Almost $20,000 in donations have poured in from Herald readers to help a Sri Lankan mother of two young children whose husband died suddenly in their West Auckland home just months before they qualified for a New Zealand residency application.
Buddhini Sooriyaarachchi, 33, has lived in Auckland for more than five years with her husband. They have two children, Vinuga, 9, and Vinudth, 7 months.
But she said her world crumbled on February 3 when her 39-year-old husband Jeevaka Shayamal, or Jee as he is known, died of a heart attack.
An associate set up a crowdfunding page on Givealittle with a target of $30,000, but after the story was published online, more than 400 donors took the donated amount from $17,500 to more than $37,000 on Tuesday morning.
Buddhini said she was "extremely touched" by the generosity of the donors and others who have helped her, including those in the local Sri Lankan community and her late husband's employer.
"I am so thankful to everyone who have helped us, and I feel maybe this is also like Jee is looking after us from above," she said.
With the money, Buddhini said she would engage an immigration lawyer to help in her fight to remain.
"Many friends in the community have also contacted me saying they will write supporting letters, so I hope that will help our immigration cause too," Buddhini said.
An Immigration New Zealand (INZ) spokesman said the agency would like to offer its condolences to Buddhini and her family for their loss.
"At the time of his death, Mr Sooriyaarachchi (Jeevaka) held a work-to-residence visa which was based on his employment with Wayne Scott Panelbeaters and Spraypainters," she said.
"Applicants must hold their Work to Residence Visa for 24 months in order to be eligible to submit a Residence from Work residence application. This means that Mr Sooriyaarachchi and his family would have been eligible to apply for residence from 4 June 2021."
The family's residence would have been dependent on Jeevaka's employment, and cannot proceed with their application without this.
"She could consider submitting an application for residence in her own right. If she chose to do this, she would need to meet all applicable instructions to be granted residence," the spokeswoman said.
Buddhini's visa is valid until December 4 and there is currently no open application for residence for the family, she said.
Wayne Scott, who employed Jee as a spray painter at his business Wayne Scott Panelbeaters, said he had also done everything he could to support the family.
Scott said he paid for Jee's funeral, which cost around $6500, and allowed Buddhini and her children to remain at their accommodation above the workshop without charge for two months.
"I feel sorry for their loss and have done everything I can to support the family, but the place where they are currently staying is meant for staff and I just can't have them staying on indefinitely," Scott said.
He is also assisting them to secure a new temporary accommodation.
Migrant advocate Asoka Basnayake, who is assisting the family, said she was chuffed by the generosity of Kiwis who have donated to help them.
"The donation amount has more than doubled since then and I am so very thankful New Zealand," Basnayake said.
"It shows who we are as a nation, helping out when one is in need, however small their contribution is. Drops of water form an ocean and I am so humbled by the outpour of supportive messages and thoughts and prayers of ordinary people."
Basnayake said this was perhaps why Buddhini wants to make this country their home.
The family came here in 2017 from Colombo with dreams of making New Zealand their permanent home until Jeevaka's death.