Sajana Perera (Sri Lanka)

Thankful for support during crisis

Sajana Perera (Sri Lanka) is studying a Master of Tourism and Hospitality Management at JCU Cairns and was among hundreds of JCU students to receive emergency financial help, food packs and emotional support during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sajana arrived in Cairns in February 2020 to begin a Master of Tourism and Hospitality Management. After settling into campus life and finding a job in a restaurant within days, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia. The restaurant had to close down, classes transitioned to online delivery, and Sajana was far from home and his usual support networks.

“For two weeks, I was silent and worried. I was all alone here. I had no friends. My parents were backing me financially and supporting me, but I didn’t do anything in those two weeks.”

But the resilient and determined scholar, who completed an undergraduate degree in England, bounced back.

“I got a push bike, started jogging, and began to build my fitness. I registered for Uber Eats and started to do deliveries. I got $6 the first night. People were telling me to stop ‘What can you do with $6?’

“But within weeks I was earning good money, getting exercise, and I survived.”

Sajana Perera.

Image: Sajana Perera on campus at JCU Cairns.

Sajana received a $400 grant from JCU via its Student Success Support Package to help support him during the pandemic. His marks have been good and is enjoying life in Cairns, despite the recent challenges.

“Now I’ve developed contacts, the Cairns Student Hub have been providing me with frozen meals and fresh vegetables. People have been so helpful here. For me, it’s like a home away from home.

“I know there are so many opportunities here in Cairns, especially in tourism and hospitality, and I will have a good time here.”

As restrictions begin to ease in Australia, restaurants and cafes in Cairns are reopening and the tourism sector is beginning to bounce back. Sajana has now secured employment with a local restaurant and feels positive about what the future will bring.

June 2020