Visa holders William and Lorena working at FareShare
In March, as COVID-19 hit, we saw food relief programs, community kitchens and soup vans ceasing to operate. Anxiety about the virus, social distancing recommendations and a dependence on vulnerable older volunteers meant quick closures. This left vulnerable people without their usual support and social connections. We also heard from our hospitality partners that they had been hit hard and many vulnerable staff were likely to suffer dis-proportionally.
To find out more about how food security was emerging as an early crisis of COVID-19 we contacted partners in the food relief organisations we support, to ask how their operations had been affected and how we could help. Marcus Godinho, CEO FareShare, revealed that the effects had been immediate, they had no choice but to suspend 1,250 kitchen volunteers in Melbourne and Brisbane and were grappling with how they could continue to operate.
StreetSmart had capacity to provide grants due to a successful DineSmart campaign a few months earlier, and we immediately committed to providing a COVID-19 Emergency Response Grant of $14,250 to FareShare (including a generous matched grant from regular collaborators Unico and Australian Communities Foundation). This grant was to enable FareShare to immediately implement a paid operational model. StreetSmart also introduced them to collaborator and supporter Chef Alejandro Saravia of Pastuso in Melbourne, who had made contact saying he had staff eager to work.
The following story is from FareShare revealing the impact of this early grant…
“Vulnerable visa workers from all over the world have gained work and the chance to give back in FareShare’s Melbourne kitchen during COVID-19.
We have offered meaningful employment to 80 skilled staff stood down from their normal roles including Columbian couple William and Lorena who say FareShare has “changed their lives”.
Lorena Ramos first came to Australia for the Adventure Race World Championships representing her country in the multi-disciplinary, endurance event.
“I just came for the race but fell in love with the country,” says Lorena from Bogota. She told partner William Barreto to start learning English and the former physical education teachers made their way here to start a new adventure.
Both found work at Peruvian restaurant Pastuso in Melbourne’s ACDC Lane before William moved on to carpentry. Along with many visa workers, they struggled when the pandemic hit and were grateful for Pastuto executive chef Alejandro Saravia’s introduction to FareShare.
“We feel really welcome here – the mission is rewarding our hearts. It’s the most important work in the world. The energy in the kitchen is as good as the food. You can feel the love here.” Lorena
William, who has experience working with Indigenous people in Columbia’s jails and hospitals, says he has already learnt a lot at FareShare.
“There are people from different countries with different histories to teach me different things,” he says. “It improves you and it improves lives. We are really happy. We have a job, we are learning and making a beautiful history.”
FareShare’s Crickette DerJeu said Lorena started as a cleaner before joining William in the pastry kitchen.
“We are so blessed to have beautiful people like Lorena and William whose values are so aligned with ours,” she said. “Thanks to Working for Victoria, we are extending our wonderful FareShare family and it’s a privilege to have them on board.”
FareShare kitchen team
In May FareShare cooked a record 515,425 free meals– enough to feed a packed MCG five times over and more than twice their usual monthly impact. A huge shout out to their team and supporters for this incredible effort!
“With millions of people losing work and income, many international students stranded without support, elderly, sick and vulnerable people disconnected from normal support networks, FareShare has had to scale up rapidly,” said FareShare CEO Marcus Godinho.
This grant to FareShare was one of 33 community grants worth $191,150, funded by DineSmart 2019 donations, distributed in VIC, NSW, QLD and SA.
You can read more about the impact of other DineSmart 2019 grants here.