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Covid-19: Red Cross giving $40k of food vouchers to stranded foreigners a day

Aug 10, 2020

More than $40,000 worth of food vouchers are being handed out daily by the Red Cross to foreigners stranded because of Covid-19.

And the situation was worsening, with more people asking for help every day, Red Cross visitor care Manaaki Manuhiri project lead Rachel O'Connor said.

"At the start of the programme we were seeing about 100 applications a day, and we are now starting to see 150 to 180 start to come through."

The Red Cross was currently helping more than 4,000 backpackers, seasonal workers and tourists with food, warm clothing and financial help.

"We're seeing more every day ... one of our concerns is that we think there are a lot more people out there who need support."

More than 1000 were based in Auckland, where many migrated in the hope of trying to find a flight home.

But with continuous flight cancellations and difficulty in finding work, many were running out of their savings, O'Connor said.

The organisation was funded by the Department of Internal Affairs to provide help to stranded migrants until the end of September, but the need was unlikely to diminish by then, O'Connor said.

Surprise baby in Hawke's Bay

Elvina Batick, 23, is one of the 885 seasonal workers from the Pacific who are receiving help from the Red Cross.

She arrived in Hastings in October under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme to work for horticultural contractor Team Work Hawke's Bay, but discovered in early March she was six months pregnant.

Unable to get a flight home, or continue working, she has been reliant on her employer and the Red Cross for basics such as food and warm clothing.

The company's pastoral care manager Maurane Vertut, who the baby was named after, acted as Batick's translator and delivery companion during the birth as Covid-19 restrictions at the hospital meant she could only have one person with her.

Elvina Batick's brother David, who was also in New Zealand, was able to get on a repatriation flight after his wife in Vanuatu fell ill with cancer.

"He had to make a really tough decision to stay and help his sister, or go and see his wife," Vertut said.

"Unfortunately she died while he was in his two weeks' isolation in Port Villa so he never got to say goodbye in person."

Team Work employees and other seasonal workers had rallied around Batick to make sure she was well supported, Managing Director Jas Singh said.

"We provided all the baby things ... whatever she needed. Everyone here helps look after her [the baby]. She has lots of uncles and aunties."

Batick said although she was happy in New Zealand and was being well looked after, she could not wait to return to Vanuatu to introduce her daughter to her parents for the first time.

That dream could become a reality as soon as this week, with Air Vanuatu resuming commercial flights from Auckland to Port Villa on Wednesday.

Preparations were underway to get Batick and her daughter on the earliest flight home possible, Singh said.

Main Image: Elvina Batick (L) named her daughter Maurane after Maurane Vertut (R) from Team Work Hawke's Bay. Photo: RNZ

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