An invitation to someone’s home for dinner is a welcoming gesture but for many migrants and international students the offer to visit an Australian residents’ home was rarely extended, until the Welcome Dinner Project came along.
The Welcome Dinner Project, a major initiative of joiningthedots, has established a program whereby migrants and international students are invited into local people’s homes to share a meal.
The “pot luck” style meal involves the surprise element of each guest bringing their own plate, making it a great way to learn about food from other cultures. Each participant brings a dish to share and discuss. The food also acts as an “ice-breaker” or talking point with the evening beginning with each person saying what the dish is called, its origins and the occasions where it is served.
The “pot luck” menu makes hosting a dinner easier for the host. Facilitators are employed to take care of the logistics from the invitations and social aspects of the dinner.
Welcome Dinners are usually attended by about 18 guests from countries including Afghanistan, India, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal, France and recent refugees. No specific migrant group is targeted to invite – the idea is to welcome all to promote diversity and make everyone feel welcome.
The Welcome Dinners do more than just serve a meal. The dinners provide a culture of welcoming people and establishing networks and community connections. Through the dinners the guests get to know people in their communities, ongoing friendships are formed and guests become involved with other community groups and activities. One former guest so enjoyed the experience he encouraged the women to join a cricket team.
International students from the University of Tasmania are also enjoying the Welcome Dinner Project. Despite being enrolled on campus, many international students had reported never being invited to visit an Australian person’s home during the entire time they were studying in Tasmania. Now, Welcome Dinners are providing the intimate experience of sharing a meal in someone’s home.
The Welcome Dinner Program is a national project with about one dinner per month being held in Hobart and Launceston.
Jointhedots also hosts community dinners in school and community halls. The community dinners are attended by about 80-90 guests.