“Food is a universal language, and it’s something everyone loves, and that they can share. It is an easy way to put people in contact with each other”, says Jess Thompson, founder and Ceo of Migrateful, a charity that was born in London in 2017. The idea of the project is to give asylum seekers and refugees a space to share the recipes of their countries and their culture.
Migrateful gives professional training and support to refugees and asylum seekers that are looking for a job in Great Britain, organises workshops where all who want to participate pay £35 to join cooking classes taught by asylum seekers and refugees. Chefs receive English lessons and the opportunity to practice the language of their host country during their cooking classes. It’s not only about lessons, but also moments where stories and migration paths are shared by the chefs. Participants can learn many recipes from all over the world cooked by chefs coming from: Afghanistan, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Albania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Cuba and Ecuador.
The London-based social enterprise involves refugees and asylum seekers who are struggling to access employment due to language and legal barriers. As a matter of fact in Great Britain asylum seekers who haven’t received their refugee status can’t work, and those who have received status have to find a job without previous work experiences in the Uk, which is something not easy at all.
As the Guardian points out: “What becomes clear about “tastes of home” is that this tasting – of a place, culture or cuisine – is rarely a one-way thing. More often than not, it is a dialogue: a giving and taking of experiences. No place I learn about reflects this complexity quite like Migrateful”. In the project intercultural dialogue is vital. “Sharing one’s culture and learning from other cultures is a very positive way to create interactions with people”, says Jess Thompson.
“Asylum seekers and refugees arriving in this country often have no network, no friends or contact for employment, they can not speak the language well, it can be a very isolating experience. These individuals need support in building their lives here in the UK and they are also processing some really traumatic memories they have left behind. Migrateful gives them a community where they are extremely valued”, explains Jess Thompson in the video.
The social enterprise provides an important work experience, confidence, leadership skills, a support network and the opportunity to improve English knowledge. Cookery classes enable refugees and asylum seekers to build a professional competence that they can add to their Cv to help them find a job. The project has also been conceived to make possible positive interactions between the local population and the community of migrants in the UK. Up to today, Migrateful has run 180 cookery classes with 1800 participants and 16 chefs.
Jess Thompson, prior to setting up her social venture, worked for 3 years in refugee camps in Morocco, France and London. She founded Migrateful after meeting, at a community project in London, highly qualified women refugees, who couldn’t access employment due to legal or language barriers. Jess Thompson was awarded for Migrateful in 2017 by UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs.
All pictures are from Migrateful Facebook page.