Refugee Biriyani & Bananas (RBB) was formed in response to the escalation of the refugee crisis in 2015, when a group of friends decided to provide 2,500 portions of biriyani and bananas for all residents of the unofficial refugee camp in Dunkirk, Northern France.
In September 2015, when Ruhi Loren Akhtar (RBB Founder and CEO) saw images of Alan Kurdi, a 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned after his boat capsized as his family tried to reach Europe, she was deeply shocked. At the time, her nephew, Usmaan, was the same age as Alan and she recalls he had a red t-shirt resembling what Alan wore the day he drowned.
Ruhi then goes on to say: “That night I couldn’t sleep. I thought to myself: ‘This could have been my nephew. This could have been my child. Enough reading about the refugee crisis on the news. Enough sharing social media posts. I have to do something about it.”
A Turkish Police Officer Carries the Lifeless Body of Alan Kurdi (Image: AP )
While in Calais and Dunkirk, camp residents frequently spoke of their desire for an ethnic, ‘home-style’ cooked meal. Ruhi heard these calls and took to devising a 2,500-person potluck meal dubbed The Biriyani Mission.
Initially the mission seemed like a logistical nightmare, but Ruhi and her team wanted to make it special and they wanted to ensure that nobody went without. However, after a call out on social media the appeal gained momentum and over 200 volunteers from all over UK and Europe helped to fulfil different aspects of this potluck of all potlucks. Over two busy days, the volunteers helped to prepare, cook, and distribute biriyani and bananas from a renovated mobile bus-kitchen to asylum seekers in Northern France.
Volunteers Clean and Prepare Halal Meat for the Lamb Biriyani
When the group returned home, they felt that they could not turn their backs on the people affected by the refugee crisis, and they knew they had to continue to help. They then decided to form a grassroots organisation called Refugee Biriyani & Bananas (RBB) after ‘The Biriyani Mission.’
With 79.5 million people currently displaced globally, RBB is a registered charity in the UK and aims to support vulnerable people worldwide, including but not limited to:
Victims of War and Conflict
Refugees and Asylum Seekers
RBB consists of a team of volunteers from all over the world who support the provision of humanitarian aid to vulnerable people on the ground as well as providing remote assistance; led by Ruhi and her team of trustees.
We made it our mission to provide : Humanitarian Aid - Whatever it Takes!
People in the Unofficial Camp of Dunkirk Protest with Graffiti
Living Quarters :Tents and Makeshift Shelters on a Field of Mud
Aiming to empower displaced people by involving them in the decision making process of what support is needed and the subsequent provision of this, we at Refugee Biriyani & Bananas provide urgent aid and basic necessities with dignity and equity.
We also raise awareness and share stories of or from the people we are supporting, whilst volunteering to fill gaps in humanitarian care, boosting morale and sustaining people on their journeys to safety.