Bendigo Welcomes the Welcome Dinner Project
Throughout 2015 we saw some registrations come through from Bendigo, Victoria and a few people ask us when the project was going to launch there. Whilst we would love to launch the project in all regional areas where newly arrived people live or settle, our resources just don’t stretch that far at the moment! But a few things aligned in early December which saw Penny Elsley in Melbourne and joiningthedots partner with Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services (LCMS) to launch The Welcome Dinner Project in Bendigo!
18 intrepid facilitators, with an amazingly large Phillipino-Australian contingent lead by the amazing Cora from LCMS, spent the day learning about the project from founder Penny Elsley and Victorian Coordinator Meagan Williams. They practiced their facilitation skills over lunch, did role plays and discussed the finer details of a Welcome Dinner. It was awesome to see such a great turn-out in a regional area, with many commenting that part of their motivation is to counteract some of the negative media and narratives around Bendigo recently.
We didn’t have long after the training to get the room ready for our community dinner! With the help of five new facilitators, we got the table set and quickly started welcoming families and friends into the St Andrew’s Uniting Church room. With food from the Philipines, Afghanistan, Bangadesh and Australia, we couldnt wait to eat! We started with an ice-breaker game called ‘Anyone who’ which proved to be an excellent way to descent into hysterical giggling! This was mainly thanks to a gorgeous 5-year old boy who decided to bring some toilet humour into the equation, proving that toilet humour is universally funny in an awkward way!
At one point we were joined by some hungry gardeners working hard on the church gardens, showing just how welcoming the dinner was! We loved meeting each other and having such a friendly and youthful energy in the room. Bendigo proved to be an amazingly diverse and welcoming experience for us. We loved being there and thank all the facilitators for coming, helping out and LCMS for organising it all. We look forward to supporting them to successfully embed The Welcome Dinner Project in Bendigo in 2016! Also, a big thanks to St Andrews Uniting Church for hosting us for the day.