Posted by Lucille Davies (Kingston)
We have four Rotary Clubs in Kingston, Ontario – Cataraqui-Kingston, Frontenac, Kingston, and Kingston-Waterfront – covering all three meal times of the day, plus the cocktail hour. Our oldest club, RC Kingston, was chartered in April, 1921, and this year we begin a 4-Club joint celebration of ‘100 Years of Rotary in Kingston’!
While we are very proud of our beautiful city, sitting on Lake Ontario, with our historical sites and trendy boutiques, we are most appreciative of our people. Kingstonians come from all corners of the world, tastily reflected in the multicultural cuisine of our many restaurants. So, one of our dozen or so Centennial Projects has to be a celebration of our local population, in particular, our newest Kingstonians.
Our inter-club centennial committee ‘Supporting New Comers’ is partnering with KEYS, a community-based centre offering employment services for immigrants and refugees. One of the needs of these new comers is to reduce isolation; families are often consumed with learning a new language, new systems, and new schools. We decided to organize a monthly social event where everyone can meet others from their home country or other countries, share common stories and experiences.
So this is what we decided to do: We rented a big hall for the evening. We invited everyone via social media, and through KEYS contacts. The event is free; we asked people to bring a potluck dish if possible. We chose a name and date that are easy to remember: ‘Food, Friends and Family Fun Night!’ on the Third Thursday of each month.
Each Fun Night has a theme and a children’s activity to highlight one of our many cultures. Our inaugural event in January celebrated Chinese New Year, with Queen’s Rotaractors running an origami craft table, and a chopsticks skills competition. We anticipated about twenty guests, but hoped for more. At 5 pm, people began to arrive, and continued to arrive - families of young and old, bearing dishes of fragrant rice and pasta, delicate cakes and preserves. By final count, we had almost seventy people! They came from many countries including Syria, Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and more. It was a mini United Nations! There were a lot of introductions, and translations, and giggling laughter. The children, a little shy at the start, were soon arm in arm, happily chatting with new friends. As we say in Rotary, we all smile in the same language.
Clearly this event was helping to meet the identified need. As many of the families were leaving, they thanked us and said that they will be back next month, on the third Thursday. That will be in February when we will be celebrating ‘Black History in Canada’. We have invited a group of new comers from Africa to join us, and for a children’s activity, we are planning to make colourful bead bracelets. We will also be bringing in some African music to get everyone movin’ and groovin’. I can hardly wait!
(Committee Rotarian members: Laura Carter, Trevor Dagilis, Lucille Davies, Howard Lee, Ana Sutherland)