On Thursday evening, a group of asylum seekers and refugees were presented with certificates to mark their successful completion of the Global Kitchen catering course. Trainer Mark Humphries was joined by NI Executive’s Finance Minister and South Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir.
The participants received rigorous training in international cookery and food hygiene in a café setting, working towards their Open College qualification. The course was organised by South Belfast Roundtable as a spinoff from their Belfast Friendship Club. Additional participants including members of a local residents group completed the Food hygiene section of the course alongside the refugees and asylum seekers.
The course organiser Stephanie Mitchell explains:
“Destitute asylum seekers are people who have been refused refugee status but cannot leave the country, for example because it may be too dangerous back home. They do not receive any state support, are not allowed to work, and depend entirely on charity.
“The course offers them a rare opportunity to gain skills and a qualification and improve their quality of life. In the words of one participant: ‘it’s not like a training, it’s like a family’.”
“Most of the trainees achieved the full OCN certificate, an outstanding feat given the personal circumstances of some of them, and the stress, anxiety and depression that frequently accompanies the asylum application process. They proved hungry to learn, highly motivated and very appreciative of the opportunity. Most have continued to work or volunteer in food-based enterprises.”
Working with the Red Cross in Northern Ireland, the Global Kitchen trainees will be preparing a fabulous “BelFeast” to demonstrate their catering skills and raise awareness of food poverty, making tasty nutritious food on a tight budget and zero waste. The feast event will also highlight volunteering and donation opportunities at foodbanks.
Global Kitchen training will return in the autumn. The project received a grant from the big Lottery Fund.