Multicultural Potluck Celebrates the Cultures, Languages and Food of Our New Neighbors

By Laura Hansen

I have new friends. Ahmad, Saber and Mahamad and his son – all arrived in Sacramento just two months ago through the refugee resettlement program. They told me a bit of the story of their journey here and their enthusiasm for getting to work. Ahmad was a video journalist working with the US Army and is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Saber is a computer programmer and Mahamad is a skilled mechanic and craftsman. These are just three of the 3,400 new neighbors – resettled refugees in 2016 -- who are hoping to feel in their hearts that Sacramento is their new home.

December 3 at Sierra 2 Center nearly 100 people from over a dozen countries brought their favorite home country dish to share at the first annual Multicultural Exchange potluck. This is the first time our chapter opened up this annual event to the public. With over 3,400 refugees officially resettled in the Sacramento area this year, we thought celebrating our region’s growing diversity and honoring the culture they bring with them was a great idea. We look forward to a bigger party with people from many other cultures being able to attend next year.

United Nations Association chapter President, Kate Van Buren opened the event with a welcome message, then introduced event co-hosts Nahid Kabbani, founder of One World for Love and Peace, and Laura Hansen and Joan Marie, cofounders of Compassionate Capitol Region.

Koichi Mizushima of the Buddhist Church of Sacramento then offered a blessing in Japanese as a mindful transition from the welcome statements and the mad dash to the potluck tables.

While we talked and ate from plates piled with savory and rich dishes from Iroquois stew to Baklava to Biryani to pumpkin pie Megan Nguyen, our newly elected Vice President led us in a game where we learned how to say, “Hello” and “Thank you” in all the languages represented – turns out 14 in all: Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Hmong, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Vietnamese, Iroquois, Ukrainian, Farsi, Yiddish and Bambara.

Christelle Picque, Director of Operations and Russul Roumani, Care Coordinator at Opening Doors, a refugee resettlement agency gave an update on the resettlement effort in our region.

Russul, co-lead blessing with Koichi at end of event in Arabic.

We’d like to thank the community organizations who took the care and time to provide information tables: Sister Cities International, Braveheart Women, Kappa Kappa Phi, Opening Doors, Compassionate Capitol Region, One World for Love and Peace.