Doing the right thing and helping those less fortunate is a big deal for Juliana Cavaleri Goncalves Peloche.
Juliana would cut potatoes and help her mother cook food for the poor when she was a little girl in Brazil.
"I did the same with my kids when we were living in Brazil, because I think it is the right thing to do," the 40-year-old mother of two said.
She has continued that generosity of spirit since moving to Australia almost two years ago to undertake a PhD in Education at the University of Wollongong, south of Sydney.
In fact Juliana is now in the running to win the prestigious International Student of the Year award for her instrumental role in helping run the Food+ With Care Project to support students and the wider community.
UOW's project, which has provided thousands of free meals and essential items to students since the COVID-10 pandemic began earlier this year, has also been named as a finalist in the 2020 Study NSW International Student Awards, in the International Community Engagement Award - Business and Community.
The Food+ With Care Project began in May with the aim of providing food assistance to students who had been financially impacted by the pandemic, after many lost their jobs.
UOW staff began volunteering their time and money to put together pantry packs for both domestic and international students.
It has since become a fortnightly opportunity to provide students with groceries, including fresh fruit and vegetables, ready-made meals, and pantry and toiletry items.
The winners will be announced on December 8 in a ceremony at Government House in Sydney.
Juliana was shocked to find out she had been nominated for her part in this project.
"I just couldn't believe that someone would nominate me," she said. "I was so surprised, I had no idea my name had been put forward."
When the pandemic hit, she was staying with her family at UOW's Bangalay campus accommodation.
Every weekend, Juliana and her son would ride their bikes in the empty campus carparks, and one Saturday she saw volunteers from Shining Stars Outreach Service handing out meals to students.
My family in Sao Paolo are locked in their houses because of COVID. I feel so privileged to be here in Australia now. We have to pay it forward.Juliana Cavaleri Goncalves Peloche
As a student leader at Bangalay, Juliana became involved with Shining Stars, helping to hand out meals but also providing a bridge between the organisation and UOW.
With a car borrowed from Bangalay, Juliana, who had previously been catching the bus around Wollongong to pick up donated items, became an integral part of the initiative.
"My family in Sao Paolo are locked in their houses because of COVID. I feel so privileged to be here in Australia now. We have to pay it forward. To do that we have to help these needy students as best as we can," she said.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Juliana, a teacher in Brazil for 20 years, was in Australia some 23-years ago on a Rotary exchange program.
"I'm from Sao Paulo which is a huge city and I came to Paterson, which is a little town close to Maitland," she said.
"it was quite an experience, they had only 500 people in the town.....that's how much is probably in my street in Brazil.
"But I had a very good experience. I lived on farms and went to Dungog High.
"I loved it and vowed to return one day. I didn't know it would be during these traumatic years but I can't complain and can't be in a better place honestly.
"I'm so grateful to be living here. I know my family and others around the world are struggling.
"All I can do is my bit to help the disadvantaged here, and that's what I'll do for as long as is needed."
Assistance is available to all UOW students via the Food+ with Care Project.
For more information click here: https://www.uow.edu.au/student/support-services/food-assistance/