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However, the community has rallied to support Ismail, who lives in Hornby, donating $9850 over four weeks in a Givealittle fundraiser set up by his sister, a response that has astonished him.
"I’m absolutely taken aback, even if we had received like $20, we would still have been just as taken aback,” he said.
"Essentially anybody giving out of the kindness of their heart and their hard work is a big deal. We really appreciate every little bit.”
Since buying the Halswell property in April, they had been carrying out renovations and were nearly ready to make the shift when the fire broke out.
"We were almost there - two days out from the contractor finishing.
"It ended up doing a lot of damage, but the fire department got there in time to stop it engulfing the whole place.”
A large hole in the floor was perhaps the worst of the damage, and the impact of the ash and soot permeating the entire house was also extensive.
"After the fire we were really, really taken aback - we knew we were in a bit of a situation.”
They were now working to organise the repairs and did not expect to move in for weeks or even months.
Meanwhile, they would continue to live with Ismail’s mother.
The family owned the Springs Road Dairy, which his parents brought when he was a small child, he said.
"We’ve been in this dairy as a family for 33 years.”
He now helped out in the dairy in the evening after his regular job.
"After [my brother] passed, myself and my wife took on a lot more responsibility.
This was not the only family tragedy he endured in 2019, with his baby daughter dying in Starship hospital in July of that year due to a critical heart condition.
Faith was the key to overcoming the hardship of recent years, he said.
"We’re very religious in terms of our outlook on life . . . it really gives us that platform to understand any sorry of adversity or grief that we have to undertake.”
This year Ismail and his wife welcomed another baby daughter.
He hoped his next birthday would be spent peacefully in the family’s new home.
"[The donations] definitely mean our future is looking a little bit brighter than we would otherwise have seen.”