Sadat’s Cuisine raising funds to bring refugee family members to PEI

Food and fundraising go hand-in-hand in PEI, from lobster suppers, pancake breakfasts, organic veggie boxes, and the classic chocolate bar sales. Often times the goal is to raise money for a building or program, and sometimes as a community measure to help a family in need.

The monthly fundraising dinners held at Sadat’s Cuisine in Charlottetown are doing the latter in delicious fashion. The owners, Sara and Akbar Sadat, are raising money to bring Sara’s parents to PEI from Turkey. Sara’s mom and dad, Bibi and Sayed Fazli, were able to get out of Afghanistan about a year ago, and have been stranded in central Turkey as they wait for confirmation of their refugee status and the rest of the immigration process. The dinners are a way for the Sadats to raise the funds needed for Bibi and Sayed’s immigration.

Sayed and Bibi Fazli are waiting to join their family in Canada                               submitted photo

You see the most interesting and diverse mix of people at the Sadat refugee dinners. There’s quite an age range, from seniors to young couples looking for something a little different from the run-of-the-mill scene. There are ‘regulars’, often in groups of four or six, who knew about Sadat’s Cuisine from when the restaurant was at its previous location across from Holland College, and who have been coming to each of the special dinners to support the immigration of Sara’s refugee parents. There are also new diners who heard about dinner by word-of-mouth, and decided to give it a try—mainly because they’re enticed by descriptions of how delicious Sara’s dishes are: subtly infused with tasty spice and colourfully presented in versions of lamb, chicken, beef, or vegetarian. And rather surprisingly, there have been a number of tourists who are amazed that there is Afghan cuisine in Charlottetown.

There is also variety among the servers and kitchen staff. The skilled professionals are Sara and Akbar at the stove, and their son Harun, and daughters Fatima and Ariana who are working the tables with efficiency and friendly charm. Giving them a hand pouring, fetching, clearing, dishwashing, plus hosting in genial fashion are Madonna and Clar Fradsham, Chris and Susan Hartley, Rob and Mar Thomson, and Tim Goddard. These Islanders are members of the small group who, along with the Sadats, are raising the funding support required by Immigration Canada.
“It’s good food for a good cause,” Rob Thomson said. “The food is tremendous.” Thomson has known the Sadats for 10 years, from when they first arrived in PEI as refugees themselves and recalls how his volunteer work on the Sadats’ Habitat for Humanity home led to their friendship.

People are a big factor in the success of this project. The dinner has an atmosphere of social warmth, a pleasant buzz of folks having a good time together, of volunteer servers chatting with diners, the sound of laughter from the kitchen.

The other main factor is the aromas coming from the kitchen—of samosas and dishes like beef kofta, quorma, and chicken degy. Diners enthusiastically compliment the central-Asian style rice. The meal includes salad and a choice of two desserts, along with tea or coffee. Almost all the ingredients are locally sourced. Thomson raves about Sara’s cooking, “Sara has her own recipe for something called sesenjan. A year ago Mar and I were in Iran, which is, along with Afghanistan, the home of sesenjan, this dish which is chicken and almonds. Sara’s sesenjan is like three times better than any of the sesenjan we ate over a matter of three weeks in Iran.”

When asked why he felt the dinners were a good way to raise money for this effort, Thomson said, “You’re getting three things in return. One is fantastic food. The second is, you ought to hear the buzz in the restaurant as people are dining together, I mean there is a great social thing going on. And the third thing is the ultimate outcome of this is you’re going to have two people who have escaped from a pretty nasty situation ending up here in Canada with their family, and getting a new start, a new chapter of their life.”

The next dinner will be on Saturday, July 7. The price of the meal is $30, and $20 of that goes toward sponsorship of the refugees. As well, further contributions are welcome, and any donation of $50 or more is eligible for a tax receipt. Sadat’s Cuisine is located at 223 University Avenue in Charlottetown. Phone 902-367-6631 or 902-213-7420 by July 4th to reserve your seat and specify your main dish choice.

If all goes according to plan, Sara’s parents are expected to arrive this fall, and will fit readily into the vibrant life which Sara and Akbar Sadat have built over the past decade in their Island community.

About Cheryl Young

A “Jill of all trades” describes Cheryl to a T. From operating her own handyperson company, to selling luxury cars, to working as a film and TV crew member, her resume is diverse. But her dream as a kid was to be a journalist and she started down that path many years ago at CBC Charlottetown. Returning to her journalism roots, she’s excited to be editing Salty’s content and occasionally writing herself.

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