Last week was our week – Refugee Week. The movement began in 1998 as a positive response to the misleading portrayal of refugees and asylum seekers in both the media and wider society. It always takes place around the midsummer date of 20 June – National Refugee Day – and everyone is invited to get involved to celebrate the enormous contribution refugees make in their adoptive communities, the better to understand the need for inclusivity and appreciation of their talent and creativity.
This year the theme for Refugee Week was ‘Imagine’. Participants were encouraged to think about the simple acts we can every day to stand up and connect with refugees, whether it be reading books or watching films about exile, or just sharing the good things in life.
With Covid 19 preventing connecting in real life, this year our activities for Refugee Week were wholly reliant on social media, and, we were delighted to hold a trio of well-attended workshops, hosted by experts in their field who gave up their time to get us all making, creating, dicing, spicing, stretching and focusing to bring more joy and meaning to these strange times.
Our programme started on Wednesday 17 June with an evening of arting, crafting and stories. First up: Sarah from Social Fabric, a team of textile artists who provide powerful works that tell stories and explore themes. Sarah demonstrated how to turn your root vegetables into effective art materials for pretty printmaking. After which, Mathilda, whose Conversations from Calais give eloquent voice to those refugees struggling to be heard in this noisy world, delivered a masterclass in storytelling. Amy Wolfe then led a landscape sketching class.
On the Saturday Abdullah, our talented Damascus Chef, taught us a brilliantly simple method for making the best baba ganoush (aubergine salad) ever. Who knew it was so easy to achieve that soft, melting aubergine texture and smoky flavour that’s so central to this Middle Eastern speciality dish?
By Sunday, it was time to kick off our shoes and stretch our bodies, and Jo Jeyaratnam’s morning yoga class did not disappoint. Following this wonderfully invigorating practice on the mat, it was great to still our minds and bodies and meditate using the gentle art of mindfulness, ably assisted by Dilya. She’s the founder of the Mindful Globe project, which is a not-for-profit movement that promotes the concept of mindfulness: a way of finding harmony through being fully engaged in the present moment, so that you can handle whatever is in that moment. Mindfulness can have a powerful and positive impact on your perception of life’s challenges – and we all need a bit of help with that right now.
All the events were ‘pay what you feel’ and we hugely appreciate all the money raised. Every donation helps to make Refugee Cafe’s mission a reality.
The events were, creative. inclusive. and, in the case of that delicious baba ganoush, addictive. It was a great week!
Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen, and who participated in the events. To find out more about the wonderful people and organisations who gave us their time and skills to put this programme together, follow these links: