In March 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak escalated into a global pandemic. Like many other Pacific labour mobility workers, Hana Silva from Timor-Leste had to quickly adapt to the new measures.
Hana is one of 54 Pacific island workers employed by the Midfield Group, which is a meat processing business in Warrnambool, Victoria. Unlike many workers across the country, Hana and her colleagues were able to continue working after new social distancing rules and stricter hygiene protocols were introduced.
Hana and her housemates have maintained a strong connection with the local church through online services, and with their friends in Warrnambool and family in Timor-Leste through WhatsApp video calls. However, disruptions to travel plans mean she has been unable to travel home to see her family.
“I had planned to visit home in May to see my husband and two children – I had to cancel the trip,” she said.
‘Be patient and focus on your goals’
She said it was a difficult time to be away from home for the workers from Timor-Leste, particularly because many of their communities are struggling with food shortages due to COVID-19 related restrictions on international trade.
The workers at Midfield wanted to help and decided to pool together money for a group of churches and youth organisations coordinating food supplies across Timor-Leste. As of April 2020, 54 workers had contributed $50 each and the number was growing.
Hana said the project is a way for her and her fellow workers to show solidarity with their home country, even though they cannot be there in person.
“It’s very sad we can’t be there but in the meantime, we are supporting them this way. I will definitely visit when the borders open again, and I’ll continue to call my family every day.”
She advised her fellow PLS workers in Australia to be patient during this time and keep the bigger picture in mind.
“Sometimes things get difficult but you shouldn’t give up on what you want to do. Be patient and focus on your goals,” she said.