The Comfort Project is a group of ten Dunedin students formed in response to the grief and despair triggered by the devastating 2019 terrorist attacks on two Christchurch mosques.
Founder Kristy Watson says the group share an important belief. “In times of sorrow and tragedy, women universally mobilise to console, care and nourish,” she says.
Our response sought to unite, heal and comfort New Zealanders and to engage with our local Muslim and refugee populations.
“Dunedin is home to many refugees and those of Muslim faith,” says Kristy. “It should feel like a safe harbour, like home. But the experience of our minority populations isn’t always one of inclusiveness and respect.”
Kristy says The Comfort Project seeks to advance Aotearoa as a multicultural, diverse and welcoming society.
In 2019, the women volunteered at Al Huda Mosque’s Sunday School, baking for the children and catering for Iftar (the breaking of the Fast) during Ramadan as a meaningful way to show support. “We were welcomed warmly as the first non-Muslim volunteers at the mosque,” says Kristy. “It was a practical way to stand in solidarity of their right to practise their religion.”
The group’s latest project was to create a fundraising arm, with the aim of directing all proceeds to welcoming new refugees and their families to Dunedin. English Language Partners’ (ELP) Dunedin centre have been fortunate to receive a $1,000 donation from the group’s fundraising efforts.
Christine Cook, ELP’s Dunedin manager, says ELP plays an essential part in welcoming new Kiwis into the community, and she’s thankful for the generous donation.
“Learning English is a solid first step towards finding work, and joining in everyday activities,” Christine explains. “You need English for job interviews, to talk to your kids’ teachers and when you’re getting medical help. English is essential to get ahead and live a normal life.”
Kristy says that although The Comfort Project’s members have now spread out across three campuses, their experiences are life-lasting.
We were compelled to do something tangible in support of New Zealand’s newest citizens, and hope that our contribution will support ELP in welcoming new Kiwis to their chosen home.
“The work these women do is truly inspiring,” says Christine. “They’re making a real difference in people’s lives, and we’re delighted The Comfort Project has donated in support of ELP’s people and our work.”