An Honour to Meet Australian People

When me and my family came to Australia in 2007, we felt like strangers who couldn’t express themselves. Back then we really needed a program that would give us a chance to feel less embarrassed, less alien. If WDP existed back then, life would have been so much easier for us!

I met Penny Elsley and heard her idea about The Welcome Dinner Project in 2013 at STARTTS, where I facilitated at a time. The same year I decided to host a Welcome Dinner at my home in Fairfield. Apparently I was one of the first newly arrived Welcome Dinner facilitators to host a Welcome Dinner at home! To be honest, it was an honour to host Australian people in our home. Everyone was so excited! Everyone liked food and I think it definitely helped to bring people together. I will never forget this amazing experience. Since then I have been a huge supporter of the Welcome Dinner Project.

Last truly fantastic Community Welcome Dinner I was involved with was held in March 2016 in Sydney at Fairfield Primary School. It was a partnership with St Vincent De Paul Society’s SPARK Program, and Fairfield Public School.

The entire group of families, children, partners, and everyone else, all got up at the end of the Dinner to dance in a huge circle around the room, singing and laughing together, in honor of a Middle Eastern tradition called ‘Yabke’, to celebrate the joy everyone felt at the end of the Dinner. Twenty of the younger attendees were invited onto the stage after the dancing, eating and fun, to share with everyone how they felt after the Dinner. Every single one of them answered with the same word, ‘Happy’.

The meals were amazingly delicious and incredibly diverse, from Fijian dishes, to spicy Iraqi and Iranian dishes, to classic Australian favorites, all which were spread across the tables for everyone to enjoy.

The Welcome Dinner Project is an easy, safe, cheap and practical way for people to become more connected and welcome each other.

Maisoon Yalda

WDP host & facilitator

based in Sydney, New South Wales

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