Several refugee families will be offering a taste of their homeland at a multicultural pop-up and community gathering in Columbia, Missouri, next week. Refugee and Immigration Services, the official refugee resettlement agency in mid-Missouri, is teaming up with Cafe Berlin to offer Columbia diners the opportunity to enjoy home-cooked, traditional fare from several different countries. The event will be held on Thu., Aug. 22 from 5:30 to 8:30pm at Cafe Berlin, and will be cash-only.
“It’s really exciting and beneficial in a lot of ways, because they’re sharing their cultures, they’re introducing the community to new foods, and they’re also representing themselves,” says Grace Wildenhaus, volunteer/community outreach coordinator for RIS. “A lot of people don’t really know who refugees are in our community, so they’re just gaining some more visibility and awareness.”
Each cook has selected a dish from their home country to share; the event will showcase cuisine from Sudan, Iraq, Eritrea, the Congo, Somalia and Syria. The menu will include Eritrean spiced coffee, sambusa (seasoned beef, chicken, or vegetable wrapped in a thin dough and fried) and Congolese mandazi (subtly sweet East-African beignets), among other dishes. Each item is priced between $1 to 4. Half of the proceeds will be split amongst those who prepared dishes, with the other half benefitting RIS.
Refugees from a variety of places, most often African and Middle-Eastern countries, are resettled in Columbia each year with the help of RIS. The nonprofit organization, which is a subset of Catholic Charities, helps these refugees find housing, jobs, learn English and other skills necessary for life in America. Refugees spend each day learning about the local community, and Wildenhaus says this is an opportunity for Columbians to learn more about the local refugee population and their homelands. “I think a lot of people see refugees or the refugee crisis as kind of a distant issue or problem and don’t really realize how refugees add to and impact our community,” she says. “So this is giving people an opportunity to interact with, mingle, and learn something new from refugees in Columbia. Because anyone in the world could be a refugee. There’s a lot of diversity within that label.”
On top of creating awareness of the vibrant refugee community, RIS also hopes this pop up will spark interest in volunteer efforts. “Our office also needs community support, so the more people that know about us and could potentially get involved or spread the word to people who might be interested in volunteering in many capacities, the better,” Grace says.
Head to Cafe Berlin on Thu., Aug. 22 (don’t forget your cash!) to partake in this flavorful cultural celebration, and sneak a peek at the full menu on Facebook beforehand.
Cafe Berlin, 220 N. 10th St., Columbia, Missouri, 573.441.0400, cafeberlincomo.com