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International students pay it forward by volunteering at Baptist Care SA’s Community Food Hub

International students pay it forward by volunteering at Baptist Care SA’s Community Food Hub

International students helped by Baptist Care SA at the height of the COVID pandemic last year are showing their gratitude by volunteering to assist South Australians in need at the Community Food Hub that helped them.

Located on Wright Street, the Baptist Care SA Community Food Hub provides free bread, fruit and vegetables along with low-priced food and other household essentials to anyone with a concession card or Immi card, including pensioners, students and people experiencing homelessness.

The students were introduced to Baptist Care SA Community Food Hub after being given food vouchers to shop there to assist them as COVID-19 restrictions came into force, university campuses and businesses closed their doors, and many students lost their jobs.

Appreciative of the assistance provided by Baptist Care SA, the students are now volunteering one day a week at the Community Food Hub to stack shelves, work on the checkout and help clients with their shopping.

One of the students is twenty-six-year-old Rhicha Phatak who arrived in Adelaide from Mumbai, India to study a Masters in Property a year ago and within a month of arriving was having to navigate her way through a global pandemic far away from the support of family and friends.

She was introduced to the Community Food Hub through her university accommodation and was given food vouchers to redeem at the Hub, along with a food hamper.

“The short-term support provided through the Food Hub helped relieve some of the stress and anxiety I was experiencing at the time, said Ms Phatak.

“Shortly after arriving in Adelaide, I was studying online in my student accommodation and not yet able to make connections with other students or secure a part-time job to help me support myself.

“The people at the Community Food Hub not only provided me with a few household staples but also a friendly face and a chat which meant a lot to me in an unfamiliar city.”

In November, when Baptist Care SA was able to bring back volunteers to the Food Hub, Rhicha started volunteering alongside other international students to help-out others in need and say thank you to Baptist Care SA.

“After witnessing firsthand how valuable the Food Hub was to people in need, I wanted to give back and help others, said Ms Phatak.

“I’m volunteering one day a week and have found it extremely rewarding to help the clients of the Food Hub who range from families, pensioners and students, and many people who’re experiencing homelessness.

“I volunteered back in India by teaching in the villages and working in an animal shelter, and now volunteering in Adelaide is a way for me to give back to a city that will be my home during my studies.”

The Community Food Hub relies on volunteers to operate and has formed strong partnerships with the universities, particularly Flinders University, with some of their social work students undertaking placements at the Community Food Hub and then going on to volunteer.

Baptist Care SA Community Food Hub Coordinator Mick Udompol said he was very grateful to the international students for their support.

“The students work not only help us to keep operating but are popular with the other volunteers and the clients of the Food Hub because of their empathy and friendly nature,” said Mr Udompol.

The Baptist Care SA Community Food Hub is managed by a Baptist Care SA staff member who sources food from Foodbank SA and a roster of 25 volunteers help to serve low-cost groceries to hundreds of people every week.

The Baptist Care SA Community Food Hub is located at 216 Wright St, Adelaide, and is open every week from Monday to Thursday from 10am-3pm.