Uto Enosi Tuipulotu came to Akaroa four years ago to get an education so he could support his family back in Tonga.
But now he is in Christchurch Hospital battling a rare form of cancer.
The 19-year-old had been having trouble with a racing heart while at rugby training, and went for a check-up.
It was then when the doctor found a cancerous growth on his heart.
The building apprentice is now in hospital undergoing chemotherapy treatment.
His former history teacher, Garry Brittenden, who helped bring him to New Zealand, has set up a Givealittle page to help raise money to bring his family over to be with him while he undergoes treatment.
His father, Siaosi, arrived in Christchurch on Saturday, but his mother Lou and his two brothers and sister are still to travel here.
The money raised would also go towards his ongoing medical costs.
After six days, the page had raised more than $16,200.
Mr Brittenden said he was "blown away" with the response.
He said Uto was a real role model for the youth in Akaroa, and was loved by all.
Uto moved to Akaroa to attend the area school for year 11. He stayed with various host families during his time.
Mr Brittenden said he worked extremely hard to gain NCEA levels one, two and three, so he could go on to get a job as a building apprentice.
"It was just through bloody determination, he just put his head down, he's a real role model," he said.
"He knew that this was his opportunity to help his family."
Uto joined the Akaroa Volunteer Fire Brigade while he was at school, and in 2014, made the New Zealand Barbarians Area Schools rugby team, which played the Chiefs under 18 team.
He has also played for the Canterbury Country and Ellesmere representative teams, and was a Lincoln Colts player this year.
To donate visit: www.givealittle.co.nz/cause/help4uto# or you could donate money at Akaroa Area School office at 141 Rue Jolie.