Lo­cals rally round French tourists

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - JAMES PAUL

While Sven Seigneurin and An­toine Berth­elot were show­er­ing at Te Rau­paraha Arena and Aquatic Cen­tre in Porirua be­fore a hard day’s work, thieves struck.

The two 23-year-old French­men en­joy­ing New Zealand on a work­ing hol­i­day visa had per­sonal items worth up to $5000 stolen; pass­ports, credit cards, cell­phones, and even food were taken.

But thanks to the gen­eros­ity of local moth­ers Lucy Ste­wart, Teresa Kent and Kris­tine Smith, and Porirua busi­ness own­ers, the tourists’ faith in Kiwi hos­pi­tal­ity was re­stored.

‘‘They are both hard­work­ing and lovely young men, and didn’t de­serve this to hap­pen to them,’’ Ste­wart said.

‘‘We were just be­ing mums, treat­ing them how we would want oth­ers to treat our kids if they were in the same predica­ment over­seas.’’

On Au­gust 30, the pair pulled into the arena car park to use the fa­cil­ity’s show­ers ahead of the day’s com­mer­cial paint­ing in Porirua.

Seigneurin and Berth­elot re­turned to their cam­per van, which was em­bla­zoned with a sticker warn­ing those who might steal that ‘‘God is watch­ing’’, to find the slid­ing door’s lock tam­pered with and un­locked.

Open­ing the door and find­ing bed­ding and other things strewn through­out the van, they re­alised their home on wheels had been ran­sacked.

‘‘They took ev­ery­thing we had - lap­tops, credit cards, pass­ports, in­sur­ances card, even my shaver,’’ Seigneurin said.

‘‘I was quite an­gry, you can see that we’re liv­ing [in the van]. It was re­ally sur­pris­ing, you know, be­cause we weren’t ex­pect­ing to [be] robbed,’’ Berth­elot added.

The duo waved down a po­lice of­fi­cer who was al­ready in the car park and re­ported the in­ci­dent.

Po­lice con­firmed they re­ceived a re­port about the in­ci­dent, and that in­quiries are on­go­ing to iden­tify and lo­cate the of­fender.

Af­ter the van was checked for fin­ger prints, the French pair called their em­ployer and said they would be late for work be­cause they were vis­it­ing the Welling­ton-based Em­bassy of France.

When Ste­wart heard, she ral­lied sup­port from the other moth­ers and be­gan call­ing local busi­nesses.

Mark Roach from Whitby New World do­nated a $100 food voucher, Tom Mug­gle­stone of Light House Pau­ata­hanui sup­plied a cou­ple of movie tick­ets, and Mark Hughes of the Sup­ply Room gifted a $40 voucher.

An­other of Ste­wart’s friends do­nated a $100 Pak ‘n Save voucher while oth­ers brought in clothes, shoes, canned food, pack­ets of noo­dles and cof­fee.

‘‘Restor­ing their faith in hu­man­ity - that’s what it’s all about,’’ Ste­wart said.

‘‘The do­na­tions were a drop in the bucket for some of them, and we wanted to show the tourists that the com­mu­nity does ac­tu­ally care about them.’’

It brought Seigneurin Berth­elot to tears.

‘‘We were so over­whelmed, we just couldn’t be­lieve these peo­ple’s gen­eros­ity,’’ one said.

‘‘I’ve never had any­one be so kind,’’ added the other.

The in­ci­dent hadn’t put them off New Zealand, and they planned to travel to the South Is­land in the next two months.

‘‘We were just be­ing mums, treat­ing them how we would want oth­ers to treat our kids if they were in the same predica­ment over­seas.’’


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