Iraj Validazeh is the Catering Manager at Margins, a project that LHF has been supporting for a number of years. We asked him about his role, and how he ended up with Margins.
I started here as a trainee in 2014. I have always enjoyed cooking and used to run my own business, but things went wrong – as they often can no matter how hard everyone works – and this caused problems. I ended up sleeping at friends’ houses. I was very close to being without a home at all. Then someone suggested I use my experience and try out at Margins. The project gave me a role and a purpose.
I enjoyed the course and did well. And then after a while I was invited to come back and help out. When the catering manager left, I was asked to take it on.
I really enjoy my role. It is not just about teaching people how to cook – although obviously that’s a part of it – it is about giving people their confidence back. I see my role as helping people to re develop their self-worth and re build their confidence in their abilities. When people have been through a tough time, especially homelessness, they can struggle to see the point of it all, and find it hard to get motivated.
Margins is excellent because it is a real business. The Union Chapel rely on us to provide the catering for their events. So if I and my team of trainees don’t do our jobs properly, then people don’t eat and the venue loses money. This creates a real sense of focus and purpose. In fact we are providing the catering for the LHF later this year as the Union Chapel hosts the London Homelessness Awards. I have promised them a feast!
I keep in touch with people who’ve been through the scheme and it is very rewarding to see how they have gone on to make a success of their lives. And we have big plans to expand what we are doing and create even more opportunities for people to grow and excel.
The project, for me, is proof that no matter how bad things can get in your life, there is always hope; something will always come along.
The 2021 London Homelessness Awards take place at Union Chapel on 14th October, the 21st hosting of the awards. All the catering will be provided by margins, with Iraj leading. For more information about Margins go to https://unionchapel.org.uk/projects/margins