There are representatives of at least 80 countries living in Lublin! Some of them are here to study, some of theme came here to work, some escaped their countries in search for peace and stability. How much do we know about them? Do we often meet and learn about their cultures? Can they learn about ours?
We know for a fact that residents of Lublin don't get to meet with foreigners too often. We do tend to live in our small communities and unless there's a specific reason to reach out to others - such as work or university life - we are not eager to leave our comfort zones - says Anna Szadkowska-Ciężka from the Municipality of Lublin.
This is why creating opportunities for residents of Lublin to discover their diversity seems to be so important. In many cases, it is the only chance to openly discuss their cultures in a friendly, informal environment.
The Volunteers Centre Association (Stowarzyszenie Centrum Wolontariatu)*, non-government organization established in 1999, concentrates its activities around helping vulnerable groups of residents. Since its creation, around 20 thousands of persons took up a voluntary service through the Centre. There are two specific volunteers programmes devoted to the assistance to foreigners: "W drodze", helping refugees living in Lubelskie Region and "OMNES GENTES", gathering foreign volunteers who provide volunteer services themselves.
We have been searching for new ways of engaging migrants and members of the host community in activities. It is important for both sides, not only for the migrants! But the migrants themselves have so much to share and offer. Just like last week, when we prepared traditional Chechen halva with the members of refugees community. Not only it was a great experience, but also so much fun for all of us! We also made sure people in Lublin tasted the halva - I personally delivered it to institutions and organizations we work with on Monday - explains Natalia Ciołek from the Volunteers Centre.
Multicultural Cafés are organized every last Thursday of a month at the Integration Workshop at 17, Głęboka Street in Lublin. For a few hours, the Workshop becomes a place of meeting, exchanging and... tasting different cultures. So far, the residents of Lublin had a chance to meet representatives of Iran, Chechenya, Georgia and Armenia. This week it is going to be Lebanon.
*Volunteers Centre Association has been a member of the Municipality of Lublin's Integration Support Group since 2012 and is one of 5 NGOs in Lublin offering assistance to foreigners.