Behind the charity effort to help COVID cases in Sydney hotspots

In the morning the pair drop hampers and hot food to families who have COVID-19, as well as households struggling without work during lockdown. They include Darlene Tangatapoto’s in Greenacre, where there are seven mouths to feed, including three foster children.

The boxes are donated by dozens of charities. Some are made by Lighthouse itself, others come from community groups including Addison Road or larger organisations like OzHarvest. Human Appeal Australia, led by Amin El-Bureeny, is also packing hampers every day. He said they “receive donations and translate it into bags of goodness for those in need”.

Human Appeal Australia volunteers and university students Rokaya Breis (left) and Maysa Amine (right) pack hampers in Lakemba.

Human Appeal Australia volunteers and university students Rokaya Breis (left) and Maysa Amine (right) pack hampers in Lakemba.Credit:Kate Geraghty

When the Herald called Gandhi Sindyan, the founder of Lighthouse Community Support, he was driving 150 meals to nurses at Westmead Hospital. The boot of his van is stocked with heaters, nappies, electric blankets, baby formula and vegetables – just so he’s prepared.

“Our objective is not just meals; we try to make sure we look holistically at our families and essentials that help them,” he said. On the weekend he delivered to a 17-year-old boy with COVID-19 in Blacktown who had diabetes but no insulin. The night before, he spent time on the phone with a 19-year-old girl with the disease, who has elderly parents and confessed how scared she was.

“You’re not going to open that door, that window – but you are letting them know you genuinely care. Obviously, when there’s this many cases it’s hard to stay on top of everybody. So we come in and do what we do,” Mr Sindyan said. “We have an amazing community where a lot of people want to give behind the scenes, just your average Fatima or average Mary.”

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Chief executive of the Marrickville-based Addison Road Community Organisation, Rosanna Barbero, said grassroots organisations like these were essential. “Otherwise you just get a package. And you feel like a problem,” she said.

“They’re able to do more than just a drop-off of food – they can say: ‘hi aunty, hi uncle, how’s it going’? – and that’s priceless. They know who’s struggling with home schooling, with health, with debts, with household debt and rental arrears.

“[Grassroots organisations] are the mules, the workhorses – we actually engage with the humans that receive it. The big organisations get all the money, and so they should, but there should also be money going to these smaller on the ground companies that are the distributors.”

The community groups supporting south-west and western Sydney households

  • Community Migrant Resource Centre (Parramatta)
  • Lighthouse Community Support (Lakemba, Bankstown, Punchbowl, Campsie)
  • Turbans 4 Australia (Liverpool, Blacktown)
  • Deadly Connections (Indigenous communities)
  • House of Welcome (Guildford, Auburn, Granville)
  • Arab Council of Australia (Fairfield)

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