Baking Borders serves up good food and a warm welcome

Breaking Borders Ayr served up delicious food, great company and a very warm welcome at their Refugee Festival event.

By Shona McCallum, Refugee Festival Scotland volunteer

On Monday 19 June, I attended a wonderful event hosted by Breaking Borders Ayr. Their ‘Baking Borders’ pop-up café served up delicious Syrian and Ukrainian food.

Held in the Hope Wellbeing Centre on the main street in Ayr, the event was bustling and joyful. I was so pleasantly surprised to see how busy it was, as was Leah Loftus, who is one of Breaking Borders founders. There were so many people from local churches and community groups, as well as from the local Syrian and Ukrainian communities, who all gathered in the room. It felt like everyone knew each other or was reuniting, and it was such a welcoming space.

There was also an exhibition of photos and text written by people from refugee backgrounds who have settled in Ayr. These were in English, Arabic, and Ukrainian. They focussed on a pair of shoes, and the story they told for each person. This was inspired by the phrase ‘walk a day in her shoes’, to empathise with the experiences of the women in the group.

Gill (another of the Breaking Borders founders) introduced me to some of the Ukrainian women who had prepared traditional food. I was given some comforting borsht, pampushky, and a special date drink. Next, I met some Syrian women who had prepared delicious kibbeh, sweets, and my favourite desert mahalabiya (rice pudding with jasmine/ orange blossom water).

I sat down to meet some of the different people involved with the organisation – from church groups, to those from refugee backgrounds who have found community here.

I spent a long time talking and eating with Kawthar Alahmad and her lovely daughter Shahd, who are originally from Syria and now live in Ayr. Kawthar is working on a new community project which facilitates translation for local businesses and services, and Shahd is at high school.

Kawthar told me there are several Syrian families in Ayr, and more living across South Ayrshire and in Troon. Before Breaking Borders was set up last year, there were no community groups for people who have been displaced and resettled in the area.

Breaking Borders provides much needed support and a chance for friendship and fun. Groups like these are particularly important in places like Ayr, which are outside Scotland’s major cities. Asylum seekers have limited access to funds, and traveling via public transport can be too expensive. Finding community and cultural provision (such as halal meat or Arabic classes) can be more difficult in more rural areas, so having something like Breaking Borders to welcome people makes a big difference.

When I spoke to Leah before the event, she told me: “The women I am friends with through our community group are incredible. If you met any of them, you would know hope too!”

I definitely felt that after attending Baking Borders. Thank you to all involved!