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Humans of RMIT: Lia Fernanda Grimmer Perez

Lia Fernanda Grimmer Perez, 23, Masters of Architecture student

“The first I heard about Heaven at the Hill was through RUSU (the RMIT University Student Union) who said they were handing out free frozen meals. When I went down there they looked really busy and there was only one person handing out meals, so I asked if they needed any volunteers. They were like.’ yes, please.’ I was there the next day.

I usually volunteer two or three times a week from 7.30 to 11am. We start the morning by going to the kitchens at Parliament, where we pick up these huge crates with hundreds of meals and we sort of push them up the hill towards the church (at St Peter’s Eastern Hill).

Once we catch our breath, we start packing the meals into bags. People can pick up a bag with seven meals for the week. And we spend the rest of the morning handing them out.

People start coming at 9.30 and there’s often a long queue. Most days we hand out anywhere between about 400 and 600 meals. We get people from all walks of life. We don’t say no to anyone. A lot of people have recently lost their jobs because of coronavirus. We have a lot of international students and some people are homeless and doing it really tough right now.

They say things like ‘bless you, I wouldn’t be able to get through this without you guys.’ They’re just incredibly grateful. A lot of the international students are like ‘my family back home just wants to thank you so much for helping us.’

I’ll never forget the morning a lady from an organisation came through and she told us she was trying to help some international nursing students who had lost their jobs and were now getting evicted from their home. It felt crazy that someone could go from being an international student with a job and a stable home one day and then the next it’s all gone and there’s nothing you can do about it. I think that was the moment when the reality of this whole pandemic hit home for me.

And I think that’s why doing this has been so good because you feel so helpless in this whole situation but at least this gets me up early and out of the house and i feel like I’m helping in some small way.”