It can be challenging adapting to a new life in a country where the culture, language and the cuisine are completely different from the harsh realities of war and famine. New friends, a new home and new beginnings are some of the challenges refugees must face and for many, this is a daily struggle.
Now, the e5 Bakehouse in Hackney is helping a number of refugee women ease their way into life in the UK through the comforting craft of bakery.
The Refugee Council has teamed up with the London Fields bakehouse to help refugee women develop their bread-making skills and improve their confidence. The Just Bread project is a 10-week training programme that is running throughout November. It is encouraging participants to enter work in the UK food industry.
The Refugee Council told Eastlondonlines: “The Just Bread project gives refugees really important practical skills. As well as learning artisan bread making methods and techniques, people are also supported with their English language, literacy and numeracy skills.”
Every Tuesday, eight refugee women from several countries in North Africa and the Middle-East learn about different aspects of the bakery, like making sourdough bread. They are also encouraged to share knowledge of their own cuisines with other trainees.
Alongside helping refugee women with baking skills, the project also offers emotional support. It helps women overcome isolation and depression through confidence building. The Refugee Council said: ‘‘We create a warm, safe and supportive environment where people can be themselves, talk openly and develop friendships. Increased confidence and self-esteem are one of the most positive outcomes of their participation.”
In September 2017, e5 opened a new café called e5 Roasthouse, located in Poplar, with the aim of providing employment for some of the refugee women. Jean Kern, who runs the project, told ELL: “Fifi [one of the trainees] did the third course and after working on a stool at Secret Cinema for Le Moulin Rouge show serving chouquettes pastry, she is now employed at the Roasthouse.”
The e5 Roasthouse will also be donating 30 per cent of its profits to refugee organisations.
Hackney has a long history of supporting refugees, with many organisations running programmes to help the refugee and migrant communities. Every Thursday, the Refugee Community Kitchen (RCK) sets up a food stall outside Hackney Central Library and local businesses have been supportive of the programmes. The Dusty Knuckle Bakery in Dalston offered support by donating a large quantity of bread to the RCK last week.
The Just Bread project helps to create a sense of community for those who are adapting to a new life in the UK. A spokesperson for Just Bread said: “The saddest part comes at the end of the course when we say goodbye to each other. Thankfully we do see the friendships sustain beyond the life of our course.”
The variety of bread that the trainees produce is available to buy through a subscription service, while customers can collect from four e5 Bakehouse sites across East London. Kern said: “A lot of people have been subscribing again to our bread scheme. All the support makes us feel like there are possibilities to endorse the refugee crisis in UK and Europe.”
All information can be found on the e5 website.