by Nicholas Millet, Project Coordinator
For the last nine months, the Chios People’s Kitchen (a voluntary run kitchen) has been providing dinner to our school three times a week. The nutritious vegan meal has ensured that the students aged 8–11 years old are supplemented with at least three tasty dinners a week made with undeniable love and compassion. The alternative has often a flavourless airplane style meal lacking in nutrition or variation served at the military run camp 10km from the city centre.
Their support for our project was on top of their main role of cooking for over one thousand people a day for the refugee camp located in the city centre of Chios. However, after being replaced by a local catering company earlier this year, the question posed to us by one of their coordinators was:
“How can we utilise the committed volunteer staff, knowledge and equipment in the kitchen to support the refugee community in a new and innovative way?”
Born was a partnership between Be Aware and Share and Chios People’s Kitchen. Together, we set up the first cooking school for young adults from the refugee community on Chios Island. At the heart of this project is to provide a way for refugees stuck on Chios Island to develop a skill set, especially as their access to other forms of education and work is limited.
We are now three weeks in since first launching the school. Six participants (aged 19–21 years old) from three different countries attend the school three times a week for 4–5 hours per session. Our trainers are qualified and experienced chefs from Syria and Switzerland who together have developed a hands-on approach that seeks to develop the basic skills required to work in a kitchen. From knife skills, hygiene in the kitchen, to plate decoration, the course ensures our students received a unique introduction to what it means to be a chef.
However, what separates this project from many other vocational courses is the fact that the food cooked by the participants during each session is the dinner provided to our students in the school. We have constructed an end-to-end virtuous supply chain. Each point there is compassion, love and social development taking place.
Our ingredients are sourced locally with a focus on sustainability. Working in a kitchen that is completely vegan, there is a distinct emphasis on purchasing products that do not harm the environment alongside ensuring all those involved have a deep understanding of sustainability and environmental issues relating to food consumption. For our participants the course is providing an opportunity to develop a skill set and develop their CV whilst stuck on the Island waiting for their asylum application to be processed. For our students eating the food, it means receiving more nutrition and variation in the food that they eat every week. Finally, for us as organisations supporting refugees, it is another way we can innovate in a changing and challenging environment, ensuring we don’t waste resources that have previously been donated whilst also retaining knowledge to benefit our target population.
Chios People’s Kitchen
The Chios People’s Kitchen is a multicultural group providing nourishing meals to the PoCs (People of Concern) on Chios Island, Greece. They constantly promote respect and acceptance of all cultures. They advocate social justice, compassion, love and respect for all beings by offering nutritious vegan meals showered with unconditional love.
Peace begins on your plate.