Fourth-year veterinary science student Waiata Geddes has become the first recipient of the Hamza Mustafa Memorial Bursary. The bursary honours the memory of year-12 student Hamza Mustafa, who was killed in the Christchurch Mosque shooting in 2019. Hamza had aspirations of becoming a veterinarian.
Waiata was presented with the award during an emotional ceremony at Wharerata on Massey University’s Manawatū campus on 11 August. Hamza’s mother Salwa Mohamed was on hand to present Waiata with the award, along with her children Zina and Zaid. Representatives from the local muslim community were also in attendance.
The bursary is awarded by the University Scholarships Committee on the recommendation of the Veterinary Programme Management Committee. The criteria for the award was determined in conjunction with Mrs Mohamed, with a key component being promoting the importance of inclusivity in the veterinary profession.
Waiata says she felt honoured to be the first recipient of such a special award. “Considering how important this scholarship is for Hamza’s family, the muslim community and the veterinary profession, receiving the award and meeting Hamza’s family was a momentous occasion that I will never forget. Hamza will always be an inspiration to me and will undoubtedly be in heart as I go through my career.”
She says she felt a connection was formed between Māori and Islamic culture during the presentation ceremony. “I was emotional throughout the whole ceremony but the occasion gave me an overwhelming sense of hope and honouring of Hamza’s memory. This scholarship signifies a big shift in inclusivity already for minorities and the muslim community.”
Waiata says she will put the funds towards travel costs associated with practical placements required for the degree during the summer holiday period, as well as workwear and other gear she requires.
Mrs Mohamed says it meant a lot that she was able to attend the first scholarship presentation in person. “I had a lot of mixed feelings; happiness, sadness, gratitude, a little stress, and pride. However, what I felt the most was love from everyone in the room. It’s a great initiative by the university to memorialise my son in such a wonderful way.”
Mrs Mohamed expressed her heartfelt thanks to those who had made the scholarship a reality, and says she wishes Waiata all the best from the bottom of her heart.
Vet school staff members Dr Kate Hill and Eloise Jillings were the driving forces behind fundraising and organising the bursury in Hamza’s name. Ms Jillings says Mrs Mohamed was touched when the idea was initially discussed with her.
“Hamza dreamed of being a vet, and now this scholarship in his memory will help others achieve that goal. Having Salwa and her children present, as well as Waiata’s whānau, was incredibly special. It felt like a real bond was forged between these two whānau, and demonstrated the aroha and understanding that we need more of in Aotearoa,” says Ms Jillings.
She added that the essay Waiata wrote about inclusion in the veterinary profession, and her experiences as a Māori veterinary student, as part of her application really stood out and resonated with Hamza’s story.
The Mustafa family were Syrian refugees in Jordan for five years before moving to New Zealand in 2018. Hamza’s father Khaled Alhaj Mustafa, a farrier, was also killed in the attack.
Donations towards the continuation of the Hamza Mustafa Bursary Scholarship can be made here by selecting the Bursary from the drop down menu.