Milk Café: a central hub for the community of refugee women
Milk Café is a project by TinCat that empowers and promotes the integration of ethnic women in the Glasgow community by providing a safe environment to receive employability support
“To the beautiful little coffee shop where the magic all began.”
J.K. Rowling (The Elephant House, Edinburgh)
J.K. Rowling attributed much of her success writing the Harry Potter novels to the productive working environment provided by coffee shops, and Milk Café in Glasgow aspire to provide the same for the Glaswegian community. Officially opened in 2015, the vision came to fruition when two friends – Milk Café’s managing directors Gabby Cluness and Angela Ireland took charge to aim for a better social learning environment for women in aid.
Moving to a new country can be challenging for anyone, especially one where language can be a major barrier. Located at 452 Victoria Road, Milk Café does not only support women learning the English language, but also helps to building their self-esteem. The café environment also offers a wide range of work experience and training that includes sales and marketing, customer service, stock control, health and safety, hospitality, and administration. The café also looks to improve the women’s IT skills and their personal development in order to get them more equipped for the world of employment.
The training is tailored to the needs of the learner – they are relatively informal or more structured depending on the capacity and requirements of the volunteer. Cluness explains, “Angela and I are experienced baristas, front of house and in the kitchen, so we are happy to pass these skills onto anyone who wants to learn from them.”
Milk is a café that provides a safe and supportive environment where women from ethnic minorities can receive full support with skills they may need to improve. The women can also partake in creative classes such as pottery, cookery and painting. This warm and friendly café also offers homemade food with delivered coffee beans from Dear Green Coffee Roasters and fresh bread from Freedom Bakery. The café also hosts many social events to promote their message including pop up dinners, art classes, musical nights and pottery events. These events are well-attended and supported by locals and volunteers alike. Gabby says, “The diversity of our volunteers and customer base is reflected in the different things that we put on.”
Although the café does not offer any paid employment, the volunteers offer to help for free while the directors present vital skills that can help these women secure paid employment in the future. From providing opportunities in learning general hospitality skills, improving confidence and learning English, to introducing a happy and comfortable space for women to create their own networks and community links among themselves. The team further helps their customers by improving their CV writing skills and showing them how to best look for suitable jobs online.
Cluness and Ireland work alongside migrant women in Glasgow and with some help. Referrals from agencies direct women around the city to the café who are interested in support and the various kinds of opportunities it has to offer.
Jennifer Sturrock, immigration lawyer by day, joined the TinCat Board of Director’s team in November 2014. She contributes by bringing invaluable knowledge of immigration law and the asylum process for the refugee and migrant women.
The directors plan to keep building the business and support women while their café aims to educate the local community about the struggles refugees face when they come to Scotland.
Visit their website for more information.