Sponsored by Engage Nova Scotia, a provincial organization dedicated to working with partners and communities to ignite a culture of collaboration and civic engagement, Share Thanksgiving originated in Toronto five years ago and has been coordinated throughout Nova Scotia since 2014.
The program sees local families open their doors and homes to newcomers to the province for Thanksgiving dinner.
Host families identify themselves by registering at http://sharethanksgiving.engagenovascotia.ca, and are matched with guests based on shared characteristics, including location and availability, ages of children, shared languages, interests and meal preferences and restrictions.
Ensure Nova Scotia attempts to ensure guests are matched with host families near where they live. Guests may need to take a taxi or bus to reach their dinner destination, but Engage Nova Scotia can assist with the cost of transportation if no other option is available.
In Kings County, Share Thanksgiving has proved especially popular with international students attending Acadia University.
As of last week, Engage Nova Scotia was still looking for additional host families to accommodate the number of interested guests. However, Elizabeth Randell of Engage Nova Scotia said Sept. 28 that all students and families that had registered would now be able to be matched up.
Originally, registration had to be closed earlier than planned this year due to a shortage of host families, but in the past few days, at least six host families had stepped up to solve the problem.
“Nova Scotians have stepped up – and continue to step up – in support of newcomers to our province,” Engage Nova Scotia co-ordinator Hailey Vidler said Sept. 28. “Welcoming people to your table for a Thanksgiving meal is a tangible step toward building stronger, more vibrant and diverse communities. With good food comes good conversations, and lasting friendships can result.”
Laura Churchill Duke and her family in Kentville have been enthusiastic participants in Share Thanksgiving for the past three years, and are taking part again this year.
“When our family heard about the program, we immediately signed up, knowing this was perfect for us,” Churchill Duke said. “Each year, there are about 15-20 family members around the Thanksgiving table.”
Churchill Duke said the program was a natural for their family.
“Among all the adults, most of us have lived overseas, or at least travelled there,” she said. “My sister has lived in the U.K. and New Zealand, and now runs the English language program at Open Acadia, so many of the students signing up are her students – another reason for us to be involved.”
In addition, her husband David, born in England, has lived in Russia. Two of his sisters who live here now formerly made their home in Northern Ireland. A brother has lived in Belize, a sister-in-law in France, an aunt in Guyana and her father studied abroad in the U.K.
As for Churchill Duke herself, “I lived in Japan for three years, and was taken in by the family across the street who included me in everything. It made all the difference to my experience there, getting to see the real side of the culture. I felt more like an insider, and was richer for the experience.”
Doing the same for other individuals and families is something she feels passionately about.
“It's all about feeling included, learning from others, sharing our traditions, and hopefully, making some new friends or connections,” she added.
Interested host families are asked to contact Engage Nova Scotia by phone at 902-407-2582 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.