#IFFM Celebrates YOU

With an aim to celebrate community spirit beyond the pandemic, IFFM recognises and honours Victorians, who fostered the spirit of giving back, especially during the onset of Covid-19. We received an overwhelming response to our digital campaign called #IFFMHero, where each of you nominated an individual for their outstanding contribution to the society during the unprecedented year of 2020.

OUR IFFM HEROES for 2020 and 2021

Alex Dekker

Giving up his global and science degree in Monash university to feed our frontline doctors and nurses. "Alex Dekker of alexmakesmeals.com started his business by chance. An accidental box of lasagne for his doctor sister at the Monash medical, he asked if he could be of any help as they were on call 24/7 eating just a trail mix bar (if they were lucky). He started with 12 lasagne boxes dropping them with his sister and next day it was a whopping 400 orders. Within 3 days his tiny kitchen shifted to an Industrial kitchen donated by Tinka Kitchen Preston - the Hardware club.

Impact: Currently 138,057 meals and 55 locations Alex is still continuing in making meals for those in need.

Anjali Sharma

Born in India, raised in Australia, Anjali took up her passion for saving the environment due to global warming, by self-learning from Youtube videos. With a hope to protect future generations from this climatic crisis- she took to Instagram, and with 20k followers over a span of 1 year, she created awareness and voiced her activism educating the youth to join her movement. She empowered many students, and paved a way for future climate activists to communicate their opinions in the public domain.

Impact: Anjali Sharma has been recognised as a youth empowerment champion with more than 20,000 Instagram followers and more students joining her cause to care for our environment.

Avanti Sinha

Avanti represented Australia and won the World ‘Master Games in Auckland 2017’, representing Victoria at the Table Tennis National championship, and winning the Police and Emergency Games Victoria twice. This international table tennis star currently works at the Department of Justice and Correction, and teaches young Islamic girls table tennis aged between 11-13 years in 2021. She has also acted in a short film and devoted two years of her life, as a welfare officer with the refugees on Christmas Island, Perth detention. She was the only Indian woman on the island, supporting other females and children, refugees as a translator, and teaching arts and crafts.

Impact: Volunteer to teach young girls from the Islamic Practise and Dawah Circle table tennis at the Melbourne Multicultural Centre in Tarneit.

Ayushi Khillan

The young 20-year-old launched her company Body Buddies in July 2020, with an aim to help educating and creating awareness about body organs and their functionality to young kids. Creating soft toys in shape of human organs teaching kids about their bodies, the company has also partnered with Transplant Australia, donating 50% of proceeds to support and advocate organ donors and donations. In 2020, Aayushi was the recipient of The City Of Melbourne Youth Champion Awards, and also was included as a part of the 40 under 40 most influential Australian Asians awarded the Excellence award by the State Governor.

Impact: 50% proceeds towards Transplant Australia, and every product comes with a booklet, not just speaking about the organ, but the brand also advocates for organ donation.

Professor Brett Sutton

Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton has been working tirelessly to bring Victoria’s Covid-19 pandemic under control, and has introduced various measures to keep Victorians safe. He has been vocal about the toll this took on his mental health and credits; and thanks, his family, his peers, his meditation practice and professional support services who helped him cope with the pressure.

Impact: Victoria successfully eliminated local transmission down from 6,766 active cases to zero. Prof. Brett credits the hard-working health care professionals who daily put their lives on the line to protect those most vulnerable.

Daman Shrivastav

Worked at the renowned restaurant Al Rasheed in Baghdad, and with the likes of Jamie Oliver, Chef Daman, returned to Melbourne following the onset of the Gulf War. In Melbourne he started training aspiring chefs, but also reach out to the homeless with homecooked meals over the past ten years. During the recent lockdown, he continued his passion for helping those less fortunate by cooking bulk meals a day to help the needy. He also started DD’s kitchen – an online cooking blog and YouTube channel with his 8-yr-old daughter Diya. The meals cooked from the show were distributed 3 times a week to feed the homeless and recently struggling international students caught up in the pandemic.

Impact: Daman distributed around 400 meals a week within 2 hours of it being cooked. In November 2020, they extended their help to the Aboriginal community, by starting a free meal campaign on Perry St. every Sunday feeding 50 to 60 people weeks on week. In total he served 5000 meals in 2020 from his humble kitchen.

Diya Shrivastav

Diya Shrivastav - the 8 yr -old is an inspiration to other kids to try their hand at cooking especially during the lockdown last year. She in fact teamed up with her father Chef Daman Shrivastav to launch a cooking show called DD's Kitchen – an online cooking blog and a YouTube channel. The food from the cooking show was delivered by the daughter & father duo three times a week from their home to help Melbourne's forgotten international students and the homeless during COVID lockdown. last year, and they still continue to help the needy.

Impact: Diya with the help of her father helped in distributing around 400 meals a week within 2 hours of it being cooked.

Dev Mishra

Australian Junior Masterchef 2020 semifinalist at 13 years old, the aspiring cook showcased his amazing cooking skills across various cuisines and flavors. Proud of his Indian heritage and hence with the current Covid situation In India, he decided to play a part in helping/contributing to improve the situation. Raising fund with UNICEF for their Covid Relief India fundraiser, he has been cooking on IGTV live for his fundraising for India collaborating with different chefs. Appearing live in Shipra Khanna’s (MasterChef India Winner) live cooking show on IGTV to support her fundraiser with CARE for Covid Relief in India.

Impact: He raised $AUD 1500 with Care for Covid Relief in India.

Gary Lee

Awarded the New Australian of the year in 2016 and the Premiere’s Volunteer Champions Leadership Award in 2019 – Gary is an ambassador for Bully Zero, AFL and advocate for Asylum seekers. Working 18 years in the international education sector, he relaunched the Couch at The Salvation Army Melbourne Project 614 on Bourke Street helping students with a 24/7 safe space to get a hot meal, place to rest, and so on. With his expertise in the areas of developing creative solutions to challenges, designing innovative programs and events he brought the community together near and far with the setbacks of COVID-19 Aside from his frontline volunteering, the online support he offers is constant.

Impact: He led the coordination and implementation of the 'Our Shout' - food voucher program for international students. This $2million dollar program supports over 10,000 international students to purchase fresh food and produce from the Queen Victoria Market during the challenging times of COVID-19.

Karthik Arasu

As a community ambassador for migrants, Karthik Arasu took to Facebook and started a campaign to support International Students affected by the pandemic. International Student Support Group was formed with many partner organisations both advocating and providing relief food essentials to International students, this group also runs a 1.2k member community facebook group "International Students Support Hotline" and campaign called #internationalstudentsupportgroup . The aim was to help international students & temporary residents stranded in Melbourne with no job or government assistance due to their visa conditions. From connecting those who can help with those who need it, the support group provided essential groceries, food, accommodation and other amenities. Using their vast reach over Facebook and community, he along with his team made appeals to universities nationally for fee reliefs, provision of free accommodation, and more, and with the Government to offer financial supplements for international students, provision of blanket visa extension, relax study visa restrictions.

Impact: Many Universities extended their financial and food assistance to their students struggling with financial hardship. The group supported with 800+ essential groceries packs, contributed money towards 1800 cooked meals program with Mental Health Foundation, supporting 2000+ students who were worst affected by COVID-19.

Pooja Lohana

In 2020, Pooja Lohana created a Facebook group Indians in MelbourneThe Kindness Project.’  The project’s simple mantra is to  Connect those who needed support and those who could offer it. The group managed to Help over 60 seekers, supporting them with groceries, food, and bikes for those who needed it to start working with Uber.

Impact: 60 students received meal packs, essential groceries and free bicycles to explore Uber Eat as a part time job.

Mathew Tyack

Mathew Tyack - a finalist at the Mr. Gay Pride Australia 2020 took it on himself to curate and deliver care packages to the doors of elderly LGBTQIA+ members and others living with disability, all expenses from his own pockets. The Prahran local aimed to help the most vulnerable in the queer community and to give back to those who celebrated the very existence of the LGBTQIA+ in Melbourne before him.

Impact: Mathew Tyack’s charitable contribution helped to feed many elderly and disabled members of the LGBTQIA+ community who may have been unable to seek Government help to sustain through the pandemic. His contribution was eventually supported by Switchboard a Victorian organisation that has provided crucial support services for the LGBTQI community since 1991.


Surviving cancer following two and a half years of chemotherapy at the Royal Children’s Hospital, the young Ryka celebrated her fifth birthday, by seeking support from the guests at her party in the form of donations towards welfare of kids at the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. Her selflessness raised in total $18115 for kids at the RCH.

Impact: Ryka hosted four fundraisers - first in 2016 raising $6,200, second in 2018 raising $6,100 & sponsored a bed to the Kookaburra ward, $1454 as a part of the Camp Quality fundraiser in 2019 and recently in 2021 $4,361.

Samantha Gash

Hurdling Aid for India a movement started by Australian ultramarathon runner – Samantha Gash led to a 3 day virtual marathon to raise funds for people in India suffering due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In collaboration with World Vision – an organisation working towards empowering welfare of children and families, as a Goodwill Ambassador , Samantha took it on herself to monitor this virtual run across June 11-13 , which featured over 2000 participants from India, Australia, New Zealand, Gemrany, UK, USA, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong among others mapping a 1.8 lakh km distance. The funds raised went towards the World Vision’s COVID-19 India crisis appeal, responding to lifesaving needs for equipment and supplies including beds, oxygen concentrators, food vouchers and tents for temporary COVID-19 care centres.

Impact: The virtual run raised $300,000 AUD for the Covid relief in India.

Sunny Duggal

Melbourne based Sunny received the Victorian Multicultural Honour of Excellence - Community Response and Recovery Award , delivering home-cooked meals, groceries, and essentials to frontline healthcare and emergency service workers, aged care residents, International students and struggling community members during the ongoing pandemic in 2020. for his valuable contribution and outstanding service for his inspiring efforts in supporting communities across the state during the bushfire season and the on- going pandemic. In early 2020 he took it up on himself to drive essential grocery, food and supplies to areas affected by bushfire.

Impact: He delivered essentials like milk, water, cereal, toothbrushes, etc. to the affected areas of Sale, Bairnsdale, Orbost Mallacoota and Lakes Entrance, and places like in Bairnsdale Fire Relief Crisis Centre, Freemasons Hall Bairnsdale, Masonic Hall Lakes Entrance and Desi Grill Indian Restaurant.