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Blackburn College Supports Refugees with National Lottery Funding

undefinedBlackburn College has supported refugees in the local community using National Lottery funding; helping them use cooking to build social networks, end isolation, improve their English and increase wellbeing.

Head of Research and Scholarship at Blackburn College Dr Valerie Todd said: “Refugees can be an asset to our community, but they face challenges of isolation and poor community integration, communication, employability, poverty, and mental wellbeing.”

“This project has aimed to address these challenges by using food as a vehicle to bring people together to build strong relationships, and enable them to fulfil their potential.”

‘Friendship Feast’ has seen participants study for a Food Hygiene Certificate at Blackburn College, with each woman learning how to make cheap nutritious meals using locally available ingredients. Participants then created a menu inspired by their country of origin and worked together to cook the meal.

Moroccon-born participant Batoul Zahri described the moment the women sat to eat her dish as “the happiest moment” and explained “working together, chatting and getting to know each other, is the part which really makes a difference in the project.”

Participant Nabila Khavas – originally from Afghanistan – added: “Making friends and more confidence speaking in English” was a real gain for her.

Students from across the University Centre at Blackburn College have also supported the project.

Early Childhood Studies students organised a crèche so that the women’s children were looked after throughout the project, while Psychology students assessed the wellbeing of each group member. A Fine Art student also photographed the project with the intention of creating a cookbook for each woman to keep as a memento.

Dr Valerie Todd added: “You can really see the difference from how the women were in the beginning.”

“They have bonded despite differences in religious and ethnic backgrounds and their written and spoken English has improved.”

The programme concluded at an event held at Wesley Hall in Blackburn, where participants, volunteers, friends and family celebrated their individual successes.

It is expected that ‘Friendship Feast’ will be showcased at the National Festival of Making – with programme participants sharing their culinary creations to the wider public.

Dr Valerie Todd concluded: “We’re delighted that The National Lottery Community Fund recognised our work.”

“Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to deliver a project that has supported refugees in the local community, while increasing students’ participation in real world research.”

‘Friendship Feast’ has been a collaboration between Blackburn College, The National Lottery Community Fund and the ARC Project – an initiative designed to create a safe, welcoming space for those fleeing war, persecution and violence in their homelands.

19 Feb 2020, 11:44 AM