A woman left homeless after she was kicked out of her rental property upon returning from China has a roof over her head again – thanks to the kindness of strangers.
In other examples of selfless deeds in response to the coronavirus, people in lockdown at home are being brought food and supplies to help them get through quarantine.
Among the helpers is a tour guide seeking a way to keep busy since tourist numbers suddenly and sharply declined over virus fears.
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Another volunteer is Melbourne mum Summer Lin, who has put her business on hold to do the supermarket shopping for families self-isolating after returning from China.
Ms Lin, 35, is part of one of several groups on social media service WeChat where verified members can post what supplies they need, then connect with neighbours who can visit shops and make deliveries to their doors at no cost.
Their records show that shopping orders have been filled for more than 1000 mainly Chinese-Australian families since the social media groups – staffed by at least 200 volunteers – formed about three weeks ago.
One man in self-isolation said he would have suffered depression had it not been for the community of helpers who, amid feeling unwanted, gave him a strong sense of belonging.
Whenever a self-isolated person posts in the group that they need help with groceries or other supplies, admins have been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who say they can lend a hand.
Ms Lin didn’t think twice about helping.
Speaking to The New Daily the health coach started to cry as she spoke about the impact coronavirus was having on China, her country of birth.
“I’m hoping Australia and other countries will understand that Chinese people are trying our best to deal with this disaster,” Ms Lin said.
Deakin University administrator Tom Tang, 40, travelled 50 kilometres (one way) to drop off multiple shopping bags of food and a 10-kilogram bag of pool cleaning chemicals for a young Melbourne family who had recently returned from Shanghai.
Having gone into self-isolation for two weeks during the SARS outbreak in 2003, Mr Tang said: “I know that feeling. I needed to help them. Thanks for the group. It gave me the chance.”
Ten people teamed up to prevent one woman from being homeless after she got kicked out of her rental upon returning from China’s Hubei province, volunteer Tu Jin said.
Within a day, they managed to find her a place to stay as well as buy and deliver a variety of goods to help her settle in, said Ms Jin, a healthcare worker from Melbourne.
“It just shows the power of the Chinese community,” she said through a translator.
Tour guide Michael Guo was out of a job after the federal government on February 1 imposed a travel ban on foreign arrivals from China, freeing him up to join the sweeping effort to help self-isolated people get quick and easy access to everyday essentials.
Having spent up to eight hours a day not only doing deliveries but monitoring the WeChat groups and connecting volunteers with people in need, Mr Guo said he felt happier taking part in “something more meaningful”.
He joked: “A lot of volunteers are fighting each other to get the (shopping) order, to get the opportunity to do their part.”
One group could have more than 600 messages in a single day, Mr Guo said.
So moved by the help provided to him, Andy Wang said he couldn’t wait to start making deliveries upon finishing his quarantine period.
Mr Wang feared he would have developed depression had he not had other Chinese-Australians reach out to offer their support.
He said he did not feel welcome back in Melbourne when he first returned home from a trip to Beijing.
Also at the receiving end of the kindness of strangers was Tina Zhao, who otherwise would have been left little choice but to leave her home to do her shopping – something she feared could have put others at risk.
“It’s touched my heart that the community, especially the Chinese community, has united to help those they don’t know get through this difficult period,” she said through a translator.