Café Laziz

When St Helens became a settlement town for Syrian refugees back in 2019 the passion and perseverance of one local lady would go on to create a community cafe as unique as its customers.

“At the time Debra Hill was one of the first English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) tutors working at St Helens Council,” says Emma Bamber, the current Project Manager at Café Laziz. “Before this the town had been predominately white, and Deb realised that as well as teaching them English, the refugees needed more; more opportunities to share their culture, more ways to gain work experience and more ways to meet people from the community. And so Cafe Laziz was born.”

Very sadly, Deb was diagnosed with cancer in 2021 so turned to her colleagues about taking over. “Cafe Laziz is a fast-growing project and needed full-time focus so myself, and another colleague, Claire Nicholls came on board last summer,” Emma adds.   

Initially just an Arabic cafe, today Café Laziz supports refugees from all over the world. “We give people a place to come to, to get out of their hotel room, to learn English, to meet new people, to eat food from different cultures and to generally provide a safe, welcoming, warm place for them to be,” says Emma.

Aiming to break down barriers between their volunteers and the general public, Café Laziz hopes that through their food they can educate and inform people who may otherwise have negative opinions of refugees and asylum seekers through what they hear on the news. 

“Our dishes reference a different country each week, so there could be an El Salvadorean main and a Hungarian dessert one week, a Pakistani main and a Sudanese dessert the next.” Emma continues, “The benefit of having multicultural volunteers is that the only common language is English, so everyone has to speak English. It’s great to hear the laughter coming from the kitchen as they all share and cook together.”

“One of Kindred’s first investees, Café Laziz has received a great deal of support, financial and otherwise without which I am not sure Deb would have been able to get it off the ground,” says Emma.

Adding, “We continue to feel incredibly supported, and the hands-on help Claire and I received when we took over allowed us to spend much needed time planning what we wanted the project to become and really develop what we do.”

With a dream to one day have their own dedicated building in St Helens, and a wide range of educational outreach events and projects planned, Emma concludes, “One of the best things I have found about Kindred is that when you are working away at the coal face every day it is easy to feel that you are in it alone. But, thanks to the network of like-minded STOs from around the region you’re put into contact with, you know you are part of something so much bigger, and it’s incredibly empowering to know that positive things are happening.”

Find out more about Café Laziz here.