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Pitching in

Some Syrian young people who are former refugees, enjoying a Red Cross summer programme in Dunedin. Photo: New Zealand Red Cross

From people donating chickens to tertiary students cooking 1000 meals, the Dunedin community is pitching in to help those isolating at home because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Corstorphine Community Hub runs Food Share every Friday and usually gives away between 28 and 56 boxes of kai a week, with KiwiHarvest providing most of the food.

In the near future, the boxes can be dropped off to people isolating at home. They now contain hand sanitiser and face masks to help prevent the spread of the sometimes-deadly virus.

A hub committee member, Mere Jouanides, says during the past two years of the worldwide pandemic, demand has increased yet so has the hub’s ability to meet it.

She says they’ve been connecting with more agencies, including the health provider, Te Kāika, and are able to provide more food and items such as cleaning products.

The hub’s hall in Corstorphine now has a cooler pantry with more space for kai.

“The freezer’s full, and the shelves, and if a family messages, we can distribute straight away.”

Kai available for those who need it at the Corstorphine Community Hub, Dunedin. Photo: supplied

The hub has been helping its community understand public health measures and locals can pick up rapid antigen tests to check whether they’ve contracted the virus.

Hub Coordinator, Dale Pene-Smith, says that lately, more and more people have been asking if they can donate. One member of the public dropped off chickens she’d bought because she wanted to contribute.

Ministry of Social Development Covid-19 relief funding pays for emergency food, such as when people don’t have enough for the weekend.

Anyone that needs anything urgently right now, we’ll go in and make up a box.”


Recipients include solo dads, seniors, large families and those who’ve lost jobs because of specific, employment-related Covid-19 vaccine mandates.

1000 student meals

Meanwhile, Otago Polytechnic third-year Bachelor of Culinary Arts students earlier this month produced, packed and froze 1000 meals for fellow students isolating because of Covid-19.

Hundreds of polytechnic students have been off sick or self-isolating and some still are.

Working on campus and online, the trainee chefs developed 14 student-friendly dishes, including vegan and gluten-free options.

“The students are getting a unique opportunity to produce food in bulk and examine their processes,” says the Bachelor of Culinary Arts Senior Lecturer, Tony Heptinstall.

The Student Success team and others delivered the 1000 meals. The Director of Learner Services, Brayden Murray, says they were gratefully received.

“When we deliver a package, we text the learner to confirm delivery has been made, so most of our feedback has been through lots of text messages of thanks, gratitude and feeling supported by us.”

Otago Polytechnic Bachelor of Culinary Arts students (from left), Yam Gurung, Alex Rangi and Kaylee Gibbs, prepare vegetarian meatballs for students isolating because of Covid-19. Photo: Otago Polytechnic

Polytechnic Chief Executive, Dr Megan Gibbons, says teams are phoning students who are isolating, providing food for a small percentage of them and in some cases, delivering medicine.

“We also understand that this will be the first time some of our learners have been away from home for an extended period.”

Nearby, the University of Otago and Otago University Students Association (OUSA) have teamed up to support students who are self-isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 or being identified as close contacts.

As of March 22, OUSA had assembled and delivered 4545 care packages containing essential supplies and a few treats.

The university is providing up to $500,000 in support and once Covid case numbers grew, staff volunteered to help with the packs.

One of those volunteers, Glenda Paterson, says she can relate to what students are going through.

“Everyone’s really positive and wants to help.”

Helping former refugees

Some former refugees have language and cultural barriers to understanding the local Covid-19 situation.

So to support them, the Red Cross is collaborating with WellSouth, the Southern District Health Board, the Otago Muslim Association and others.

Together, they’re helping former refugees understand public health measures, including vaccinations, and linking them with medical care if someone contracts Covid-19.

“We’re fortunate that we all work together in Dunedin,” says Kelly Campbell, the Red Cross Pathways to Settlement Manager.

WellSouth health navigators have healthcare backgrounds and speak Arabic, Farsi or Dari.

The new residents sometimes need translation, don’t have established networks and may worry about why Government departments or food banks ask for personal information.

Some Syrians and Palestinians have lived in Dunedin since 2016, and some Afghans since 2019, while others have arrived more recently. Less than 50 are being helped regarding Covid-19.

Kelly says if people are working but need to self-isolate, the Red Cross shows them how they or their employers can apply for financial support.

It also explains how food banks work and helps them understand what’s available.

The former refugees have a sense of relief that they can get food and won’t lose their jobs because of needing to isolate at home, she says.

“They’re grateful that they have people they can turn to and be supported.”

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For further information:

Corstorphine Community Hub

Covid-19 financial support and health advice in various languages


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