Care packages for international students in South Queensland

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All volunteers wore Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which was funded by an international grant from The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. (Credit: Charmaine Patel)

The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) partnered with local churches in Brisbane last weekend (May 2-4) to assemble 112 food hampers for locals in need, with a focus on assisting international students and others who have lost jobs and cannot afford basic necessities.

South Queensland Conference ADRA director Dr Irena Pule put a call out to churches across Brisbane. More than 40 people responded—mostly youth and young adults, but representatives of all ages—from eight different churches. They called themselves the “ADRA South Queensland Care Crew”.

“It was a way for local churches to connect and to be involved with ADRA, especially during COVID-19,” said Dr Pule. “I just thank God for the opportunity to serve and that churches responded to the call.”

The ADRA South Queensland Care Crew worked hard on Saturday night and Sunday to pack grocery items into parcels. The initiative was made possible thanks to support from ADRA Australia, ADRA Eight Mile Plains and Vital Connection (an ADRA project) in partnership with Foodbank. In addition, a pallet of products was donated by Sanitarium. Church members also turned up on the day with trolleys of groceries to include in the parcels.

“We’ve given away 72 already—to international students, migrant families and families who have been stood down from work or are waiting on Centrelink payments to come through—so there’s a few more to allocate,” said Ms Pule.

Pastor Ray Moaga, from Harvest Community, Springwood Samoan and Browns Plains Samoan Adventist churches, volunteered to help pack the parcels and said it was a positive community atmosphere.

“You don’t have to have money to give, you can give your time,” he said. “A whole bunch of people were messaging—who don’t go to church—how they wanted to help out. It was almost like an accidental outreach and recruitment of people that I wouldn’t expect to put their hand up.”

Volunteers packing donated Sanitarium goods into parcels. (Credit: Charmaine Patel)

The weekend outreach was held to support Brisbane Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church who have been distributing food parcels to international students struggling to make ends meet during COVID-19

“I got a call from [Pastor Yimi Duarte from the Brisbane Spanish Church] asking for help,” said Dr Pule. “His church was supporting international students, some of whom were sleeping in their cars.”

“We distribute food parcels from 9am to 3pm every Saturday,” added Pastor Duarte. “The first week it was 16, then 30, then 65, now 90. So many students don’t have work at the moment and they are really thankful; they don’t even have enough food.”

The goal of the weekend wasn’t only to boost the number of food parcels available for struggling international students, but also to help locals—who may be out of work for the first time ever—feel comfortable asking for support.

“There’s a lot of stigma around asking for help, it’s a foreign thing for people who have worked their whole adult life. It’s difficult,” shared Dr Pule. “Giving needs to be relevant and actually meet needs. We’re feeding Him when we respond to that need; Christ says we are directly ministering to Him.”

Thanks to the Brisbane Spanish church’s food parcel ministry, Pastor Duarte says that some students are seeking Bible studies.

“I went to give food to one group of students on the Gold Coast and they asked me to pray for them. Last night, I gave Bible studies to one of the students. She said, ‘I was wondering why I came from Colombia and what my purpose was, and now I see it is finding my Salvation.’”

If you find yourself needing assistance in these challenging times, please get in touch. You can contact ADRA on 1800 242 372, or email us at adra.info@adra.org.au. We will then aim to put you in touch with the ADRA program closest to you.