A young New Zealand couple who worked at Mt. Seymour over the winter and had most of their life’s possessions stolen in Vancouver will be leaving empty handed but with their faith in humanity restored.
Molly Tame, who is originally from Australia, and New Zealand native Brad Hawkins, both 22, toured B.C. after the ski season wrapped and had been living out of their 1998 maroon Chevrolet Malibu.
On Sunday, less than 24 hours before they were due to fly home to New Zealand, the couple lost everything they had worked for – about $12,000 worth of gear and electronics – along with their ID and passports. All they were left with was the clothes on their backs and their smartphones.
The couple had parked the car, packed to the brim with all their belongings, 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 since been reported stolen and nothing has been recovered yet.
Tame and Hawkins were left gutted and in a daze, quickly learning without ID you are really lost. They had no access to money to buy food and other basic necessities. Fortunately, a former co-worker gave them shelter.
That was Monday. Within hours of a North Shore News story detailing the couple’s plight, strangers from all corners of the Lower Mainland reached out to help them.
“People have offered their homes and clothes and money,” said Tame on Friday. “Even just their wishes and keeping us in their thoughts hoping we get our stuff back is just overwhelming.”
In an extraordinary act of kindness a former West Vancouver resident, now living in Saanich, reached out through Facebook and invited the couple 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 mom of three adult sons, who was moved by the couple’s story.
“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 to jump to get Tame and Hawkins to the island. Stephen contacted her childhood friend who lives on the North Shore and who “just happens to be from Auckland, New Zealand,” where Hawkins is from. That friend met up with 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 recalled.
Stephen immediately went into mom mode and took the couple home to feed them. As Stephen started pulling out food from her fridge – cucumber, cheese and yogurt – she said Hawkins’s eyes widened.
“And he’s going: ‘No way, oh my God, no way.’ And he looked and at me and he said: ‘This is the first time I’ve eaten today.’ It was like somebody took a knife and stuck it in my heart,” said Stephen.
Hawkins was supposed to be celebrating his 22nd birthday in Fiji – the couple’s last hurrah after travelling before settling down in New Zealand – but that plan was squashed after their stuff was stolen and their $2,000 flights forfeited.
However, Stephen and her fiancé cooked up a birthday party for Hawkins.
“Oh, you bet we did,” said Stephen.
They took the couple to the Old Spaghetti Factory in Victoria and saw Hawkins’s face light up from the sparklers in his birthday ice cream dessert.
“It just felt so good to be able to give them a little bit of happiness in all of this nastiness,” said Stephen.
She said Tame and Hawkins’s resilience and maturity in the face of adversity has impressed her. Initially, the couple didn’t want any assistance, but Stephen encouraged them to set up a crowdfunding campaign.
“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,’” said Stephen.
She learned the couple had saved up for a while to enjoy this adventure and the theft has gutted them financially. Just to get home it will cost them about $3,000 for one-way flights and to obtain emergency passports, a process that has proved challenging for the couple.
After receiving the passports yesterday, Tame and Hawkins are flying home tonight – and with some newfound perspective.
“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,” said Tame.
Coming from a rural town in Australia, Tame said Vancouver has given her a culture shock. In an act of desperation, the couple went searching for their lost items on the Downtown Eastside.
“I honestly can say I didn’t think … places like that actually existed,” said Tame.
Tame’s dad, Kev, took to the North Shore News’s Facebook page to offer further insight into his daughter’s upbringing.
“My daughter Molly has been brought up in a lovely town in Australia where we all trust each other and don’t lock up. She is the most community-minded person for her age you will meet. She is both a volunteer firefighter and surf life saver. She has never done wrong by anyone,” wrote Kev Tame.
Stephen only spent two nights with the couple but said “it feels like a lifetime.”
“I learned that these kids have been brought up to be very resilient, very positive, very respectful, very gracious,” said Stephen. “They are absolutely lovely, lovely young adults. They are welcome here anytime.”
For her part, Stephen has learned you can’t prejudge and sometimes you can be trusting of strangers when they ask for help.
“We can’t let the bad ones win,” said Stephen. “We have to keep our hearts open and help when we can. From their horrible experience, my heart has been fulfilled. And I really hope that they leave with a good impression of Canada.”
To donate to the couple you can visit their GoFundMe page here.