On Saturday, 20 March, social enterprise café Hope on Boundary partnered with the Romero Centre to celebrate Harmony Week with a pop-up dinner.

The dinner, served in two sold-out sittings, was prepared by chefs Maryam, Rashid, and Rana, who hail from Lebanon, Iran, and Bangladesh. All money raised will go directly to the Romero Centre to help support Brisbane’s refugee community.

Steven, one of the guests said that while he knows the staff at Hope on Boundary cafe, and attends their pasta nights, this was the first time he had heard of Romero Centre and their work.

“The focus of the social enterprise where they have different cooks to come in and cook different foods is amazing,” he said.

The food looked and smelled wonderful and received the thumbs up from the happy diners.

Mengistu Hailu, a Case Co-Ordinator at Romero Centre, said that as well as providing wonderful food, the purpose of the event was to raise awareness in the community about people seeking asylum in Australia.

“We need to make more people aware of their situation. I think this is a great opportunity to come together to discuss, and to know what’s happening in our country.”

Mengistu Hailu

Romero Centre is supporting refugees recently released from detention in Kangaroo Point as well as many others. Mr Hailu said they have about 1000 people on their books with a range of different support needs. Clients include children, mothers, single mothers, single fathers, and men living alone. The Centre provides access to accommodation, food vouchers, pantry items, and employment assistance.

Mr Hailu said that the Saturday evening dinner also serves to foster an understanding in the community that refugees have a range of skills.

One of the past challenges, he said, has been that employers do not always trust asylum seekers because they lack a local employment history.

Mr Hailu said it is important for people to value their own skills and they can do that by giving back to the community.

Richard Langford, Head of Communications at Romero Centre, agreed that employment is a significant issue for refugees.

“At the Romero Centre, we’re developing partnerships with different businesses, but unfortunately, some people don’t actually have work rights, so even if they are keen, they don’t have the right to work,” Mr Langford said.

“I think that policy has to change, especially at the moment because of COVID and there’s a demand for labour.”

Mr Langford said the Centre is seeking support from the community for accommodation.

“People can host somebody in their home for a period, which is absolutely wonderful.”

Richard Langford standing at back

Romero runs several inclusion programs, including a men’s shed, sewing classes, art classes, and now cooking classes. Mr Langford said events such as the dinner also provide people seeking asylum with a way to connect.

“A lot of people that we see are quite isolated. When they come here, they are often living by themselves or with their families and don’t know anyone, so this forms part of an inclusion program as well.”

The people Romero supports are often destitute.

“We see people who receive absolutely no government support, have no income, are homeless or at risk of homelessness – these are the poor of the poor,” Mr Langford said.

He thanked Micah and Hope on Boundary for assisting with the cooking and providing the café for the event.

“We have got a wonderful partnership with Hope on Boundary. Tonight is a special night for us to be able to be here in the community and share not only the joys of cooking but also the wonderful work that the Romero Centre does.”

Romero and Micah hope that Saturday’s Harmony Week get-together will be the start of more regular community dinners.

Romero and Hope on Boundary also partner every Tuesday evening, providing hot meals and delivering them to refugees living in the community.

If you want to assist Romero as a volunteer, a host, or a donor, see HERE.

The indefatigable Annette Gillespie of Micah serving tables