Recipes of life – narrative and community work by our refugee team

30 August 2017

Experiencing loss and trauma can become the defining aspect of a young person's identity as they arrive in a new country. This is often compounded by the journey and asylum process. Narrative approaches connect young people back to a richer sense of self, of identity, and to the values, stories and people they hold dear which are embodied in a deep sense of their country of origin, family, culture and religion.

ThRecipe for lifee aim is to rekindle hope and to support young people's extraordinary resources to enable them to create a future which honours their past.

This year the Tavistock’s refugee team – including Nsimire Bisimwa, Sherry Rehim, Haben Ghezai, Karen Partridge and the team manager David Amias – collaborated with community organisations to deliver collective narrative projects. Here, they write about their experience.

Recipes of Life

In collaboration with the Made Up Collective organisation, a ‘Recipes of Life’ workshop was run last week at the Tavistock Centre Café.

Kiran Chahal is the founder of the Made Up Collective, an ever-growing group of socially active artists engaging with communities to transform spaces through 'public art interventions', events, workshops and lots of stuff in between.

The ‘Recipes of Life’ workshop brought together unaccompanied young people from differing cultures for an evening of cooking cultural dishes and of sharing recipes, traditions and stories.

The young people brought recipes that meant something special to them to share their memories of their homeland.

As we cooked, ate and talked, we heard stories about how food was eaten and learned to cook different cultural dishes. The young people were able to perform and share their culture which was witnessed by other members of the group and in doing so were able to honour each other's cultures. A young male, aged 15 from Afghanistan said, “Today I have felt proud to be from Afghanistan and of my culture”.

We heard stories about wisdom and love shared though cooking and acts of kindness. Conversations about holding onto and creating lasting bonds to their family members and countries of origin emerged. The young people spoke about the significance of cooking food that their families would have cooked and through cooking they felt they were able to hold onto significant people in their lives and what they have taught them. A young female, aged 17 from Ethiopia said, "It is the first time since arriving in this country that I have sat down to eat with so many people". She said that it was those around her that enabled her to maintain hope.

We would like to thank Kiran Chahal from the Made Up Collective for her for fantastic support in helping us run this project.

We would also like to thank Gillian Hughes and Nsimire Bisimwa who originally set up this community work in the Refugee Team and have worked hard to ensure it remains alive.  

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Refugee care

Delivered with the University of Essex, this is the only course of its kind that includes a placement within an organisation related to working...

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The team of life – narrative and community work by our refugee team

Experiencing loss and trauma can become the defining aspect of a young person's identity as they arrive in a new country. This is often compounded...
Refugee service

Provides culturally sensitive support to refugees and asylum-seeking children, young people and families in north London.