Warrnambool's community Christmas lunch an embracing gesture 

WHEN Clara Jama arrived in Warrnambool four months ago, she knew nobody. 

After a short holiday, the Sudanese migrant and mother of five made the brave decision to move to the south-west from the family’s home in Sunshine, in Melbourne’s west. 

“I came here to see the place but I decided to stay here because the place is good for the kids,” Ms Jama said. 

“I don’t have relatives here but I met people from my country Sudan.” 

Ms Jama, whose children are aged between 12 and seven weeks, was one of many at yesterday’s community Christmas lunch at St Joseph’s Parish Hall. 

About 100 people from all walks of life gathered for the non-denominational lunch. 

“It’s really good because I don’t have someone to celebrate Christmas at home — I don’t have family,” Ms Jama said. 

Christmas lunches held by charities have traditionally been seen in a fairly dogmatic view — as for the homeless or the poor. 

Organiser Lyn Chambers says that is quickly changing. 

“There used to be a stigma for this sort of thing but there isn’t now or it doesn’t seem to be as much,” Ms Chambers said. 

“Because it’s low income,  people think that it’s for the homeless. But we’ve never had a homeless person here.”

All are still welcome — but it’s mainly people like Ms Jama who are separated from their families that share in the day. 

Soup kitchen regulars also made up good numbers, while others only stop by once a year for Christmas. 

“Everybody knows each other and they’ll sit and chat,” Ms Chambers said. 

“I’ve only been doing this for 12 months. It’s wonderful. It just all falls together.” 

That’s happened with three teams of volunteers and good support from business. 

“I’ve been here most days this week and every time I come there’s more stuff. It’s amazing,” Ms Chambers said.

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