• Olivia Sheehan is a W24 reader whose son is stranded in Peru with his girlfriend. 
  • The couple has exhausted their funds and depend on Olivia for financial support.
  • Olivia was offered a charter flight from Cuzco to Lima at the cost of R362 000, which she couldn't afford.
  • She fears her granddaughter will have to be born in Peru, and that they will incur expensive medical bills. 

This is Olivia's story: 

My son and his girlfriend are stranded in Calca in Peru. On 22 February 2020, Matt and Cait, began their journey to Peru to work at a retreat and learn the teachings of spiritual healing from the South Americans. On 10 March, the possibility that Cait might be pregnant arose and there was much excitement even though we weren’t sure. Five days later, Peru went into Level 5 lockdown, which has been extended several times and will now be reassessed on 30 June 2020. Initially, it wasn’t a huge issue other than the fact that they would not be able to work at the retreat and we expected they would still return home on 19 May as planned.

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Cait is now five and a half months pregnant, and they are still in Calca, unable to come home because there is no way to get them to Lima. What has been most distressing is that it does not matter how many times I tell DIRCO, the South African Embassy in Peru, or anyone else involved in repatriation, that they are 23 hours away from Lima by bus. There are no flights available from Cuzco to Lima. Those buses are not fit for neither a human being nor an animal to travel on, let alone a pregnant woman. I was offered a charter flight from Cuzco to Lima at the cost of $21 000 (over R362 000).

Who can afford that?

Over and above this, there is not one person who has been able to give me a timetable for the repatriation flights. This means that Matt and Cait would have to be in Lima indefinitely. The coronavirus is running riot there, putting them and their unborn baby at risk. I have also yet to receive an exact price on how much a repatriation ticket costs and I am told I must register them and pay. I have been chatting with people stuck in Lima, who went there to catch a flight home and were left waiting for weeks. I have also talked to people who managed to get up to Washington, and they were left behind. 

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We now sit with a situation where they have run out of money, so we support them in U.S. dollars. We have no clue when they are going to come home, and my understanding is that she will not be able to travel after 1 September, which means that the baby will have to be born in Peru - our challenge is therefore to get her prepared for the baby to be born there. What a terrible experience for a first-time mom to be having a baby so far from home. We are unsure if the baby will be born naturally or by C-section, which raises more financial concerns. Cait is totally unprepared.

As I write this, I feel deeply distressed and sad that our little granddaughter will be brought into this world with absolutely no support from her government that claims to care about its people.

If you know how Olivia can find help or would like to share your story with us, send an email to chatback@w24.co.za 

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