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    Host a Feast for Freedom this March and raise funds for refugees and asylum seekers

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    Love for the Stranger

    Growing up as the child of immigrants or refugees is never easy. This is especially so if your parents’ food and culture differ significantly from those around you, or when you consider how your grandparents had to flee a genocide. It is hard to feel like you belong or that you fit in when your hardworking parents are being exploited in factories or when you and your family are being othered in school and in community. 

    Kon Karapanagiotidis experienced all of this as a young person and it ignited in him a desire to never let anyone in his path suffer the same if he could help it. There is a Greek proverb he says, “love for the stranger”. 

    The Greek word philoxenia translates to having a ‘love of strangers’. It is underlined by the idea that our lives get bigger and better and that our hearts exponentially expand when we do so. “It’s like that saying. Don’t build higher walls. Build a longer table,” he adds.

    Kon’s passion for social justice and universal human rights eventually led him and a small team of students to start the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) in 2001. It started as a small community-funded food bank in Footscray, providing food and basic assistance to asylum seekers living in the local community. 

    Fast-forward 22 years, and it is now the largest independent human rights organisation in Australia. It has since supported and empowered over 12,000 people seeking refuge and asylum in the last 15 years.

    Despite all the pain, suffering and injustice that he has witnessed over his many years of working with refugees and asylum seekers, Kon firmly believes that “there is a lot of kindness out there” and that people do want to make a difference. “You can despair at the world,” he says, or you can “roll up your sleeves and take action”.

    Feast For Freedom 

    The Feast for Freedom is an ASRC initiative that raises money for food, shelter and health services for people seeking asylum in Australia. Perhaps more importantly, it also celebrates the stories and the foods of immigrants and refugees. 

    Every year a couple of Hero Chefs, with the support of the ASRC, give of their time and energy to put together a host kit full of recipes and other bits and pieces to assist in hosting a meal. Anyone can sign up to host at home, at work, or in their community. 

    In planning and designing the Feast for Freedom, it was very important to both Kon and his team that it is done responsibly and respectfully. He stresses that it has to be done in a way that is ethical, trauma-informed, sustainable, accessible and that it is not exploitative. “The intention,” he emphasises, is to underscore the “equity in lived experience”.

    As Kon recounts past Feasts, he shares that watching the Hero Chefs being celebrated and their stories being embraced was incredibly moving. What encourages him is seeing people on low incomes hosting feasts. He is also encouraged by the kinds of conversations that are started at these tables as unfamiliar foods are passed around and people’s mindsets are challenged. 

    The breaking of bread together, he hopes, is the start of a longer conversation – one that will take us to a place where difference does not divide, but instead unites us in a celebration of diverse lived experiences. 

    Details:
    Monday 18 – Sun 24 March is Feast Week,
    Registrations from 1 Feb
    All Feasts to finish by 30 April
    More details on how to get involved:
    Website: https://feastforfreedom.org.au/cms/home
    Insta: @feast_for_freedom

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