A new cohealth program operating in Melbourne’s west is supporting the Ethiopian community by creating jobs, stimulating Ethiopian-owned businesses and delivering food to nearly 400 people in the Ethiopian community who have been impacted by the pandemic.
The novel program pays Ethiopian restaurants in Melbourne’s west that have been hard hit by COVID-19 to cook meals for people doing it tough. It also employs local Ethiopian drivers to deliver food boxes containing a week’s worth of traditional ingredients to families in need.
Financial stress and unemployment caused by the pandemic have been a major concern for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, particularly temporary visa holders, asylum seekers and refugees, people who are not proficient in English, and those who have been experiencing racial discrimination.
People from CALD backgrounds were among the first to lose casual jobs during lockdown, and local restaurants and cafes have struggled to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
cohealth’s bicultural worker, Yonas, who is from the Ethopian community, initiated the program and received funding from the Victorian Government’s to deliver it, with the assistance of nearly a dozen volunteers from the community.
“I could see people in my community struggling. People were losing their jobs, businesses were suffering and some people couldn’t put food on the table,”
“In the Ethiopian community people can feel ashamed if they need help. People will suffer in silence rather than seek charity. We created a program that gave a hand-up to the local drivers and restaurant owners, not a hand-out.
“The meals and food boxes are targeted at people who are experiencing unemployment, low income, illness or disability, elderly, and single parents, but we’re also flexible.
“We use our networks to identify people in the community who are in need,” said Yonas.
The food boxes and meals are packaged with re-usable face masks, hand sanitiser and public health information in Amharic and other relevant languages.
A total of 365 cooked meals and 75 food boxes will be delivered over the three month program, which finishes at the end of February.
“This program has impact on so many levels,” said Nicole Bartholomeusz, Chief Executive, cohealth.
“It simultaneously addresses a number of social and health problems caused by the pandemic, including unemployment, food security and declining business and supporting people’s nutritional health.
“But most importantly, it is a shining example of community-led practice – letting the community shape their recovery from the COVID pandemic,” said Ms Bartholomeusz.
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cohealth is a Victorian not-for-profit community health organisation that strives to improve health and wellbeing for all. It provides universal access to services as well as targeted programs and assertive models to address the health disparities experienced by disadvantaged groups. cohealth offers a broad range of high quality, integrated health and support services, including medical oral, pharmacy, mental health and drug and alcohol services.