The International Rescue Committee, a refugee aid organization, has paired up with an unlikely ally in Dallas: Eno’s Pizza.
As part of the Youth Food Justice internship, three refugee children were selected to learn about Dallas, food and more. The interns are Pay Pay, a long-haired, bubbly high school junior from Myanmar; Mariam, a thoughtful sophomore from the Congo; and Moise (pronounced Moses), a stoic sophomore with a secret comedic side, also from the Congo. The three joined together in their experience, and you'd have thought they were all best buddies from childhood.
The IRC gave the three teens a weeklong experience learning about food culture, exchanging support and experiencing what one of the counselors, Jin-Ya Huang, called “social food justice." This food justice included visiting farms to see where Dallas food comes from, checking out how a commercial kitchen operates and learning how to transform those ingredients into pizza. Eno's Pizza in Bishop Arts provided the pizza and kitchen. The kids were allowed to watch and learn how a popular pizza joint operates during lunch hour and were invited into the kitchen to make their own pizzas by hand.
An in-demand pizza joint during lunch hour usually isn’t the happiest place in the world, but on that day, smiles rose like fresh dough and laughter echoed out of the service window. Sauce overran onto the prep table, and basil leaves scattered across the floor. It was hard to not share in the excitement as Pay Pay loaded up her pizza with three times the cheese of her fellow interns' pizzas. Mariam’s eyes were transfixed on the sardines in the topping bar. Moise was lined up and ready, itching to place the freshly formed pies into the molten-hot oven.
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While Moise was tentative at first, after realizing how fun it was to slide the slippery, floured pizzas into the oven, he quickly experimented with how far into the more than 600-degree oven he could put his pizza using the 10-foot pizza peel.
Would the pizzas have won a beauty contest? Probably not. But in flavor, there was no competition. Not a crumb was left of the first batch, and not much was left behind of the second batch, either. Everyone left full and beaming from ear to ear.
One of the IRC’s purposes in Dallas is to give support to refugees, providing them with the tools to resettle and rebuild their lives and bolstering an internal sense of power for the future. Pay Pay, Mariam and Moise left that kitchen genuinely excited for something a lot of us take for granted. While a slice of pizza may just mean a slice of pizza, to them, it felt like an adventure.