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. Jojo with her teenaged son arrived first, then Namarke with her husband and two small children.
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, the Albury Team Leader explains.
“A lot of the families come with quite complex physical and mental health issues. So it’s really supporting them in whatever they need to get to a position where they are independent in the community.”
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.
A cultural gap between young people and older generations is a common experience for many within the Congolese community in Albury, explains Christian Bashimbe, Red Cross Bicultural Worker.
“The struggles are very different, because with the younger people, it’s very easy for them to settle and learn the new system, while the parents are still running behind because they don't have that same chance,” he says.
Food is one ingredient helping to stir connection through the generations, while layering a sense of community and connection to Australia.
Looking to their own future, Jojo and Namarke dream of opening an African restaurant in their new home town.
The chefs are proof that food really can make the world better.
|Nyama||A hearty beef stew|
|Lenja Lenja||Comforting spinach dish|
|Potato curry||Mild potato and pea curry|
|Chapapati||Homemade flat bread|
|Rice||With secret ingredient|
|Salad||Coleslaw with rock melon|