Sufra NW London is more than a food bank and kitchen although this service still sits at the heart of the services since being set up six years ago in South Kilburn. Sufra moved to its current location on the St Raphael’s Estate in 2013 and it has grown hugely since then, expanding the vital services it provides to the local community as the charity identifies and responds to the growing needs of the community it serves.
We spoke to Fahim Dahya, Sufra’s Logistics & Facilities Manager, who helped set up the charity from the start.
Can you tell us about Sufra and how it was established?
Sufra started as a food bank and kitchen at a time when it became clear that there were a lot of local people struggling to afford to eat with children going to sleep at night hungry with the only hot meal they were getting was at school. So, we set up Sufra to serve meals to people who needed them. We realised there was a much bigger problem to be addressed and so the services that Sufra provides grew rapidly to meet those needs. For example, with the kids who were accessing the food bank, we realised part of the problem was they were wasting a lot of money on takeaways, some couldn’t even heat up a meal. As a result, we started basic cookery classes which has now become a food academy covering all aspects of food and food hygiene.
Who does Sufra support?
We give out about 10,000 food parcels a year. We support everyone who needs our services including families, adults, children and the elderly. It’s about trying to bring the community together, get neighbours talking to each other and helping each other as well as providing the help to people when they need it. We offer advice workers for people to drop in for help and we do all sorts of AQA certified Employability Courses to enable people to get jobs.
Could you explain about the coffee academy and what this provides?
The coffee academy came about as part of the range of employability courses we run. The coffee academy will train you up as a professional barista and as part of the course, students learn all the other skills needed to go out and get employment or even start up their own business, so that includes maths, English, IT skills, writing a CV and so on. All the courses address those skills in addition to the core subject.
What other services does Sufra offer?
We try to provide what people need and we are all about breaking down barriers, getting people out of their houses to meet and eat as a community. The food bank gets people through the door and that way we can discover what else they may need. If there is something people want to learn then we will seek the right tools to offer it, like the music course that was set up to respond to people’s needs. If we see a repetitive problem, we look to address it and then we look for a way to set up a service through grants and funding.
We also offer advice surgeries, to signpost people to other charities to access the right help, refugee support, employment training and a weekly community kitchen. We have a fantastic edible garden that Anthology has recently provided some bricks towards and the space also hosts a fishpond and chickens. The local estate grows stuff here enabling them to interact, get outside and meet neighbours. The local primary school also uses the garden as well as mental health charities as we offer horticultural courses.
How can others help support the cause/services you provide?
Food, their time, financial donations, local collection points. People can organise food drives where they work or worship or in schools, however they can help is great. We encourage corporate fundraising, for example if 100 companies gave a few pounds by direct debit a month it would keep Sufra going. It’s just great when people get involved and start to understand what we do and the hidden need out there. It helps raise awareness, if you don’t get involved you don’t understand.
What is your role at Sufra? Have you always worked/wanted to work in the industry? How long have you been working with Sufra?
I’ve been here from the beginning actioning the ideas. Before that I volunteered at a Wembley youth club and a grant funding charity which how I learnt there was a need for the food bank and kitchen. We have a team of 8/9 people now and this is a full time project for me now, it’s become so big.
What do you like most about living/working in Wembley?
What’s not to like. It’s lively, vibrant, a mix of cultures, an exciting place. I’ve lived here all my life, within ten or fifteen miles of where Sufra is based. I went to school here; I’ll always live here. I wouldn’t want to leave Wembley.
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