On Saturday 7 July – a blazingly sunny afternoon – we at KAMA Oxford held our official launch event at the East Oxford Community Centre. We decked out one of the centre’s (beautifully air-conditioned!) halls with strands of bunting and set up stands showcasing KAMA’s work: a table of musical instruments from around the world, a ‘guess the spice’ game, some origami, and a photo display of some of the workshops and events held by KAMA Oxford’s sister organisations in Washington DC, Graz and Vienna.
We were delighted that Feng came to play his guitar, singing some beautiful, traditional Chinese folk songs, and that Souad, from Algeria, treated us to a crochet demonstration, showing examples of her previous creations. We are looking forward to courses delivered by both!
Isabel, our founder, gave a talk about KAMA Oxford, and our raison d’être, and thanked everyone for coming.
Our taste of KAMA courses to come continued with three fantastic cooking demonstrations from four more women from the Refugee Resource women’s group. Dilber showed us how to make some mouthwatering Turkish Adana kebabs. Then Bibi, a Mauritian lady, led everyone into the kitchen, where she made chicken shawarma from scratch. To round off the feast, Lubna and Waed (from Iraq and Syria) made a great bowl of fresh tabbouleh with some artfully peeled vegetables in the shape of roses (carved by Waed, effortlessly, in seconds!).
All the food was gathered together, along with donations from the Hayfield Deli, Beetroot Café, Aleppo’s Falafel, Olives and Cous Cous Café, and everyone was invited to tuck in, before the ceremonial cutting of a splendid cake provided for the occasion by Millefeuille Patisserie. KAMA Oxford is go!
Last week (18th–24th June) marked the 20th anniversary of Refugee Week, an annual festival held across the globe to celebrate inclusivity and raise awareness of those seeking refuge around the world. The festival coincides each year with World Refugee Day on 20th June, and this year saw a range of events held across Oxfordshire which related to the experiences of refugees.
To celebrate the festival’s 20th year, Refugee Week asked individuals to complete ‘20 simple acts’ throughout the week. These included writing a 20-word poem, sharing a 20-second message of welcome to refugees on social media, learning a few words in another language, and finding five facts about refugees.
Each of these small actions helped to further the mission of the festival: encouraging diversity, facilitating positive encounters between communities, showcasing talent, educating about the experiences of those seeking refuge, and exploring new and interesting ways of addressing issues related to the refugee sector.
Across Oxfordshire, several exciting events promoted the positive contributions of refugees to our society. ‘Art for Action’ hosted an evening of poetry, music, film, and art in St. Aldate’s Church, which showcased refugee art. Several talks were held throughout the city on various issues facing the refugee community, including a panel discussion on the unique issues facing women refugees in the UK. In Ramsden, the annual Tandem Festival featured a range of performers and artists from refugee communities.
The week featured many other inclusive and celebratory activities across the county, all of which reflect our mission here at KAMA, to encourage understanding between communities, and promote the positive contributions refugees bring to our society. Representatives from KAMA attended many events throughout the week, and we can’t wait to attend again next year!
On Wednesday 20th June, Isabel and Flora went to the ‘Women’s Worlds at the Crossroads’ talk at Somerville College as part of Refugee Week. It was a highly informative panel talk at which we heard inspirational and moving stories from women refugees and from those who work to defend their rights and support their needs.
The talk aimed to explore the specific issues which women refugees face in the UK, and opened with Catherine Briddick from the Refugee Study Centre explaining some of the legal barriers which women refugees can face. We then heard from Councillor Peymana Assad of Harrow Council, who discussed her own family’s journey from Afghanistan, followed by Fatou Ceesay from Refugee Resource who highlighted the importance of support networks for women refugees. The final speaker was Councillor Shaista Aziz, who talked about women’s political agency and the need to promote the voice of women refugees and migrants.
Although the speakers were discussing serious and concerning issues, the mood was firmly rooted in the celebration of what women refugees can achieve and what they contribute to the community. We were treated to a range of wonderful food cooked by women from the Refugee Resource Women’s Group, who have produced a cookbook full of their recipes. Alongside the delicious food, we heard a musical performance of Shukria Rezaei’s moving poem ‘My Hazara People’. It was a reminder of the enrichment which results when refugees are able to share their creativity and talents with the community.
This month we’ve been out and about telling the world about KAMA Oxford. We’ve been really struck by the support and enthusiasm so many groups and individuals have shown towards our project – from international organisations such as the Red Cross to the grassroots Arabic Language Exchange, part of the Oxford Hub. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the local events and workshops we’ve attended:
One of our aims is to collaborate with existing charities and community groups, to work together and form ‘Partnerships of Hope’ as the Christian Concern for One World (CCOW) event on 21 April was aptly named. This networking event was attended by many of the major agencies in the Thames Valley area working with refugees and asylum seekers. It was a very project-affirming experience – in fact, at one of the afternoon workshops, the fellow attendees spontaneously applauded KAMA’s aims.
Following this event, Connection Support invited us to join their Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme team meeting to see how we can collaborate. Without this sort of support, we wouldn’t have made such progress in our inaugural month, and we’re very grateful to those who can see the potential of KAMA Oxford and have offered to help make it happen.
We were similarly welcomed at Marhaba in the Richard Benson Hall on 24 April. This was a lively evening of food and music bringing together musicians, artists and performers from around the world who have made their home in Oxford.
The following Thursday we visited Open Door Oxford, a weekly drop-in service for refugees and asylum seekers based at the East Oxford Community Centre. As we arrived, volunteers were unloading boxes of produce from the Oxford Food Bank van, ready to rustle up a delicious – and free – lunch for around 30 people of various nationalities. The aim of our visit, again, was to raise awareness of KAMA Oxford and find out whether anyone was keen to lead workshops. We were introduced to Khaled, one of the regular attendees who spoke excellent English, and Hassan, an Open Door chef, both of whom were enthusiastic about the premise of KAMA: the idea of them teaching us something, rather than the other way around.