May 5, 2020

Adventist Youth in Australia Reach Out to Struggling International Students

Maryellen Fairfax, Adventist Record

Adventist young people in South Australia are working to supply food hampers to a demographic that has been largely overlooked in the COVID-19 crisis: international university students.

“A number of them haven’t been able to go back home with everything that’s been happening,” explained South Australia Conference youth director Joel Slade. “Many of them have also lost their jobs because the hospitality industries they were employed in have been shut down. The government doesn’t provide any support, and many of their parents are also struggling financially back home, so they can’t help.”

Every Wednesday, young people involved with South Australia Youth Ministries (SAYM) have been gathering to collect and assemble food into hampers to be sent out to an international dormitory in Adelaide, home to mostly doctoral students from the city’s three major universities.

“We were delivering individual hampers to 80 students, but now we just supply them a large delivery of goods for their communal kitchen,” Slade explained.

Each delivery costs about AU$3 (about US$2) per person — thanks to services like AusHarvest and Food Bank — and consists of fresh produce as well as non-perishables and pre-made meals donated by a local cafe. According to Slade, the success of the operation came from mobilizing lots of people through partnerships with the local community.

“We’ve built a relationship with the dorm manager, who arranges when we can send the goods to the students. And we’ve also connected with a local cafe in the area that used to employ about 10 international students and can’t afford to anymore but still wants to help them,” Slade explained.

The response to the food delivery ministry has been overwhelmingly positive, Slade said, and he is excited about how the ministry — through connecting international and Adventist university students — will continue beyond COVID-19.

“We’ve been trying to connect with this demographic for a while,” Slade said. “And what we’re hoping to do is continue with a pizza and hang-out ministry for the students. The food delivery is now building a relationship where, when the restrictions lift, we can invite these guys back for a meal.”

The original version of this story was posted by Adventist Record.