Using flowers for research

Mai Abbas, RECOMS Research Fellow is exploring how you can involve migrant communities, especially women with children, in various activities to learn about growing various plants at home and produce some prodcuts from these plants.

"I joined the CRMC volunteer team at the end of February this year! In the beginning, I joined the advice team for a couple of times then I started joining the women’s group in Hillifield family hub/children’s centre. Most of the women in this group have limited knowledge in the English language, but they are all motivated and committed to learning this language and they are from different countries from all over the world! You can easily feel the positive energy within this group, participants and volunteers are all willing to learn from each other. This motivated me to come up with an idea for an activity with the women, which is also linked to my research interest! My idea was warmly welcomed and I received all the needed support from CRMC to make it happens. 

It is all started on the 13th of June. I arrived at the centre with calendula flower seeds, calendula plant, dried flowers and extra virgin olive oil. The idea behind that was to prepare calendula salve and expose the women to the life cycle of this flower to enable them to do it later by themselves if they want by taking the seeds of the plant or the plant itself and growing it in their garden. Each woman prepared her jar and the jars were kept in sun for 3 weeks. This process called solar oil infusion.

On the 4th of July, we gathered in the common kitchen in the community centre and each woman worked on her jar by filtering the oil, heating it with beeswax and finally adding lavender oil and turmeric. Each woman was happy with what she made and taking away with her a special treat to her own body.

During this activity, the fascinating thing for me was how the women found a way to communicate and help each other even if they do not speak the same language and have limited knowledge in English! They used their body language and facial expressions to communicate. Maybe this is what we need in a world full of wars and conflicts is just to feel with each other. Simply, it was a great experience that made me feel happy by just considering the smiling faces leaving the kitchen with calendula salve in their hands".

Mai Abbas' piece was originally featured in Coventry Refuge and Migrant Centre's Volunteer News in August 2019.