SAHELI cooks for asylum seekers



The South Asian women’s network, SAHELI, provided food and helped facilitate Settlement Services International (SSI’s) end-of-year Community Kitchen for asylum seekers.

SAHELI’s group of volunteers has recently been working closely with SSI, supporting social and cultural events, including Diwali celebrations, for SSI’s clients of South Asian heritage, as well as promoting health information and sponsoring SSI’s Community Kitchen.

Since August 2013, SSI has run the fortnightly Community Kitchen in Auburn Centre for Community as a social event for all of its asylum seeker clients, who are mostly from the Middle East, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma.

Every second Wednesday, about 100 to 250 clients gather in the Auburn Centre for Community to enjoy a meal prepared by volunteers, other clients and SSI staff. Then they eat, socialise with others by playing board games, soccer or cricket, and watch music performances by clients or community members.

Community Kitchen has also provided a way for other community services, such as Refugee Advice & Casework Service (RACS) and Mission of Hope, to engage with asylum seekers who live in the community. And it has become a space where clients use their skills to benefit their peers. For instance, a former barber has offered free haircuts, and others have led guitar workshops, run craft sessions and practiced mehndi art.

One of the asylum seekers who attended the end-of-year celebration, on Wednesday, December 17, was Zeinab, who attends Community Kitchen regularly. While enjoying a mix of foods from South-Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines with her young, face-painted son, daughter and some friends, she said she loved that Community Kitchen united people from different cultures. “It is a chance to make friends and for all of our children to play together. And I enjoy the mix of different foods, different music and different dances.”

Short URL: