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 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
"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
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.