Community Welcome Dinner in Bentley (Perth) – Sunday 3rd April

Guest blog by Liz Dare

2016-05 newsletter Bentley dinner photo

As people from all walks of life walked through the door of my first Welcome Dinner at the Bentley Community Centre on Sunday evening, I was feeling a little nervous, as I’m sure most attendees were. As a facilitator, I knew that everyone coming along to their first Welcome Dinner knew less than I did about what was going to happen that evening, making me feel incredibly grateful for the courage within each and every person who made the effort to be there. To walk through a new door takes strength and courage to overcome vulnerability, much like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. Yet, the safe space created at a Welcome Dinner invites an openness seldom experienced when meeting new people. Based on the premise that we don’t ask people about how they came to Australia or what they do for work (although we can listen if they volunteer the information), I was intrigued as I observed people diverge from the normal patterns of conversation and talk about their passions.

A myriad of subjects emerged – the local gardening project, their sporting interests, fishing, drumming, house renovations, their family …. to name just a few. And then of course, there was lots of talk about everyone’s favourite subject at a Welcome Dinner – food … and then some more about the food.

It never ceases to amaze me how food brings people together. On our table we had dips, chicken curry, home made mini meat pies & sauce, salad, quiche and chocolates – something for everyone, and a story that went with each; some cultural, some “busy life, had to buy”, others dietary restricted, family recipes and adapted recipes. As we ate, the comfort in the room could be seen as people enjoyed the food and connected – there was laughing, listening, sharing and some who quietly sat back and watched.

At the end of the evening, we all shared one word that described how we felt after the meal. Responses included grateful, talkative, connected, open, full, inspired, and lots of happy’s. Those who quietly watched most of the evening explained they simply loved the feeling of being in the same room with others sharing food – and who doesn’t? Connection is key. The message was clear …Welcome Dinners create a safe space that encourages people to connect, a space where butterflies are encouraged to break free of their chrysalis and touch wings with others in a new garden.

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