Two of our staff have been instrumental in helping our Housing New Zealand community navigate the terror attacks on two Christchurch mosques. As a show of gratitude, each was gifted some pounamu.
Ahmad and Mohammed were hurting – for their friends, their Muslim community and New Zealand. It was a moment where all would have understood the need for time away from work.
Instead, the pair, ordinarily based at Housing New Zealand’s Wellington and Auckland offices, did the opposite. They jumped at the chance to travel to Christchurch and make a difference.
Ahmad would eventually learn two of his friends were victims of the terror attacks on Masjid Al Noor and Linwood Masjid. For Mohammed, like many, there was a sense of loss in a community with which he was closely connected.
"It’s not just the Muslim community, but everyone else is finding it difficult to digest this and just a simple act of kindness – just coming up and talking to someone – [makes a difference]," Customer Support Advisor Mohammed says.
"We’ve had friends and Muslim colleagues in Christchurch who’ve just got random hugs, you know, from strangers. That, in itself, shows who we are as New Zealanders. We’re kind, caring people."
Over two weeks in Christchurch, the pair worked with staff to help them support grieving tenants. Four Housing New Zealand families have had to come to terms with the death of loved ones.
Ahmad and Mohammed also gave presentations about Islam to those working in the Christchurch office. It was a chance to share their culture and beliefs, and both identified the positivity that could come from a moment of such darkness.
At Housing New Zealand offices, "you’ll see people of different races, different nationalities," Ahmad, a Capacity and Availability Manager, says.
"This is about opening up ourselves to other cultures as well … this is one of the better outcomes of this whole event.
"There’ll be the sadness, the anger, but … we will learn from this that to get to know everyone is a lot better."
Liz, Assistant Regional Manager for the Wellington and Southern region, said Mohammed and Ahmad "truly epitomised" Housing New Zealand’s values.
"Their patience, kindness and compassion for our tenants, our staff and the wider community, was astonishing," Liz says.
Both Ahmad and Mohammed remain humble about how they have impacted staff and customers affected by the attack. Each is grateful for the opportunity to make a difference.
If Mohammed could ensure people took one message away from his work in Christchurch, it would be for them to “find out just a little bit” about Islam. That went for people of all cultures and beliefs, too.
"It doesn’t have to be a lot, just enough for you to understand and be able to have a dialogue with a Muslim colleague, Muslim friend or someone who’s been affected."