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Immigrant Support Group potluck in Coldbrook welcomes newcomers, builds community

Plamen Petkov, Vladi Vladimirova, Alex Petkov, Kristina Petkova and Maria Petkova were among several families on hand for the potluck dinner organized by the Immigrant Support Group.
Plamen Petkov, Vladi Vladimirova, Alex Petkov, Kristina Petkova and Maria Petkova were among several families on hand for the potluck dinner organized by the Immigrant Support Group. - Kirk Starratt

COLDBROOK, NS - International potluck dinners and other events hosted by the Immigrant Support Group are about building inclusion and a sense of community.

The Immigrant Support Group hosted an international potluck dinner at PeopleWorx in Coldbrook on April 7. Chairman Plamen Petkov said the committee used to be under the umbrella of the Kings Regional Development Agency, which no longer exists. He said they had a budget and a wider mandate when they first started but they wanted to continue with initiatives to welcome newcomers after the RDA disbanded.

Petkov, who is an immigration lawyer and partner at Taylor MacLellan Cochrane in Kentville, said moving to a new country and becoming immersed and integrated in a new culture and community can be a challenging experience.

“Just talking to people that are here that have come and they speak the language, even for them it’s not that easy but I can’t imagine for somebody that doesn’t speak the language and doesn’t know anybody, it would be daunting,” Petkov said.

He said sharing a meal is always a nice way to introduce someone to your culture and to form community. He thinks it’s great to see so many diverse people enjoying the food and getting along so well together.

Annapolis Valley Works Centre manager and committee member Vickie Petrie said the Immigrant Support Group is made up of five active volunteers. They feel that it’s important to make people feel welcomed to the community and a potluck doesn’t cost anything to hold except for the food that you bring.

She said the annual potlucks are family events that are open to the entire community. If only new immigrants were invited to the events, they may feel somewhat segregated. The events are also a great way to introduce children to multiculturalism.

Petrie said it’s awesome to see the innocence of children. Every child who comes is welcomed and is invited to play with the others at the kid’s table. This often helps the adults feel more comfortable and leads to them striking up conversations.

Petrie said that the committee wants newcomers to feel safe and secure and to stay in our communities. Immigrants to our area have all contributed to their communities in the past, just as they will here in the Valley.

“I think we kind of put ourselves into their shoes, how would we want to be treated if we moved somewhere new,” Petrie said. “We want everyone to just feel that they’re part of the community.”

She said we tend to get tied up in our own business and lives. Newcomers can still feel very lonely, even if 100 people say hello to them on the street every day. The potlucks are a way to meet people and maybe form new friendships.

Petrie and Petkov agree that the food at the dinners is always delicious. The committee asks everyone who brings a dish to list the ingredients so that everyone is aware of what’s in the food they’re eating. This is for religious reasons and in case anyone suffers from food allergies.

Did you know?

In partnership with the Valley Community Learning Association and Y-Reach, the Immigrant Support Group hosts an International Café on the first Friday of the month, with the exception of the summer months, at 9:30 a.m. at the VCLA offices in the Armoury Building, 49 Cornwallis St., Kentville. There is no charge to attend the café, which is open to everyone and features coffee and tea, treats and conversation. The event aims to connect newcomers, international students and immigrants with the local community.

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