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Sajana - Sri Lanka

#InThisTogetherStories - Sri Lankan student Sajana Perera has been thrown a lifeline by James Cook University after being caught up in the COVID-19 crisis. Coming from his home of Sri Lanka, Sajana is currently studying a Master of Tourism and Hospitality Management at James Cook University in Cairns.

#InThisTogether with Sajana Perera

Sri Lankan student Sajana Perera has been thrown a lifeline by James Cook University after being caught up in the COVID-19 crisis. Coming from his home of Sri Lanka, Sajana is currently studying a Master of Tourism and Hospitality Management at James Cook University in Cairns. This is his #InThisTogether story.


Thankful for support during crisis

The 24-year-old is among hundreds of Cairns and Townsville students from James Cook University (JCU) who received emergency financial help, food packs and emotional support after finding themselves struggling as Australia went into lockdown.

Sajana arrived in the tourism hot spot of Cairns in February 2020 to being a Master of Tourism and Hospitality Management. He settled well into campus life, and found a job in a restaurant within days. But as 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 along 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 determine scholar, who completed an undergraduate degree in England and survived a terrorist attack in Colombo last year, bounced back quickly.

"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."

A home away from home

Sajana received a $400 grant from James Cook University 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."

The future looks bright

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.

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