YUMI creates an inclusive community in York

October is Black History Month and so the editor of our newsletter asked for a perspective on life in lockdown from Anne, from YUMI.

YUMI is a volunteer-led voluntary organisation that works with people from other cultures who have come to live in York. They deliver training and activities across the city that support individuals from all cultural backgrounds to integrate and connect with members of the ‘host community’; working side by side to develop skills and confidence and creating lasting, positive social change. Two Ridings first supported YUMI with a grant back in 2007 and have over the years helped with a number of grants from funds we manage.

Thanks to Anne for her story of lockdown

“2020 has been a challenging year, and that might well be the understatement of  the century. Everyone has struggled, in some form, in their own ways. I am already far removed from family – all of our relatives are back home in Canada, so being isolated didn’t feel as hard for us as it might have for others. But it wasn’t easy to be so  far away from family during such uncertain times. It wasn’t easy to be disconnected from people outside of our own family unit. And as the lockdown lifted, and we slowly emerged from our isolated spaces, like animals emerging from hibernation, bleary-eyed and distrusting of our surroundings, most of us acknowledged that one thing we’d learned was the importance of community connections.

I’ve gotten to know my neighbours so much better, for starters. Hour-long chats over garden walls that come up to the height of our eyes have made conversations awkward, but worthy. I’ve always liked my neighbour, but now she is my community.

My daughter celebrated her birthday a few weeks into the lockdown, and we helped her feel connected with a socially-distanced birthday parade; friends walked and sang down the length of our street with banners, balloons and gifts. It was her community.

We all need a community. This can mean various things. An online community. A neighbourhood community. A family community. A cultural community. What’s important is that we have a space in which to gather, to share, and to feel like we belong. And that’s not easy sometimes. Especially when we’re new to a place, and it’s even harder when we have cultural differences that seem like they keep us apart.

Three years ago, I began working with YUMI Intercultural York, a local charity which provides opportunities for newcomers to York to meet with the local community, make friends, develop confidence and feel valued members of the York community. YUMI does that in various ways, including the writing workshops I facilitated, and primarily through their International Community Garden at Fulford Cross Allotments, which brings people together through food.

At YUMI, people – their stories, their culture, their identities and history – matter.

We come together in the allotment, to dig in the shared earth of the planet, to plant seeds from all over the world, and to share our own local foods and the stories behind those foods. To learn of pre-colonial histories, of post-colonial histories, and to acknowledge that everyone’s cultures matter. That the impact of colonisation matters. That lives beyond our own, matter.

Thanks to funders, including Two Riding Community Foundation, YUMI provides a range of opportunities to encourage the development of positive and resilient relationships between York’s residents and communities. Whether it’s sharing food and friendship across communities at our garden sessions, creating international crafts or practicing English at YUMI’s Conversation Café, or the Voices of the City creative writing workshops, the charity works to help people get to know their neighbours, prevent loneliness and social isolation, promoting understanding and supporting ALL people to feel welcome, make connections to the local community and become active and valued citizens.

Covid-19 has meant we’ve had to operate a reduced activity programme but we hope once we’re back to some kind of normal we’ll be able to welcome more people to our garden as well as offer some of the different activities and events. In the meantime, we need volunteers to help at the community garden (no experience necessary!) and are hoping to launch cookery sessions on Zoom.

Thank you to Anne for guest editing on this month’s newsletter. Thank you also to Sara for her facilitation. To learn more about YUMI click on the links below



Facebook & Twitter: @yumiyork