Ethiopia: New refugee cafeteria attracts customers
27 March 2009

Bala Zeyne Al Abdin from Sudan serves tea in his new cafeteria in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Angelika Mendes/JRS)
“The cafeteria has already started serving its purpose by creating income for a refugee. It proves once again that refugees have the knowledge and capacity to work wherever they are - if they get the opportunity."
Addis Ababa, 27 March 2009 Last month, the JRS Refugee Community Centre (RCC) opened a cafeteria for refugees. The cafeteria grants refugees a possibility to meet for refreshments at an affordable price in the city centre of Addis Ababa. It is a different approach to help refugees recover from trauma and painful experiences. Mr. Bala Zeyne Al Abdin, 44 years old and himself a refugee from Sudan runs the cafeteria. He has five years experience of running a small restaurant at Sherkole refugee camp in western Ethiopia.

So far, Mr. Bala is happy with his new business and the number of customers. JRS provided a small room, few chairs, two benches and a small cupboard. It also pays part of the electricity, water and house rent expenses. Mr. Bala equipped the cafeteria with a refrigerator and tables. “The cafeteria has already started serving its purpose by creating income for a refugee. It proves once again that refugees have the knowledge and capacity to work wherever they are - if they get the opportunity.” says Mulugeta W/Eyesus, RCC Project Director.

The idea to open a cafeteria perfectly matched the understanding of the RCC as a place that offers the opportunity to socialise and make new contacts. It grants a way for refugees to spend their time with something meaningful and prevents them from adopting bad habits or from being exposed to alcohol or drug abuse. 

Serving refugees in central Addis

The opening of the cafeteria is also a response to the requests of many refugees who come from the outskirts of Addis Ababa to benefit from the services of the centre and are then forced to spend money on breakfast and lunch in the area around the centre. The cafeteria which offers them a more reasonable alternative is therefore of paramount significance for refugees to use RCC facilities throughout the week. Customers find a variety of grilled fish, foul, fresh juices, tea and soft drinks as well as special dishes from Sudan on the menu. As a result, the number of refugees visiting the centre is on the increase.

So far, refugees are using the cafeteria with delight. Some customers of the cafeteria said the opening of the cafeteria does not only help them to get fresh and delicious food at a fair price. It also helps them to make better use of the computer and language classes in the centre and to spend more time with their friends. Already, they suggested extending the service of the cafeteria to other customers.

The functioning and services of the new cafeteria impressed not only refugees but also partner agencies, particularly staff from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). A number of staff members who visited the cafeteria expressed their desire to see more income-generating activities open in the city centre.







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