Ariane Nikpur
Apr 25, 2018 · 4 min read
Ahmed Osmani at a bread stall in London

Ariane Nikpur, who is part of the On Purpose core team, writes about Breadwinners, a small charity supporting refugees with work opportunities in the UK. Breadwinners has been shortlisted in the top five of People’s Projects supported by Big Lottery Fund and can now win funding of £50,000.

How can bread help refugees settle in the UK? By providing them with bread so that they can survive on a daily basis, you would think… No, it’s by giving them the opportunity to sell organic artisan bread at markets all around London. This is the main idea behind Breadwinners, a charity set up in 2016. Breadwinners aims to use the potential of talented refugees to build up their work experience and enter employment once they’ve been granted refugee status and therefore the right to live and work in the UK.

On Purpose Fellow Martin Cosarinsky Campos is the Director of the charity and wants to support refugees in launching their work life in London in a similar way to how the On Purpose Associate Programme supported him in launching his career in the social impact space. Martin intends to base his charity on a similar model of mentoring, coaching and training support, and most importantly the network, to make it easier for refugees to access employment. “50% of refugees between the ages of 18 and 34 struggle to find any work, despite searching on average for 21 months, and we want to change that!”, says Martin.

The chair of the charity, John Lister, who has several years of experience in the bread industry, had the idea of bread being used as a tool for good. He first piloted a model supporting homeless people to work by giving them the opportunity to deliver bread on bicycles, but “as several trustees and myself are specifically passionate about migrants who can’t go back to their countries, because we know how positive, hardworking and exceptional they are, we have changed the model to employing refugees on market stalls, where the support of the local community is key”, says Martin.

Ahmed Osmani, a 51 year old refugee from Egypt, is one of the beneficiaries of Breadwinners. Having worked in import and export of fruit for over 20 years when he was still living in Egypt, Ahmed is now grateful for the opportunity he gets thanks to Breadwinners to build up his work experience at the market stalls in London. After an initial job interview with Breadwinners, Ahmed was given one day a week at a market stall and has now progressed to two days a week and a market stall on his own. “When Martin saw that I am good at selling the bread and that I can be trusted with the responsibility, I was given a second bread stall and I am now selling bread on Fridays and Saturdays on my own”, says Ahmed.

Ahmed and Martin selling bread

He makes around £50 to £60 a day if he manages to sell all his bread. “Usually I can sell all my bread, because I had a very good idea: we get very big loaves of bread from the bakery which I am supposed to sell for £6, which prevents people from buying it as it is just too big or too expensive. So, I decided to cut the bread into half and even sell smaller slices for £1. That’s how I manage to sell all my bread!”, Ahmed tells this with enthusiasm and pride in his voice. When asked about the best day he’s had so far with Breadwinners, Ahmed says: “It is when I sell all my bread and when customers come back to buy more bread and talk to me.”

As a start-up charity, Breadwinners does not yet have a clear-cut vision, but ultimately, Martin says, “we would love to inspire other organisations to give better chances to refugees and asylum seekers. We want to live in a community that realises the extraordinary potential of refugees to become an active part in our community. And I will be happy to give the first jobs in the UK to as many exceptional people as I can.”

If you would like to support Breadwinners and refugees launching their professional life in the UK, you can buy their bread at one of the market stalls at Victoria Park Market on Sundays, Broadway Vegan Market on Saturdays, Lower Marsh Market on Fridays, Primrose Hill Market on Saturdays and Church Street Market on Sundays. You can also donate to the charity or volunteer as a mentor or coach. Just have a look at their website breadwinners.org.uk.

Breadwinners have also been shortlisted as one of the five People Projects supported by the Big Lottery Fund and can get £50,000 funding if they win the public vote. Please submit your vote here by 30th April — it only takes one minute and can make a big difference to a small but ambitious charity.

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