Community Welcome Lunch for new arrivals

The Geelong community has shown its support for newly settled refugees at a free public welcome event.

The ‘Community Welcome Lunch’, organised and hosted by the Western Heights Uniting Church in partnership with Diversitat, drew a crowd of 90 people on Saturday 22 July. 35 attendees were newly arrived migrants from the Karen, Karenni and Iraqi communities – many of who who had endured trauma, loss and violence in their long journey to settle in Australia. They were all warmly welcomed by the congregation who wished to show their support for and meet with the newest members of the Geelong community.

The colourful affair was complete with welcome signs in different languages and food from diverse ethnic backgrounds. The sharing of lunch by all opened up conversation and an exchange of life stories between newly arrived clients and established members of the Geelong community. There was also much discussion about the different food provided which reflected the diversity of cultures present on the day.

Volunteer organiser Paula Hurley said, “Sharing a meal and a conversation or a smile is a simple, human common way to make a connection and it can go a long way.”

Ms Hurley said food and weather were popular topics of conversation but the children skipped straight to playing. Children interacted effortlessly with each other playing soccer, billiards, table tennis and UNO, and language barriers seemed inconsequential to the building of new friendships.

The day ended with a special performance by the Newman choir and an impromptu performance by Karenni clients. All participants were also given the opportunity to provide feedback about how they felt at the end of the lunch by writing a word or drawing a picture on a large jigsaw puzzle which symbolised that we are all part of a large puzzle and connected to each other.

Diversitat would like to extend their heartfelt thanks to all members of the Western Heights Uniting Church Herne Hill who were part of the planning and running of what was a very successful event. Special thanks go to Paula Hurley, Joan Walker, Bruce and Heather Rookes, who were instrumental organising the event.

Article and photos courtesy of The Geelong Advertiser