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Charity connecting people through food

Oasis Cardiff is teaching people about different cultures through food by holding monthly supper club events

A dining table with cutlery

Oasis Cardiff offers a monthly supper club event in order to experience new food and cultures from across the world (Photo credit: Kate Morgan)

A Splott-based charity which aims to integrate refugees and asylum seekers with the rest of Cardiff is bringing people together through the power of food.

Oasis Cardiff holds a supper club each month focusing on a different type of cuisine in order to introduce and share diverse cultures to the local community.

This is one of many events that the charity runs alongside English classes, sports and art sessions, and a mobile refugee kitchen.

The charity’s funding has been cut in recent years. However, when catering manager Matt Davenport joined Oasis, he decided it was time to “tap back into it” and engage with the local community in new ways.

“With a lot of the different cultures in this centre, language can be a bit of a barrier. But in the kitchen, they can prepare a dish and see that people have enjoyed it. There’s a real sense of satisfaction and a link to home,” Matt explains.

“They show me how to cook it and I’m kind of like the conduit,” he says. “I set up an environment where people can come and sit together in a relaxed atmosphere.”

Usually the month’s chosen cuisine is based on where a member of the kitchen team is from and takes place in the charity’s café, making the event feel unique and intimate.

Dining table surrounded by people

The supper club brings people together from all walks of life, including asylum seekers who have sought refuge at the charity (Photo credit: Kate Morgan)

In October, the Supper Club hosted a traditional Eritrean coffee ceremony, complete with fresh roasted coffee beans. Their most recent supper club in November was themed on volunteer Muhammad’s native food of Iran.

“It’s their opportunity to showcase the food of their native country,” says Matt. “I’m really keen to showcase the food Muhammad grew up on.”

There have been several reported cases of cultural appropriation through food in recent years, with Jamie Oliver’s polarising ‘jerk rice’ being a prime example. However, the supper club is a way in which the charity can bring people together and teach others about their own cultures.

This can be to learn more about the culture of refugees and asylum seekers within the city, as well as to make new friends. This is especially important given that by June this year, 14,308 grants of asylum had been issued in the UK.

Sinai Noor, a photographer and video maker, is a regular volunteer at the charity. He has been overwhelmed with the results of the supper club so far. “Everyone’s happy and they’re tasting a new thing, something for pleasure, which is nice,” he explains.

The different cuisines on offer at the supper club can open a pathway to conversation about experiences and traditions, but often the food is what does the talking.

“Food is without language,” emphasises Matt. “You can communicate with someone if something is tasty or not without saying anything. The best act of love is to be able to feed people and to see they’ve taken enjoyment in the food.”

The supper club is held on the last Thursday of every month, with the next one set for 27 Dec 2018. More details can be found on their Facebook page.

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