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Campaign underway to bring traumatized South African orphan to family in B.C.

Girl treated for malaria after being found alone in remote 40 C home with her dead mom
Pictured is Ryleigh (right) with her late mom Jax. (Photo courtesy of Lisa Pyne-Mercier)

A woman from Vancouver Island is looking for help from the community to bring her great niece from South Africa to the Cowichan Valley.

Lisa Pyne-Mercier, a Shawnigan Lake resident originally from South Africa, said eight-year-old Ryleigh’s life has been in turmoil since her single mother, Jax, died early last year in her remote house in South Africa and Ryleigh spent several days alone in the home with her mom in temperatures that exceeded 40 C before being discovered.

Ryleigh was clinging to life, and she was traumatized, scared, angry, dehydrated, soiled, and crying when her rescuers finally arrived.

She was placed in temporary foster care and Pyne-Mercier said she had great difficulty trying to contact her and feared for her well being.


Pyne-Mercier learned that two weeks after Ryleigh was placed into foster care she was diagnosed with malaria and had a blood transfusion at the hospital.

She said, despite the fact Ryleigh was willed to her by her late mother, it has taken more than 18 months, and an exorbitant amount of funds, before the South African courts formally recognized the final will and testament of her mother, and she was granted guardianship and full parental rights to Ryleigh.

“This ordeal has cost our family more than $200,000 as we worked to navigate the complexities of international law between two countries that hadn’t yet experienced a child being willed outside their home country,” Pyne-Mercier said.

“Sadly, we’re not done yet, and we need your help. We are seeking help to bring Ryleigh to Canada where she can start her new trauma-free life and begin her healing journey into a loving family, as per her late mother’s wishes.”


Pyne-Mercier said she and her team are planning an exciting “FUN-d-raising” event to help Releigh’s journey to Canada on Sept. 11 in which a line-up of local, and very talented musicians, including Brian McMahon and Eric Harper, will perform at Queen Margaret’s School in Duncan.

Tickets are $20 each, with children under 12 getting in free. Get them at Eventbrite.

As part of the fundraiser, Pyne-Mercier is asking local businesses to donate an item (product or service) to an online auction to make a resounding difference in the little girl’s life, and share this fundraiser with their business networks.

Pyne-Mercier said the online auction will begin on Aug. 30 and run until 6 p.m. on Sept. 11.

“Your generous donation will make the difference Ryleigh needs so that she can start her new life here in Canada; her new home,” she said.

“To show you our appreciation, we’d be happy to recognize your establishment on our promotional material and social media.”

For more information, people can reach Pyne-Mercier by email at or call 250-589-3144.

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Robert Barron

About the Author: Robert Barron

Since 2016, I've had had the pleasure of working with our dedicated staff and community in the Cowichan Valley.
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