Say Hello to Sami’s Chickens

Dear friends,

Abaeze, his wife and 2 sons, aged 9 and 13, sat in our office for 4 hours. Throughout, the mother sobbed. The family are asylum seekers and had overspent on the goodwill of a local taxi driver who had been housing them for the past 8 months. In the morning, he dropped them off at the Food Bank and pointed to Ibrahim saying, “They’ll help you.”

This is not an unusual occurrence. Sufra NW London, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, was never just a Food Bank. We’re an all-encompassing safety net for everyone and anyone who can’t get the help they need. As asylum seekers, Abaeze and his family are not eligible for benefits and he is not allowed to work. If caught working, he could be deported immediately.

As Ibrahim made the usual raft of calls trying to find every possible avenue of support, I looked on as the hours passed by without any resolution. Every ounce of dignity had been stripped away from this family, and the sight of the inconsolable, sobbing mother was disturbing. And incredibly distracting. First I offered tea and coffee, but they refused. When Fahim arrived with a delivery of fruit, I asked if they wanted some. Shyly, Abaeze said no. I packed them a bag anyway and asked Abaeze to keep it with him just in case, in the hope that they would be tempted to look through the bag and eat something when I wasn’t looking.

In some ways it was a pathetic gesture. The family was homeless and I was offering oranges and bananas.

As the working day came to a close without any prospect of finding housing, I turned to Ibrahim and said, “Book them a hotel.”

“But you said there was no money,” he asked.

Whilst it is true that our emergency aid budget currently stands at zero, I told him to go ahead.

“The money will come. We’ll put out an appeal on social media.”

As the family made their way out of the office, Abaeze came to me and hugged me. And he wouldn’t let go. “Thank you”, he kept muttering. I was embarrassed.

Fast forward 8 days, Abaeze and his family now live in temporary accommodation in Kilburn. By profession, Abaeze is a chef and he’s already started volunteering at Sufra NW London. But without the right to work and no entitlement to benefits, he will be reliant on the Food Bank for months to come. Maybe longer.

There will be some that judge Abaeze when he gets a dodgy job washing dishes at a restaurant paying cash in hand. It’s inevitable. But there is something utterly unforgivable about the way our country treats asylum seekers fleeing conflict or persecution, and that policy has persisted across governments of all political persuasions.

“Maybe they’re economic migrants…” some might question. But what if they’re not? I’ve known people who have lived in this limbo for 4 or 5 years. No one would put themselves through the trauma of leaving their home country and all their possessions, unless he or she truly believes they have no alternative.

To make a donation towards our Refugee Resettlement Programme, click here.

Party with Sufra NW London 

We’re counting the days to Sufra NW London’s 5th Anniversary Party on Thursday 26 March 2018 at Bridge Park Leisure Centre.

In just one week, half the tickets have disappeared! So, make sure you register now using the link here.

Say Hello to Sami‘s Chickens 

With over 2,000 eggs laid since the arrival of Sami‘s chickens, it’s time to open the gate to the coop and invite the community to meet our ladies (as Jim refers to them).

Sami will be giving a tour to our sponsors this week before an open event on St. Raphael’s Edible Garden on Sunday 15 December from 12pm to 3pm. There will be plenty of activities including a chicken race, egg hunt and urban farming workshops for children. There will also be a free chicken barbecue which Rajesh, our part-time vegetarian, considers somewhat disturbing. (I’ve asked Jim for reassurance that we won’t be cooking our own hens, but he hasn’t responded yet…)

All are welcome.

In other news…

We’re still recruiting for a full-time Operations Manager (£25K-£28K), a Trustee to join our Board, and some exceptional volunteers to supervise the Food Bank and Community Kitchen. Check out our recruitment page here.

Spaces are also still available for the #FoodParcelChallenge and British 10K Road Race. If you’d like to take part and help keep the Food Bank open, click here and here respectively.

Forget about the upcoming local elections: the position of Chair of the Youth Committee is now open and some dirty politics are at play during our official purdah period. Watch this space for more details.

Lastly, we’re starting preparations for Ramadan Food Collections – if your local mosque wants to get involved, do let us know and we can supply food collection bins, donations boxes and leaflets.

And finally…

We’re registered for Amazon Smile – the new way of giving whilst you shop. If you use this link to shop at Amazon, 0.5% of your spend will be donated to Sufra NW London.


Mohammed Mamdani

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