BY SOO LIM
A viral TikTok video which displays an extensive line of people, queuing to reach a food relief provider in Melbourne's CBD has highlighted the extent of struggling international students and workers.
The Tik Tok creator Andrew Gung said he estimated the line consisted of around 250 people and “circled nearly the whole block of Melbourne Central”.
Mr Gung said the line consisted of people who had lost their jobs and were “finding it tough” to afford essential items.
“It was really heartbreaking to see. It was very hard to hold in tears,” he said.
One of the charity’s organisers Abigail Kwan said that the relief started in early May when people within the CrossCulture Church community, particularly international students, noticed a growing need for extra support.
“A lot of people within our community were struggling to make ends meet, especially after losing jobs,” Ms Kwan said.
“They weren’t able to access JobKeeper or JobSeeker because they were international students or migrants,” she said.
The charity is open every Sunday and offers emotional support alongside physical supplies.
“It’s not just physical or material goods they need; a lot of people are feeling isolated [so] having some people to chat with is just as important, if not more for some people,” Ms Kwan said.
Ms Kwan said it is especially difficult for first-year international university students who have not attended “classes face to face, joined clubs or associations to meet people and form connections”.
Volunteer and international student at Melbourne University Aaron Tiong said he was able to relate to the challenges some international students faced.
“We are all struggling with adjusting to online education. Some have to support themselves and if they lose part time jobs it’s a huge strain on them financially,” Mr Tiong said.
“I’ve met people who have said they have money to support themselves for only another month or two, maybe.”
Mrs Kwan said those who rely on support from family overseas are also impacted as their family “might have also lost employment and are struggling to support their children”.
To make matters worse, depending on how badly COVID-19 has affected their home country, COVID restrictions have made it even more challenging for some to receive money from their parents.
“I remember speaking to a few Indian students, and because of the intense lockdown in India, a lot of their families weren’t even allowed to leave their house to send them money.”
The line has grown considerably since May, averaging 200 people queuing every Sunday. Wait times can be up to two hours.
Mrs Kwan said “it is definitely possible” that people’s financial situations will worsen and these lines will grow longer.