Friends and strangers have opened their hearts and their wallets to help a Brandon doctor whose family members in South Africa were the victims of a home invasion gone horribly wrong.
Since a GoFundMe page was started Friday, close to $13,000 has been raised to allow Dr. Rina Fourie, a hospitalist family physician at Brandon Regional Health Centre, to send the money to her family in South Africa.
Fourie’s brother-in-law was shot to death Wednesday and her sister was badly beaten in front of their three-year-old grandson.
The donations will go toward medical and funeral costs.
"I can’t tell you how much that means to me," said Fourie, tearing up as she took a break from her rounds on Saturday.
Last Wednesday morning, unknown assailants forced their way into the Swanepoel family’s home in the quiet neighbourhood of Del Judor in Witbank, South Africa, and killed Fourie’s brother-in-law, Peet Swanepoel, in front of his three-year-old grandson, Franco, and his wife, Annelize.
Fourie’s sister, Annelize, had picked up her grandson from her daughter’s house to look after him while his parents went to work. When Annelize and her grandson returned home, they were ambushed by three men.
The intruders tortured Annelize and threatened to put her grandson in the oven if she didn’t hand over all their valuables, cash and the keys to their safe, while her hysterical grandson was held down and forced to look on.
The assailants eventually gained access to the safe and Peet’s shotgun and continued to assault Annelize. Peet arrived home after running an early morning errand and was confronted by one of the assailants, who then shot him point blank in the chest and face.
Peet died at the scene and the robbers fled with only Annelize’s vehicle and cellphone and the few personal items they could put in the vehicle.
Annelize was hospitalized and will require several costly major surgeries as the result of multiple facial fractures.
An early morning phone call woke Fourie to the terrible news.
"It was a big shock," Fourie recounted. "Just a million things go through your head."
Her sister and brother-in-law eked out a modest living in the small South African community. He worked in construction when there was any, while she cooked from home.
They couldn’t afford a car or life insurance, let alone medical insurance.
Now, their family faces the cost of a funeral and medical expenses to help Annelize slowly recover.
Annelize was taken to a private hospital, but since she doesn’t have medical coverage, it would cost C$2,300 a day. They wanted C$100,000 in advance to perform the surgery, Fourie said.
She was then taken to a government hospital, but the operating room wasn’t functional.
Eventually, the surgeon and anesthetist at the private hospital agreed to perform the surgery for free, but the room stay still has to be paid.
Fourie said the community in South Africa has also rallied to help, but she doesn’t know how much they have been able to put together.
Dr. Carine Minders, who organized the GoFundMe account, said after hearing Fourie’s story at work, she knew she wanted to help.
"Rina is not the type of person who asks for help," Minders said, adding her friend is a "fixer" who helps other people with their problems.
After contacting everyone she knows on Facebook and getting the word out, Minders said she is amazed at how much they have raised in such a short time.
It only took a day to raise more than $11,000 on GoFundMe. By Sunday, it was up more than $1,500.
"I had no idea that people were going to able to come together like this," Minders said, adding she was optimistic they could raise perhaps $1,000 or $2,000.
"We’re just absolutely blown away," she said. "I had no idea that people were going to be able to come together like this."
Minders, who is also from South Africa, said crime is so bad in that country that she and others who are from there dread getting the same kind of phone call that turned Fourie’s life upside-down.
Fourie, meanwhile, is struggling to find the best way to express her gratitude to everyone who has donated to the cause.
"How do I thank them?" she asked. "Everybody is just so amazing. I can just say ‘Thank you.’"
The GoFundMe page can be found at gofundme.com/f/help-rinas-family.
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