An evening with friends

On Friday, January 15, 2016 the „Welcome Dinner“ in the Italian Protestant Church Bethel took place for the second time. Together with the voluntary helpers from the Verein Kultur Rhein-Neckar, there was a dinner for the refugees currently living in the camp at the Messplatz in Ludwigshafen. Host and church member Maria Cicero emphasizes: „With this project we would like to enable people from different countries to meet and converse, but also to overcome inhibitions“. „My parents came to Germany from Italy in the seventies as „guest workers“. They also had to adapt to a new culture“, she adds. For example, Italians spend a long time eating; after all, it should be a pleasurable event, and not just fill you up. This was the idea behind the Welcome Dinners: Encouraging encounters between locals and refugees during dinner because food connects both cultures and generations.

The camps are often bursting at the seams; there is no sphere of privacy and life in the camps is dull. This is why it is important for the volunteers to create an intimate and peaceful atmosphere with the Welcome Dinner. A relaxed evening with friends: a room that is not crowded and where one doesn’t have to rush through dinner. The dinner should also help you meet individuals, and not a mass of people. This is why only 20 refugees are invited to each dinner; the volunteers pick them up at the Messplatz. When they entered the room for the first time and saw the table decked with candles, their eyes shone with pleasure. After the first course, a young Syrian refugee saw a music instrument. He picked up the guitar and sang traditional arabic songs – the others immediately joined in the singing, providing musical entertainment. Language barriers were crossed within a few minutes. „What counts is being together, a pleasant atmosphere, and forgetting the daily routine in the camp for a moment“, said another Syrian. „And you succeeded very well with the Welcome Dinner. Look at these faces – everybody is happy.“

Further dinners are being planned…