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Refugees share their own stories of flowers and plants that hold a special meaning


Refugees share their own stories of flowers and plants that hold a special meaning

20 May 2024
A book with pictures of flowers rests on the floor

The Seeds of Hope was inspired by Kate Daudy's time in refugee camps, when she spoke to people who had bought seeds with them from their home country. 

At the heart of The Seeds of Hope is a message of the oneness of nature and humanity. The felt flowers by artist Kate Daudy in bloom across London this May all carry with them stories by refugees of the flowers that remind them of treasured memories that connect them to hope, home and each and every one of us. 

When a QR code next to the flowers is scanned, visitors can watch the videos filmed by refugees who have settled in the UK.  Their stories represent the range of refugee experiences, extending across Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and Ukraine.  

Here we get to know some of the storytellers in more detail. 

Usman Khalid, Director of Haven Coffee

Usman Khalid is founder of Haven Coffee, a cafe and social enterprise in Walthamstow, North East London. Himself a refugee from Pakistan, he helps others who have been forced to flee through barista training, providing people with employment skills to begin working in the United Kingdom (UK).  

Usman says that during his time in the UK, he developed a passion for coffee, and wanted to set up a business that provides the local community in Walthamstow with Fairtrade, ethically sourced coffee - one that has a mission to break the false narratives around refugees and that offers them a chance to integrate into their new country.  

Supported by TERN, The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network, who helped him to develop the logo, concept and set up as a business, Usman established Haven in 2019.  

On top of serving the local community and commuters on the way to the nearby station, Haven Coffee specialises in art programmes, with comedy workshops for refugees, leading to a chance to perform amongst high profile names.  

‘Through this, we try to show a different picture of refugees to the audience,’ he told Kate Daudy when she joined him at Haven Coffee. For Refugee Week this year, Usman will be bringing stand up evening Laff Ucchino to Islington’s Union Chapel with refugees performing in the same line up as Nish Kuma and Rosie Jones.  

For The Seeds of Hope, Usman naturally chose coffee, which he says ‘tells the beautiful story of migration’, starting in Ethiopia, spreading across, appreciated and known in all corners of the world. 

For Usman from Pakistan, coffee evokes the movement of people and shared experiences.

Maya Ghazal, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

Maya Ghazal arrived in the UK from Damascus at the age of 16 under the refugee family reunion scheme. Unable to speak the language, she taught herself English and eventually graduated from university.  At the age of 21, she fulfilled her dream of becoming the first female Syrian refugee pilot when she received her private pilot license. A UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, she is a passionate advocate for refugee inclusion and access to education. 

For The Seeds of Hope project, Maya chose jasmine, the national flower of Syria, which is found throughout her home city of Damascus. 

"Growing up, every corner of the street that I walked around, you always smelled jasmine," she explains. "There was always a flower hanging out of someone’s garden." When she smells the flower in the UK, where she now lives, or sees it blooming, it reminds her “a little more of home".  

In London, Maya's encounters with Jasmine remind her of Damascus.

Watch all the stories from The Seeds of Hope

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We will be updating this page with more information on our refugee storytellers as the project continues, and will be adding videos to our playlist in the coming weeks. Be sure to check back to hear more powerful stories of hope and solidarity.