Black-ribbon fundraiser for victims

Dunedin resident Maisoon Khalil (second from left), originally of Iraq, with Otago Polytechnic...
Dunedin resident Maisoon Khalil (second from left), originally of Iraq, with Otago Polytechnic students and black ribbon-making event organisers (from left) Rachel Anderson, Olivia Churchman and Ruby Faragher.
They just had to do something.

That was the feeling as about 100 students turned up at Otago Polytechnic yesterday, to help make thousands of black ribbons as a fundraiser for victims of Friday's mass shooting in Christchurch.

Each gave an hour or more of their time, helping put together the ribbons to be given out - in return for a donation - across Dunedin in the coming week.

And there with the students, wanting to do something to say thank you, was former Iraqi citizen Maisoon Khalil, who now lives in Dunedin.

Ms Khalil, a Muslim, arrived with enough food to fill a table - and feed all the student volunteers - and planned to order pizzas later in the day.

She told the Otago Daily Times she "had to do something'' too, and wanted to show her support for those helping her community.

Yelin Seo (left) and Katie Ryan make black ribbons at the Otago Polytechnic Hub yesterday. PHOTOS...
Yelin Seo (left) and Katie Ryan make black ribbons at the Otago Polytechnic Hub yesterday. PHOTOS: LINDA ROBERTSON
She had been shocked by Friday's violence but was grateful for the warmth and love shown across New Zealand in response.

"We are still shocked. It is unexpected in New Zealand, because it's such a nice and quiet and peaceful place.

"We appreciate what New Zealanders are doing. They exceeded our expectations, handling such a thing.''

Among those helping make ribbons were students Katie Ryan (18) and Yelin Seo (19), who both said they could not afford to donate money but could give their time for such a worthy cause.

"I feel like it's so important to protect the Muslim community right now, and care for anyone you know in that community, in any way you can,'' Miss Ryan said.

Event organiser Olivia Churchman, a polytechnic student, said the aim was to make 5000 ribbons to distribute this week.

Funds raised would be donated to the Christchurch Muslim Trust Fund, she said.

"We were affected by it ... This is probably the closest thing we can do to feel like we are helping,'' he said.

Ms Khalil, who works at the University of Otago, said she and her family came to New Zealand in 2001, moving from Christchurch to Dunedin in 2009.

She had been impressed by the warmth of the country's welcome for her family and refugees from across the world.

"We will never ever forget, because of this incident, what New Zealand has done with refugees. No. We have to stick together.''

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