Having just moved into a new area, I found there were not many social activities for women and mothers in particular, in the weekdays. So I decided to start coffee mornings as a way to meet sisters and was advised on how to do so by my sister who was already running coffee mornings in Luton.
I have a two-bedroom flat and as the living room us small, I clear a few things from the larger bedroom in order to accommodate everyone with children, but sometimes the living room is sufficient.
I’ll always remember my first one, two sisters came and I was too shy to do the little reminder I prepared, and not at all sure it would take off. Alhumdulillah, within a few months, we were rotating between three homes, every other week!
HOW TO START
1. Get your husband’s support and if you live with in-laws think about whether it’s a sensible idea or not.
2. Choose a day and time that is convenient for you and will suit other sisters. Be realistic. The ‘original’ Luton Coffee mornings ran from 9.30-11.30, so mums could drop in on their way back from the school run, finishing in time to get home for lunch. This was too early for our mums! So we decided on 10.30- 12.30 on Wednesdays.
3. Decide on frequency. The Luton ones were in the same home once a month. Ours are every other week but as it’s in three homes, each sister is doing them once every 6 weeks.
4. Think of a few sisters you would like to invite, to start with it doesn’t matter if it’s small. As word gets out, the numbers will increase, insha Allah.
5. Encourage those sisters attending to inform you of any other sisters they know who would benefit from being invited, especially divorced sisters or reverts.
6. Make it clear that the coffee morning is a closed event and it is by invitation only. As it is in your home, you will want to know who is coming.
WHAT WE DO
1.Texting seems the best way to invite sisters. Emails don’t always get read in time and phoning is time consuming. A few days before the next coffee morning, the host sister sends out text messages, and rings anyone who only has a land line. I store all the numbers on my phone under ‘Coffee mornings group’ and the text is sent to all sisters in that group. For example, “Asalaamu alaikum. I would like to invite you to a coffee morning at 300 Milton Rd., Leyton E10. on Wednesday 16th Jan. from 10.30-12.30. Please confirm attendance asap.”
2. You can invite more sisters than you think will attend, as it is rare that everyone will make it. Try to invite sisters from a variety of backgrounds and ages, in particular those who could really do with the social interaction. Although we do not exclude anyone, we did decide that we would prioritise inviting local sisters, as the idea behind the coffee morning is to build a local social network.
3. If you know a sister who can do a short reminder for you, ask her, otherwise you can read something simple out of a book or internet article or have a discussion topic prepared. It’s not essential to have a reminder, but remembrance of Allah in some form is important as it prevents you wasting time or backbiting. Do keep it short though, as this is not a circle and you want to socialise.
4. Keep the food simple. Snacks, tea and biscuits or cake are sufficient. If you enjoy baking then go ahead, but out of a packet is fine! It’s important not to make food the centre of the coffee morning as it puts unnecessary pressure on the host and will put sisters off wanting to host as they may not think their culinary skills quite match Delia Smith or Martha Stewart!
ON THE DAY
Put away any ‘precious’ toys or anything that can become ‘messy’ as children won’t always be supervised. Give the sisters half an hour to arrive and settle. Do the reminder if you’re having one. Put the kettle on and get out the refreshments, use paper plates if you want, and as they say – chill and chat! As time goes on, other sisters may volunteer to host with you.
Generally it is better to cancel the coffee mornings during school holidays as it can become too much to handle with all the children. Having said that, the host sisters of our group felt it would be good for their kids if we kept going over the summer. So we actually ran it every week and it was a great success, masha Allah.
WHY DO IT?
1. Women need social interaction and a place to share ideas and support. Alhamdulillah, we’ve had discussions on breastfeeding, schooling, hijrah, sleeping problems with babies, toilet training, family relationships, behaviour problems in children and ideas on how to do da’wah. And of course, we’ve swapped some recipes too!
2. We need to build up our communities and get to know each other. We may see each other at talks or at the school gate and find it hard to initiate conversation; inviting a sister to a coffee morning is a good way to break the ice.
3. A coffee morning is an easy way to invite sisters to your house if you’re not able to invite them for a full meal for whatever reason.
4. Much good can come out of a coffee morning, A sister can leave with some much needed advice, a sister who hasn’t seen anyone all week can feel uplifted and people can form new friendships.
Umm Ibraheem wa Sulayman hosts a coffee morning in Leyton.