Adventist school’s colourful fundraiser for Christchurch victims

From left: Eden Duker, 11, Josephine Ma'u, 17, Sophie Pigott, 17, Amelia Tyrrell, 17, Eva Zhou, 11, and Harmony Ngarepa, 11, form a colourful lineup. (Credit: Warwick Smith)

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A group of New Zealand high school students is fundraising for the Christchurch mosque shooting victims, with the “power of flowers” and a message of shared humanity.

Amelia Tyrrell, 17, and her fellow Longburn Adventist College prefects have gathered $NZ600 from their classmates to send to the victims of Friday’s terrorist attacks and their families.

“The Mosque shootings were on a Friday afternoon—this meant that Sabbath allowed for much reflection,” said school principal Brendan van Oostveen. “The disbelief and shock gave way to grief and anger, as we navigated uncharted territory. When Monday arrived we met as a school, as we always do at the start of a week. What do you teach in response to such an act of hate? After chapel our prefect team met and it was agreed that love is always the answer.”

The school’s prefects decided to hold a “power of flowers” fundraising day, inspired by the wreaths and flowers people have laid at mosques across New Zealand.

“It’s just such a positive image—all these different colours that stand out from each other, but they’re all still flowers and more beautiful together—same as it is for humans,” said Ms Tyrrell.

Students and staff were decked out as brightly as possible. (Credit: Warwick Smith)

On Wednesday, every student and staff member at Longburn Adventist College wore flowers in their hair, around their necks or printed on brightly coloured shirts, and made a donation.

It was deliberately bright and hopeful, in the face of New Zealand’s darkest day, and was a day for people to reflect on how similar we all were, said Ms Tyrrell.

One piece of common ground for Ms Tyrrell was that many of the victims were refugees and immigrants who came here to feel safe. Her family did too. There were two terrorist attacks near their old home in the UK, and the increased police presence, fear and uncertainty of when the next attack would come was overbearing.

“My family came here 1½ years ago to get away from that feeling, but now its here too,” she said.

Fellow student Sophie Pigott, 17, said everyone was feeling anger and despair.

“So we wanted to lift spirits and show there’s a hopeful way forward, together,” she said. “Peace, love and respect are values shared by Muslims, Christians, and all New Zealanders, and it’s better to build on our similarities, rather than focus on differences—not just after a tragedy, but every day.”

“I am so very proud that our prefect team, our school and our country simply want to ‘show the love'”, said Mr van Oostveen. “After all, He is love.”

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