Last week brought us to the close of our intimate supper clubs showcasing our dumplings that we have been making with women from migrant communities over the last seven months.
For those that are unfamiliar with our project, we ran monthly supper clubs from March – June alternating between Polish and Chinese themed nights. At these evenings we showcased dumplings we had been making with the women at our sessions, using the process as a starting point for exploring further recipes and experiences from the women’s own backgrounds – oh, and practising English too.
These were pilot supper clubs with the ultimate aim to equip ourselves with the necessary skills needed to ‘blaze the trail’ for the women we work with to start their own supper clubs and workshops. **UPDATE** Sure enough, they certainly have reached their goals and beyond! Read about one such success story in the form of a food blogger review of our Bangladeshi supper club, where three of our ladies cooked and hosted for 50 guests with no prior ‘formal’ experience of cooking.
Throughout the four months we have had 29 interesting and generous people join us at the table to get involved in our project and sample the dumpling recipes we created and developed. The money from the tickets went back into our sessions with the women, room hire, buying ingredients and creating English language resources for the sessions.
Who is this post for? Continue reading
There are currently many women living in Britain who have a wealth of pre-existing skills and resources to offer, but do not have the required English language level to do so. These are the women that Heart & Parcel aims to support.
What is ESOL and why is it in trouble?
The government offers ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) provision which is free English classes for migrant workers, refugees and asylum seekers who come to Britain and need help learning the language. Due to media sensationalist coverage on ‘migrants’ and a highly politicized discourse, the general public have been ill-informed about who comes to this country, for what reasons and the amount of provision or hand-outs they receive. This misinformation perpetuates a negative view surrounding those who require these classes. A combination of all these factors lead to funding for ESOL being insecure and unstable (Hamilton & Hiller, 2009).
As a result, waiting lists for ESOL classes are long, colleges and teaching staff feel the strain with lack of resources. Recent studies into the effects of funding cuts in this area have documented a ‘culture of fear’ and dis-empowerment amongst staff at FE colleges (O’Leary & Smith, 2012). Furthermore, current funding is gagged by strict conditions from the home office and government policies as to who can benefit from these classes.
In the last two decades, pierogi (small, filled dumplings) have become the real deal in Poland. The calling card of our cuisine if you like, a worthy representation of our nation abroad along with bigos stew, kabanos sausage and of course Polish chleb (bread).
Pierogi used to only come with the traditional fillings, such as pork, mushroom and cabbage, but these days many more varieties can be found. We have come across flavours such as spinach and feta cheese, buckwheat and lentils – ingredients even our grandmothers couldn’t imagine finding in those tiny parcels!
There are many important issues surrounding our project; their influence indirectly becoming the drive behind Heart & Parcel. Having worked as an English teacher with migrant communities and Karolina working as an advice support worker, I feel the need to discuss the political messages that surround these communities and ESOL, both previously and currently in Britain. I hope this post may shed light as to why increasing numbers of people who, like us work in the third sector and specifically with migrant communities in Britain, are setting up social projects like Heart & Parcel all around the country, and why they are so important in the current political climate.