That was so sad and surely something could be done about it. I talked it over with Lou, the Neighbourhood House co-ordinator, and so the Multi-cultural Program was born.
The plan was for a monthly two-hour cooking class followed by lunch and a talk with a different country featuring each month. Our initial program included Italy, Japan, the Philippines, Bali, Russia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, France and China. As we outlined the course, much interest was shown. “But where are these people coming from?” we were asked. No one could believe it when we said, “Every one of these leaders lives in Tallangatta.”
The cooking class, including lunch, was $25. Lou talked over the proposed menu with the leader and went off with a list of ingredients to buy. Other than the free use of the room and adjoining kitchen, the course paid for itself.
The limited number of places were snapped up. The leader showed how to prepare the chosen dishes and the class went to work, slicing and dicing, stirring ʹand straining. Everyone was absolutely enjoying themselves and the leader was beaming.
After two hours, lunch was ready. There was always plenty of food and leftovers were often on offer.
After lunch, Lou put up a map of the country of the month followed by photos of the countryside, the family, wedding photos – anything at all that the leader had been able to find. The leader, often in national dress, would explain the photos and add comments. Some leaders had perfect English, others less so, but that didn’t matter. Finally each guest was given a piece of paper with Hello and Thank you in the language of the day with the leader showing us the correct pronunciation.
Don interviewed the leader before the big day and then wrote it up for the local paper along with photos and comments on the class and lunch.
We found enough leaders for 2018 and 2019. People were clamouring for more but there are only a certain number of nationalities to be found in a town of 1000 people. We had covered Scotland, Austria, India, the Czech Republic, Somalia and more. “Never mind.” they said, “Give them another turn with different food.” I have never known such a popular program.
However Lou went into Albury to work, then Covid came along.
But the real outcomes were local people coming to know these ‘others’, maybe even having a try at saying Hello in their language, and these ‘others’ finding new friends. As far as Fumiko from Japan goes, she is teaching the piano to the son of Ifah from Malaysia, working at the hospital with Sasika from Sri Lanka, teaching the piano at the Secondary College and best friends with Madeʹ from Bali, who lives just around the corner!