Home' The Southern Cross : June 2014 Contents Page 10 June 2014
The simple act of inviting asylum seekers
and refugees to share a meal is breaking
down barriers and creating a ripple effect
of solidarity and friendship that extends
well beyond the dining table.
“It was wonderful,” said Mercy nun Sister
Catherine Seward, of the first ‘welcome
dinner’ to be held in South Australia.
She said refugees and asylum seekers
were given the opportunity to open up and
share their culture, food and stories in a
safe and easy-going gathering.
Sr Catherine attended the dinner on March
21 with refugee Feliste Hakizimana, a
mother of three from Burundi.
Sierra Leone refugee Alfred Kamara said
it was his best experience since arriving in
Australia in 2011. “It was quite fantastic.”
He and his young family have since shared
a meal with one of the Australian families
they met at the March welcome dinner.
“After the dinner we are in contact with
each other and we were extended an
invitation by the family to join them for
Easter dinner,” said Alfred.
Dinner host Adam Whitefield said public
conversation of asylum seekers could
be negative and insular; however the
dinner was a new way of creating positive
experiences and discussion.
Mr Whitefield, regional consultant for the
Christian Brothers Oceania Province,
hosted more than 30 adults and children
representing seven nationalities at the first
Welcome Dinner Project meal held in SA.
The Adelaide-based consultant co-
ordinates the ‘Build the Bridge’ volunteer
program which is led by young adults
involved in a social inclusion project for
young asylum seekers and refugees. The
Build the Bridge volunteers chose to be
involved in the Welcome Dinner Project,
leading to Mr Whitefield's contribution.
The dinner was held at his in-law’s
Athelstone home and each guest was
asked to bring a cultural dish to share.
Mr Whitefield said guests exchanged
names and shared the word ‘welcome’ in
their mother tongue. Dinner guests were
born in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Burundi,
Sierra Leone, Ireland and Papua New
The Welcome Dinner Project is run by
Sydney non-profit organisation Joining
the Dots. Dinners have been held in New
South Wales, Victoria and now SA. World
Vision and Welcome Australia hold a
similar initiative called Welcome to My
Place. They are encouraging community
groups and churches to host a welcome
dinner during Refugee Week, June 15-21.
For more information visit
| living catholic
The Southern Cross continues its Living Catholic page which features articles and photographs highlighting the many good works that often go unnoticed but
make a big difference to people’s lives and to the community in general. Parishes are invited to submit suggestions for stories that demonstrate in a
practical sense Living Catholic. Please send an email to email@example.com.
Catholic teacher and parishioner Hong
Nguyen has spent 29 years teaching
thousands of children the art of her
That experience – coupled with her love
of homeland Vietnam, her parents and her
faith – has led to the recent publication of
a poetry book of 78 verses.
“I wanted to talk to youth about my
faith,” says Mrs Nguyen, the Vietnamese
language teacher at Our Lady of the
Sacred Heart College since 2006.
“I wanted to send a message to youth to
believe in God; to find joy in what they do;
to open their hearts to give love to others
and to give their best effort in their work,”
A parishioner of the Vietnamese Catholic
Community in Pooraka, Mrs Nguyen says
her faith is fundamental to her work and
her everyday life. “I would like to thank
God for all the gifts I’ve been given,” she
Mrs Nguyen’s poetry book Mai Mai La
Tin Yeu / Forever Faith and Love was
launched at OLSH, in Enfield, on April
26 in the presence of Mgr Paul Minh-
Tam Nguyen, chaplain of the Vietnamese
Catholic Community in SA; Mr Hieu
Van Le AM, Lieutenant Governor and
Chairman of the Multicultural and Ethnic
Affairs Commission in SA and the
Honourable Tung Ngo, Member of the
Legislative Council in SA.
The poetry is written in Vietnamese and is
the culmination of almost three decades
of living and teaching in Australia as a
Three months after migrating to Australia
in 1985, Mrs Nguyen began teaching
Vietnamese at St Mary's Vietnamese
Ethnic School. She has taught Vietnamese
at Dac-Lo Vietnamese Ethnic School,
which is run by the Vietnamese Catholic
Community in South Australia, since
2005. She is currently the curriculum co-
ordinator of the language school and also
taught at Mt Carmel College for 17 years
before teaching at OLSH.
“I have thought about my 29 years living
in Australia and the opportunities I have
had to enjoy and share with such a caring
community,” she says.
“It has been a pleasure to teach the
Vietnamese language to younger
generations and to contribute to the
She says teaching Vietnamese to second
generation youth was imperative for the
maintenance of tradition and culture.
“I want our Vietnamese youth to
understand it is a very rich language,” she
Poet’s simple messages of faith
FRIENDLY DINING EXPERIENCE: Guests enjoy the first ‘welcome dinner’ held in
Adelaide, and right, Sr Catherine Seward and Burundi refugee Feliste Hakizimana
who hope to be involved in other activities.
Dinner dishes up camaraderie
BOOK LAUNCH: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Vietnamese language teacher Hong
Nguyen at the launch of her poetry book Mai Mai La Tin Yeu / Forever Faith and
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