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Magic at the lunch table

02 Apr 2019

Magic at the lunch table Image

The biggest Easter lunch in Docklands will likely be the Docklands Community Welcome Lunch at the library.

The Welcome Dinner Project will be hosting an event for international students, holding to its philosophy of connecting immigrants with locals over shared food.

Docklands’ significant population of international students should make for a big event.

“The point is for international students to connect with local Australians over a shared meal – in someone’s home or in a trusted community space like a library, town hall, or community centre,” said student pilot project manager James Seow.

“Everyone brings a dish that tells story about their life, family or culture, to share with everyone in the group.”

“Magic happens at the dinner table. When we eat together, when we share a meal, somehow, we are more receptive to the exchange of ideas, opinions, perspectives, life experiences and so on.”

Mr Seow said the international student program started last August, joining the project’s existing streams: skilled migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

His first welcome dinner was three years ago.

“The guests came from all over the world and at the end of the dinner I felt very encouraged, because there is a global climate of alienation and division between people of different cultures.”

“They welcome strangers into their own homes, everyone brings a dish that tells a story to share with the entire group.”

Prompted by the event description to bring something from his culture, Mr Seow brought sago pudding.

“I’m from Singapore, I’m three quarters Chinese and one quarter Peranakan,” he said. “It’s a culture that’s indigenous to Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.”

The project’s events are professionally facilitated by trained volunteers.

A Bolivian volunteer, Cecilia Rios Teran, said the project helped bring her out of the often-isolated life of an international student.

“It’s true, we’re always with other international students. I would go from class to my room to class to my room and so on,” she said.

“I wasn’t as confident talking with Australians as with other international students.”

Ms Teran saw the Welcome Dinner Project on Facebook. During a phone conversation with Mr Seow, she was asked to cook something from her culture for her first event. She brought a dish with quinoa.

Since then, she’s established an array of networks, connections and friendships.

The lunch at the Library at the Dock is from 12-2.30pm on Saturday April 27.

Book here: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/docklands-community-welcome-lunch-tickets-54963462195

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