A new café bringing communities together opens for business this week.
Café Laziz is an Arabic and English community café that will offer a delicious range of tempting food all prepared by volunteers who are getting the opportunity to learn new skills while connecting to the community.
The café, named after the Arabic for delicious, came from an idea by Debra Hill, who works as an English language tutor with refugees and asylum seekers in St Helens, to help them learn vital skills for work while also encouraging them to practise their English and meet the communities they live in.
She set up a social enterprise called Our Little Corner of the World in St Helens and the first venture will see them run the café at Central Link Children’s Centre on Peter Street, every Thursday.
The café has been funded by Power to Change who have given £14,000 to get the café started.
Debra said: “This grant will help us transform the lives of local refugees, asylum seekers and their families who need as much support as we can give them.
"Not only does it mean we can offer voluntary work in a real working environment where they can gain skills and develop their English language, but it means we can work towards helping these newly arrived residents of the town integrate and become full community members.
"By the community café Laziz working to make a profit we can reinvest that cash into the community café and develop the project further. We are really excited about the future.”
The hope is that as more people complete the training and learn more skills they can extend opening times and expand to new locations for the café.
The project has been supported by Central and Parr Children’s Centre’s, Torus Foundation and St Helens Adult and Community Learning. Working with a group of refugees and asylum seekers Debra has helped them to build not just their language skills but also learn aspects of business including health and safety, finance, designing menus and staffing needs among others.
The café will use the kitchen at Central Children’s Centre free of charge to prepare and sell their delicious treats.
Once volunteers have been trained and are qualified via the children's centre volunteering scheme, the aim is to help them move into paid employment with local employer partnerships developed with Torus Foundation.
Councillor Sue Murphy, Deputy Leader of St Helens Council and Cabinet Member for Developing Children, said: “St Helens is a friendly and welcoming place and we want to do all we can to help everyone feel part of the community.
"Debra has shown true dedication to the refugee and asylum seekers who now call St Helens home and is helping to build strong community links that will benefit us all. I wish them all the very best of luck with this new venture and I’m sure the people of St Helens will back them too.”
Café Laziz opens on Thursday, September 12.