Cooking for survivors of modern slavery this Christmas

Since Kay began working for City Hearts in 2019, she has volunteered her time outside of work to go and prepare many delicious meals for the women we support. Growing up in South Africa with a mum and sisters who loved cooking, she was inspired to develop her culinary skills from a young age. 

Before lockdown, Kay was cooking every other Friday night, sharing tips and bringing joy. She has taught a range of delicious, easy-to-cook meals that our clients can recreate.

This Christmas, Kay wanted to bring some festive cheer, especially after such a difficult year. Over the Christmas period, she will be cooking christmas dinner for the survivors of modern slavery we support. 

For many of our clients, this is their first Christmas free from exploitation, and it can bring back painful memories of their experiences or separation from loved ones. We want to make it as special a time for them as possible, creating new happy memories.

Kay said “Whenever I visit the house to help prepare a meal, I can feel the entire dynamic change. Food makes people happy.”

“I wanted to give something to help others and what I can offer is my cooking, so I try to use that to make a difference. I notice when I go in every second Friday, the atmosphere quickly changes – it brings an element of fun, and takes their minds off what they’ve been through for a few hours.

“Often when I meet new clients, they are understandably hesitant; they look up as I come in, then carry on with what they are doing. I go into the kitchen and once the sounds and smells come out, someone always says, ‘Do you need help? What can we do?’

Kay says that by the time they get to dessert, everyone is laughing and talking to each other. 

“One young woman brought her baby to the table and asked me to come back the following week for the baby’s birthday. Another asked to wear my apron as she got stuck in!”

She also explained this process of cooking side-by-side encouraging the women to let their barriers down and share their experiences.

“It is wonderful to be able to combine my love of cooking with my passion for helping others. I see all these women from different backgrounds come together to cook. It is so rewarding to see the joy these classes bring to the women, and to know that they are learning valuable life skills to increase independence, that they may not have had the freedom to develop during their time in exploitation.”

Kay’s generosity has also been noticed by The Sheffield Star and My Social Work News!

Keep an eye out for some of Kay’s wonderful recipes on our social media, and don’t forget to tag us @cityhearts.global if you recreate any of the delicious meals.

If you’d like to get involved, whether you’d like to fundraise, have a skill to share or are passionate about supporting vulnerable men, women and families, you can find out more here.