AN IRANIAN refugee’s aubergine delicacy provided the backdrop to a tale of fleeing her homeland for sanctuary in Britain.

The dish was one of scores served at Los Gatos, as refugees and campaigners came from across the South West to discuss how to support some of society’s most vulnerable.

The day-long conference was organised by City of Sanctuary, a charity that supports refugees and campaigns on their behalf.

Members of City of Sanctuary groups from across the South West and Wales were invited to the conference.

They heard inspirational stories of how people were welcoming refugees to their towns – and how new arrivals were finding success in sport, education and arts.

Shareen Campbell, chair of Swindon City of Sanctuary and co-owner of Los Gatos, said: “It was great. People came from all over the South West - people with all different experiences. It was very useful for people to share their experiences.”

Los Gatos served dishes from their City of Sanctuary menu. “These are recipes that come from refugees. They cook a dish for us and give us the recipe or we recreate it.”

On Thursday, conference-goers devoured an aubergine dish that Los Gatos staff have christened “Yaleemche”.

The delicacy is the product of Iranian woman Ellahh. In Farsi, the dish's name means “orphan food”.

“Aubergine grew very plentifully where she was a child,” Shareen said. “They would be like potatoes here – if you were are poor family you would eat a lot of the dish.”

Ellahh told the story of coming home from school and asking her mother what was for dinner. When her mother replied ‘aubergines’, she’d roll her eyes.

Conference organiser Forward Maisokwadzo, communications and media officer at City of Sanctuary, said the event focussed on how each town’s groups “can learn from each other”.

He said of the day: “It demonstrated how refugees can contribute and the passion of the City of Sanctuary movement.”

Later that evening, City of Sanctuary and Harbour Project volunteers celebrated the Islamic festival of Eid-Al-Adha at Darkroom Espresso, with music, food and games.

Every Thursday, the charity organises a “We’re Open” event at the Faringdon Road coffee shop, inviting everyone for free coffee, games and live music.

For more, visit: