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City's refugee centre restarts breakfast club post-lockdown

Inter-community breakfast club returns to Peterborough's Refugee and Asylum Community Association (PARCA) post lockdown. 

On Friday, (July 2), PARCA resumed its weekly breakfast sessions after months of staying closed due to the Covid restrictions. 

Prior to the lockdown, the centre based just off Lincoln Road in Peterborough hosted coffee mornings for women from the city's communities. 

Nearly 30 people from diverse backgrounds were in attendance on Friday’s session. The club also offered activities to keep attendees occupied including a sewing sessions, gardening, table tennis and a yoga class. 

After a successful first week, the breakfast club will be held every Friday morning, free of charge and is open to anyone who would like to come along, with a maximum of 30 people. 

The centre has been a key part of the local community in Peterborough. During the lockdown, volunteers and staff members worked hard to provide essentials and other help to nearly 100 diverse families. It also worked with Peterborough City Council to tackle vaccine hesitancy and promote Covid information to members of public who don’t speak English as their first language. 

The centre has also played an important part for the European communities applying for settlement status in the UK. 

We caught up with some of the attendees at the breakfast club. 

A former abuse survivor who relocated to the city in lockdown said this centre has been a ‘relief’ for her. 

She said: “I moved to Peterborough in February 2021. I haven't been anywhere since moving here, and haven’t met anyone. I am stuck at home while children go to school. It has been difficult as I have no family or friends here in the city, and I am looking for jobs. But in the meantime, coming here is fantastic. Coming to see people, it’s just been amazing. 

“When I saw the poster for the breakfast club, I thought to myself I am definitely going, this is good for me. It’s just nice to finally see people, speak to someone, see smiling faces.  

“We feel safe here, coming here and trying to make friends has been good.   

“I am so excited to be here- I see they have sewing machines so I want to learn that. It’s a great place with friendly people.” 

Suzanne is from Peterborough's Kurdish community and has been taking English lessons at PARCA. 

She said: “It was tough in the lockdown with my three kids and being a single mum. I come to the centre a lot. It’s friendly and helpful for us. It has helped improve my English a lot. It’s important for people like me- I get to see friends and people. 

“I don’t have a lot of family here as they are all in Kurdistan. So, this centre is important for communities like us.” 

Moez Nathu is the manager at PARCA he said: “We operated by appointment-only to help people with EU settlement schemes and help people with language barriers.  

For the last three weeks we have now begun our operations regularly. We resumed our English classes.  

“This is the first breakfast club since reopening. It was much needed by the communities- they were lonely and bored and felt isolated. 

“We always want to bring people together and you can see from today how diverse the gathering is. 

“During the lockdown, we have tried to be more involved with the communities. We have tried to cater to the bespoke food requirements of communities - for example halal food or giving special groceries rather than just general food parcels. Sometimes we would get calls for help early in the morning or very late in the night. So, we have been very busy and happy to help. 

“The EU settlement scheme has been very busy too. We are still working on it and talking to the Home Office to help people wo might have had delays in their application process.” 

Becky Mclaren, outreach manager at PARCA is running the breakfast club among other community projects at the centre. 

She says ‘these sessions will help beat loneliness in people’ post-lockdown, adding: “I think a lot of people's mental health has suffered. It will help lift people’s spirits.. 

“So, these sessions are important and it’s lovely as it represent the diversity of the area. It's good for people to get together and help beat stereotypes.” 

The breakfast club will be held every Friday morning from 9:30 am. More information can be found here