Jesmond Park Uniting Church is located near Newcastle University, a proximity that has seen it embark on a ministry to international students.
Starting around ten years ago, the church hosts a dinner for international students on the first Tuesday of every month.
Elizabeth Oliver coordinates Cheap Chewsday. She told Insights that a tradition that started with a small group of students has since grown to include around 200.
‘Cheap Chewsday’ takes place on the first Tuesday of each month 6:30 to 8:30.
As well as a regular cooked meal, the church offers students
a safe space, and the chance to talk to other university students and staff. A
bus service transports students who need help getting to the building.
“We would (cook) something we could just multiply,” Ms Oliver recalled.
This changed, over time, however, as students wanted to get involved in the process of preparing the meal.
“Talking to the students, they wanted to showcase their country,” Ms Oliver said.
Students come from a variety of backgrounds. They travel from Thailand, china, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Vietnam, among other places.
“They showcase their culture.”
“Sometimes they present a visual of their country and sometimes they’re in national dress.”
The university has recognised Jesmond Uniting Church’s efforts, as have the NSW state government.
The university provides funding for the monthly meal. Students’ clubs purchase the ingredients and come to the church to cook it up.
Ms Oliver said that the evenings were a blessing for the church community, who had the chance to get involved in their wider community.
“It’s a great night.”
“It’s good for us (to be) working together, it builds our community as well,” Ms Oliver said.
Students now help with food preparation, a process that the university has now bought into.
With its large industrial kitchen, Jesmond Park Uniting Church has the facilities to provide some 200 hungry students with a meal. Even so, demand has grown to the point that participants now have to register.
A gold coin donation gets the students a three course meal.
“Our team is just fantastic,” Ms Oliver said. “A very faithful and willing team, right up to people who rare well and truly retired.”
“For those kids to see what their parents are doing is a really good model.”
According to Ms Oliver, the act of providing a meal is in keeping with Jesmond Uniting Church’s wider mission.
“Our mission is to be an inclusive community, to have the spirit of generosity and openness for all people and this is an example of that,” she said.
“We have had chances to talk to students of their belief system and them to talk with us (in an informal setting).”
Cheap Chewsday takes place at Jesmond Park Uniting Church on the first Tuesday of every month, from 6:30 to 8:30pm.
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Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor
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