A couple months ago I met Trixie Ling when I came across a bulletin about her new social enterprise, Flavours of Hope. Based in Vancouver, BC, Flavours of Hope is a non-profit social enterprise that supports and empowers newcomers to earn a living wage- through cooking and sharing their culinary traditions. Specifically, this social enterprise is gearing up to provide a meal delivery program where people across the Lower Mainland will be able to order food prepared by the mainly refugee employees, all of whom will be earning a living wage, on par with what the average chef or cook would make. Trixie’s vision for building community is amazing. And, she has an incredible story herself, which is why I wanted to share this Q&A. I hope that her story inspires you, too. Enjoy.
Head + Heart: How did the idea for Flavours of Hope come to you?
Trixie Ling: The vision and inspiration for Flavours of Hope came from my personal story of growing up in an immigrant family in BC and experiencing the joys and struggles of settling and integrating into a new culture and community. I am passionate and committed to support newcomer women to build strong social connections and a sense of belonging in the community by participating and contributing in meaningful ways through cooking and sharing their stories of hopes, resilience and strengths. I have seen how food can nourish and unify us in breaking down social, economic and cultural barriers, and I want to empower immigrant and refugee women to use food to build relationships with people in the community, support their families with a livable income, and create welcoming and diverse neighbourhoods. I hold deeply to the values of hospitality, generosity, diversity, equality and justice, and I strive to build a social enterprise rooted in these values and collaborate with other inspiring change makers in our community.
H+ H: When you decided to launch Flavours of Hope, what were/are the primary needs you saw that needed to be met and how do you foresee these needs evolving or changing over the next few years?
TL: Many refugees come to Canada with little support network and it is especially challenging for women who are often socially isolated, have a hard time making friends, and experience language and cultural barriers. Others experience trauma and violence and hold stories of pain and loss when they left their homes, communities and countries. Many women also have challenges finding a suitable job to support their family due to lack of Canadian work experience, low English ability and difficulties accessing employment programs. In spite of the hardships and struggles, these women are strong, resilient, and resourceful and they want to build connections and get involved in the community and local economy. I hope to work toward a society where newcomer women will be welcomed, supported and empowered to address these needs, so they can be in a position in the future to help other refugees integrate and participate in the community.
H+H: What is your long term goal for this new social enterprise?
TL: My long term big vision for Flavours of Hope is to create a food business incubator to empower immigrant and refugee women to become entrepreneurs and provide support, training, skills and mentorship to build their own businesses to showcase multi-ethnic food and share their stories in a supportive and vibrant food hospitality industry. I am working toward a glimpse of this dream and vision this summer with a multi-ethnic food market with newcomer women cooking and selling their traditional cultural dishes at the Groundswell Market on Granville Island. My goal is to provide friendship, mentoring, and training sessions in food preparation and business skills in a commercial kitchen over the summer. I hope to support newcomer women to earn a living wage, gain work experience and business skills, and build a strong support network and community.
H+H: What are you most excited about in terms of supporting the refugee women you partner with?
TL: I am most excited to build meaningful relationships with different refugee women and hear their stories of who they are, where they come from, and their hopes of a better life in Canada. Many of the refugee women I have met tell me of their dreams of cooking and selling food from their culture, so I am inspired by their passions and entrepreneurial spirit. I want to learn from them and provide opportunities for them to grow and flourish as entrepreneurs and share their traditional food and stories with Canadians. In the future, I am excited to be the women’s first customer when they open their food business!
Thanks, Trixie. It’s organizations with the purpose of lifting people up in this world, like yours, that inspire me most in this world. In fact, this is one of the key reasons that Head + Heart exists.