2020 was a year of pivoting and embracing new challenges for Rise.
I don’t think any of us could have imagined the enormity of the impact of Covid-19 back in December 2019. We had just held an event celebrating Yalda, the Persian festival of light celebrated on 21st December. At this event, we saw some of the women that we had been working with since June 2019 demonstrate how to make some their favourite dishes, how to extract arils from pomegranates, and share poetry from Hafez and stories about how they celebrated Yalda in Iran. Little did we know that all of the planning we had made for 2020 would be scrapped, as Covid-19 took hold, and restrictions were implemented.
We submitted to these restrictions and our plans were put on hold, but we had no idea how long these restrictions were to last. One of the women we work with took advantage of online courses in digital marketing which we were able to fund. We tried online cooking classes, where one of our chefs, Marzieh taught us how to make tachin, a Persian rice dish made with yoghurt, saffron and eggs, stuffed with chicken, spices and barberries. We sold tickets via Eventbrite but these events were extremely time consuming and laborious for the women involved, and they barely broke even in terms of income generation. It was easy to feel a bit stuck. We had to think again. We had to pivot.
Hope came in the form of a grant from UNLTD, an organisation who offer support to start-up social enterprises, to help us navigate Covid - what a gift! We knew that whatever decision we made as to how to use this money, had to take Covid restrictions and their longevity into consideration, as well as create a sustainable, self-sufficient food business to ensure that we can continue to champion the women that we work with. The answer - A food trailer!
Us Northern Irish and West Coast Scots are known for our thriftiness. Having a finite amount of money to source and acquire a small food trailer was a challenge, but we found Noora in Devon and had to have her transported to Glasgow. When she arrived, she needed a bit of work, and we have been calling in favours to get her kitted out to spec for her Environmental Health inspection this spring. Our aim is to start our training program as soon as it is safe to do so, and aim to start trading from the trailer in April. But we can’t be precious about dates - adaptability and flexibility is essential in this pandemic. Watch this space!