It’s a story of fear and uncertainty that many Canadians are living through right now: Being outside of the country during the ongoing pandemic and trying to get back home.
Two such Canadians going through that experience are 24 year old Brampton resident Jordan Mattie and his girlfriend Stefanie Ortega, who are currently stranded in Ecuador while the country is barring all incoming and outgoing flights.
Mattie originally visited the country with Ortega, who has family there, for a wedding. They only planned to be there from the 12th to the 21st.
After hearing about the COVID-19 situation, Mattie and Ortega tried to get on a plane back home on the 16th, which is when the trouble began.
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“Everything should have been go, there were 50 seats available on the plane and we were 30th in line,” Mattie said.
After hours of waiting, Mattie was told they needed to resubmit their registration. After 15 minutes of waiting, he was told they were registered — and then when they attempted to board the plane again, he was told again to resubmit their registration.
Eventually, all the seats were taken and Mattie and Ortega were unable to board.
“There were families that got there last-minute that boarded, leaving 15 Canadians, just at that airport, stuck,” Mattie said.
“They gave us zero options, they just said good luck! No accommodations, no food, not even a voucher for transportation to a hotel, family home, or anything.”
While Mattie and Ortega are fortunate enough to be staying in a home with Ortega’s family, several Canadians stuck in Ecuador, including those who have elderly relatives and young children with them, are paying for hotels daily.
Mattie says the group has permits for take-off but needs more Canadians to lower the price of the charter flight. With 200 Canadians, the price comes to around $1800 USD each, he says.
Melissa Pritchett, Mattie’s older sister, set up a GoFundMe on the evening of March 21 to help raise funds.
“These people do not have the food and resources to stay in Ecuador through these hard times,” said Pritchett, pleading for help. “The Ecuador border is closed with the exception of raising enough money to get our loved ones home: Through a charter flight.”
As of the time of this article’s publication, the GoFundMe has eight donors and has raised $800 of its $10,000 goal.
The Canadian ambassador to Ecuador, Sylvie Bédard, is reaching out to Canadians stranded in the country to register with the federal government’s Canadians Abroad service and fill out a form detailing their situation.
“We know that these are very difficult times for you. We are working hard to help you,” Bédard said.
Dear #Canadians in , we know that these are very difficult times for you. We are working hard to help you. Our 3 key recommendations:
-register to https://t.co/8Wm52RkZMX
-fill this form https://t.co/86CIXKjDuf
-if needed, contact us at [email protected]
— Sylvie Bédard (@Sylvie_Bedard) March 22, 2020
Meanwhile, a change.org petition was also recently set up asking the Canadian government to arrange for flights to bring back Canadians stranded in Ecuador, such as British Colombia residents Jenny Groves, Simon Hocking, and their children. At this time the petition has 3,204 of 5,000 signatures.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke on Saturday to say that the federal government is continuing to work with airlines and foreign governments to bring back all Canadians who are abroad, with early flights planned for Morocco, Peru and Spain.
Cover photo courtesy of GoFundMe