“A Tavola con noi” is an initiative promoted by Arci Lecce to encourage the meeting between refugees and asylum seekers and citizens of the communities in which they are located. The idea is simple: we ask families to invite one of the beneficiaries of hospitality projects to have lunch with them during a holiday, which we take place in various towns of Salento. Not because kids need a lunch or hospitality. This is not a “humanitarian” initiative, since their maintenance is ensured by our association within the Sprar system, which takes care not to leave these people alone and when they arrive in Italy.
We invite people to host at their table a migrant boy or girl with the specific purpose of getting acquainted, listening to their story, making friends, overcoming the “filters” that often lead us to consider these people simply as strangers in our home. Who will participate in the project on a holiday will have the opportunity to hear from their voices their story, to listen to an original story of the conditions in which they were and that led them to migrate, to realize how long the journey they have undertaken, of which we are accustomed to seeing only a very small part on television: the landing on the Italian coast.
We thought about this initiative because we are an association that makes social promotion its mission and we are convinced that direct contact between people is the best vehicle for cultural exchange. Looking in the eyes, sharing a moment of daily life, is a necessary step to develop a correct opinion on a complex phenomenon such as immigration. Without direct experience we would be condemned to represent it in a mediated manner, often through messages that are elaborated and disseminated to create diffidence, suspicion, fear.
Our contribution to a healthy debate on the theme of hospitality, therefore, can only be an invitation to the courage to share and the pleasure of making friends because we are convinced that direct contact between people remains the best way for everyone’s growth.