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The volunteers plan to make about 1,500 meals to distribute today. (Supplied: Sikh Volunteers Australia)

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Fijian abattoir workers, Melbourne's Sikh community assist in NSW flood zone

Keely Johnson, Bronwyn Herbert, Emma Rennie, and Zoe Thomson

A group of Fijian men and members of Melbourne's Sikh community are rescuing and cooking for people in flood-affected northern New South Wales.

Forty-five Fijian workers employed in abattoirs at Casino and Booyong arrived in the Lismore region earlier this month, but for the past few days, they have been helping the community.

Fijian worker Semi Sailosi Lutua said he and his friends turned to a local Facebook flood support group to see who needed assistance.

"We just told locals we're here and we could help out," he said.

The group has helped with boat rescues and provided assistance in an evacuation centre by setting up beds and serving food.

"I was going down in the boats with mates grabbing all the people. It's so sad man, seeing all the water everywhere," he said.

"We go from rescues here [the flooded streets of Lismore] back to the evacuation centre.

"We stayed up late until 2am the other night just to help out in the evacuation centre to help people out."

Semi Sailosi Lutua said he had experienced severe flooding in Fiji and felt it was the right thing to lend a hand in Lismore

"I want to do my part and we all just want to make our country and families back at home proud.

"Families that have lost everything were so thankful [for our help]. They said, 'Thank you that you even thought of us'."

Sikh support

A team of four Sikhs have travelled from Melbourne to Woolgoolga, south of Lismore, to cook and donate meals to flood-affected families further north.

Jaswinder Singh, from Sikh Volunteers Australia, said the team initially planned to head to Brisbane but realised Lismore and surrounding towns needed their support.

"We are based at Woolgoolga Sikh temple and today we will cook 1,500 meals," he said.

"We are cooking curry and rice because that is the fastest thing we can make.

"We are working with our local contacts to move safely around the region. We want to deliver meals to Lismore, Grafton and Woodburn."

Mr Singh said more volunteers are on their way.

"We are a team of four now … But more volunteers will be flown in during the coming days when the airports are open," he said.

"Volunteering is part of Sikh culture. It gives us a higher purpose and meaning. 

"It doesn't matter if I don't sleep for a few days, the feeling I get from helping others is pure peace and calmness."

Mr Singh said flood victims are grateful for their support.

"The feeling of community here is hard to describe," he said.

"This is my first time here [on the north coast] and I feel like I have been welcomed into a family." 

[Courtesy: ABC News]

March 02, 2022  

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