Taipei church gives free groceries to migrant workers, students

International students pick up free groceries at Saint Christopher's Church

TAIPEI (CNA) — A Taipei church has been giving away free groceries and daily necessities to migrant workers and international students since late April, to help them through the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, a priest at the church said Friday.

The events, held every Monday at Taipei’s Saint Christopher’s Church until the end of July, allow workers and students to select fresh vegetables, rice, frozen meat and fish, tea, and canned fish off metal racks.

Also sitting neatly on the church benches lining the hallways are dried noodles, snacks, toilet paper, wet wipes, and other household necessities.

The groceries are being given free because many international students cannot find jobs to support themselves during the pandemic, Father Gioan Tran Van Thiet told CNA.

“Many restaurants have either closed or reduced the number of workers they have because of COVID-19 and it has had a big impact on the livelihood of the students,” Thiet said.

Anna, a junior university student from Vietnam who is a volunteer on the program, said she used to work at a night market which helped pay her expenses while studying in Taiwan, but she currently has no work hours because of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, 22-year-old Trixie Tao, a business and trade student from Vietnam who picked up groceries at the church, said she has found it hard to find a job during the pandemic.

“That is why we don’t have enough money to pay our monthly expenses,” she said.

International students in Taiwan are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week, except during summer and winter breaks, according to the country’s labor ministry.

The groceries were paid for by the church’s priests, Daughters of Charity, a Society of Apostolic Life for women within the Catholic Church; and migrants with local businesses in Taipei, Thiet said.

To date, more than 80 foreign students and migrant workers have received free groceries, Thiet said.