International Students Need Assistance
With the start of the COVID-19 crisis, many international students could not return home as the borders in their home countries closed. The cost of one-way air fares increased excessively, and the students were also unsure if leaving Australia would breach the conditions of their visa.
Adding to these issues, many have lost casual employment, some have had their banks and other supports in their home countries close and their personal savings are running low. Not eligible for Australian Government assistance, the number of students in desperate need is growing.
Rev. Doo Ah Leeming, Illawarra Presbytery Tertiary Chaplain at the University Of Wollongong (UOW) has been delivering care packages of food and useful items to the students. Local congregations have assisted with donations and making up the care packages. Rev. Leeming also leads a weekly Zoom Wellbeing Service for the students.
Additionally, UOW staff are volunteering their time and personal resources to help the students. Three times per week, staff make food and hygiene hampers and cook meals for over 200 students.
Clare Rhodes, Community Engagement Coordinator at the University explains, “UOW as an enterprise is in a difficult equity position. The University’s budget has suffered a $90 million loss with COVID-19 and while it cannot fund any of the goodwill offerings, they are supporting with in-kind donations such as the loan of vehicles for food distribution and a storage area for the packing and distribution of the hampers.”
On Saturdays, staff contribute more of their time to distribute the free food and groceries to the students at the University. They also transport hampers to distribution points in Blacktown, Redfern, and Strathfield to support students who live in Western Sydney.
This work has been running for approximately 12 weeks with over 40 events in Wollongong that have provided food and supplies to students doing it tough. This volunteer work will continue in coming months.
Rev. Leeming and UOW staff behind this enormous effort are reaching out for further community assistance.
There are a number of ways Churches and individuals can help:
- Pray for the students suffering at this time, for Rev Leeming’s ministry and for the University of Wollongong staff.
- Make a financial donation to the University of Wollongong appeal. Click here to Donate
- Write messages of hope and support to the students – email this to firstname.lastname@example.org A message costs nothing but it’s a wonderful way to let the students know that you are thinking of them and it provides some warmth and connection in a challenging and lonely time.
- Churches can collect pantry items donated by congregants and deliver to UniLife Reception, Level 1, Building 11, UOW Wollongong Campus, Northfields Avenue or contact Clare Rhodes Community Engagement Coordinator for alternative delivery sites at email: email@example.com
Items needed include:
- Jars of pasta sauce and pasta
- Long life milk and long life coconut milk
- Plain flour, sugar, salt, bags of white rice, packet of brown lentils, noodles mi goreng, vegetable oil
- Canned fruit, baked beans / or spaghetti
- Oats, Weetbix
- Toothpaste, toothbrush (individually wrapped), shower gel, deodorant, shampoo & conditioner
- Sanitary products (pads), washing powder
Photo: Shona Gibson, staff Representative of UOW and a member of Berry Uniting Church accepts winter gifts for International students from Cathie Cochrane, member of Nowra Uniting Church.
Vi Richardson is the Presbytery Administrator for Illawarra Presbytery.
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