Chay Khanna brews belonging

Enjoying the company of tea drinkers at the Chay Khanna Afghan Men's group in Dandenong each Friday. 321092_12 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Sahar Foladi

Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre (SMRC) and Better Place Australia have partnered to support migrant and refugees wellbeing in the South-East.

Together, they’ve initiated ‘Chay Khanna’ – which translates to home (made) tea – to support Afghan men in Dandenong every Friday.

The program facilitated by bicultural program worker Mirwais Jambaz, targets Afghan men especially the elderly to help them not only integrate in the community but at the same time look after their mental wellbeing.

“Chay Khanna started for the sake of Afghan men because most of them, especially the elderly, can’t speak English,” Mr Jambaz said.

“This is a good platform for them to come together make friends from the same community and same background. They come and enjoy tea, food and play games.”

Mr Jambaz’s dad, who is treated for mental health issues, also attends the program. Just like other men his dad has a good time and always looks forward to Fridays.

“I have noticed lots of changes in his mental well-being. He likes it very much, he has a lot of friends and he loves to talk to his friends.”

Last year the program ran monthly but the barrage of phone calls that Mr Jambaz received forced him to get the program to run weekly again.

“I received plenty of calls from the members saying they miss ‘chay khanna’ and their friends.“

As one of the top most welcoming cities for refugees and migrants, Greater Dandenong is regarded as nation’s most diverse municipality with 157 nationalities according to the 2021 Census data.

In Dandenong, Doveton, Hallam and Eumemmerring, about one in 10 are born in Afghanistan.

As newly arrived Afghan refugees continue to settle in Greater Dandenong, organisations such as SMRC and Bakhtar Community Organisation try their best to cover their needs.

Mr Jambaz said numbers of participants increase every week.

“There are a lot of new Afghan arrivals so when they find out about it they contact me and some participants bring new arrivals to this program too.”

SMRC also provide a range of different services and programs from family support to settlement, wellbeing and employment.

Similarly Bakhtar Community Organisation provides services such as interpretation, legal help, and settlement assistance.

Through its distribution centres in Noble Park and Hallam, basic items such as kitchen utensils, house items, laptops and food packages are provided to the community.

Chay Khanna runs every Friday from 3pm to 7pm.