Selfless woman helping refugees resettle in Dunedin rewarded with visit to her family in Lebanon

Emotions ran high as a Lebanon-born woman who set up a refugee centre in Dunedin was rewarded with $10,000 so she can visit her family in Lebanon for the first time in eight years.

Afifi Harris featured on this week's ASB Good as Gold segment on Seven Sharp.

She was born in Lebanon but fell for a Kiwi man and ended up living in Dunedin where she's part of many organisations that help others in her community.   

You'll find her at the Saturday farmers' market selling Lebanese food or at the refugee centre that she set up herself because there wasn't one in the city.

Richard Joesph, president of the Cedars of Lebanon Club, said Ms Harris has been on the club's committee for the last 10 years and came out to New Zealand during the civil war in Lebanon.

Jeanette McQuillan, Ms Harrris' neighbour, said she raised a lot of money, mainly through the Cedars of Lebanon Club, to help Lebanese women in Dunedin learn to drive. 

"She also goes and sits in with people who apply for jobs and goes to people who need a translator at the doctors," Ms McQuillan said.

Chris Harris, Afife's son, said: "When the Syrian refugees arrived in Dunedin one of the biggest barriers was language."

Reporter Sam Wallace caught up with Ms Harris, as she was surrounded by supporters, and told her: "We came here today to celebrate you and to say thank you so much for everything you do for all these people who are coming from places around the world where they're vulnerable."

Ms Harris said she wants to "stand up for them" because she speaks the same language.

Asked when she last saw her family, she said, "in 2011" and would love to go again.

She could hardly believe the news that ASB wanted to give her $10,000 so she can go home and see her family.

"Oh my God! "You're joking!" she said. "It's fantastic news."

The selfless recipient added: "I like to help people. I'm not looking for to get money. "Thank you. It's enough for me, like a million dollars."

Afifi Harris is well known in Dunedin. Source: Seven Sharp