27 August 2021: Serving the community since 1958, the Lions Club of Canberra City is running a grocery voucher program to support the University of Canberra’s international students who are struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through barbecues and several other fundraising activities, the club has raised approximately $10,500 for the program and has provided the University’s Student Wellbeing team with around 215 $50 Coles grocery vouchers to be distributed to students in need.
President of the Lions Club of Canberra City Tony Farrell and members of the club began looking for ways in which they could help people who were struggling at the beginning of the pandemic.
In March 2020, Mr Farrell reached out to the University of Canberra after identifying international students as a group without a lot of financial aid, and has been providing grocery vouchers ever since.
“We knew that international students in particular as a result of the pandemic, could be facing financial problems, especially those from countries where things weren’t going very well,” Mr Farrell said.
“So, we thought about ways in which we could help by providing grocery vouchers from supermarkets, giving at least some financial support to these students.”
Some international students have lost part-time work due to the pandemic, and were not eligible for government run programs such as JobKeeper and JobSeeker, leaving them with little to no income.
Manager of UC’s Student Equity, Participation and Wellbeing team, Ms Laurie Poretti, says the vouchers not only provide financial aid to the international students, but play a significant role in raising awareness around the circumstances they are in.
“Many international students didn’t have anywhere else to turn, so the fact that the Lions Club rallied around them and acknowledged the need; the students are just so appreciative because they genuinely feel like they’ve got the support of the wider Canberra community,” Ms Poretti said.
“That goes a long way in making them feel like they actually do belong here and that they are a pivotal part of our community.”
International border closures mean that the students may not be able to return home and see family, therefore being isolated for longer than they had originally anticipated.
“I think it’s more important than ever that they felt part of the community, and that they felt they were being acknowledged and cared for by all of Canberra,” Ms Poretti says.
“It was more than just food vouchers.”
University of Canberra students who need help during the ACT lockdown can contact Student Wellbeing for personalised support and connection with community services, and can access student resources through the COVID-19 advice page.
The Lions Club of Canberra City is also running a number of projects to help during the pandemic, including working with the Red Cross to provide food to homeless people and helping women’s refuges around Canberra.