This Campaign Brings Refugees And Non-Refugees Together With Dinner Parties

"Talking with people from here that care about you makes you regain confidence."

The ongoing refugee crisis means people from all over the world are settling in countries that are not their own in order to safely escape violence, persecution, conflict, and more.

Since relocating to an entirely new country with few resources, a possible language barrier, and no familiar faces is an incredibly harrowing task, a campaign called Refugees Welcome aims to ease that transition by hosting dinners for refugees and non-refugees alike, with the goal of  breaking bread and breaking barriers.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, nearly 66 million people were displaced worldwide in 2016, and that year the number of refugees reached an all-time high of 22.5 million people, over half of whom are under the age of 18. 

Per the Refugees Welcome website, dinners can be hosted by individuals, businesses, and even community groups. Thus far the campaign has helped people host dozens of dinners for thousands around the world, and these gatherings have led to countless meaningful connections. For example, a Yemeni youth activist won a scholarship in New York City through connections he made at a Refugees Welcome dinner. In another instance, an asylum seeker met a creative marketer, and they are now working together to launch a pop-up restaurant.

Furthermore, as you can see from the ATTN: video above, the meals provide refugees with an all-important sense on belonging. "People there was so kind. These kinds of events make you feel like part of the society," Venezuelan refugee Niurka Melendez explained. "Talking with people from here that care about you makes you regain confidence."

And despite the current administration's anti-immigrant policies, research has shown integrating refugees into society is beneficial in a myriad of ways. As Afghan diplomat Ahmad Naveed Noormal and conflict resolutions scholar Karina Y. Valenzuela pointed out in a piece for HuffPost, making immigrant and refugee populations feel included via open discussions and projects means they are less likely to be in a vulnerable place where they might be recruited by a terrorist group. Conversely, the pair noted that one of the main reasons immigrant youths are vulnerable to recruitment by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is they're not fully absorbed as citizens in their host countries.

Among those who have embraced this school of thought is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has long advocated for maintaining good relationships with immigrant communities, especially as part of an effective counter-terrorism strategy. "The NYPD believes deeply in building close relationships with every community," he said in November, adding that there are 900 Muslim officers in the NYPD who protect all New Yorkers and visitors to the city regardless of religion, race, or anything else. "Because we're deep into communities, we get the flow of information."

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