“harnessing the skills of refugee chefs, journalists and nurses”

Monday’s Guardian newspaper carries a report explaining that in post-Brexit referendum Britain, “while some see incomers as a threat and a drain, others recognise that many refugees come with skills, ambitions and ideas that should not be wasted”. Four examples of integration and employment are cited.

guardian-article-snapshot-the-real-junk-food-project-in-all-hallows-leedsOne of the stories highlighted is a food project in the Church of England congregation of All Hallows in Leeds. For the past two years they have run The Real Junk Food Project intercepting food that would otherwise go to waste from supermarkets, restaurants and a number of other sources, and turning it into daily, healthy, nutritious meals for all on a pay-as-you-feel donation basis.

Resulting from discussions with members of the local mosque, recently arrived Syrian Muslim refugees now run the kitchen one day a week, serving up their delicious signature dishes from home.

Back in the kitchen, Muslim and Christian volunteers are working side by side. The cafe receives halal chicken from the Nando’s restaurant chain, dried herbs and spices abandoned at the end of term by Leeds University halls of residence occupants, and groceries, vegetables and other items from supermarkets and food outlets. Only aubergines, tomatoes and lemons had to be purchased for the Khatibs to create their Syrian lunch.

The Church of England’s Near Neighbours programme has awarded All Hallows a grant “to pay for extras and to ensure the cafe has a secure future”. The vicar Heston Groenewald told the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood: “This feels like a good, effective way to love our neighbours”.

Another example is also from Leeds is the success of Hidden Talents, a partnership between the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Health Education England (HEE), City of Sanctuary (CofS) and the Growing Points charity. The programme opens doors for people from excluded communities who might not know how to apply and interview for roles in the health service. Eight women who have got jobs as apprentice or qualified healthcare assistants in Leeds.

All of those on the programme are refugees or women who have come to the UK on a spousal visa to join their husband, who is often himself an asylum seeker. Despite being enthusiastic and experienced, these women often find it difficult to get work because of barriers such as a lack of confidence and knowledge around how to fill in application forms.

[In Cardiff a scheme has run for many years and supported refreshing the training of refugees who are medically qualified and helping them apply for vacant posts in NHS Wales.]

The article also highlights the work of The Bike Project in south London which donates refurbished bikes to refugees and asylum seekers and The Refugee Journalism Project (run by the Migrant Resource Centre and the London College of Communication).