For more than a thousand crew still stuck on board the troubled Ruby Princess cruise ship, it's been the thought of home that's kept them going while they've been caught up in Australia's biggest COVID-19 controversy.
Which is why, when a massive delivery of care packages turned up at the docks of Port Kembla on Tuesday afternoon, they decided to pay it forward and make a safe home a reality for someone in the region which has supported them.
Within a day of receiving 1200 boxes packed with notes, kids drawings and well-loved Aussie snacks, the crew has raised more than $2000 for Wollongong Emergency Family Housing.
Through the Wollongong Homeless Hub and other programs, the charity provides crisis accommodation for families and individuals, and also helps people in need to find and keep accommodation through of early intervention, case management, referral, advocacy and information.
"Since our arrival at Port Kembla, we, crew members, aboard the Ruby Princess have been shown great compassion, love and support by The Mission to Seafarers and Wollongong community," the crew said on their Go Fund Me page.
"Their thoughtfulness and generosity have lifted our spirits in this tough time as we all look forward to seeing home and reuniting with loved ones in the near future."
"That is why we decided to start a go fund me for [Wollongong Emergency Family Housing]. Some around the world are restricted to their homes, some are waiting to return home and some have no home at all.
"We would love to help a family feel safe and sheltered in a place to call home."
With a goal of $5000, money has been donated by crew members, their family and even some Wollongong community members who have been closely watching the Ruby Princess saga unfold.
A crew member on board, Trevor Mills write that he had been "overwhelmed by the love and support from the local Wollongong community".
"We hope this small token of our appreciation goes towards helping someone else out in need one day," he said.
As for when the crew will return home, the NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said on Thursday that police continued to work with NSW Health and Carnival Cruises to cement a suitable date for the Ruby Princess to depart Port Kembla.
The previous day, he flagged Sunday as the possible date of departure.
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