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Nasmoen, setting up a catering company to support refugees

Nasmoen Ghazi is the founder of the catering company ‘Taste of Syria’. For years, she has been committed to migrants in her city, The Hague. She set up ‘Taste of Syria’ together with her husband to help the Hague refugees to enter the job market. We asked her about her engagement to the self-reliance of migrants.

The story behind ‘Taste of Syria’ is impressive. “It connects food and cooking,” explains Nasmoen. Cooking has indeed taken an increasingly important role in her life in recent years. It started in 2015, when she heard from acquaintances that about six hundred refugees were temporarily housed in the old building of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, she decided to visit them.

“Once a day, refugees were given a package containing the food for the next day. I thought: ‘Wouldn’t it be fun to organise a lunch for all residents, with food from their country of origin?’” No sooner said than done! said Nasmoen.

In 2015, Nasmoen and her husband, together with other volunteers and refugees from the building, provided lunch for all six hundred newcomers of the shelter with lentil soup, humus, bread and other delicacies.

Nasmoen decided to develop this project further. In a few months’ time, she helped organise various events and set up an almost permanent team of volunteers. Several refugees who met at the meals in the old ministry also joined the group and it led to close friendships. They helped these newcomers with moving, visited them almost weekly and helped them set up new projects in the villages and towns where they were temporarily housed. This led to a relocation project and a bicycle action.

“The refugees from The Hague were relocated throughout the country in villages and cities that we had never even heard of. It also turned out that in some villages, facilities such as supermarkets were at a great distance, often to a 40-minute walk. My husband and I thought, we have to do something about it. This eventually led to the cycling campaign, which was a great success.”

Nasmoen and her husband drove around the country and eventually helped some 125 families to make their home more habitable and donated second-hand bicycles to them.

Not much later, Mohammed, a young Syrian refugee, became seriously ill and decided to temporarily join Nasmoen and her husband instead of living in a group shelter. “In the end it was not temporary! Mohammed has lived with us for about two years, it’s been a lot of fun for us all”, says Nasmoen. “Not much later we decided to offer other refugees a warm shelter, and four boys are living with us”.

With the six in the house, Nasmoen created a new family. Cooking was always central to them; they cooked together and always ate together at the large kitchen table. “With these guys, we finally came up with the plan for ‘Taste of Syria’. Earning a living is so difficult for many refugees. With ‘Taste of Syria’ we could not offer the boys a better first step than to turn their passion into a career. We are all very proud that we succeeded.”

‘Taste of Syria’ took care of its first catering job during the Haagse Huiskamer network meeting on 12 March 2018. Follow them on Facebook and discover their wonderful food!