Holyland Big Lunch and Great Get Together: you are invited!

Big lunch 2015: some of the guests

When: 18 June, from 12pm

Where: Holyland Area, starting at City Church, moving on to Wildflower Alley and Muslim Family Association

You are invited to our Big Lunch in the Holyland and University area of South Belfast. Join us in celebrating what unites us and celebrate the diversity of our area as well. We will be serving international food platters, please be seated by 1pm to ensure you are served. Please bring along a salad/dessert & a bottle of fizz/juice to share with your table. Come prepared to have fun, meet some new neighbours and enjoy the day.

A joint event by: Belfast City Church, College Park Avenue Residents Association and Belfast Friendship Club


12pm – Opening at City Church , 12-24 University Avenue

1pm – Food , music and children’s activities @ City Church

3pm – Dragon Parade to Wildflower Alley and Muslim Family Association, Rugby Road

Our celebration is part of the UK wide Great get Together, and the Big lunch.

The aim is to celebrate the legacy of Jo Cox MP and to bring together our diverse communities and celebrate what we have in common.

“…we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us”

Jo Cox MP, Maiden speech to Parliament

You don’t have to book your place, but if you would like to register your interest, follow this link: www.eventbrite.com/e/holyland-big-lunch-great-get-together-tickets-34716317440

Posted in Belfast Friendship Club, diversity, Events, Inclusion, integration and participation, International meeting place, New to Belfast? Make new friends., Volunteering

Sponsor our marathon runners

Belfast Friendship Club marathon runners 2017 in practice run

Some of our Belfast Friendship Club members are running the relay race in the Belfast Marathon to raise much needed funds for the group.

If you would like to sponsor them, you can donate on this webpage: https://localgiving.org/charity/belfastfriendshipclub/

There are two teams this year: come and cheer them on, they will be wearing white t-shirts with the Belfast Friendship Club name and logo on them.

The Marathon is this Monday. Find out more about times and routes: http://www.belfastcitymarathon.com/about

Posted in Uncategorized

Modelling an inclusive community – an evaluation of Belfast Friendship Club

Belfast Friendship Club - modelling an inclusive community: front cover

Building inclusive communities

Last year, Jonathan Barnes of Migrant Help UK visited Belfast Friendship Club on several occasions to find out more about how the group works.

He wrote a report based on the experiences of club members and others to make recommendations for those interested in forming similar clubs elsewhere to help build inclusive communities.

How Belfast Friendship Club works

Here is some of what he had to say.

“Belfast Friendship Club (BFC) is an informal social group that has been meeting in a South Belfast Café almost every Thursday evening since 2009. Its aims are simple. It is a club for those seeking and offering friendship. BFC members comprise local Belfastians and an ever-changing mix of newcomers to the city who meet to chat.”

“users unanimously agreed that the BFC was a safe place, welcoming, egalitarian, supportive, and important in their lives.”

“The particular strengths of the BFC are its:
– Welcome;
– Clear and lived values;
– Focus on friendship;
– Diverse membership (including significant numbers of ‘locals’);
– Simple and effective organisational structures;
– Successful methods of communication;
– Emphasis on the well-being of members and community;
– Success at integration;
– Reliability; and
– Efficiency in sharing and delivering relevant information.”

What members said

Here are some of the comments from the people he interviewed.

“It’s fabulous. It’s just really diverse. Lots of different nationalities… it is a platform for myth-busting.” (Gee, Sri Lanka)

“…it was the warmth and the welcome and the love that we got here was amazing ….they are so loving and caring they are willing to listen to what you are going through.” (Everson, Zimbabwe)

“…there’s no hidden agenda, neutral ground, removed from the clinical idea of helping people, it’s not a service, not a committee.” (Jenny, Belfast)

“If I needed help, this is the place I’d go.” (Encarta, Spain)

“Nobody is ever made to feel like an outsider.” (Vicky, Latvia

“… [in BFC] you can tuck your problems away..” (Beauty, Zimbabwe)

“It’s really friendly, no one judges, … you can just be yourself, you can have a chat and it’s a good place to relax and sort of chill..” (Pablo, NI)

“…it’s the constant that it’s here all the time. Every Thursday you come and the door is open and it’s always here… You can rely on it.” (Lorenzo, Italy)

Recommendations for other groups

Jonathan made recommendations for similar groups to be created elsewhere, including:

“Migrant Help UK  (should seek) to replicate this club in the UK dispersal areas for refugees.

“the evaluation suggested the following:
– The booklet Be the Change be used as a guide;
– Leaders of future clubs visit the BFC;
– Club leaders prioritise the identification of safe, accessible, neutral premises;
– Club values are constantly and consistently monitored and upheld;
– Each club has a dedicated supporting committee;

– Schools consider setting up their own Friendship Clubs on similar lines to the
BFC in order to support the integration of migrant and refugee young people.”

Read the full report here

Belfast Friendship Club – modelling an inclusive community by Jonathan Barnes, Migrant Help UK


Posted in Belfast Friendship Club, diversity, Inclusion, integration and participation, International meeting place, New to Belfast? Make new friends., refugees

Global Kitchen certificates and Friend of BFC award

Mark Humphries receives Friend of BFC award. Photo: Rashid Kaidanov

Urban Community Chef receives Friend of Belfast Friendship Club award

This year’s ‘Friend of Belfast Friendship Club’ award was presented to Urban Community Chef Mark Humphries by Norma, a long-term member of the club, at our 8th birthday celebration in March.

The award recognises individuals who have given outstanding support to BFC. Mark has been helping us run Global Kitchen, a catering training programme for members of BFC and many others besides.

BFC celebrates Global Kitchen graduates’ achievement

Global Kitchen graduate Sipho Sibanda receives certificate from Urban Community Chef Mark Humphries. Photo: Rashid Kaidanov

Graduates from the latest Global Kitchen course received their Open College Network certificates at this event.

Global Kitchen Graduate with Urban Community Chef. Photo: Rashid Kaidanov

Global Kitchen trainees receive supportive but rigorous training in international cookery and food hygiene in a café setting. The course includes a Food Hygiene Certification.

The trainees test their skills in celebratory events where they serve food to local residents and members of Black and Ethnic Minorities.

Global Kitchen graduate Ngosi and Urban Community Chef Mark Humphries. Photo: Rashid Kaidanov

Congratulations to all the graduates, who proved themselves to be talented and highly motivated, and happy birthday BFC!

Belfast Friendship Club 8th birthday celebration. Photo: Rashid Kaidanov

To find out more about Global Kitchen, contact stephanie.mitchell@sbrtr.org.uk

All photos on this page by Rashid Khaidanov



Posted in Belfast Friendship Club, Events, Global Kitchen, integration and participation, Training, Uncategorized, Volunteering

BFC is 8: let’s party!

BFC logoBFC 8th birthday party


Friday 24th March, 6-9pm for members, families, friends and supporters. At City Church, above Common Grounds. All welcome!

Music, dancing, food and more starting off with a fun percussion / drumming workshop at 6pm

With a ‘Friend of the Friendship Club’ award to one of BFC’s best supporters!


Posted in Belfast Friendship Club, Events

What’s a ‘Small Worlds’ workshop?

Find out more about our ‘Small Worlds’ Workshops.

Participants around a table at a Small Worlds workshop

To book a workshop, contact Stephanie Mitchell:


07548 938508

Posted in Belfast Friendship Club, diversity, Events, Inclusion, integration and participation, refugees, Small Worlds workshops

BFC receives Transgender Champion award

Transgender Champion 2016

Our coordinator, Stephanie Mitchell, was delighted to accept a ‘Transgender Champion’ award from Focus: The Identity Trust, on behalf of Belfast Friendship Club.

Stephanie Mitchell accepts Focus Transgender Champion award 2016 from Junior Minister Megan Fearon MLA

Junior Minister Megan Fearon MLA presented the awards on 28 November at Stormont.

This event also  launched the newly created Gender Identity Panel.

Transgender Champion Award 2016

(Photos: LHS © Whitehall Studios)

Posted in Belfast Friendship Club, diversity, Inclusion

Refugee week WelcomeFest on TV

Our Refugee Week WelcomeFest event at St Anne’s Cathedral was on TV!

Watch it here: www.irishtv.ie/antrim-matters-84

This was a joint event by:

  • Belfast Friendship Club,
  • British Red Cross Northern Ireland, and
  • Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS).

We were delighted with the great audience and wonderful entertainment.

A big thank you to the artists, who all performed for free.

Enjoy watching this lovely film about it.

Posted in diversity, Events, Inclusion, integration and participation, refugees Tagged with: , , ,

Congrats Global Kitchen graduates

Global Kitchen graduates, course organiser and trainer with Finance Minister

Finance Minister presents Global Kitchen certificates

On 4 August, Finance Minister Máirtín O’Muilleoir MLA presented certificates to a group of asylum seekers and refugees who successfully completed the Global Kitchen course.

He congratulated them and praised their tenacity and talent:

“Refugees and asylum seekers are a boon to our society, adding to the diversity of our great city and allowing us to show the compassion and kindness which is the cornerstone of our community.

The refugees and asylum seekers recognised tonight have overcome adversity, exile and persecution to emerge as ambassadors of goodwill and of hospitality for their adopted community.

I wish them well in their journey and reiterate my belief that the current London government policies and treatment of asylum seekers is punitive and senseless.

I look forward to the day when these talented and generous guests – these latter-day Good Samaritans – of our society can make a full contribution to our community.”

The Global Kitchen catering course

Global Kitchen trainees receive supportive but rigorous training in international cookery and food hygiene in a café setting. They work towards an Open College qualification.

They test their skills in celebratory events where they serve food to local residents and members of Black and Ethnic Minorities.

The course includes a Food Hygiene Certification. This was taken up by 7 more participants through Lower Ormeau Residents Action Group, the Welcome Organisation and Horn of Africa People’s Aid.

The trainees

Asylum seekers can wait several years to be recognized as refugees. Meanwhile, they are not allowed to work, training opportunities are scarce and they live on a minimal income.

Destitute asylum seekers are people who have been refused refugee status but cannot leave the country, for example because it may be too dangerous back home. They do not receive any State support, are not allowed to work, and depend entirely on charity.

The course offers them a rare opportunity to gain skills and a qualification and improve their quality of life.

In the words of one participant: “it’s not like a training, it’s like a family.”

Organizer Stephanie Mitchell praised their achievement:

“Most of the trainees achieved the full OCN certificate, an outstanding feat given the personal circumstances of some of them, and the stress, anxiety and depression that frequently accompanies the asylum application process.

They proved hungry to learn, highly motivated and very appreciative of the opportunity.

Most have continued to work or volunteer in food-based enterprises.”

Future projects: WelcomeFeast

This project is a spin-off of Belfast Friendship Club. It was made possible thanks to a Big Lottery grant and training by Urban Community Chef Mark Humphries.

It is due to run again in the Autumn. It will include a feast catered by Global Kitchen trainees to raise awareness of:

  • food poverty
  • how to contribute to foodbanks through donations and/or volunteering
  • making tasty nutritious food on a tight budget
  • zero waste. 

It will be a joint project with British Red Cross NI.

More details will be announced in September.

Posted in Belfast Friendship Club, Events, Inclusion, integration and participation, refugees, Uncategorized, Volunteering Tagged with: , ,

Refugee Week WelcomeFest concert – a family friendly event

Come along to our WELCOMEFEST concert!Refugee Week logo

At St Anne’s Cathedral, Thursday 23rd June 7-10pm.

Celebrate Refugee Week at our family-friendly joint event with Red Cross & NICRAS.

Musicians, dancers, clowns, face-painting & fun activities for children so bring your family & friends!

Free event – All welcome.

Minibus transfer from Common Grounds Cafe to St Anne’s

Welcome globe and multi-coloured hands

WelcomeFest: an evening bursting with culture and diversity in the Year of Welcome

What’s on?
Donna Namukasa
Indian Dance
Heidi Heidelberg and Mauricio Velezsierra
Fiona O’Kane and Frances Mitchell
Julius Mitchell
plus special guests

Organised by British Red Cross, Belfast Friendship Club and Northern Ireland Comunity of Refuges and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS) in partnership with Wheelworks, Beyond Skin, Love Music, Hate Racism, SOS.

Find out more about Refugee Week: refugeeeweek.org.uk

Posted in Belfast Friendship Club, diversity, Events