Lachlan Blain finds a community initiative that takes the Indonesian spirit of dapur umum, temporary kitchen, to help international students currently stranded in Melbourne.
The COVID-19 pandemic has inflicted pain and pressure on communities all around the world. Here in Australia, government support packages have worked to remove some of the stresses the ongoing lockdown has brought. But many members of the community remain overlooked. Many international students, stranded in their adopted country without the ability to work or to access Centrelink benefits, are in the most perilous position of any.
Before the pandemic, 150,000 students were studying here in Victoria alone, according to the Victorian government. Nowhere in Australia has the COVID-19 lockdown endured longer than Melbourne, which was hit with a second wave of infections in June. Because of the ongoing lockdown, thousands of international students and temporary visa holders, thousands of miles from home, remain without reliable access to the basic necessities of life. For Angelina Sukiri, the situation hit close to home. Arriving in Australia from Indonesia in 2011, she has since made the country her home, opening a travel agency while finally becoming an Australian citizen in 2016.
An integral part of community life in many parts of Indonesia is the practice of dapur umum, or temporary kitchens, which are community-driven relief centres established in the wake of a disaster or emergency like an earthquake. Predictably, these public kitchens have once again sprung up all across Indonesia in response to the pandemic.
The practice of dapur umum seems a logical answer to the current situation in Melbourne. It’s one thing, of course, to throw out solutions and another to make them a reality. Angelina, drawing on her cultural heritage, has done just that, establishing the Kasih Project at the end of March to help international students and temporary visa holders stranded in Melbourne. Ever since, Angelina and her band of volunteers have been providing emergency food relief to hundreds in the local area.
As of early September, the project had delivered 16,560 kilograms of rice and 4,290 dozens of eggs, along with many other vital products, delivering much-needed aid to over a thousand people to date. The Kasih Project relies on monetary donations to purchase these essential food items, along with non-perishable food donations of items such as long-life milk, canned tuna, canned corn kernel, and canned beans. The organisation so far has helped people hailing from all corners of the globe: from Indonesia and Malaysia to Chile and Argentina.
With Melbourne’s lockdown already into its second month, the need for donations is as great as ever. Angelina, since establishing the Kasih Project, has come to understand the extent of the dire situation many international students and temporary visa holders find themselves in. Many are Indonesian students in their thirties and forties with children and partners.
“Some who came to Australia with their families could not afford to buy a flight to get back to Indonesia,” Angelina explained to The Guardian.
Some students, according to Angelina, have been eating just once a day.
“Most of them [were] working at a cafe or as cleaners,” she said. “During lockdown it’s impossible for them to get a job. From the first lockdown until now, it’s very hard for them.
“Some of the students now are really struggling with paying rent [for a house], or even a rental room.”
Donations can be sent to:
Account name: Kasih Project Inc.
Account Number: 619-814
Terima kasih! (“thank you” in Indonesian)
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