With the right support, refugees can make extraordinary contributions and become outstanding members of society. You can be part of making this happen by connecting with and welcoming refugees.
The stories that I have heard from refugees through the Welcome Dinner Project have really moved me. You can’t un-hear these stories. It makes you stop and think how lucky we are here in Australia.
The Welcome Dinner Project uses the act of sharing food to unite newly arrived refugees and migrants with other Australians. Everyone brings a dish and we share an evening of storytelling and eating. It is a great opportunity for refugees that feel isolated in their community to form friendships and make connections.
The outcome of The Welcome Dinner Project is simple but powerful—people become connected. It arose after the founder heard from refugees, who had been in Australia for years, that they had never been invited to an Australian home. At the same time, Australians were asking her how they could connect with refugees. She thought ‘What better way to bring people together than through food?’.
It is a beautiful thing to see people experiencing each other’s traditional dishes and it is incredibly rewarding to see the smiles on people’s faces at the end of the dinner. When we ask them to describe in one word how they feel, they say things like, “happy”, “joyful” and “connected”.
The rewarding thing for me is hearing from newly arrived people that they feel more confident now. Once they have ‘broken the ice’ they feel that they can talk to people out in their community.
When you take the time to get to know people, you start thinking beyond the label of refugee. Being involved in this project has made me more passionate and determined to help refugees to feel welcome and to challenge other people to do the same.
I am always recruiting people for the project because it is so easy to get involved in. It requires nothing more than bringing a dish, an open heart and an open mind. It is a simple act of welcoming that any Australian can get involved in.
I see incredible potential and a very positive future for refugees in Australia. I know a number of refugees who are engineers, doctors and tradespeople, and they just want a good, peaceful life and to earn a living like everyone else. Refugees have a lot to offer in terms of skills, culture and cuisines. More refugees mean more wonderful contributions to Australian society.
Like Anita, you can help new arrivals by attending or hosting a Welcome Dinner.