JAG volunteers with Sisters of Saint Joseph

When your intent is friendship, the humble Aussie sausage will suffice…

Sisters of Saint Joseph and JAG with newly arrived refugee families at the Royal National Park

Recently our young JAG (Josephite Action Group) volunteers had a feast with a group of newly arrived refugee families. We were offered different types of Kibbu, Tabouli, Kouba, salad options, homemade Turkish delight, sesame bars made from a grandmother’s secret recipe, homemade baklava, dulma and biryani chicken rice. It was magnificent and more delicious because it was made with love. Such a feast put our Aussie sausage BBQ to shame – but our offering during our time together at the Royal National Park (South of Sydney, New South Wales) was an offering made in friendship and love also.

Many newly arrived refugee families from Iraq have daughters attending Mary MacKillop College at Wakeley. Over time it had become apparent that many of these newly arrived refugee families feel isolated. Our young JAG volunteers resolved to host our new friends to a weekend away at the Royal National Park. This would be an opportunity to deepen our acquaintance, learn from each other and share stories, meals, games and culture.

At Lizard Log Park

We went bushwalking, we played games, we sang and danced, we went rock climbing, catapulting, billy cart driving and exploring. Outside experts offered educational opportunities to the adults for work potential. It was a cultural exchange opening our eyes to the difficulties faced by war- traumatized people arriving in Australia. All our new friends have left everything to make a new life – one that is safe for their children. Many have been forced to abandon their professional, successful careers to start afresh in Australia. It is remarkable for people to have given up so much and yet elect to be hopeful and optimistic about their futures.

The JAG volunteers used the weekend as an opportunity to nurture friendships with our new Australians and devise a way forward working with these families to create more opportunities for them in their new country, Australia. As Aussie tradition would dictate, our meal offerings consisted of sausages and meat BBQ, tomato sauce, salad and bread. All eagerly consumed by both volunteers and families. The weekend was a huge success with a resolution made to reunite for an Iraqi picnic.

Two weeks later and it was our Iraqi families’ time to host us at Lizard Log Park at Chipping Norton, New South Wales. Their food offerings were slightly more elaborate than a sausage on a roll and enthusiastically consumed by all JAG volunteers. We took up three lots of two-metre tables covered in the traditional Iraqi food listed above. The picnic was a huge success.

Delicious Iraqi food at Lizard Log Park

It is said that sharing a meal is an important act for community development. Jesus chose to share a supper with his best friends before leaving them. In that breaking of bread, that sharing, we come together as one community willing to learn from each other, laugh with each other and help each other. The Spirit was with Jesus as he broke bread. The Spirit was with us as we forged new friendships with our Iraqi families. And yes, their meal offerings were slightly more elaborate than a sausage roll, but both offerings were equivalent when the motive was love and lasting friendship.

A special thanks must go to Mary MacKillop Today for the grant provided in order to begin this life-long project of friendship

Karen Oxley
Volunteers Co-ordinator
Josephite Justice Network