By Jeff Morris
Maria Fe Otero says it’s a call for help.
The Barrhaven woman is trying to raise money through a GoFundMe campaign for a family in her home country of Peru that is very close to her. The family has been decimated by COVID-19.
“It’s a horrible situation there,” Otero said of the situation in Peru. “Things are a lot worse with COVID-19 there than they are here. There is no room left at any of the hospitals.”
The Vilchez family in Lima, Peru has been hit particularly hard by the virus. Six family members are fighting illnesses caused by the virus, and two are in the hospital in critical condition. One family member, Oymer Vilchez is in ICU and on a respirator. The family had to mortgage their house to pay the $10,000 fee to get him into the hospital. His treatment costs $3,000 daily.
“The bills are unpayable for this family,” Otero said. “We have been raising money in Peru for them, but with
out our friends and family, it’s not enough.”
The Otero family and the Vilchez family became connected several years ago. Otero’s nephew, Santiago Soto, had a severe neurological syndrome. Linda Vilchez, who is one of 13 siblings in the family, was Santiago’s caregiver until he died.
“Linda and her family are like family to me,” Otero said. “She looked after my nephew, and two of her sisters looked after my children when I went back to work. There are no daycares or childcare centres in Peru. If you want to go back to work, you hire someone or have a family member look after your child.”
Otero says the Vilchez family is “full of love, compassion and unrelenting support to everyone around them. Now, they are the ones in need of love, compassion and support.”
Four years ago, Otero and her family moved to Canada and settled in Barrhaven. They returned to Peru for Santiago’s funeral and have visited again. Although COVID-19 has made it impossible for them to return to their homeland, they are thankful to be in Canada.
“We wanted to raise our family in Canada and we were lucky enough to be able to come here,” she said. “I know that we have our problems with the virus here, but it is nothing compared to how bad things are in some other countries.”
In Peru, the hospitals are beyond capacity with COVID-19 patients. There are 30 million people in the country, and to date, they have had more than 1.5 million cases. There have been more than 52,625 deaths. Slightly more than one per cent of the Peruvian population has been vaccinated. As a country with poverty issues, they are expected to lag behind many countries in the global vaccination picture.
“Unfortunately, the hospitals are over-run with patients and no longer able to support their family, so their only option is to secure private care,” Otero said. “The reality of this situation means that they have had to take additional mortgages, relinquish their family business and have had to cope with the emotional hardships of this situation, which has proved to be increasingly difficult.”
The Vilchez family had a small business making work uniforms. Because most of the family members are sick, Otero said the family has had to close its business temporarily, losing their income, along with many of their regular customers.
A friend of Otero’s suggested starting a GoFundMe campaign to help the Vilchez family.
“We don’t know many people in Barrhaven or in Canada, so it has been hard to raise money for the Vilchez family,” she said. “My friend suggested GoFundMe because this is the kind of thing that it was meant for. She said to tell their story and post it to see what would happen. We had nothing to lose.”
Otero is not setting a goal to raise money for the Vilchez family.
“Every cent counts,” she said. “If it is five dollars or one hundred dollars, it all helps.”
According to Otero, the appreciation of the Vilchez family extends beyond any funds raised for them.
“They are wonderful people, and they appreciate any support,” Otero said. “It’s not just about money, but for them to know that people here are thinking of them, praying for them and sharing their story, it will give them a lot of hope and strength.”
The GoFundMe page for the Vilchez family can be found at https://ca.gofundme.com/f/every-cent-counts-the-vilchez-family?qid=795011c7c44ec1b060dc585cb2454b0d .