A Colombian student who lost his job during COVID-19 has been matched with one of the Study Queensland-Luhrmann Appeal’s generous benefactors.
Juan Ramirez was one of thousands of international students in regional Queensland who lost part-time employment through COVID-19 shutdowns.
At the same time, he was dealt another challenge.
“My eyesight was deteriorating,” the 20-year-old said. “When I was outside, I really couldn’t focus, I was getting headaches and my concentration suffered as well.”
But, with no income or access to COVID-19 stimulus payments, he had to prioritise living expenses. He could not afford the prescription sunglasses needed to shield his eyes from Cairns’ tropical sky – ironically, one of the things he loves most about Far North Queensland.
Study Cairns’ Hub Co-ordinator Gaby Thomasz suggested Juan explore his options through the Study Queensland-Luhrmann Appeal website. The website, managed by ‘charity warehouse’ GIVIT, allows international students in need to request items that will help them remain focused on their studies in unprecedented times.
Donors can source nominated items – anything from Go Cards to blankets and data packages – or provide the funds to purchase.
Juan knew what he was looking for was expensive – about $400. He said he would have been thrilled if someone covered ‘part of the cost’.
However, an anonymous donor was touched by Juan’s plight and pledged the cost of the glasses, in full.
“I was just so happy – I really didn’t expect that level of generosity from someone I didn’t know,” he said.
Lilly Luhrmann, the daughter of film duo Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin, is the face behind the Study Queensland-Luhrmann Appeal. Lilly is an international student herself and was touched by the unique challenges facing her peers in Queensland through COVID-19.
Juan arrived in Australia at the start of 2019 with his cousin. He's currently studying Hospitality at the Cairns College of English and Business. Colombian students are a growing subgroup of Queensland’s international student community, representing the fourth largest nationality within the state’s 2019 cohort. Colombian student enrolments increased 19% between 2018 and 2019.
Once Juan settled on Australia as his country of study, he began researching which destinations offered a culturally immersive experience.
“I wanted somewhere where there wasn’t a lot of Spanish speaking students to fall back on,” he said. “I really wanted to improve my English and experience Australian culture.
“My education agent suggested Cairns, showing me all the beautiful natural attractions and the welcoming community.
“I really love Cairns – it is so beautiful. I would love to stay here forever.”
International students in need can register for emergency items at GIVIT’s student portal. Donors can make a difference to the lives of students by visiting the Study Queensland-Luhrmann Appeal website.