There are refugees living among you, even if you haven't met them. They have fled their homes, traveled to a country where they have few possessions, may not speak the language, and may not feel welcome. If that doesn't sit right with you — if you want refugees to know that they're welcome in this country and do it in a very personal way — then try having a meal with them.
Refugees Welcome is here to help you with that project. It's a "dinner project where refugees and non-refugees break bread and break barriers." The website offers the tools to help anyone — organizations, businesses, individuals and groups of friends — host a dinner for refugees.
Refugees Welcome doesn't hook you up with the refugees; the organization encourages you to work with local resettlement agencies and nonprofits that can connect you with refugees in your area. It does, however, have tips for hosting and downloadable graphics you can use to spread the word about your dinner.
Some of the suggestions are a bit pricy like hiring a caterer and a professional photographer, and I suppose if you're a large organization hosting a large dinner, those ideas may be appropriate. But, if you're hosting a dinner in your home, there's no need to be that elaborate. The most important tips are to be aware of cultural and religious holidays as well as the dietary restrictions of your guests.
NPR wrote about the Refugees Welcome dinner parties, saying that more than 30 of them have been held in the United States so far, and the idea is spreading globally. These dinners sometimes lead to connections, giving refugees leads on jobs and educational opportunities. And, just as importantly, they make the refugees feel as if they're not alone.
Before any of this can happen, though, hosts need to step up. To find an organization that can connect you, you can search for a local resettlement agency online, or go to one of these websites. These are only a few of the many organizations that are helping refugees here in the U.S.:
- Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
- HIAS, an organization guided by Jewish values and history
- International Rescue Committee, a global organization