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Celebrating World Refugee Day: 3 Kitchens is Inspired by Funké

World Refugee Day, observed on 20th June, is a day to honour the strength and courage of refugees around the globe. It’s an opportunity to build empathy and understanding for their plight and to recognise their resilience in rebuilding their lives. In this spirit, we highlight the remarkable journey of Funké Egberongbe, whose journey from refugee to restaurant owner characterises the power of dreams and determination.  Funké inspires us all in the 3 Kitchens project to capture the innate culinary skills of female refugees and migrants and offer upskilling  in volunteering, employment, and entrepreneurship in the food industry.

Before we hear from Funké, just a little more about the 3 Kitchens Project: A Path to Empowerment which recognises the significant challenges faced by refugee and migrant women in the EU. These women often encounter barriers to employment, entrepreneurship, and economic security, compounded by their gender and origin. Despite these challenges, cooking remains a universal skill they bring with them, providing a foundation for community building and economic independence.

Funké’s story is one of resilience and potential of female refugees. Originally from Nigeria, Funké arrived in Ireland 19 years ago as an asylum seeker. Pregnant and alone, she navigated the unfamiliar environment, enduring the hardship of moving between various refugee accommodations. It was during this challenging time that she discovered her passion for cooking, as she started preparing meals to improve the quality of food available in the refugee centres.

Funké spent seven years in the asylum process before her family could join her in Ireland. During these years, she honed her cooking skills and pursued education when the opportunity arose. Upon receiving her residency, Funké attended the College of Further Education in Sligo, and later St. Angela’s College, where she earned a degree in food science.

The COVID-19 lockdown became a turning point for Funké. With more time at home, she began cooking extensively, sharing her culinary creations on  Instagram https://www.instagram.com/funkeskitchen_/. This online presence quickly grew, leading to the opening of Funké Afro Caribbean Restaurant in October 2023. Her restaurant offers a variety of African and Caribbean dishes, tailored to local tastes, and has become a much loved spot in Sligo Town.

Funké also ventured into producing and selling sauces, including her popular Jollof rice sauce, available in local supermarkets and Afro Caribbean stores.

So, to mark World Refugee Day, Val Robus of Momentum sat down with Funké for a chat over a podcast. It is a great listen and for us, the key learning, can be summarised in 4 insights:-

  1. Adaptability and Resilience: Funké describes the challenge of adapting to a new environment and culture, including learning to navigate different refugee accommodations and restrictions on work and education.
  2. Education and Growth: She highlights the importance of education in her journey, sharing how attending courses leading to college helped her gain the knowledge and credentials needed to start her business.
  3. Community and Support: Funké highlights the crucial role of community support and information centres in helping refugees and migrants access resources and opportunities.
  4. Funké’s Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs: For women thinking of starting a business, Funké emphasises the importance of pursuing one’s dreams. “Every big thing starts with a dream,” she says. “But if you don’t go for that dream, it remains a dream. So, for every woman out there with a dream, go for it.” She also advises those in challenging situations, like direct provision, to stay proactive, learn new skills, and seize every opportunity for growth and improvement.

The Future of 3 Kitchens

Having ran volunteering/solidarity kitchen workshops in Sweden, France, Netherlands and Ireland, the 3 Kitchens project team are now even more convinced  that targeted support and empowerment can transform lives. By recognising the diverse needs and aspirations of female refugees and migrants, and offering multiple learning pathways to success, we can make a difference.

This World Refugee Day, let’s celebrate the incredible resilience and achievements of women like Funké. Listen to the full interview with Funké, on our first (but not last) 3 Kitchens Podcast

Funké Egberongbe Interview for 3Kitchens | The Momentum Podcast (podbean.com)

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