Nahid in the kitchen
Refugee Café chef Nahid is among those behind the crowdfunder

A charity is trying to raise £20,000 to open a café to provide employment and training for refugees in the borough of Lewisham.

Refugee Café, which supports refugees living in London and runs a stall at the Royal Arsenal farmers’ market in Woolwich, wants the café to be a meeting place for all the community as well as a means of overcoming the barriers that refugees can face in finding work in Britain.

The charity is working with Lewisham Council to secure a site and has the backing of the borough’s elected mayor, Damien Egan. Its crowdfunding appeal, which launched yesterday, has already raised over £4,000.

One of its trustees, Marco Munoz, said: “As a refugee in the UK, my main challenge was the language barrier. At the time when I arrived in the UK, I’d had 25 years of teaching experience.

Damien Egan
Lewisham’s elected mayor Damien Egan is supporting the appeal

“However, I had to learn English and do my teacher training again. Refugee Café’s aim is to help people like me to be part of the community, helping refugees to learn the English language, and be part of the community by developing their skills such as cooking, so that they can find work. Refugees can bring a lot of their culture, food and other traditions to the community where they are living.”

The charity’s founder, Iolanda Chirico, said: “After one year of working from my tiny domestic kitchen producing amazing products, we are finally launching our crowdfunding campaign for a commercial Cafe. We are full of excitement and trepidation to finally realise our dream. We are encouraged and honoured by the incredible support we continue to receive from our wonderful local community, who continue to buy our products from local shops and market.

“We can go much further and open a community cafe; a hub of delicious food from around of world, friendship, and coming together to break down barriers. Together we can make it happen!”

The campaign will include a fundraising event at Beckenham Place Park on Saturday 29 May, which will include food and music from people who have been refugees.

Lewisham plans to become a “borough of sanctuary” by 2022, to welcome and help those fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries. Last November Greenwich councillors voted to follow suit.

Supporters can back the Refugee Café crowdfunder at

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