The power of tea to bridge communities and build connection 

Meet the refugees and host communities who are using tea to build connections, resilience and self-reliance. 


More stories

© UNHCR/Colin Delfosse

Tea is a drink that is loved and served in homes all around the world. For refugees and displaced people, it can offer a way to make a living, a taste of home and a welcome to newcomers.  


Meet Angelina.  

Angelina was forced to flee from Chali el-Fil in Sudan when conflict broke out. She has since settled in Doro refugee camp, Maban county, South Sudan, where she lives with her 12 children and 14 grandchildren.  

She runs a small café in the camp, where she sells tea, coffee and food to refugees, humanitarian workers and the host community.  

 Angelina runs a small cafe in Doro camp, where she sells tea, coffee and food to refugees, the host community and humanitarian workers.  © UNHCR/Samuel Otieno

Tea and coffee pots at the cafe run by Angelina © UNHCR/Samuel Otieno

The money Angelina makes from the café complements the humanitarian assistance she receives from UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies. But she hopes to one day to become fully self-reliant, through agriculture. “If I could get more land and support to start farming, I’d be able to better care for myself and my family,” she says.  

Since the conflict broke out in Sudan in April 2023, the majority of people fleeing to South Sudan are South Sudanese returnees, arriving through the Joda-Renk border in Upper Nile State.  

To prevent congestion in border towns, the government of South Sudan along with UNHCR and partners are working to relocate individuals to refugee settlements in Maban and Malakal for South Sudanese citizens returning to their places of origin.  


Internally displaced grandmother Fatoum sits with her grandchildren at the Al Sha’ab hosting site in Aden, Yemen. © UNHCR/Shadi Abusneida

Meet Fatoum.  

Fatoum was forced to flee Hudaydah, Yemen and now lives at the Al Sha’ab hosting site in Aden, Yemen with her family.  

She has a grocery shop and sells tea, sugar and biscuits in small amounts, as people cannot afford to buy whole portions.  

“I rely on myself and do not depend on organisations for assistance,” she says.  

“Families in the area buy groceries from me, including my daughters. Years of displacement have led me to borrow sums of money, leaving me indebted to many people.”  

“Who doesn’t want to go back home? But how?,” she asks. “My brother is still there, and cries, saying that he cannot make ends meet.”  

Nine years on since the current conflict in Yemen began, an estimated 4.5 million people – some 14 percent of the population – have been displaced. Almost 31 per cent have been displaced more than once, with each displacement further eroding coping capacity. A considerable number of displaced people have sought refuge in already overcrowded sites for internally displaced people – many of which are characterised by inadequate shelter, poor water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, as well as heightened health and protection risks. 

Vicenta Gonzalez  

Vicenta González, 74, oversees a display of products made by the all-female collective Cacaótica.  © UNHCR/Nicolo Filippo Rosso

Meet Vicenta Gonzalez.  

Vicenta moved to Costa Rica from Nicaragua some 50 years ago and has a history of helping refugees from her country, such as through opening her home to refugees who fled Nicaragua’s civil war in the 1980’s and the 2018 protests. 

In 2015, she attended a training course on domestic violence prevention run by a local NGO. She and other participants struck up the idea that they would collectively tend to the plantation she owns and make and sell chocolate and other products derived from cacao. 

An all-women’s cacao cooperative was born, with participants comprising Costa Rican women and women refugees from Nicaragua who fled widespread persecution following a wave of anti-government protests that started in 2018. 

The collective aims to provide a decent living for Costa Rican women and asylum-seekers from Nicaragua. It makes products from chocolate bars and chocolate-flavoured tea to lip balm and hand lotion. 

Several years ago, Vicenta’s plantation in Costa Rica’s northern district of Upala was flooded and many of the more than 1,000 cacao trees on the property were hit by a blight that spoiled their seed pods.  

Vicenta and her family had stewarded the plantation for decades, but as her children grew up and scattered, her husband suffered a devastating illness and she suffered a bad knee herself, Vicenta could not see a path forward. The cacao cooperative provides a way for her to continue to tend to her land whilst simultaneously supporting women refugees from Nicaragua.  

Hassan Nour Ahmat  

Hassan Nour Ahmat poses for a photograph at his house during a four-day visit by High Commissioner Filippo Grandi to Chad in July.  © UNHCR/Xavier Bourgois

Meet Hassan Nour Ahmat.  

Hassan is a Sudanese refugee living with a disability who has spent the last 18 years in Mile camp in Chad.  

Ahmat, who fled his village of Amfarass riding a donkey, said residents in Mile camp had recently experienced a noticeable decline in the support they receive as levels of assistance had failed to keep pace with rising needs, with more refugees fleeing violence in Darfur in recent years. Hassan is photographed at his house during a four-day visit by UNHCR High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, to highlight the need for more support.  

The camp hosts more than 25,000 Sudanese refugees, most of whom settled there almost 20 years ago when the conflict started in the country’s Darfur region, with others fleeing the new wave of violence in recent years. 

Abou Ag Hamid  

Abou Ag Hamid makes tea at his home in the Mbera refugee camp in the Hodh Ech Chargui region of south-eastern Mauritania. © UNHCR/Colin Delfosse

Meet Abou Ag Hamid, a Mbera Fire Brigade Volunteer from Mali.  

Abou Ag Hamid makes tea at his home in the Mbera refugee camp in the Hodh Ech Chargui region of south-eastern Mauritania.  

As a member of the brigade, he helps extinguish bushfires, tends tree saplings in the camp nurseries and is involved in tree-planting campaigns.  


During a home visit to the refugee Ibrahim Yousef Al Smouei, who lives in village 03 at Azraq Camp, he explains the value of tea in his culture. © UNHCR/Mohammad Alyounes

Meet Ibrahim Yousef Al Smouei.  

Originally from Syria, Ibrahim lives in Azraq camp in Jordan.  

He explains the value of tea in his culture.  


Olena preparing tea in her room in Morges. © UNHCR/Anna-Tia Buss

Meet Olena.  

Standing in her room in Morges, Switzerland, Olena is preparing tea imported from Ukraine which reminds her of home.  

In 2014, Olena and her family sought refuge in Kyiv when Russian armed forces occupied Donetsk. Amid Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Olena was forced to flee again in the spring of 2022.  

Seeking safety, Olena and her daughter arrived in Switzerland in July 2022. Eager to resume her medical career, Olena is diligently learning the local language with the aim of swiftly reintegrating into the workforce.  

Share This