Food and Friendship

Our Interfaith Shared Meal Project brings together WIN’s members from all faiths and none with women seeking asylum or living in contingency hotels, for food, cooking and friendship. The backlog in the UK asylum system is leaving thousands of women and children stuck living long-term in what is designed to be temporary hotel accommodation, without security, meaningful community or even a place to play or eat together. The UK Refugee Council has highlighted the detrimental impact of prolonged stays in hotels on asylum-seekers’ mental and physical well-being, and notes that residents describe feeling ‘trapped’ with their ‘lives on hold’. In 2023, we launched Food and Friendship as a pilot with Westminster-based charity Unfold, who run support groups for women seeking asylum in the borough. Our launch event in July 2023 hosted over 60 attendees from WIN and Unfold’s Women’s Support Groups, with Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Hindu women alongside women of no faith, enjoying 15 different dishes from different cultures and traditions. Activities were provided for the children and Gants Hill WIN Chair Dr. Sudarshan Kapur MBE led a laughter yoga session for all attendees. At these shared meal events, asylum-seeking women can make connections with women from different faith and cultural backgrounds, many of whom will have a shared history of migration. Sharing food creates an atmosphere of intimacy, opening up conversations and breaking down barriers, therefore promoting social integration and meaningful relationship building between communities. Preparing dishes from home also encourages women to share in and celebrate their cultural heritage through their regional cuisines. Watch this space for updates on this exciting project!
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