BEFORE she joined Café Culture at Scotstoun Primary, Nsrin Aljundi found it difficult to leave the house.

“I was quite scared to do that, I had lost confidence,” she explains. “Coming here has changed my life."

Nsrin is one of a group of mums at the school who meet every Tuesday afternoon to share recipes, cook food and chat.

Glasgow Times: Nsrin is cooking a Syrian cheese snackNsrin is cooking a Syrian cheese snack (Image: Mark Gibson/Newsquest)

It is part of a Café Culture project which began with funding from Strathclyde University, and is now working towards becoming self-sustainable.

Grace Cameron, English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher, explains: “There are more than 40 languages spoken in the school, from African and Arabic languages, to Turkish, Polish…we have families from Sudan, Iran, Ukraine…

“The idea came from the parents themselves. After Covid, we wanted to rebuild our partnerships with the community, and we suggested a reading project. It was the mums who came up with the idea of sharing their cultures with each other through food.”

Glasgow Times: Nsrin and her daughter TalaNsrin and her daughter Tala (Image: Mark Gibson/Newsquest)

Grace adds: “Now they are preparing to launch a cookbook, which we will sell to raise money for Café Culture. The first 100 copies will go on sale on June 7.”

Glasgow Times: The Cafe Culture teamThe Cafe Culture team (Image: Mark Gibson/Newsquest)

Since starting in October, Café Culture has expanded in unexpected ways, explains Pauline McFadden, the school’s family wellbeing worker.

“It started as a literacy-rich project, in collaboration with St Paul’s Primary in Whiteinch, and we’ll be running a joint reading café with them over the summer,” says Pauline.

“But it has become about so much more. It’s helping families learn how to cook on a budget, and some of the mums have become confident to go on to do voluntary work here at the school and elsewhere. Having bilingual support workers is a huge bonus for us.

Pauline adds, smiling: “And the has been really lovely to see the way these women have made connections and discovered new confidence to get involved with the school and the community.

“We don’t hear the word isolation here any more.”

Glasgow Times: Some of the dishes at Cafe CultureSome of the dishes at Cafe Culture (Image: Mark Gibson/Newsquest)

Soon, the table is packed with tantalising dishes, and the air is full of chatter.

Fatena AlMasalmea, who has two children at the school – Sara, 12 and Noor, five - plus one-year-old son Joud who loves attending the cooking sessions, says: “I am really happy coming here. Sometimes I cook, sometimes I just sit and have a coffee and talk. It is very important to me.”

Glasgow Times: Fatena and her son JoudFatena and her son Joud (Image: Mark Gibson/Newsquest)

Elham Khojasteh, who is from Iran, is whipping up a tasty dish involving minced beef, onions, pepper and spice. Her son Ehsan, who is eight, is helping.

Glasgow Times: Elham enjoys cooking at Cafe CultureElham enjoys cooking at Cafe Culture (Image: Mark Gibson/Newsquest)

“It has been good to meet people, and I enjoy cooking, and talking,” she says, with a laugh. “We all like to talk.”

Ahlam Alhajj is new to the group and speaks little English at the moment, but her daughter Fatima, 17, is happy to translate.

“We come from Syria,” explains Fatima. “My mum loves it here – it is helping her to learn English but importantly she is also meeting new people. Today, she is making baklava.”

Glasgow Times: Sara enjoys testing the dishes on displaySara enjoys testing the dishes on display (Image: Mark Gibson/Newsquest)

Islah Abdyen, who is from Sudan, has a six-year-old son, Muhammad Ali. She has made an aubergine salad, and a samosa-style snack involving cheese, red and yellow peppers, and spice which, she confides with a giggle, is not from her home country, she learned it in Glasgow.

“Coming here for the first time I was out of my comfort zone,” she says. “I was stressed. But Grace and Pauline are so nice, and I have made friends. It has definitely made me more confident.”

Nsrin Aljundi, whose daughter Tala, nine, is in primary four, sums it up.

“For a long time I wanted to get involved in the life of the school – I was a schoolteacher in Syria - but I could not, because of the language,” she says, simply. “I had no confidence to speak out, and that was difficult.”

The Aljundi family came to Glasgow eight years ago, to escape the war in Syria.

“My husband came first as a refugee, and we followed,” says Nsrin, who also has two sons at high school, Malek, 14 and Akrem, 12. “We had to start from zero, it was a whole new life. Because of the rules surrounding refugees, we could not work and earn money, so we had to retrain.

“My husband, who was a civil engineer at home, went back to university and studied, to allow him to get a job. He is now a trainer at a construction company, supporting people on Foundation Apprenticeships.”

As she shows how to make qataver, a Syrian cheese snack, she adds, smiling: “It has been hard, but coming here I feel relaxed. I have done my PVG training which allows me to work with young people, and I can volunteer. Doing something for the community, finally – I like that.”