Beatrice in conversation with Maz. Photographs by the Refugee Info Bus Citizen Photo Project.
The Refugee Community Kitchen is located opposite the entrance of the camp, so as well as serving food to the residents who come there for food every day, people who are entering or exiting the camp often to or from long, difficult journeys can get food on their way. This also means that it is the first point of contact for new arrivals, so the kitchen staff can direct people to other services they might need. The area is surrounded by a huge amount of space for people to sit and eat, and the Refugee Info Bus is often parked there to provide wifi.
The set-up is canteen-like, so people can choose from a selection of food and condiments to flavour the food to their preference. This provides a very different head-space to being handed a plate of food in a line.
Since their very first day, the Refugee Community Kitchen has come in every day at around the same time, in any weather and even during the evictions. The staff are all long term volunteers, so people see familiar faces, and form personal bonds that offer friendship, advice, and support.
Not only do RCK serve hot meals every day to residents of the camp, they also prepare meals in serving trays and distribute them to communities to serve themselves, including Jungle Books Library and Kids Cafe, the Gym, the Christian Church, Women’s Centre, Baloo’s Youth Centre, and communities from Kuwait, Sudan, Syria and Ethiopia. This is so important for the dignity and pride of the camp residents, to offer some familiarity to the routine of eating. Communal eating is so important in other cultures, and so this cultural understanding is vital.
Taking time to deliver food for people, to sit and have tea, means the experience is more like a friend dropping off some food, rather than being helped by an aid worker. This dignifies people by trying to remove the element of ‘we are providing the thing that you need.’