Call for aid for families caught in COVID crisis

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Anna Dimo, pastoral support worker at the St Bakhita Centre in Homebush. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Sydney’s new migrants are faring badly in this pandemic

The Archdiocese of Sydney’s Catholic migrant outreach is stretched to its limits during the current COVID-19 outbreak, with dozens of stricken families in the city’s western suburbs in need of urgent support.

Kylie Cullen from the Catholic Immigration Office says that dozens of new migrant families and individuals are under extreme stress and is calling for donations of essential food and other grocery items, cleaning products, and technology devices.

As west and south-west Sydney formed 80 percent of reported COVID infections that soared above 1000 per day she is assisting Anna Dimo, the pastoral care coordinator at St Bakhita Centre in Homebush West.

Families unable to grieve, support one another

Anna has been working day and night to counsel people over the phone and to help deliver emergency hampers and meals to people living in suburbs such as Blacktown, Mt Druitt and St Mary’s.

Kylie Cullen, Catholic Immigration Office, Archdiocese of Sydney, says the situation of some Sydney families in the city’s west is desperate. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Anna said it is the hardest time she has seen the South Sudanese migrant community experience since coming to this country nearly 21 years ago. She has been working around the clock to assist people any way she can, which has included cooking and delivering meals, organising funeral paperwork, and counselling some COVID patients against a fear of going to a hospital for treatment.

“I have been very worried and upset, this virus is so serious,” she said. “The hardest thing is that when something bad happens in our culture we go to see each other, we have a period of mourning when people come to sit with you, they sleep over at your home and you are never alone.

“We can’t do any of that now of course and this is very hard for people.”

With its larger-than-average families and lessened ability to work from home, the community, which is already bearing scars from physical and mental trauma due to civil war, was always going to be vulnerable to the highly infectious virus and the effects of the lockdown on jobs and children’s schooling.

Anna was overwhelmed by the number of households she is touch with suffering from a member who had become ill with COVID, with some becoming seriously ill, the effects of isolation at home or in hotel quarantine, the loss of work and social supports, and children unable to access remote schooling opportunities.

Pantry staples and old laptops for students needed

Even with help from charities such as St Vincent de Paul Society and Foodbank, Kylie says so great is the current crisis that families and individuals are still struggling to put food on the table each day and look after other basic needs.

They need pantry staples such as bread, rice and canned food, fresh food and milk, baby care items and hygiene products, and cleaning products including disinfectants and bleach.

“Their ability to rally together in the face of difficulty is really hindered by the strict lockdown in their local government area and they need our help as the situation really is desperate,” Kylie said.

“Some of our people have been laid off from work in recent weeks and are suffering financial difficulties, some families are under isolation because one member has COVID, and many children are having difficulty keeping up with schooling.

“I know of a child who had to wait until after 9pm to get on to a computer and try to do some school work. I would love to be able to give them second hand laptops and mobile phones that are in good working order, and if people could donate their unused data that would also be very helpful as well.”

How to donate:

Coles and Woolworths e-gift vouchers can be emailed to Anna Dimo at [email protected]

Food and cleaning items can be dropped at:

  1. St Bakhita Centre
    2 Hornsey Road
    Homebush West

Please email Kylie Cullen ([email protected]) when you drop items off at the centre and she will arrange for it to be picked up that day. If leaving fresh food, please leave them in an insulated bag or container that you are happy to donate.

  1. All Saints of Africa Centre
    63 Allawah Street
    Blacktown

Email Kylie at [email protected] if you wish to donate a laptop or other device a child could use for remote schooling.

Please adhere to current NSW Government health restrictions when donating.