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Jas' reflections on the Aromas That Nurture project

Over the past few months Ignite! has been working alongside the University of Nottingham with the Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum on the Aromas That Nurture project. The Refugee families have been working with researcher Roda Madziva and writer and theatre maker Andy Barrett to explore stories and journeys connected with the theme of aromas and create a performance which will be showcased to an invited audience at Highfields Park in June.

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of volunteering my time with the Nottingham & Notts Refugee Forum through Ignite!. When I first heard about the project I was enthralled by its description and eager to participate. I was thrilled to be a part of a project that allowed families to form intimate bonds with the community and to feel like they were a part of the community. The project gave them a sense of belonging and togetherness. Although I only had a minor role, I had a fantastic time and was thrilled to be a part of the project.

One of the goals of this project is to help refugee children, young people and families feel less isolated and create better social networks. The project encourages their involvement and integration in the community. The project didn’t address the families' healing in the traditional sense, instead, it changed the perception that all refugees come from difficult backgrounds. Obviously, there is trauma; many had stable lives and established lives before being forced to relocate.

The sessions offered a chance for families to reminisce about their favourite traditional childhood foods. It allowed them to keep connected to their culture while also reconnecting with it outside of their home environment and sharing it with others. This, I believe, is what community is all about, which is why I had so much fun participating in the project.

This project is all about traditional meals and aromas in relation to memories that cause nostalgia. Through this project the families are able to in a sense travel back in time to a particular moment or memory perhaps even an emotion, thought or even an experience which is further away from them. This project is fantastic and has a lot of promise which made me even sure of wanting to participate in it because scent has an unrivaled ability to elicit a strong sense of nostalgia, whether consciously or unconsciously.

All the families involved in this project began with varying levels of interest and involvement. The goal of the project was to establish trust and establish a friendly relationship with the families. I believe this project really resonated with the families. It was nice to hear what the project meant to them. The kids were eager to share their cultural history. The creative project when we made bunting and decorated them using traditional designs. Hearing some of the things they said about the traditional designs their ancestors used on vases was fascinating.

My afternoon was spent getting to know the refugee families and their children. I thoroughly enjoyed the talks I had with the adults and children and came out of the session feeling as if I had made an impact, however small. I especially enjoyed talking with the children, who were incredibly energetic and had a significant impression on me. I left feeling quite motivated by the children, reflecting on my own life and considering my options for the future. The project provided me with a sense of accomplishment and purpose. This is an experience that I have no doubt will stay with me.

The performance which involves making a salad and tea allows the families to tell their stories in a creative and visual way. Whilst the children may not be participating in the performance, they were fully engaged and enthusiastic about the activities from actively sharing what goes in a salad and their tea to drawing it on paper plates. It was great getting hands-on and doing something fun and creative.

Reflecting on the project, I truly believe it has had a positive impact on me as a person. I had a great time participating in the project and meeting the families, children, supporters, and volunteers and just hearing their thoughts on it. I'm looking forward to seeing how I can help communities in the future.


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