A few days after the inauguration of President Trump, the Ku Klux Klan plastered flyers in downtown Augusta, Maine, and specifically targeted the Iraqi refugee community by taping flyers to an Iraqi-owned business.
As a person who was stateless and once a refugee, I can relate to the struggle that comes with integrating in a predominately white space. Growing up, I was connected to my Palestinian roots through food, and I often share my culture with friends over a meal. Breaking bread together allows for a shared experience across cultures and language barriers.
That’s why I co-founded World to Table. We believe that the responsibility of integration should not be placed on refugees alone: we believe that both the host and refugee community must come to the table.
World to Table brings together the Augusta host and refugee community to help facilitate meaningful interactions, with food as the centerpiece. We organize community pop-up dinners where up to 70 guests from various backgrounds dine together in public spaces, local cooks from different cultures present their food, and guests mingle with people they do not know.
The project also works with community members and the city government to research local needs and develop a unified vision for refugee integration in Augusta. World to Table has assisted local service providers, like the fire department and hospital, in navigating language and cultural barriers, and other challenges that arise when interacting with the local refugee population.
The goal of my GATHER Fellowship project is to build understanding, respect, and appreciation.
“My community-through-food concept is rooted in the idea that when people from different cultural backgrounds meet, food is a common language. Sharing a meal is not only nourishment, but an act of inclusion.”