Community rallies to help backpackers in need

Tari JeffersManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Business owners are stepping up to help backpackers stranded in the Lower South West.
Camera IconBusiness owners are stepping up to help backpackers stranded in the Lower South West. Credit: South Western Times

The global COVID-19 crisis has caused stress and uncertainty for backpackers stranded in the Lower South West but business owners are stepping up to help.

Tall Timbers managing director Ed Fallens and Southern Roasting Co. owner Ian Pianta have been working with various farms in the region to provide unemployed backpackers with free accommodation.

“These people are massively important to our region and are scared and have found themselves in a tricky situation,” Mr Fallens said.

“Farmers have been good in helping us to support them because they, like the community, understand these people should be supported.”

About 60 backpackers are being housed at the Manjimup Hotel as part of the arrangement.

“They are good people who just need a hand,” Mr Fallens said.

“More than 50 per cent of them are from lower economic countries and are just here to support their families.

“We have various donations from groups and individuals to help support us in this endeavour.”

Italian national Daniele Guarco, based in Manjimup and working at Newton’s Orchard, said advice from his family was to not go home. “My family told me to stay here and I’m glad I listened to them because I’m safer than I would be in Italy,” he said.

Mr Guarco had already been in Australia for a year and in Manjimup since February, when COVID-19 became a worldwide health crisis last month.

Originally from northern Italy, Mr Guarco said he felt worried as the COVID-19 crisis worsened at home.

“My sister is a doctor and she got the coronavirus and was really sick for 10 days,” he said.

“I didn’t feel good when I heard that because there’s 18,000km between us and I couldn’t help her.”

While his three-year plan was interrupted due to regional closures and few and expensive flights, Mr Guarco said he was luckier than some because he at least had an income.

“I am able to save my money and speak with my family every day, which I’m so glad I can do while I’m living on the other side of the world,” he said.

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