28 July 2021
“They’re young, they should be able to have fun and not be worrying about where they’re going to find a piece of toast to eat,” says Harri Helvon-Hardy of the FABRIC Foundation in Swansea.
FABRIC Support Services currently runs two houses and provides trauma informed support to 10 vulnerable young people, aged 16 and up. The FABRIC Foundation provides the FABRIC kids with additional activities and opportunities alongside campaigning for positive change on care leaver issues. Since Covid, the FABRIC Foundation has also made weekly food parcel deliveries to a further 12 care-leavers living in the community.
Learning to cook with surplus food from FareShare helps the kids develop crucial skills and habits that they’ll carry with them into adulthood: “The cooking sessions help them develop skills that they’ll need as they transition into independent living as adults. Not only the cooking skills but learning how to budget and make their money go further. Without that support and guidance, they may be tempted to buy fast food or ready meals, which are cheaper in the short term but not as healthy and don’t last as long. So, we can show them that actually if you can make your own Bolognese it’ll last you longer.”
Kids come to FABRIC with many different backgrounds and skill levels: “Cooking sessions will really be led by the ingredients as well as the interests and abilities of the kids. We work with a lot of children who are asylum-seekers and there was one girl who was actually a very good cook but wanted to learn more about how to cook more of the traditional food in Wales.
“We’ll do things like pasta sessions or focus on curries,” explains Harri, “We get a variety of items from FareShare from week to week: fresh fruit and veg, meat, butter, we’ll sometimes get things like plant-based bacon or more unusual ingredients. We always look to see what we can make a meal out of. The other week we got in some meatballs and we were able to pull together some tinned tomatoes, pasta, tinned sweetcorn and teach the kids how to make a pasta dinner.”
As Harri says, their food delivery is often as much about building relationships as it is about meals: “For many of the kids it’s as much about the food as it is knowing someone cares or just having someone knock at their door to check in on them. So yes, it is food, but there’s an equal impact on mental health. It helps them feel safe and cared for.”
The relationships the team at FABRIC build with the young people they support are key to making FABRIC a place they can feel at home: “Our work is really relationship-led and things like the cooking sessions can really help to build those relationships. We want to provide as close to a home as we can to ensure they’re happy and proud to be who they are. That they don’t have to feel shame about being in care and they don’t have to feel shame about their race or their gender or their sexuality. We have a diverse team and we’re able to create a safe space where the kids can express themselves and be who they are.”
The FABRIC team is determined that the kids they work with need not have any limits to their potential: “They’re wonderful kids – they’ve got banter and ambition and drive. They’ve just had a bad start in life and we want to make sure that doesn’t define them. Our hope is to see them fulfill their dreams, their dreams, and not just the boundaries that people set for them.”