B.C. volunteer connects Syrian women refugees through love of homeland’s cuisine

January 2, 2017

Globe and Mail | By: Wendy Stueck

When Syrian refugees began arriving in Vancouver in early 2016, Nihal Elwan wanted to help.

Born in Cairo, Ms. Elwan speaks English, French and Arabic and has worked for government and non-governmental organizations in the Middle East for more than a decade on issues including domestic violence and child marriage.

So she was particularly attuned to challenges facing women refugees, including language and cultural barriers that can make it more difficult for women to look for work or make new friends.

But she also knew many newly arrived refugee women were superb cooks, steeped in the intricacies of Syrian cuisine and accustomed to cooking for large numbers of people at family or community gatherings.

That became the seed for a fledgling food venture that is now spreading its wings. Ms. Elwan arranged startup funding of $500 through the Vancouver Foundation’s Neighbourhood Small Grants program. Ms. Elwan does not receive any compensation and is helping the group as a volunteer.

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