Serving up new opportunities at unique café

Ruth Peterson | February 19, 2020

New opportunities are on the menu for refugees in Bradford after the launch of a venture teaching them the skills to run their own cafés.

As the trainee chefs prepare and serve food at the Refugee Welcome Café project at the city’s Millside Centre, they have their sights set on launching their own businesses in the city thanks to the partnership between Bradford Council, Bradford College, Millside Centre and employability and SkillsHouse, an organisation supporting unemployed people in the Bradford district to develop skills for employability.

Happy and thankful

Among the learners is Experito Kiyingi, 22, who is originally from Uganda and came to Bradford from Kenya just over two months ago, said: “I feel happy and thankful to do this and I’d like to start my own café business. It’s given me experience and taught me a lot about business and how to maintain a kitchen.”

How the idea came to life

The creation of the café came about after Wahid Rashid, refugee engagement coordinator for SkillsHouse, contacted Bradford College’s curriculum manager for community and distance learning, Duncan Burnett, to look at ways in which the curriculum could be used to support refugees to gain confidence, learn new skills and become ready to work.

Teaching new skills

Taught by Bradford College tutor Nabeela Khan, the courses provided at the café include Introduction to Cooking, Introduction to Kitchen Safety and Food Safety, Confidence with Customer Service Skills and Introduction to Cooking for Business. They have been designed by the college to meet the needs of the students who face multiple barriers to learning and work.  

A real team effort

The learners have come to Bradford from a variety of nations including Uganda, Yemen, Syria and Sudan, but are united in a love of cooking and a determination to succeed. “The café is a real team effort,” said Joe Parker, curriculum team leader for adult and community learning at Bradford College. “There are so many people from so many backgrounds able to work together. The students have been amazing.”

Wahid said the learners all had experience of working in their countries of origin but were now gaining the qualifications needed to work in the UK.

He said: “We’re giving them the opportunities to gain real life experience of running a business and developing their skills in different areas. It’s offering cooking skills such as food hygiene, an introductory award to customer service and practice with functional English skills. Some refugees want to open their own café and that’s what we want.”

How Millside Centre supports the community

The Millside Centre, a community space serving vulnerable people in the city, is owned by Christian charity Reach Beyond and was opened after extensive research into the needs of people in the area. The organisation’s chief executive Colin Lowther said: “When we first created the centre we never thought that this kitchen area would be a café but it was such a great idea. The project is part of our ethos of supporting vulnerable people. To have refugees running a café and hopefully get a job at the end of it is really exciting.”

Refugees benefit from community learning

Refugees in the city have also been benefitting from the part-time community courses for adults offered by Bradford College including bakery, cake decoration, IT and Asian bridal wear and make-up, as well as courses for English for speakers of other languages. The college is working with organisations such as Refugee Action to deliver courses in IT and English.

About Bradford College’s community and distance learning

Bradford College’s community and distance learning curriculum provides demand-led programmes aimed at offering progression routes to learners in the community and in college.

Its courses are intended to be accessible to all learners and abilities, with the core aim of providing a platform upon which to further develop skills and employability. You can find out more about community courses for adults on the college website.

Café opening times

The café in Grattan Road is open and serving food three mornings a week, from Wednesday to Friday, from 11.30am until 2.30pm. To register yourself or a client, contact or call 01274 409661. 


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