During the pandemic, one of the hardest-hit groups were international students who lost their jobs and were unable to return home.
From the start of the COVID-19 crisis, we at the St Vincent de Paul Society Victoria (Vinnies Victoria) were aware of the many international students stranded in Australia with little to no income. With more than half a million international students estimated to be enrolled in Australian universities by the end of January 2020, we had to act fast.
This is when our Vinnies Youth Team stepped in to support the large cohort of international students in Victoria.
From May 2020, they began building a new International Student Aid program. By August 2020, they were ready to launch the program in a dedicated call centre, but stage 4 restrictions required a speedy change of plans to quickly get their volunteers ready to virtually volunteer from home.
The Vinnies Youth Team was able to triumphantly accomplish this transition and, since August, have assisted 768 struggling international students with food and basic necessities.
Through this program, and our Youth Team’s determination and resilience, we assisted the students with online gift cards sent directly to their inboxes and a phone-call to check-in. The program was able to provide support to students from 57 countries with a total of $92.16k in assistance.
The program was shortlisted for the Volunteering Victoria COVID-19 Innovation and Resilience Award – which recognises predominately volunteer-run organisations for demonstrating innovation and resilience in adapting to accommodate COVID requirements and changes while still delivering high- quality services to their community.
We are extremely proud of our Young Vinnies volunteers and employees for their dedication to this new Good Works program.