For Devendra, moving from Nepal to New Zealand was a big life decision. He arrived in February and had just started studying at Toi Ohomai when the lockdown was announced.
While he was fortunate enough to find some other Nepalese students to share a flat with, with no job secured, this new challenge put him in a critical position.
Struggling to pay for his accommodation and food, he reached out to the Nepalese Association in BOP - a non-profit group representing the Nepali community in the Bay of Plenty Area.
The primary objectives of the organisation are to promote mutual support and cooperation between individuals of Nepalese descent on matters of common concern and promote Nepalese social and cultural heritage in New Zealand.
Through the alert levels, they have been delivering grocery packs filled with food like rice, curry grains, vegetables and canned goods to Nepali newcomers and students.
For those who may not have an employer to assist with any wage subsidy, or may be struggling to secure accommodation, the support has been a lifeline.
With continued hard work, and the help of Nepalese Association in BOP, Devendra has found work kiwi fruit picking and is continuing his education online.
Now able to support himself, he has volunteered to help support others delivering grocery packs to other needy individuals.
He says he is hugely grateful for the support the Nepalese Association in BOP provided, helping him get through a situation he would not have survived on his own.
“I am so thankful for the Nepalese Association in BOP helping me, providing me groceries two times so that I could survive. I faced a problem that many other students and individuals faced in lockdown - these helping hands make such a significant difference in our community, their work is crucial.”
Nepalese Association in BOP General Secretary Anish Paudel says while the lockdown affected every person in New Zealand, those who had just arrived before lockdown started have been struggling immensely.
“The Nepalese are really hardworking and friendly individuals. Many moved here to study as international students, and others have been contributing to our community through their trade, whether that be medical, accounting or managerial positions.
“The majority of people we have helped are involved in the horticulture and hospitality industries, and particularly for those in hospitality who have lost work, it has been difficult. Some are still hunting for a job and decent accommodation.”
The group have delivered 195 grocery packs so far and have gone above and beyond to support those in need.
“Our Vice-President volunteered to go all the way to Rotorua and Te Puke to deliver the food parcels to people’s doorsteps. They were so happy. No one should go to sleep with an empty stomach, so we are pleased we have been able to help ensure that doesn’t happen.
“We also started a helpline right after the lockdown. We provided the numbers of all our executive team and asked anyone in need to get in touch with us if they had any problem or concern with COVID-19. This way, we can redirect them to the correct government department and advise them how they can seek help.”
Nepalese Association in BOP President Pawan Poudel and Vice President Tak Gurung are in regular touch with affected students and have even helped some find jobs in the Horticulture sector.
While the group usually works closely with the community to organise different cultural programs, sports, and other awareness-raising programs, they did not have the funds necessary to provide such a large, and ever-increasing, demand for grocery packs.
Local funders TECT, Acorn Foundation, BayTrust and Tauranga City Council provided the group with $3,000 in funding through the Rapid Response Fund; enough to produce 60 grocery packs for those in need in the Western Bay of Plenty.
TECT General Manager Wayne Werder says newcomers to the region have faced numerous challenges since the lockdown.
“It has been a difficult time for so many in New Zealand. But for those who had just moved here from overseas to start a life, to join our community and contribute to our region, the challenge of having no wage subsidy and no usual support systems like family nearby; it would be incredibly overwhelming.
“It’s fantastic to see a community group like the Nepalese Association in BOP working together to help their people, to be that support system, and offer their hand as a second family for those who have made the Western Bay of Plenty their new home.”
To learn more about the Nepalese Association in BOP, visit https://nabopnz.org.