COVID-19: Heartwarming international student stories that will restore your faith in humanity

COVID-19: Heartwarming international student stories that will restore your faith in humanity
Sikh volunteers are among those delivering food to international students who are stranded in isolation due to COVID-19. Source: Ricky Prakoso/AFP

International students are not typically thought of as charity cases or people in need. But in times of a pandemic, it can be difficult for them to be so far away from home.

Those stuck in their host countries and relying on part-time income may lose their jobs due to the lockdown shuttering campuses and businesses. Some are forced out of their dorms, while many others face mental health issues being isolated so far from their loved ones.

Add that to their worries about family members back home becoming infected and unable to visit them,  as well as worries about their own health, and it becomes easy to sympathise with their plights.

international students

Indonesian international students who were studying in China arrive on a special flight at Hang Nadim international airport in Batam on February 2, 2020, following their evacuation from the Chinese city of Wuhan due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Source: Ricky Prakoso/ AFP

Thankfully, there are good-hearted souls out there who have come up with ways to help struggling international students during these tough times.

If you need a dose of positive news today, read on for some heartwarming international student stories in the time of COVID-19.

Coming together in Melbourne to help international students

Several charities and community organisations are helping international students in Melbourne, Australia who are self-isolating and finding it difficult to purchase food for themselves.

Sikh Volunteers Australia started a free home delivery service last month, sending ready-to-eat homecooked meals to those in self-isolation.

Daily Mail reported that hundreds of volunteers have been gathering in kitchens every day (while observing proper hygiene and social distancing measures) to cook and deliver meals for those unable to leave home, such as international students who have been ordered to self-quarantine after returning from abroad.

Melbourne-based Australia India Sports Council is also striving to help international students. After e-mailing student members and university student associations to ask about their well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic, they received a large number of distressing messages.

They are now providing basic life support kits for international students which include food and groceries. But their resources are limited and they are calling upon other organisations to come together to help international students.

Rishi Prabhakar, secretary of Australia India Sports Council (AISC) told SBS Hindi, “I came to Australia as an international student some twenty years back. I know how we used to live that time with money just enough to keep us afloat week by week.”

“I want to assure all international students that Australia India Sports Council is working with multiple organisations in different states to formulate a sustainable model to support them.”

Rajput and Kshatriya Association (RAMA) is another Melbourne-based organisation helping through the distribution of support kits to international students.

RAMA’s president Bapu Depender Gohil told SBS Hindi, “On last Saturday we gave 70 packs of student support kit which contains five kilogrammes of rice, five kilogrammes of atta (Wheat Flour), daal (lentils) and masala (spices).”

“For this week we have received requests for more than a hundred such kits but we only have 80 kits to distribute as yet.”

international students

Some international students were left stranded after classes were cancelled following the spread of COVID-19. Source: Sandy Huffaker / AFP

Opening homes to those in need

When news first broke of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, a new wave of xenophobia swept across the Western world aimed at Chinese students — even those not necessarily from China.

Fortunately, there are stories that go beyond this negativity, such as the family who didn’t hesitate to host international students Yidi and Bo from Wuhan studying at UTP High School during their quarantine period.

Beth Drake, chief operating officer at UTP, told The PIE News, “I had the uncomfortable phone call with the host to ask if she would consider hosting this student when he did come from Wuhan and she would be technically living with him during an incubation period. She embraced the challenge and has been exceptional.”

Showing support from afar

As xenophobia towards Chinese students became more prevalent in universities, several institutions attempted to combat racism and abuse by making videos of support.

Among them are University of Sussex in the UK and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Both universities posted a video of faculty, staff and students sending messages of support to international students back home in China when things got bad.

It may just be a small gesture, but we’re sure it went a long way towards making international students in China feel welcomed and supported from afar.

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