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A warm welcome for new refugees

The kitchen is a hive of activity. Chapattis being hand rolled, rock melon chopped and potatoes boiling on the stove. Clad in aprons and chef's hats, Congolese women Jojo and Namarke move confidently around the kitchen creating a feast of flavours, to warmly welcome new refugees.

Less than two years ago, Jojo and Namarke arrived in the quiet suburbs of inland Albury in New South Wales as refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Nobody, including Namarke and Jojo, would have predicted that less than two years later they would be running a business that makes the challenges of establishing a new life a little easier for refugees who follow them.

Home to a diverse population, Albury welcomes many Congolese refugees. There are now 500 Congolese people living in the city, and the community is growing.

The journey from Africa to Albury is emotional and long, and the destination unknown. Each new refugee is supported by our team, which includes case workers, housing officers and bilingual workers.

We wrap around the families to support them wherever they need.

Sinthu Santhirasegaram, Albury Team Leader

With many Congolese refugees arriving in Albury, Jojo and Namarke sensed there was a meaningful business opportunity to be had. Inuuywa Mama was born. The name in English translates descriptively to Uplifting Women.

“So the reason why we came up with the business, and the name, is because we want to pass something to the future generation, our children,” Jojo explains.

“The idea came from when we were back in Africa. We used to cook for people, as a small business,” Namarke describes.

Inuuywa Mama have built a business to cater for and support other new refugees arriving in Albury from Congo. They cook for community events and contract to Red Cross to deliver culturally-appropriate welcome packs for each new Congolese refugee family who arrives in Albury.

As part of this welcome pack, Jojo and Namarke set up new homes, stock them with culturally-appropriate food and, with particular meaning, cook the new family’s first meal in Australia.

In all cultures food is a way to show you care and to build connections. Inuuywa Mama’s delicious chappattis, potato stews and fresh salads are a taste of home that say in the best possible way ‘you’re welcome and safe’.

Inuuywa Mama is both a business and a philosophy. True to their name of Uplifting Woman, their food transports Congolese culture to the generation of young people now growing up in Australia.

“The aim is to expose what we are doing to anyone, where they can see us. It’s like representing our mother in that way,” Jojo says poetically.

Looking to their own future, Jojo and Namarke dream of opening an African restaurant in their new hometown.

The chefs are proof that food really can make the world better. This March, we’re calling on you to support Red Cross Calling, to power more meals and new friendships.