Heart & Parcel – Teaching English and Cooking Dumplings Woman To Woman.

Karolina Koscien and Clare Courtney are two friends who live in Levenshulme. In October 2015, they were compelled to set up Heart & Parcel in response to the reduction in funding of English language courses for migrants in the UK. Their ambitions have gone from strength to strength and their not-for-profit model has ensured they have been able to support migrant women in Manchester in the short time they’ve been running. Clare from Heart & Parcel has kindly shared a little more information about their amazing work over the past 14 months and offered a glimpse into their future.


How did you get started with Heart & Parcel?

We noticed in our roles, myself as ESOL tutor and Karolina as a social and welfare worker there were funding cuts being made across our sectors. They were affecting Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women in particular through the policy changes and eligibility criteria when applying for training and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses.

Even when there was provision, it was positioning migrant women as a problem that needed to be fixed rather than people who perhaps required extra support in language skills.

We wanted to reveal the existing skills and knowledge that women from migrant communities who come to the UK bring with them.

We also wanted to highlight how useful these skills can be to communities and local areas around Manchester.

Community dinner in Levenshulme

What was behind the idea of combining cooking with teaching English ?

We wanted to create sessions where women could come together in a relaxed environment to develop their English skills the way that they want and to share their experiences and stories along the way.

Karolina comes from Poland and I grew up and worked in Hong Kong and China. These places both had a tradition where grandmothers, mothers and children get together to make and fold dumplings. This method of bonding sparked our idea to combine cooking and ESOL. We ourselves loved the feeling of getting together and making, folding and eating dumplings.

We fund these sessions by selling food from our previous backgrounds and experiences.


What are the social aims of your project?

We aim to bring women together who may be isolated due to language barriers or circumstance and help develop English language skills of those women.

We also exist to highlight the need for more government support of ESOL provision and we hope that we’re providing a good support to the women who attend our workshops.


Tell us more about your foodie adventures and supper clubs?

We’ve done intimate supper clubs at my house and a handful of market stalls on Levenshulme Market. We then decided to move to bigger spaces to increase our fundraising, so we have been taking over the kitchens of cafes and restaurants doing special dumpling nights.

So far we’ve served Polish dumplings at The Buttery in Levenshulme and Palate restaurant in Chorlton and a Chinese dumpling evening at Trove in Levenshulme.  

Watch out for a Syrian supper club coming up soon!


Supper club at The Buttery in 2016.
Supper Club at Trove in Jan 2017
Supper club at Trove in Jan 2017

What’s been the single best experience of your journey so far?

Our best experience to date has got to be when the women who had been attending our ESOL sessions started to join us to support our project around June last year.

We had women selling their food at the Levy Market and waitressing at our supper clubs. Others cooked and served free lunches for users of a community centre in North Manchester and another group of women in Levenshulme put on open food demo workshops, where they taught members of the public to make dishes from their homes and invited them to try the finished goods. So our single best experience is working alongside women in our communities around us.


A workshop at Levenshulme Inspire


What are your plans for the future?

To keep campaigning for free ESOL provision for all who require it. We want to work with more women in the communities that reside in Manchester and to keep listening to and learning from migrant women who have many stories to tell.   


And finally…What do you love about Levenshulme?

The mixture of backgrounds. The hyper-diversity which brings so much to this suburb. It makes Levenshulme genuine and dynamic. The wonderful restaurants and businesses set up by so many who have brought their previous rich knowledge and experiences to share with others in this area.

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