Published: a day agoUpdated: a day ago
A Nigerian woman in Halifax is cooking up free meals to help international students feel at home as they remain in student residences and far from their home countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ten years ago, Frances Dadin-Alli, who now runs Franyz Kitchen & Franyz Hair, moved from Nigeria to Halifax to pursue post-secondary education at Dalhousie University.
Soon after arriving in the city, she moved into a student residence on campus.
Dadin-Alli recalls having “difficulty with the food and just trying to settle in” when she was an international student, due to a lack of familiarity with Canadian food and a longing for Nigerian food, which she grew up eating and cooking from the young age of eight.
In one instance, she said eating a banana from a campus cafeteria made her experience an overwhelming feeling of homesickness because the banana tasted far different from bananas back home.
“I almost cried. It was like the world had ended for me,” she laughed, while recounting the experience.
About a month ago, Dadin-Alli started reflecting on these memories and the struggles of being an international student, wondering how international students in Halifax must be making out now, as they remain in student residences and far from home due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and closed borders.
Then, she thought of a solution: comfort food.
“I thought, ‘You know what? Let me do something for the international students to make them feel at home and to make them know that they’re not alone,” said Dadin-Alli.
At first, she put a call out on social media saying she wanted to provide free Nigerian dishes to African and Caribbean international students living in residences at Dalhousie University, but later expanded her reach to African and Caribbean international students at Saint Mary’s University as well. Dadin-Alli said she is also open to offering the dishes to other students living in residences, but her main focus is to support African and Caribbean international students, who would be more familiar with her style of cooking.
Currently, there are 151 students living in residences at Dalhousie in Halifax, “a large number” of which are international students, according to university spokesperson Lindsay Dowling-Savelle. At Saint Mary’s University, there are 241 students living in residence, majority of which are international students, said university spokesperson Cale Loney.
In the two weeks since she started cooking up the free meals, Dadin-Alli said she’s served about 17 students either a Nigerian jollof rice, which is spiced and stewed in a flavourful tomato broth, with peppered barbecue grilled chicken dish, or a fried rice with peppered barbecue grilled chicken dish.
She said lots of people have offered to contribute financially to the cause, but right now, her main goal is find more students to serve.
“I just know this is what I want to do. I just want to reach out to people and put a smile on someone’s face, and if that’s what I’m going to do, that goes a long way for me,” she said.
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