Food for Thought

Thirty women from the charity Refugee Resource and a group of students from Wellington College recently swapped cooking skills at two workshops hosted by Maymessy, a community cookery school in Oxford.

Bringing these two diverse groups together was Maymessy CIC, who won funding last year from the High Sheriff’s Community Integration Awards. Organised by the Oxfordshire Community Foundation, these grants are given to local enterprises where projects bring together people from different backgrounds to build mutual understanding and encourage a sense of belonging to the wider community.

Oxfordshire-based chef Mariella Bliss taught the group how to make authentic Italian pizza while the women from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated how to make Eid cakes.

Fatou Ceesay, women’s service coordinator from Refugee Resource, said: “It is exciting to come out of the busy city of Oxford. The environment is welcoming and like a mother child relationship. It empowered the women because they shared their skills and it helps them with their integration as many have just arrived in this country”.

Nine students and four teachers from Wellington College attended over the two days with student Bella reflecting on her time: “It was an amazing experience to cook with these inspiring women. We got to know each other, talking about school, about GCSEs and what they do. One of the women was a teacher”.

Wellington College has since donated dishes to the women enabling them to create and sell their own food at farmers’ markets and pop-up community cafés.

Anna Richards, Founder of Maymessy said: “It was great to see these two groups, who wouldn’t necessarily cross paths normally, coming together to share their love of food and cooking. The two days were uplifting, energetic and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.

“The women would love to return in the summer with their families for a traditional British picnic so we’re looking for financial support to help host this event. Donations such as a bouncy castle for the children and help with transport costs would also be great!”

About Maymessy

Working with charities, youth groups and schools, Maymessy teaches vulnerable children and adults to learn essential food skills. Maymessy is located within 11 acres of countryside at Wantage, offering a peaceful respite to many of its visitors. Find out more:

About Refugee Resource

Refugee Resource aims to improve the wellbeing and facilitate the integration of refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants in Oxfordshire. In 2018, the charity won funding from the Oxfordshire Community Foundation for using towards bringing diverse communities together.

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