Stories From Our City | Light Patrol

Food and Culture Connect Towards Growing Healthy Relationships Away From Home

Story shared by Paula Castrucci, an Outreach Worker on YU's Light Patrol team

Young adult woman cutting food in kithcen

It all started with a conversation.

Tina*, who recently moved here from Kenya, was telling me how much she missed her culture and food, specifically cooking. I asked her if she had been able to scope out any Kenyan restaurants or grocery stores here in Toronto, to which she replied, "I know of one, but we don't have access to a kitchen in the hotel."

"What if we do?", I asked. Her face lit up.

I brought an idea forward to my coworker, Nicole, and she, in a way only she can, put her brain in motion and executed it.

Introducing "Culture Connect"!

A lot of our Light Patrol youth, as you can imagine, have immigrated here from different countries. Some have come here for higher education, others fleeing war. Either way, they've left behind what is familiar to them; their family and friends, food and culture, and so we have decided to give them opportunity to 'bring their culture to us' by allowing them to share a piece of their heart and home.

Pictured is Tina cooking her Kenyan food for our hotel program last week. I cannot tell you how alive she was - and how alive it made us feel - as we watched her cook ugali. She chopped and sang and danced with joy, which continued as over a dozen youth walked in for our regular dinner and program. After we ate (Nicole also made a yummy Korean dish), Tina got up and shared about her culture. It was absolutely beautiful!

Of course, we engaged our other youth, too. Hanging all around the room were posters asking questions about their (our) roots and culture; How do you say hello in your native language? What do you miss most about home? Love most about Canada? etc., all of which everyone participated in, leading to great group conversation at the end.

One of the best parts, though? A few youth approached us after and asked if they could cook and share their culture next time; Tina's passion and courage has inspired others to want to share their culture, too.

  • Name changed to protect the individual's identity.