What started as 2 guys in a kitchen just over 6 months ago, COVID19-EAD, Henry Le and his team have provided thousands free chef-cooked meals, groceries and support to out of work or stood down hospitality workers. We had a chat with Henry about the future of COVID19-EAD and to celebrate their 6-month milestone.
"Wow 6 months, it makes me feel exhausted, to be honest! but very grateful! Haha...Even though the time commitment is massive and the stress is insane, this is the best thing I'm doing with my life right now and I can't imagine doing anything else." Henry tells The Social Catalog.
Created in the wake of the COVID pandemic, COVID19-EAD started by Henry and his Co-founder Jackie in a kitchen by themselves, contemplating how to help their staff in a time of uncertainty. By themselves, they were making and delivering meals via contactless delivery.
"In the early days, when I was still running around cooking and packing I remember one house and the person I delivered to was a single parent and I was masked up, gloved up and I had left some groceries and some meals at the door and as I walked away the person yelled at me to stop, they were just so grateful and wanted to and I was stuck like: I don’t know what do to! Social distancing!" He explains.
"And then the clients' child poked their head in the doorway and said hello and it made it almost too real for me"
-Henry Le, COVID19-EAD, Co-Founder
"When your cooking and packing and delivering, we're supposed to be doing contactless delivery so I wasn’t even supposed to see them face to face it just so happened they opened the door in time and it really put a face and a human connection behind what we were trying to achieve."
COVID19-EAD soon grew to a team of volunteers who cook, pack, manage, co-ordinate, deliver and offer support calling on hundreds of clients in Melbourne and surrounding suburbs."I think the best thing that has come out of COVID, at least personally, is the opportunity for people to recontextualise or think about how they want to live their lives and how they want to put their money, or their skills or their time to good use," he explains.
"One thing I didn’t quite realise at the start was how much benefit it would be for the volunteers..." Because it gives you the ability to put your shoes on in the morning and get out of the house with some purpose if you put yourself in the shoes of someone who was working 65-70 hours a week in a bar and is used to serving patrons and all of your social interaction comes from your clients and you colleagues too: Okay I've watched Netflix and I've watched all of it, now what?"
"I mean there's only so much sourdough making, water colour painting and online cocktail courses you can do before you just haven't spoken to a human for a while! Haha"
- Henry Le, COVID19-EAD, Co-Founder
When speaking to Hannah Brennan from Scarf she spoke highly of the initiative and Henry and this team, "It's just incredible what they have achieved in such a short time. I think the role they are playing in the hospitality industry right now is absolutely critical because it's not just about the food; it’s the community and the lifeline to an organisation that really have got their best interests at heart. Scarf is so proud to be auspicing Covid-19 E.A.D and supporting their work."
So with restrictions easing, and Melbourne looking towards Alfresco dining what's the future for the COVID19-EAD charity? "We knew eventually would have to go back to running our businesses and living our lives, It was almost designed in a way to self destruct when it wasn’t needed anymore," Henry tells The Social Catalog.
"It makes me hopeful for the Melbourne hospitality industry because it's demonstrated that we're going to be there to support each other, even in the darkest time where resources may be limited when we're faced with the loss of our businesses we still want to look after those who are around us."
- Henry Le, COVID19-EAD, Co-Founder
Speaking to the new Victorian Government's investment into outdoor eating and entertainment Henry was hopeful it will give the hospitality industry the support that it needs and encourage more of a 'street party' vibe to our city and state overall. "It's really a return to that wholesome community vibe, it's something that gives Melbourne another point of difference" He explains.
"We are known for our thriving hospitality scene and live music so but now it's kind of taking it to a new level and it will really be a draw-card if we can sustain this and it becomes part of our culture as Melbourne moves forward."