We all know the proverb well. Yet often, when a deep desire to help refugees, asylees, and immigrants begins stirring within us, our inclination is not so much to teach, but to do and give.
These are wonderful instincts—and much needed! But at certain times, the best way to do and give is in fact to teach our new neighbors how they can do for themselves.
Individuals who have been uprooted from their homes and countries of origin have a pressing need to identify the ways in which their skills and talents can translate to their new cultural context. This step is essential to the resettlement process. And many fabulous organizations have honed in on the importance of this type of teaching, with great success.
In the context of food, such teaching might come in the form of culinary training, restaurant-business skills, and the like. Which means the outcome is often a win-win: practical, relevant job training for the refugee community, and delicious international eats for their new neighbors. Let’s take a look at:
A Torch for Teaching
Kerry Brodie and Alexander Harris, who head up Emma’s Torch restaurant in Brooklyn, New York, have implemented a 400-hour program to teach culinary skills to refugees, asylum seekers, and survivors of trafficking.
“We balance skills and fundamentals,” Kerry explained in an interview with Global Citizen, “so that when our students walk out our doors, we know they can get a job…We also want to foster confidence and creativity so that they realize the knowledge they bring with them matters.”
And the students aren’t the only people benefiting from the program. According to the article, Emma’s Torch “exudes a familial vibe and makes the spirit of inclusion as tangible as the entrees on the menu, which is inspired by an array of cultural cuisines that changes with each chef in residence.”
Since its start 5 years ago, this program has taught over 150 students from places like West Africa, Central America, Ukraine, and Afghanistan.
“The refugee experience is not one single moment,” Kerry shares in the article. “It’s not just the crisis you’re fleeing, not just the intermediary steps, not just arrival here.”
Moreover, refugees and asylum seekers come from a wide variety of different backgrounds and face an array of hardships. Some have never worked outside the home, while others possess trade skills more applicable within their cultures of origin.
By teaching food-industry skills, Emma’s Torch supports smoother resettlement by helping refugees translate what they already know into a means of establishing themselves wholeheartedly within their new community.
Turning Over a New Leaf
New Leaf Agriculture helps refugees with farming experience cultivate their existing skills to support a more successful transition to life in Austin, Texas.
This social enterprise exists under the umbrella of the Multicultural Refugee Coalition (MRC), which started in 2009 as a volunteer-run organization. Today, its mission focuses on teaching sewing and farming skills to create “livelihood opportunities” for refugees.
Their approach is practical and market-minded, with “enterprises…built at the intersection of the traditional, respected skills of sewing and farming that refugees bring and a growing market for local textile & food production.”
Recipe: Fattoush Salad
We love this fattoush salad, but we also love that the University of Scranton shares the delicious recipe while imparting important information about refugees and their cultures. In this case, Syria.
In fact, the university’s Global Tastes program recognizes the importance of teaching across much of its work, describing itself with a thoughtful teacher’s mindset—one that recognizes the multi-faceted value of welcoming refugees in this way:
“University and community partners have come together to welcome and learn from our newest Scrantonians. This project aims to increase awareness of diverse cultures in our region and empower and support refugee populations.”
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