As the health risks of COVID-19 diminish in Australia, our beloved cafes are re-opening and footy returns to our screens. It seems like a sense of normality is almost upon us. However, the reality for many international students is that casual jobs have not suddenly reappeared and their financial pressures have not eased.
During the shutdown period, we were greatly saddened by stories of students struggling to make ends meet and touched by the actions of various organisations stepping in to lend a hand. Significant efforts are being made by universities and state governments to deliver funds to international students impacted by financial hardship. We’ve come together as a sector to show that we’re #inthistogether.
As we walk the road to recovery, we must make sure that international students are not left behind. International students in Australia are still ineligible for schemes such as JobKeeper and many remain out of work. Travel bans remain in force and returning home is simply not a feasible option. Help is still needed to support students with meals, groceries and even accommodation.
So what can we do?
Well, with the end of the financial year in sight, now is a great time to get behind some of the fantastic not-for-profit organisations who are on the frontline providing care, community and practical support for international students.
> Spend some time to learn about their work.
> Send a note of thanks.
> Make a donation if you can.
We’ve recently been in touch with a number of the organisations actively helping international students impacted by COVID-19.
Some have told us that this is the first time they have provided services at scale to international students. COVID-19 changed their operating environment in an instant, and it required creativity and significant resources to meet the new demand.
We learnt about how they have adapted and what they are doing for students. Importantly, we thanked them for caring for international students and asked what support they needed to keep up over the months ahead.
Please take a moment to read about their work and consider lending your support.
The information on this page has been provided directly to us from the listed organisations, who we contacted because of their national footprint and the scale of their work. It's by no means an exhaustive list and this page will be added to over the coming weeks as responses come in from other organisations we reached out to.
We recently created four pop-up hubs where we can safely hand out parcels/hampers of nutritious food, as well as pre-cooked meals. These include two hubs specifically created to support the international student community. Over 8,000 hampers have been delivered so far via Oz Harvest’s Hamper Hubs.
We have worked with universities to spread the word amongst their students. Students can go online and register for a hamper each week to collect or visit our OzHarvest Market - Australia’s first free supermarket, based on a ‘take what you need, give if you can’ model.
Students have commented that they very much appreciate that OzHarvest have been able to provide fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables in their hampers. They are grateful for the provision of food donations, which enables them to direct their limited funds to other life expenses such as accommodation. Here’s what international students have to say:
“The food we get from OzHarvest is so great, we can’t thank you enough! With this we are also able to go home and share with other international students who are struggling.” - Mariam
“Getting food is such a relief. We can save money to go towards other bills and also help our other friends who are struggling.” - Wani
“This food helps me financially. It helps me eat healthier too and lasts about a fortnight. It is really hard to find work right now during Covid, this food supports me through my studies." -Aman
OzHarvest needs to purchase the food to create the hampers. A donation of $35 would enable us to purchase one hamper for an international student, providing them with fresh food for a week.
Support OzHarvest by donating to their Here for Hope appeal. You can nominate to direct your donation to support international students - all funds collected this way are guaranteed to support this community. Visit events.ozharvest.org/hereforhope/students
FareShare rescues surplus food and cooks it into free, nutritious meals for people doing it tough. The meals we cook, including curries, casseroles, soups and savoury pastries, are packed full of vegetables and protein.
Since the start of the pandemic, there has been a huge increase in the number of international students who need food assistance and we are cooking 20,000 meals a week just for international students. These are distributed by Monash, Melbourne Uni, CQUni and frontline charities, including Empower. Empower told us that international students now make up around 80% of the people who turn to them for support.
Unfortunately the COVID-19 crisis has hit international students hard. They are seeking any support to get by. The free, nutritious meals we provide help to free up limited funds for other necessities. They also help students maintain a good diet which has a positive impact on their mental and physical health.
Every donation we receive funds more meals for people doing it tough, including international students impacted by this crisis. A $50 donation would provide 66 international students with a delicious FareShare meal!
Support FareShare by donating to their Winter appeal. You can leave a message with your donation, letting FareShare know that you’re supporting international students. Visit fareshare.net.au/donate-winter2020/
In addition to our local community who we continue to support, many international students are now both out of work, unable to access government support, and unable to go home. Across the country, from Tasmania Salvos, Box Hill, Craigieburn and La Trobe Salvos Corps in Victoria to the Auburn Corps in Sydney, we have been supporting international students and with needs arising from COVID-19 as part of our overall relief and response program.
We are reaching out to Universities and Councils to offer support to their students. We have increased our voucher amounts or what we have given for students who have lost their jobs during the COVID season.
Across the board, help is being provided on a practical level:
The Salvos always try to step up to help people in crisis, and that’s what we have been doing during this lock down. The need for our services has tripled since this pandemic began.
Salvation Army Centres across the country have adapted to quickly meet the changing needs of our community. Comparing our reporting in QLD and NSW for cases in the March-May period 2019 to the same period this year, there has been a big jump in need and service provision.
Our international student emergency relief cases increased from 2 to 149 in QLD during the period, and from 4 to 115 in NSW.
Every dollar counts. Whether it’s a warm meal or just listening in a time of loneliness, we will be there to support and bring hope. Even $60 can go a long way by providing a food hamper for a family in need.
Support the Salvos by donating to their Digital Door knock. Find your local Salvos page and this will ensure donations stay local and are used to support programs run by those centres. Visit https://digitaldoorknock.salvationarmy.org.au/support-salvos
We are providing significant support to this cohort through our existing services. By calling our Welfare Assistance Line, students are able to receive support through our local volunteer groups in their region that may be able to help with food, material assistance or bills. We have also seen an increase in international students visiting the Vinnies Soup Van Service to access basic items such as food and essential items.
This group is disproportionately impacted by the challenges of COVID-19, and there is a high demand for support from international students. We have seen a 144% increase of calls to our Welfare Assistance Line from international students from 2019 – 2020, although we note that not every caller will identify themselves as an international student so the numbers may well be higher. Assistance requests are highest for food and food vouchers.
With less than 1% government funding, we rely on the support of the community to continue meeting the demand, particularly during such uncertain economic times. For example, a donation of $48 can pay for a hamper delivered by Vinnies Soup Vans.
Support Vinnies by donating to their COVID-19 appeal. If you would like to nominate a service such as soup vans, you can leave a comment with your donation. Visit https://donate.vinnies.org.au/donation-hub
More than 80,000 international students are currently stranded in Queensland, separated from family and their home countries. Some of these are far from home and unable to return to their home country because of the pandemic.
GIVIT is teaming up with Study Queensland, The Luhrmann Appeal and the Care Army to ensure international students in Queensland are cared for during these unprecedented times. Film legend Baz Luhrmann’s daughter Lilly said it is an issue close to her heart. “As an international student myself, these are my friends,” she said.
GIVIT is the smart way to give to international students stranded in Queensland due to COVID-19. We work with organisations providing essential assistance services, and buy exactly what is needed by international students stranded due to the pandemic. This includes grocery food vouchers, accommodation support, pre-prepared meal support, transportation and laptops.
Visit https://www.givit.org.au/study-queensland-luhrmann-appeal to see a list of exactly what’s needed right now. It’s as simple as selecting what you would like to give from the list or you can donate funds to allow GIVIT to purchase what’s needed. 100% of donated funds received by GIVIT will be used to purchase essential items identified by support organisations working directly with students stranded.
Support the Study Queensland Luhrmann Appeal by making a donation via GIVIT: https://www.givit.org.au/study-queensland-luhrmann-appeal. Or you can support GIVIT more generally via: https://www.givit.org.au/donate-funds
Below is a list of smaller, local organisations who may also be helping students. You might like to take a look at the various websites to find out more, and consider supporting them also.
If you know of someone else doing great work, we’d love to shine a light on it too.
Please get in touch with Elissa Newall at email@example.com.
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