News National Coronavirus kindness: Selfless deeds pull self-isolated back from brink of depression

Coronavirus kindness: Selfless deeds pull self-isolated back from brink of depression

Summer Lin is one of the Chinese-Australians volunteering their time to help people locked down at home in quarantine. Photo: TND
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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.

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.

Michael Guo, Tu Jin and Tom Tang are among hundreds of volunteers helping self-isolated people. Photo: Christiane Barro

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.

Summer Lin’s only other priority is driving her three-year-old son to and from childcare.

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.”

Tom Tang (with his wife) finds time after work to do deliveries. Photo: Christiane Barro

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.

Tu Jin was taken by surprise by just how social media has been able to unite people for good. Photo: Christiane Barro

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.”

Michael Guo will continue to be without a paying job after the travel restriction was extended for another week, until February 22. Photo: Christiane Barro

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.

Andy Wang, with his 13-year-old daughter, was interviewed via Skype from self-imposed quarantine. Photo: Christiane Barro
Tina Zhao
From inside her Melbourne home, Tina Zhao has been helping connect volunteers with people in need. Photo: Christiane Barro

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.

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