It’s early morning. Your sleepy eyes are slowly opening to embrace the new day. Left leg out, right leg out - sitting position achieved. A big stretch, you’re ready to stand up now. Stumbling into the kitchen, you turn on the kettle to boil hot water. Ceylon, Assam, Chai - what’s it going to be today?
A cup of tea in the morning is such an integral part of waking up, that we almost don’t realise we’re pouring it. It has become habit, a key ritual in British lifestyle. But what if it could be so much more?
It can. We want to make tea more than a steaming cup of goodness. Our Indian chai blends are special - and refugee empowerment is our specialty. Chaigaram is a social purpose business focused on rebuilding refugee lives by creating employment opportunities selling Indian specialist teas across the UK.
You can come say “hi” in London markets, sip a cup of our tea in a cafe near you, or place orders online to create some magic at home. Our teas are hand-blended and hand-packed by refugees. It is our vision to set up a franchise of tea stalls across food markets in the UK that are run and eventually owned by refugees.
So what does this opportunity mean for them?
Humans are social beings. We want to belong to a community. Being forced to leave your home - whether for economic, political, or safety reasons - means you are losing that community. Finding yourself in a new country with a different language and customs is scary. You feel alone, excluded, and lost.
Talking to customers, making tea, and socialising creates a new sense of belonging. Communicating across cultures over a cup of hot chai brings an ease to the situation, where both sides realise that in the end, they belong to the same tribe.
Employment translates into independence. On one hand, working creates a sense of purpose. On the other hand, financial remuneration can help make a big difference in quality of life. Government support is limited to less than £65 per week. A sense of purpose, and the ability to support yourself translates into more independence and freedom.
The language barrier is one of the biggest limitations to integration and social inclusion. Have you ever been on holiday, gotten lost, tried to ask for directions, and found that no one can understand you? Imagine if you experienced this every day.
Refugee access to language learning classes in the UK is not guaranteed. Working at the stall brewing tea, a common practise across many cultures, offers a safe and encouraging environment to practise English.
All of the above come together to build confidence. After exhausting journeys, constant conflict and survival situations, and loss of loved ones and belongings, it is no surprise that there is no energy left to build a new life. Being able to provide for oneself, being part of a community, and learning a new language is a great start to regaining a sense of self.
Our new team members, in charge of the tea stalls, are doing everything they can to contribute to society. They want to integrate, they want to work, and they want to be part of their new home. Making an effort and not completely relying on state provision deserves and earns respect from locals. Refugees themselves are empowered to change the negative discourse surrounding them.
So next time you turn on the kettle to brew a cup of tea, make it count - drink a Chaigaram blend!