Story By: Ana Marjanovic, Sub-Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Newsflash
A British schoolteacher stranded in Cambodia during the COVID-19 crisis successfully organised a charter flight home for him and his wife and 103 other UK nationals after the British Embassy failed to help.
Now safely back in the UK, Jerry Lewis, 49, and his wife Karen, 46, now want to help others still stranded by the COVID-19 lockdown.
The pair ended up stranded after taking time off work as teachers, and set off on a trip around Asia and Australasia in August last year.
They told Newsflash they had travelled to Bali, Lombok, New Zealand and Australia before visiting Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the couple found themselves trapped in Cambodia when they were reportedly refused permission to continue to Vietnam and their visas were then cancelled.
Their Emirates flight home had been cancelled and the Cambodian border with Thailand was closed so they were unable to take a flight there.
After the British Embassy failed to provide any practical help other than to advise people to book flights out of the country, he then contacted Malaysia Airlines about the possibility of organising a charter flight.
Jerry said: “If I have to leave, the easiest way is on a plane. A [charter] plane for a few of us would be very expensive, a flight for 100 of us we could afford.”
He said the airline was very helpful and that he then contacted the British Embassy in Phnom Penh about his plan.
Jerry accused embassy officials of burying their head in their sand and following protocols that did not cover the unique situation they were in.
He said: “They needed to tear up the manual and do things differently. They should have contacted me and got me on their team. I could have sorted out three flights by now and got everyone out of there. Their team is clearly not big enough and they seem overwhelmed.”
Through Facebook, the couple put together a list of 103 stranded UK citizens willing to cover the six-figure sum needed for the Malaysian Airlines charter flight, according to reports.
Jerry said: “Those last few days were traumatic. I put my head over the parapet. Basically, my wife and I did not sleep for a number of days.
“We had 100 people relying on us, as well as their parents and grandparents.
“I also had to deal with a load of people who thought I was a fraud and trying to scam people out of their money.”
The flight left on 27th March and Jerry and Karen are trying to organise a second one to help Brits still stranded in the Southeast Asian country.
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