At the height of the Victorian COVID-19 second wave, the Wyndham local government area in Melbourne’s west had the highest number of COVID-19 infections in Australia. The pandemic has also had a massive economic impact, with Wyndham having one of the highest rate of JobKeeper applications.
Wyndham is home to several thousand Karen, and the community has been significantly affected by COVID-19. Many Karen work in abattoirs and were at high risk of infection. Volunteers from Westgate Karen Baptist Community Church cooked food and delivered it daily to families infected with COVID-19.
Two Karen youth from Werribee Karen Baptist Church shared their experience of living through lockdown.
Diana Taw, University Student
During COVID-19, I got more responsibility to take care of my mum and my sister because my mum didn’t want to travel to work by bus, so I had to drop her off in the morning and pick her up when she finished, as well as dropping my sister off at school. But then because my university study went online, I had more time at home with my mum, sister, and my two brothers. My older brother still worked during the pandemic but my younger brother lost his job and just stayed home. During the first wave, the restrictions didn’t affect me that much and it was alright, but in the second wave it hit me really hard. I missed my other family members, especially my niece and nephews. The restriction on travelling more than 5km from my home was very stressful.
For our Werribee Karen Baptist Youth, I can say it is a really difficult time for them because they always used to hang out with friends from the church, or at the church, almost every day. What the youth enjoyed most was spending time with their church friends, but because of COVID-19 the couldn’t see their friends. If you are a person who loves going out, staying home every day is really hard. But our youth are fighting hard and tried their best to stay connected to our church. Seeing them coming to youth service on Zoom made us really happy.
During COVID-19, my faith went up and down like a wave. If the storm hit me hard, I would keep moving and if there was no storm, I could stay still. I fight to be strong and always stay with God but sometimes, I went too far from God and almost fell. But because of God, I can still go and live my life each day without fail. My faith really supported me and helped me get through this difficult time. Because I still catch up with my bible reading partner and reading what Paul taught us in Philippians 4:4-7 and 1 Corinthians 4:4-7, I learnt during this time to be patient, be kind and wait for God’s timing. I felt like God is preparing something good for us during this difficult time and all we have to do is keep going without complaint. I believe that nothing is impossible when we put our trust in God.
Boe Ya Nu, High School Student
Hello! My name is Boe Ya Nu and I live with my parents, my older sister and my two younger brothers. My grandparents live with us but they travel back to Thailand for three months each year. When the pandemic came they were trapped in Thailand and had a problem with their visas. However they have family in Thailand who speak Thai and could help them extend their visa. But most importantly they have God helping them. We are praying for them to get a flight to come back to us in Australia.
My parents came to Australia from the refugee camp in Thailand five years ago. They don’t speak English well, so COVID-19 has affected them a lot. I have been a translator for them. They used to pay for everything in cash in shops, but with shops closed we had to learn to buy online. Thankfully, we have people who are patient and help us. We also give thanks to God for giving us a chance to learn to adapt to the world.
At home, my older sister helps my parents with chores, and my younger brother and I helped my little brother with his remote learning. Online learning was difficult not seeing our teachers face to face, but we adapted to it. My siblings and I had help from our teachers and school welfare workers who looked out for us, and our friends. We are all grateful that we have each other’s backs. And I give thanks to God for letting me have this experience, being able to improve on it and become more independent.
During the shutdown I joined a youth bible study group. The leaders and the members are all friendly and welcomed me. I learned more about the bible, got to know more people, and became closer to God. I’m really grateful for that experience.
I am really grateful for the people of Werribee Karen Baptist Church, who are always willing to help us when we have problems and be there for us. They teach us and look out for us. We are thankful that we have so many people that look out for us. We thank them all and may God bless them all.