A South African family, whose two-week holiday in Japan quickly turned into a nightmare when they became stranded in East Asia, can breathe a sigh of relief as Good Samaritans have stepped in to help.
Among the flood of support are three A-list South African rugby players - RG Snyman, Lionel Cronje and Jason Jenkins - who have secured the family a place to stay while they try make to their way back home.
The Hofman family – Melissa, Adrian and their seven-year-old son Cameron – left for Japan on 14 March when South Africa had not yet announced a lockdown.
During their stay, however, South Africa went into lockdown, with flight restrictions on all international flights.
“The day that we got the news that we were stranded in Japan was the day that we just roamed around the streets in circles not knowing what to do!
“At night, we would wake up and panic at the thought of having been locked out of our home country. Support WhatsApp groups had started, which assisted us in realising that we are not alone,” Melissa Hofman told News24 on Monday.
When Cronje heard about the family’s plight, he rallied the support of his friends and colleagues in Japan and they provided a helping hand.
Hofman said she was in “disbelief” when she received a call from Cronje, who said he, Snyman and Jenkins would offer assistance.
“I never thought that the SA rugby team would be working as our booking agents for additional accommodation.
“They have managed to secure a spacious apartment for us in Tokyo. This will be a mansion in comparison to the current 3m x 3m hotel room we are currently inhabiting,” Hofman said.
Speaking to News24, Cronje said they saw News24’s article about the plight of the family and felt they had to act.
“We decided to give her a call and offer to help. It’s a difficult thing to do because you don’t want to impose yourself, especially because you don’t know them in person.
“But she shared her situation with us, and she welcomed the support with open arms. We were really happy for that!”
Adrian, Cameron and Melissa Hofmann at Ueno Park in Tokyo. (Supplied)
Cronje added the situation in Japan is currently uncertain.
Covid-19 could mean people staying in hotels will be asked to leave, should there be a lockdown.
“We were aware that they had a lovely son and it would be difficult going day by day with this kind of uncertainty, so we offered to secure them an Airbnb nearby, which would at least allow them the security of a place to stay.”
Many more have stepped forward to offer the family help and they now feel more at ease.
The family have been “overwhelmed” by emails and messages from people extending a helping hand.
“I also need to thank everyone that has reached out to us; those that have offered us their own homes and food, and those that have offered us financial assistance. The responses have been overwhelming,” Hofman said.
“Although South Africa is our home, the people that have reached out to us make us feel we have family all over the world,” she added.
Acts of kindness like these can unite people, especially during these tough times, Cronje said.
“Many people think that asking for help or accepting support is a weakness but, if we pull together and help each other through these tough times, it becomes a chain reaction and the links become stronger and unbreakable!" he said.
“So, I hope we can hold onto each other in South Africa through these challenging times and come out on top, like we have as country in so many ways before.”
Hofman said they had received good news that a flight had been scheduled to return home on 19 April. However, the family are still hoping a repatriation flight will be arranged for them at an earlier time.