Volunteers from Quang Minh Buddhist Temple in Melbourne have provided vegan meals to nearly 900 people in the suburbs of Footscray and Braybrook, since July of this year, and the experience has made them resolute to continue their efforts until the pandemic is over.
The efforts were in response to the struggles that the Buddhists saw among their neighbors, particularly the homeless and international students trapped by the lockdown. Volunteers from the temple have served an estimated 50–80 meals per week over the last three months.
Meals served, including pho, rice, fried noodles, spring rolls, and banh mi, have been cooked and packed by temple volunteers and distributed to community members in need.
The Buddhists have ensured that pick-up locations for the meals are accessible and that health and social-distancing rules are observed, out of concern for the volunteers and those served.
Temple volunteers said that, along with food and necessities, they hope they can offer “a helping hand to those in less fortunate situations than ours.” Additionally: “The tireless contributions of everyone will create an image of solidarity, which needs to be spread and known to many people, not only in Victoria and the Vietnamese community in particular, but also in other multicultural communities.” (SBS Vietnamese)
In a letter, temple volunteers said, “We hope that our action will inspire others to do good deeds to people in need.” (SBS Vietnamese)
According to Lan Anh, the international student coordinator of the group, members from the temple plan to expand their efforts to deal with the mental health difficulties many people are also facing.
“We distribute food to dozens of international students every week, and my group talks to them a lot. Sometimes the problem is not only about food, but it is also related to their mental health.” Anh continued, “Thanks to the generous financial help from our sponsors, and the enthusiasm of the organizers and volunteers, the charity program is expected to continue until the pandemic is over and people are able to get back to their life.” (SBS Vietnamese)
Quang Minh Buddhist Temple is a center for the Vietnamese Buddhist community in the state of Victoria and is recognized as one of Australia’s most significant Buddhist sites. According to 2011 census data, some 185,000 Vietnamese live in Australia, with nearly 60,000 located in Victoria. The temple’s history in Melbourne can be traced back to 1980, with the arrival of the Vietnamese monk Ven. Thich Phuoc Hue. Since his time, the temple has grown and moved across several locations and seen a succession of abbots.
Australia has recorded 27,405 total confirmed cases of COVID-19, as of this writing, with 905 deaths reported. The nation has had two distinct waves, a smaller one occurring in March and April and a second, larger wave of infections in July and August. Recent weeks have seen much lower numbers of newly confirmed cases, averaging 10–20 per day.