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Coming to New Zealand should have been the beginning of an exciting adventure for Simon Carrasset and Evelyng Morales. But three months after arriving, the pair were sleeping in a car and living on canned tuna and white bread.
Simon and Evelyng are old school friends from Chile. They arrived in New Zealand in early February, Simon on a working holiday visa, and Evelyng on a visitor visa. The pair were excited to explore New Zealand but, when COVID-19 reached our shores and the country went into lockdown on 23 March, their situation changed dramatically.
Simon, who was working on an orchard in Tauranga, went from full-time work to just a few hours a week almost overnight.
“My work is not happening,” says Simon. “I only have one day of work every week. It is impossible for living.”
Unable to pay rent, barely able to buy food and knowing that it was unlikely Simon would find more work in the Bay of Plenty, the pair moved into Simon’s car. For over a month they have been sleeping in the car, relying on public amenities and eating little to save what money they had left.
“It's so cold!” says Evelyng of sleeping in the cramped car during winter.
Evelyng had planned to stay in New Zealand and apply for a working holiday visa in October, on the one day each year when Chileans can apply. But, recognising that the dream of staying longer in New Zealand was no longer possible, Evelyng decided she would have to try to get home. However returning home is not as simple as it once was.
“I have a flight on 4 September, but there are very few flights to Latin America. We are no sure if we can get home. There is a good chance our flights will get cancelled,” says Evelyng.
It was while living in the car that Simon and Evelyng heard about Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri. A representative of a local community group where they were staying told them that New Zealand Red Cross could provide more support while they figured out their next steps. So, the pair applied, while also making plans to head somewhere that might offer more work opportunities for Simon.
Eventually, they headed to Auckland where Simon’s family friend, Nimia Medrano, lives.
“I want the best for them. They come to New Zealand with dreams,” explains Nimi. “They arrive and two weeks later, COVID-19 arrives! Then the work dries up and, with this weather, there is no more work coming.”
Through Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri, Simon and Evelyng were provided with emergency food vouchers, vouchers to purchase winter bedding and clothing and financial assistance for their accommodation needs. This assistance means the pair will be able to move out of the car and into warm and dry temporary accommodation to tide them over until Simon finds work and Evelyng is able to head home.
For Simon, this assistance has provided reprieve during an anxious time.
“It is a very difficult situation for us here – no family, in another country,” Simon explains. “It’s very complicated. With no money, with nothing.”
“This very special for us,” he smiles. “Thank you so much.”
The past few months have been understandably overwhelming for Evelyng, who had not anticipated facing the challenges she has come up against when planning her adventure across the globe. As she was told that she was eligible to receive support through this programme, she burst into tears of relief.
Now Evelyng, and her family who have been worried for her back in Chile, can rest easy.
The Red Cross team also provided the pair with a Red Cross Parcel full of goodies, a gesture of kindness after weeks of stress. As they headed to their car, wide smiles across their faces said it all.
In Evelyng’s words: “It means everything to us.”
What is Visitor Care Manaaki Manuhiri?
Working with Te Tari Taiwhenua, Department of Internal Affairs, who is managing the New Zealand Government’s Foreign Nationals Impacted by COVID-19 Programme, New Zealand Red Cross is delivering in-kind assistance to help foreign nationals meet basic needs, such as food and accommodation.
How can I apply?
People who are in need and on temporary (work, student, visitor) and Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) visas can check their eligibility and apply through foreignnationals.services.govt.nz. The programme will run for three months.
To find out what support you might be eligible for, head to https://covid19.govt.nz/business/covid-19-financial-support-tool/.