As part of Refugee Week 2020 KAMA Oxford was featured in a video by Oxford City Council highlighting several local organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers: @RefugeeOxford, @AsylumWelcome, @KAMAOxford, @MultakaO
Several of our enthusiastic volunteers appear, describing what volunteering means to them - enjoy!
This month I had a chat to Muradi Bakir about her experience teaching a course for KAMA Oxford.
Muradi found out about KAMA from a friend who knew she was interested in teaching Arabic. After getting in touch with Isabel and being paired up with teaching mentor Janet, Muradi started giving lessons in Arabic for beginners at the end of November 2019.
Muradi proved to be a natural teacher, "I was nervous before the first lesson, but Janet said I had seemed calm", she remembers. She was surprised at the amount of interest in the course, which now has over 20 students in three groups. Many were simply attracted by the challenge of learning a new language, while others have previously lived in Arabic speaking countries (like Syria and Bahrain) and are interested in building on the experience now they are back in the UK. Muradi has found that the students take their Arabic lessons seriously and told me that it has been great to see them improve from week to week.
Although teaching Arabic is new to Muradi, she has always been fascinated by language, writing poetry and stories since childhood. She has already shared her poetry with Oxford audiences, and was recently approached by a filmmaker interested in making a short film about her experiences and work - an exciting project which they hope to return to as soon as possible.
It was great to hear that Muradi is enjoying teaching. "It makes me happy to see that learning Arabic makes my students happy, I feel satisfied" she said. The current lockdown has put the course on hold, but Muradi plans to resume with online lessons soon and is even thinking about ways to gain a teaching qualification so that she could later pursue a career in teaching.
Muradi sees her involvement with KAMA as something positive, sometimes even a welcome distraction in stressful and difficult times. Making a home in Oxfordshire has been hard for the Bakir family and they continue to be subjected to bullying by hostile neighbours in the small town where they currently live.
It is a troubling reminder of the tendency to demonise people whose backgrounds are different to our own. We hope that the events organised by KAMA Oxford can help challenge this thinking, and remind us to question such behaviour if we ever see it demonstrated.
Thank you, Muradi, for letting us hear about your experience teaching with KAMA and we look forward to your lessons getting started again in due course!
On Saturday 16th February, KAMA held a Middle Eastern cookery demonstration at the East Oxford Community Centre, in conjunction with our St Hilda’s Feminist Festival (intersectional feminist events which are happening all week!) with five women from the Middle East teaching us how to make the most delicious dishes.
I was genuinely blown away by the work of KAMA and the event itself, and I am so absolutely thrilled it could be part of our festival. Watching the demonstrations, it felt great to be involved in an event where fabulous Middle Eastern recipes were being taught to residents of Oxford and students, and that the expertise and skills of the demonstrators could be shared with us. Watching the demonstrators jokingly argue over whether to add oil to Jajeek was a personal highlight (‘she’s only saying that because she’s on a diet’).
The food itself was absolutely phenomenal- the Iraqi Fatira and Syrian Fattoush were honestly some of the best food I have ever had. I haven’t stopped talking about the event (and the food), and Niamh and I have planned to have a night next week where we can practice the dishes and have a feast. I feel so very lucky that our festival could have been involved in with KAMA and with such a fantastic event in which members of the community and students all got involved.
~Lola Dickinson, St Hilda's Feminist Festival organiser
Crochet sessions with Souad are now well and truly under way – in fact, you could say we’re hooked! The merry band of crocheters are working on a shawl using filet crochet technique (don’t worry: it sounds harder than it is), drinking tea and enjoying each other’s company and Souad’s love of the craft. So simple, and so therapeutic. Come and join us – newcomers always welcome!
You can find out all the details and sign up here.
KAMA's Chinese New Year event brought together such a wide range of people from all different nationalities. It was lovely to be able to celebrate with Chinese, Spanish, African, South American and British people - all together!
Shirley, Anna, and Yushen Zhu brought us all together to sing songs, play games and eat delicious homemade rice cakes and drink tea! We demonstrated our chopstick skills (or lack thereof) by picking up Malteasers as fast as possible, played Chinese whispers (in Mandarin), wrote Chinese calligraphy and sang Auld Lang Syne to bring in the New Year.
It was held at Open House in Jericho which directly supports homeless people in Oxford and therefore is very closely linked to the ethos and aims of KAMA. It felt great to be in such a positive space surrounded by people having fun and sharing their cultures.
Shirley mentioned to me afterwards that she was so happy to share her New Year celebrations with others and to tell them what Chinese New Year is all about.
An afternoon very well spent!
On Tuesday 6th November Matti and Hiba taught their first Arabic language and culture class at the Westgate Library.
It was a chance to practise Arabic greetings and numbers, and also to learn how to make delicious Iraqi tea. Matti and Hiba were fantastic teachers, and kept everyone on their toes with ball games and bingo! It was a fun and informative introduction to Arabic language and culture and we hope to run more of these classes in 2019.
Here's a short report from one of the attendees of the 'Introduction to Eritrean Culture' evening held on 23 October 2018:
"Michael and his mentor, Goytom, gave a fascinating and informative talk about Eritrean culture. We learnt about their customs, food and music. We also had a language lesson, and Goytom wrote each of our names in Tigrinyan to take home with us. The highlight for me was sitting together at the end, listening to Eritrean music and chatting over strong coffee and snacks, as families do in Eritrea at the end of the day. I’m very much looking forward to learning more about Eritrean culture in future KAMA courses."
The evening was a great success and the obvious interest from participants to learn more about Eritrea means we are already planning future events. Thank you to the teachers and their mentors and everyone who came!
During this fantastic class, Dilber, Waed, Hiba and Lubna demonstrated how to make five Middle Eastern dishes. Dilber showed everyone how to make a beautifully presented Turkish aubergine kebab dish. Lubna taught us how to make tasty vegetarian spring rolls and a couple of participants had a go at making their own. Hiba talked us through how she’d made a colourful Iraqi biryani topped with dried fruit and nuts, which is eaten on special occasions. Finally Waed showed us how to make Syrian style Fattoush and Baba Ganoush, beautifully decorated with ‘flowers’, which she crafted from lemon peel and tomato skins. When everything was cooked and prepared, we all enjoyed a delicious lunch together, with Iraqi tea, and everyone took home a lovely booklet containing recipes from the day.*
*Thanks to Georgie for preparing the recipes and Mary for designing the booklet so beautifully!
On 9th October 2018 KAMA hosted its first workshop, 'Folksong with Feng'.
Twelve attendees gathered together in the atmospheric, multi-faith chapel at Somerville College. Some people had brought along their guitars and ukuleles to strum along. Feng began the class by talking to us about his background and explained that he is a political refugee from China.
We then started learning ‘In a Faraway Place’, an evocative Kazakh song popularised by Chinese folk song composer Wang Luobin in the 1930s. Though the melody was simple enough, the pronunciation of the lyrics proved more of a challenge… but Feng was encouraging and patient, and we were also extremely lucky to have Shirley in the group, another native speaker who had arrived in Oxford just a week before. Thank you, Shirley!
Feng’s second choice of song, ‘The Outside World’ was in a more familiar idiom to our Western ears, and we quickly learned the catchy tune and the simple chords, and were even able to add a bit of harmony, thanks to the tenors amongst us.
We rounded off the session with a final ‘performance’ of ‘In a Faraway Place’, and were reminded of the power of music to unite and move us – no matter where we’re from.
Huge thanks are due to Brian McMahon, Chapel Administrator at Somerville College, for hosting and supporting this workshop; to Tarje (KAMA mentor), who helped to bring Feng’s vision to reality; and – as ever – to Isabel*.
*This was written by Sarah, who is far too modest to thank herself! But the success of this workshop was due in no small part to her and Matt – thank you both ever so much. My role on the day only really consisted in enjoying the fruits of your organisation and expertise! ~Isabel.