Fundraising campaign for mosque shooting survivor surpasses $400,000 goal

The crowdfunding campaign launched to help one of the survivors of the Quebec City mosque shooting has surpassed its $400,000 goal. The money raised will help Aymen Derbali, now paraplegic, buy a new house adapted to his needs.

Aymen Derbali was left paralyzed after being shot in the attack which left six men dead

Aymen Derbali, 41, is relearning how to navigate the world after the mosque shooting. He was shot seven times, and the bullets hit him all over his body, but most importantly, in his spine. Now, he can only move his head, arms and hands. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

Less than two months after its launch, a fundraising campaign has managed to surpass it goal and collect more than $410,000 for Aymen Derbali, one of the survivors of the Quebec City mosque shooting.

The 41-year-old crossed paths with the shooter who entered the Sainte-Foy mosque on Jan. 29, 2017, killing six men and injuring five others.

Derbali was the most seriously wounded. He was struck seven times and was plunged into an artificial coma for two months.

When he woke up, he could no longer feel anything below his chest, making it impossible for him to live in the fourth-floor apartment he shares with his wife and two children.
Derbali's 22-month-old daughter Maryem embraces her dad during a visit. (Maxime Corneau/Radio-Canada)

DawaNet, a Canadian-Muslim non-profit community organization, launched a fundraising campaign in December to help Derbali buy a wheelchair accessible home.

Tariq Syed is an executive member of the Dawanet team who helped co-ordinate the fundraiser.

Syed hadn't yet spoken to Derbali on Friday to share the good news, but said Derbali has been overwhelmed by the response the campaign has received since its launch on Dec. 20.

"Every time I spoke to him he was emotional, imagining that he will be able to move into a house with his family where he will be able to spend the rest of his life," Syed said.
Derbali received warm applause when he appeared on stage to speak at the one-year anniversary vigil of the shooting, on Jan. 29, 2018. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Derbali has been called a hero because he entered the mosque behind the shooter and chose not to turn away, trying instead to distract him to save others.

"He's just one of these incredible people that you want to spend as much time as possible with," said Syed.

"This is one person, his heart, his sweetness, who is just incomparable to anyone I have known."

Support from around the world

Syed said he was getting worried in the final days of the campaign, set to close on Saturday, because it was still $10,000 short of its $400,000 goal.

But he said a last push from people on social media has allowed them to surpass it, reaching $410,000 by Friday evening.
Derbali (centre) met with the Dawanet team several times over the last year for the filming of a documentary. Tariq Syed (far right) said the organization wants to continue visiting the mosque to offer its support in the future. (Submitted by Dawanet)

"I was looking over it and I actually found a donation that was for $1, which is not much, but it really touched me," Syed said.

As of Friday, more than 4,700 people had contributed to the campaign. Syed said he still needs to go through the exact numbers, but estimated up to 700 sponsors were from Quebec.

"It shows how people come together when there's a need for a fellow Canadian," he said.

Most donations came from within Canada but also as far as Japan, Korea, Pakistan and Australia, he added.

Dawanet will close the campaign on the Launch Good platform and sort through administrative work, before coming to Quebec City to provide the money to Derbali.

Syed said Derbali had spotted a home near the Sainte-Foy mosque he liked and would like to move into, once he leaves the rehabilitation centre he has been living in for the past year.