Empowering Refugees through Food
As the AFF-Dallas chapter leader, I’m really interested in hosting events that allow me to showcase local social entrepreneurs. I’m fascinated by groups that are providing a service that government is currently not providing, or not effectively providing.
On Thursday, October 10, AFF-Dallas hosted an event featuring Break Bread, Break Borders. Nearly 50 people came to the event to eat the delicious Syrian food and to hear the story behind the business.
Break Bread, Break Borders (BBBB) is a catering organization run by refugee women in the DFW area – but it’s so much more than that. According to its website, the group is “catering with a cause”. Not only does BBBB provide these women valuable employment opportunities, but also mentoring by professional chefs, and it empowers them to take control of their own futures.
During the event, we heard from the founder of BBBB, Jin-Ya Huang. Jin-Ya, a Chinese immigrant, is the child of restaurant owners. She recalls that when she was growing up in the restaurant business, her mother Margaret was regularly providing these sorts of opportunities to women in the DFW area. When her mother passed away a few years ago, Jin-Ya wanted to honor her legacy, which is how BBBB was born. We also heard from the refugee women themselves. Their stories told of escape from war-torn regions and the uncertainty that came with these movements. They also spoke of the stability and hope that BBBB is providing them. Not only are they able to find work in America – which is often difficult for refugees – but they are also able to plan for their futures and the futures of their families. One woman is studying to become a childcare provider, and another has already started her own catering company (in addition to providing catering through BBBB).
Despite there being more than 70 million refugees worldwide, formal organizations are unwilling or unable to provide effective assistance. This is where groups like BBBB are so valuable. These groups are not providing handouts; rather, they’re providing comprehensive opportunities for people to pull themselves out of undesirable situations and are setting them on a path toward hard-earned future success.
Oh, and the Syrian food the women made was amazing. They are currently looking to expand their operations from just catering to also providing pre-packaged foods for local grocery stores. Though this group is currently helping just a handful of women, they are one of a number of similar businesses in the area that are both fulfilling a valuable social function and helping underserved populations.
Last year, I highlighted the work being done by 2S Industries – an organization providing jobs and mentorship opportunities to ex-cons, who are currently being underserved by both markets and governments. Café Momentum provides a similar opportunity for teenagers who are coming out of juvenile facilities. It doesn’t take a sweeping social program to help people in need, and profits don’t have to be in conflict with providing assistance. These programs are proving that businesses can simultaneously do well and do good in the local community.