Refugees and Social Enterprises
One of the biggest joys of my 6 months working as the Refugee Response Coordinator for Capital Mass, has been seeing churches respond to the call of welcoming the stranger, through the Community Sponsorship and Clergy Hosting schemes. Although these schemes provide invaluable support to some of the most vulnerable people in our society, housing isn’t the whole picture.
In addition to finding a home, refugees face a number of challenges surrounding looking for employment: a language barrier, no local work experience or references. With an estimated 118,995 refugees living in the UK, many face extreme difficulties in finding a job, never mind returning to their previous professions. Thankfully a number of churches and social enterprises across the UK, are trying to change this.
Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a number of projects looking to offer refugees a step into a longer term career. Three of the most inspiring ones I’ve visited are listed below.
On Friday 10th November I boarded the train to Harrow, North London, to go and visit Refuge Coffee: a brand new initiative that aims to help unaccompanied refugee minors by offering employment and job placements as baristas.
Emerging from Stanmore Baptist Church, project manager Matt Sprink said the idea came after the congregation found itself at the convergence of a Hindu faith school, two primary schools and a comprehensive. The church wanted to do something that wasn’t just ‘within the walls of religious institutions’, he explained to Christian Today. With the high footfall of school runs and commuters passing the area, the idea of a coffee van was born.
Through first of all training individuals to work in the coffee van, Matt ultimately hopes to help those with a work permit gain full-time employment (he is currently investigating partnerships with local coffee shops, whereby baristas trained by Refuge Coffee can step up into employment with them).
Although it’s in its early stages, Matt hopes that when the company is profitable it will be able to give some of its revenue back to different local projects at different times of year.
Migrateful is a cookery and language initiative where asylum seekers, refugees and migrants struggling to access employment in the UK due to legal and linguistic barriers, teach their traditional cuisines to the public. They currently have chefs from Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Congo, Cuba and Ecuador, all waiting to teach their unique international cuisines in fun, easy and engaging cookery classes.
Migrateful addresses issues of destitution, unemployment, language barriers and integration among the UK migrant community. The offer of oyster card credit and supermarket vouchers to volunteer chefs, in return for teaching a class, makes a huge difference to their lives when they cannot legally work. Migrateful chefs gain work experience for their CV, can request references, and receive intensive training. They improve their spoken English, learn leadership skills and grow in confidence.
More information about Migrateful can be found here.
Flavours of Winson Green
Another social enterprise that’s using cooking as a method of providing employment opportunities, is Flavours of Winson Green (or ‘Flavours’). Launched in Birmingham by Anji Barker, Flavours brings asylum seekers together over the shared interest of cooking. Although the main focus of the group is to create, cook and share food, the objective is to re-build confidence and set people on the path to independent living.
The group is now ready to take it to the next stage of its life and become a true social enterprise by offering a catering service to local businesses and clubs who would like to try authentically flavoured cuisine made by the people living in their neighbourhoods
In order to share their learning with a church group in north London that’s keen to launch a similar project, Flavours recently held a taster sessions at Kings Cross Church (KXC). The group from KXC found it ‘extremely inspirational and a great learning experience,’ and are continuing to explore setting up a social enterprise in their own context. A selection of pictures and short video from the event are below:
Our faith teaches us that every individual is made in the image and likeness of God, with inherent worth and a multitude of skills to offer the world. The right to meaningful work is fundamental to human dignity, whoever we are. It enables people to provide for themselves and their families, and to contribute to society and to God’s plan for creation.
Projects like these, and others, are creative responses that strive to treat every person with deep respect. Through employing individuals to teach cooking classes and prepare coffee, social enterprises like these provide refugees with the space to learn English, develop skills and build their confidence. All of this helps on their pathway to employment.
It’s been a real joy working with Capital Mass and the London Diocese over the past few months. Seeing project like these and the numbers who are now hosting shows how compassionate as a community of God we are and can be.