly affected by the pandemic, which is why we are offering this additional support for organisations that serve these groups.”
WCC grants to reduce inequalities in ethnically diverse communities have funded 14 different groups who aim to improve the health and wellbeing of predominantly ethnically diverse communities in Warwickshire. Visit https://tinyurl.com/2kb9j74s for the full list of initiatives from the first round of funding.