DALLAS — In the community kitchen at First Presbyterian Church of Dallas, Jamileh was hard at work cooking for 150 people. She prepared the night before, and started cooking at 6 a.m. for dinner.
"This is for refugees coming from Afghanistan," said Jamileh. She made a homecooked Afghan meal to welcome families who are going through a similar situation that her family faced three years ago.
In 2019, Jamileh escaped the Taliban and fled to the U.S. with her children. "It's so hard to come here. But we are happy here right now. It's so good," she said.
What she's doing now, working to provide for her family, is something she wasn't allowed to do in Afghanistan.
Over the last three years, she's been learning how to run a catering business through Break Bread, Break Borders, a culinary workforce training program for refugee women from war-torn countries.
Jamileh has always loved cooking and had incredible family recipes. Break Bread, Break Borders has given her the opportunity to use her skills to make money for her family, while sharing her culture and her story.
The company was founded by Jin-Ya Huang.
She was inspired by her late mother, Margaret Mei-Ying Huang, who was a Chinese refugee. Margaret escaped China from Communism to take refuge in Taiwan, then later moved her family to Dallas, where she owned a restaurant.
Jin-Ya said, "She was very mindful about training other immigrants, refugees and migrants to come and work in our kitchen. And she would train them with job skills and send them on to bigger, better opportunities. I saw at a very young age that she was transforming lives every day."
Though her mom passed away, Jin-Ya continues her lifelong work through Break Bread, Break Borders. She said, "Food is such a wonderful, universal language, and it's an incredible equalizer."