An update from the Board

Simon Ware
Simon Ware
Refugee Cafe logo

Dear Supporter,

Thank you for the continued support and enthusiasm you have shown for Refugee Cafe’s aims and activities. With the year drawing to an end, we would like to update you on our journey so far and where our future plans are taking us.

Refugee Cafe was set up in 2020 as a charity to support refugees in the Lewisham area into employment and to promote social inclusion. We are indebted to our founder and first Chair, Iolanda Chirico, for her vision, energy and determination. We have always considered innovative ways to take our work forward. One early idea was to set up a physical cafe for refugees to gain experience and training, generate income through sales, and meet the community. In May 2021 our Crowdfunder raised almost £30,000 to support this idea through generous donations from the community.

In spite of this fundraising success, the charity faced significant challenges. There were misconceptions in the original assessment of the support refugees need. We also realised there are difficulties for the charity operating in competition with commercial enterprises. Achieving the vision of a physical cafe required significant revisions to original plans and to our operating model. With Iolanda Chirico resigning from the board to focus on operational issues – as well as other personnel changes – the remaining trustees had to address these challenges. Iolanda has now left Refugee Cafe to pursue new opportunities, which we look forward to hearing about.

It has become clear that we are not close to opening the physical cafe envisioned in our Crowdfunder. In these circumstances, we feel it would be right to offer to return the donations to those who contributed. If you made a contribution to the Crowdfunder and would like to have your donation returned, please contact with the details. If you are happy for your donation to remain with us, we would be delighted to use it to support our future plans.

Refugee Cafe has continued working with a group of refugee chefs and cooks to produce, sell and serve food at local markets, shops and community events. This developed catering skills and provided valuable experience for those involved, but it has not been on the scale we would have liked. 

Refugee Cafe’s board has recently been involved in discussions with a prestigious culinary college about providing a structured training programme for refugees in the Lewisham area looking to work in catering and hospitality. We have also been finalising a partnership with a local arts centre to provide regular lunchtime catering from their cafe space. We are excited to share this news with you and hope to make announcements about the initiatives soon.

We are confident that through these plans Refugee Cafe can make a positive and significant contribution supporting refugees in the Lewisham area into employment. We have learned much from our recent experience and are putting in place robust and well-researched plans to ensure our activities are developed to meet our aims. We hope you continue to support our activities and look forward to meeting many of you at our activities in the new year. 

We would love to hear from you if you have any thoughts, questions, comments or suggestions on our current activities and future plans.

Please get in touch:

Thank you and best wishes for holidays,

Refugee Cafe Board