This week, we went to visit our neighbours at Borderlands, based just around the corner from our warehouse in St Judes. Based in the The Assisi Centre, which is linked to the St Nicholas of Tolentino Church, Borderlands offers a range of support services to disadvantaged and socially excluded people who are struggling as a result of their refugee or asylum seeker status.
‘From exclusion to belonging’ is Borderlands’ tagline. As well as support services, it offers a safe, welcoming space and the chance to feel part of a community, something many members have lost. Eating together is an important part of this togetherness.
Each Tuesday morning, FareShare South West volunteers Barry and Dee deliver food picked in our warehouse for Borderlands’ big community lunch. Volunteers cook up a nutritious, hot meal each week for around 120 people, who all sit and eat together along with staff and volunteers.
Esam (pictured) is a long term Borderlands volunteer who has been cooking for members for years. He is well known for his creativity with food, and is currently cooking up a curry in the kitchen along with Ruthie and Davina, who are peeling potatoes. Each week they cook up a new recipe based on the food they receive.
More than meals
Steve, the drop-in Manager tells us “Many members are migrants without formal recognition. It is significant to come together around a shared meal. Eating together can make deep and meaningful connections with others. Most of our members don’t have the space or money to host people for a meal themselves, so eating together isn’t an option.
Food, sharing a meal is so culturally significant for our members, it’s so important. There’s a Kenyan family I visited once who told me ‘you haven’t visited unless you’ve eaten’. So in some ways sharing and offering means a lot more than it does in British culture. The idea of having plenty for everyone is also important, whereas in the UK we tend to focus on set
portions. The amount of food we receive means it’s more like a banquet here!”
“We couldn’t serve up a meal for 120 people a week without the food. It frees up resources for other services like our art club. It also gives our volunteers and members a role and a responsibility in the organisation which can mean a lot- like being the person who collects the food at the door.”
‘It is good being able to rely on the food each week’
“The amount we receive means there is some free food at the end of the meal, which members can take away with them. It is good being able to rely on the food each week, and knowing that we’ll have great fresh food to give out.”
Eating together is also a chance for the charity to tell members about new services, hear how people are doing and signpost them to further support in Bristol. They can hear about different activities and groups like their walking group or English classes, or be linked up to support such as the Borderlands mentoring scheme which links members up to people in the Bristol community.