More than $12,000 has been donated to a Syrian refugee, whose plans to start a business were destroyed by a vandal.

Khaled Al Jouja moved to Lower Hutt about 18 months ago, and after finding his feet had started growing plants in his backyard to turn into a business.

That plan seemed to be destroyed, when on Tuesday this week he came home to find vandals had destroyed all the plants that were nearly ready to sell.

But today the community rallied around to pot new plants for him at the community enterprise hub on Waiwhetu Road, and present him with $12,500 cheque from well-wishers as far away as Ireland, the UK and US.


Al Jouja seemed overwhelmed and emotional at the outpouring of support.

"Thank you everybody in the country and New Zealand for your support, thank you everybody for coming today to help me, thank you, everybody."

Common Unity Project founder Julia Milne said the support was "overwhelming", as they'd originally only asked helpers for extra bags of potting mix.

"Obviously the response to Khaled and what happened has morphed into this most beautiful thing.

"We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

"It's a demonstration of what is possible when we close the gaps between us, and stand in solidarity against so many of the things that are happening in the world today."

The community turned out in force to help Khaled Al Jouja replant. Photo / Frances Cook.
The community turned out in force to help Khaled Al Jouja replant. Photo / Frances Cook.

As well as individual donations, Mitre 10 donated hardware and staff, while Tommy Millions pizza and Almighty Juice kept the volunteers fueled up.

Almighty Juice co-founder Adan Tijerina said they wanted to make sure the story had a happy ending.


"What happened, happened. What struck me immediately was less a focus on them and what they did, and more a focus on we, and us, and the community here.

"We all wanted to come together to support someone who was part of the community, and an active member of it.

"You know, nobody is demonising whoever did it, it's more that it happened and now how can we help someone important to us to start again."

When Al Jouja's plants were vandalised it was the plants that were ready for market that were targeted, leading some to suspect that it was a planned attack.

Police have since visited his garden and made leaflet drops.