Engage Nova Scotia, in partnership with Sobeys, hosted a dinner event at the People’s Place Library, Sept. 25, which could have been described as a rehearsal for those wishing to take part in their Share Thanksgiving initiative this month.
“Around the province, we match newcomer families and international students with local Nova Scotian families,” Hailey Vidler, engagement strategist with Engage Nova Scotia, said, as those attending the dinner at the library settled into their seats.
“And the connections that happen after that are absolutely amazing; there are some really awesome stories about how to build communities through people gathering together, breaking bread together.”
Vidler talked about Sobeys coming on as a partner this year.
“Sobeys had heard about Share Thanksgiving and wanted to come onboard,” she said. “They helped us with a media launch and we’re having four lunch/dinners, like this one, across the province in the next week and a bit. They’re, really, to help us find hosts families.”
She talked about the dinner being a dry-run for when a family hosts newcomers or international students.
“These will be happening in people’s homes across the province, which is really awesome,” she said.
“We encourage you to reach out to host a family too,” she added, talking directly to the dinner participants. “Other than that, just get to know each other and have some delicious food, thanks to our chef.”
While attendees enjoyed their dinner, Vidler talked with the Casket about why Antigonish was one of the chosen communities to host an event.
“We decide to focus on where we were going to expand into,” she said of growing the reach of the program.
“It was very HRM-centric before, so, naturally, with the connection of international students (from St. F.X. and the Coady International Institute), we wanted to come to Antigonish; to make sure we’re balancing out that focus with finding host families, as well. With Sobeys, we decided where to come, saying, ‘that’s a hot spot of students.’”
She talked about how people can get involved as host families or as those wishing to join a host family for Thanksgiving dinner.
“Go to sharethankingsgiving.engagenovascotia.ca and it’s a really simple process,” she said. “You would sign up as a host; fill out your application, what day you want to host a family or students on, how many and so on. It just takes you through the steps and then, from there, we’ll make a match for you.”
She noted host families can get involved from different areas.
“We’ve had people, especially if they’re willing to pick up, drive about a half an hour to go and pick-up students,” she said.
“One of our colleagues lives about a half an hour out of the city and she was more than willing to pick-up students. Then they can, kind of, experience rural Antigonish County as well, which is great. Get a new experience beyond right here in town.”
To conclude her thoughts, Vidler emphasized their appreciation for Sobeys getting involved this year.
“I think a big part of it is we’re very thankful to Sobeys for coming on board, deciding to host here and get the word out,” she said. “I think it’s pretty cool to have a big organization, like Sobeys, decide to really get serious and start to build more welcoming communities.”