A young New Zealand couple who worked at the Mount Seymour ski hill over the winter and had most of their possessions stolen in Vancouver are leaving empty-handed but with their faith in humanity restored, thanks to a Saanich woman.
Molly Tame, originally from Australia, and New Zealand native Brad Hawkins, both 22, toured B.C. for three weeks after the ski season wrapped and had been living out of their 1998 maroon Chevrolet Malibu.
On May 13, less than 24 hours before they were due to fly home to New Zealand, the couple lost about $12,000 worth of gear and electronics along with their ID, bank cards and passports. All they were left with was the clothes on their backs and their cellphones. Without passports, they couldn’t board their flight.
A Saanich woman read about what happened to them, contacted the couple through Facebook and invited them to stay with her and her fiancé on the Island.
“I just looked at these kids’ faces and, I don’t know, something really hit home for me,” said Chris Stephen, a mother of three adult sons. “I just thought: ‘What if it were my kids?’ I would hope that there would be a Good Samaritan out there that would at least be a safe person to go and talk to for help.”
With no funds and no knowledge of the ferry system, there were some hurdles involved in getting Tame and Hawkins to Saanich. Stephen contacted a childhood friend who lives on the North Shore and happens to be from Auckland, New Zealand, where Hawkins is from. That friend met the couple and gave them cash for their journey.
Stephen said she will never forget when Tame and Hawkins turned up at her shop in Sidney at dinnertime on Wednesday night.
“I tell you, when those two little faces appeared in my shop … my heart skipped a beat,” she said.
Stephen immediately went into mom mode and took the couple home to feed them.
Hawkins was supposed to be celebrating his 22nd birthday in Fiji — the couple’s last hurrah before settling down in New Zealand — but that plan died when their stuff was stolen and their $2,000 flights were forfeited.
However, Stephen and fiancé Alex Morgan cooked up a birthday party for Hawkins, with a meal at a restaurant. “It just felt so good to be able to give them a little bit of happiness in all of this nastiness,” said Stephen.
Tame and Hawkins had parked their car in the underground of a Denman Street bike rental shop. After one last look at Stanley Park they returned to find their car gone. It has been reported stolen but nothing has been recovered.
Tame and Hawkins quickly learned that without ID and bank cards, you are lost. They had no access to money to buy food and other necessities. Fortunately, a former co-worker gave them shelter.
The day after their car was stolen, the North Shore News published a story about the couple’s plight, and strangers from all over B.C. reached out to help. “People have offered their homes and clothes and money,” said Tame. “Even just their wishes and keeping us in their thoughts, hoping we get our stuff back is just overwhelming.
“We definitely think of Vancouver as not the innocent place we thought, but do recognize the majority of people here are kind and welcoming people that care for justice and the welfare of people visiting their country,” Tame said.
Initially, the couple didn’t want any additional assistance, but Stephen encouraged them to set up a crowdfunding campaign via GoFundMe. “I told them: ‘Listen, allow people to do this for you. Down the road you’ll remember how it felt … pay it forward down the road when you can.’ ”
They applied for emergency passports, which they received on Friday. With help from family, they arranged $3,000 one-way tickets to go home on the weekend.