Merseyside Somali Community and Association (MSCA) has been distributing fresh, hot meals to around 100 people every week during lockdown, from its kitchens on Granby Street.
Meals are delivered to the elderly, disabled and those who can’t cook for themselves within the local community, focusing on those without other support. They’re delivered alongside a socially-distanced chat, and play an essential part in making sure community members don’t become isolated, particularly when visiting people who can’t leave their homes because they’re at risk, or have a disability.
These conversations have become a crucial lifeline for community members. While many – but not all recipients – are from the Somali community, a number of languages are spoken and some speak very little English. For the team it’s an opportunity to ask what else might be needed, from a pint of milk, clarification of the latest guidelines, ordering medication or contacting family.
Saeed Ibrahim is a former housing officer who’s part of the team. He’s “never seen such an inspiring project,” he says. “It feels especially important to get and run the service when they don’t speak English.”
Referrals from housing associations and shelters for elderly people have formed the core of the service, with a combination of funding from the Steve Morgan Foundation, Martin Lewis Foundation, Liverpool City Region CA and Princes Park Council Fund support its growth. “MSCA received and managed the grants, but we have a partnership for delivery with Liverpool Somali Community Centre,” says Saeed.
A group of seafarers set up Liverpool’s Somali community centre in 1978, seeing a growth in community numbers in the 1980s, when war broke out in Somalia. It’s evolved from being a focal point for the community and somewhere to meet – in pre-mobile phone times – to an established organisation providing subsidised Somali and Yemeni food for the local community, with a strong social aspect.
The centre also provide educational activities, employability advice and immigration support in partnership with Liverpool Law Clinic. The centre’s youth service provides additional community support, alongside NHS, Mersey Care and mental health services and awareness sessions on giving up smoking, cancer awareness, diabetes, autism, ADHD and mental health, enabling people to recognise issues and seek support.
“We have recently established a collaboration with Liverpool Somali Community Centre,” says Saeed, “delivering and preparing meals for the elderly people and people with underlying medical conditions. We have an agreement to use their kitchen space, so we can deliver the meals together in these difficult times. Our overall aim is to be self financing as an organisation and our vision for the future includes developing projects that meet the needs of people in our community such as education and training, care provision and transport.”