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Appeal sees £23k raised for Strood family to bring back the body of their 'incredible' daughter Ashleigh Wallis from Taiwan


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An appeal for funds to repatriate the body of a young woman, who died while working overseas, has surpassed its target.

Ashleigh Wallis, 22, had been pursuing her dream job of working abroad as an English teacher in Taiwan.

Ashleigh Wallis' family say they can now bring her home. Picture: Charlene Howland
Ashleigh Wallis' family say they can now bring her home. Picture: Charlene Howland

But on November 18 her family received the devastating news she had passed away.

Although the family still do not know exactly what happened in the days before her death, information from colleagues and the Foreign Office say she bumped her head on November 14 but after medical treatment and a CT scan was discharged.

Her grieving parents, Marvin and Julia, have spent the past five weeks working with the Foreign Office and the Taiwan Embassy to try to bring Ashleigh home to Strood.

Initially they were told it could take up to two months for the authorities to release Ashleigh’s body, while they wait for the final post-mortem report. They were quoted more than £13,000 for repatriation.

Ashleigh Wallis died whilst teaching abroad in Taiwan. Picture: Charlene Howland
Ashleigh Wallis died whilst teaching abroad in Taiwan. Picture: Charlene Howland

But after this jumped to £35,000 and with costs spiralling amid costly Covid and airline cargo premiums, Ashleigh's godmother Charlene Howland organised a fundraiser to help speed things up.

Yesterday she posted an update on the fundraising page to say the family had now secured sufficient funds to bring Ashleigh home. More than £23,000 was raised to cover the excess fees and the family intends to use their own funds to cover the initial costs quoted.

Charlene said: "I have spoken to the family this morning. They have been truly touched by everyone's support and kindness.

"They cannot put into words how to thank you all for your donations and for sharing our story, especially at this time of year.

"I had increased the target to cover all of the costs to bring Ashleigh home, however this morning they have told me that with what they have already raised and what we have raised through Gofund me so far they are now able to repatriate Ashleigh."

She added: "Although they are grateful that I wanted to cover all of the costs, bringing Ashleigh home is all they ever wanted, five days ago they had know idea how they were going to do this, the generosity of family, friends and strangers made it possible."

"They have been truly touched by everyone's support and kindness"

The increase in fees is due to the fact there are now fewer flights due to the pandemic and - as a result - less availability for special cargo.

Airlines have decided to sell all cargo space at a premium cost - a 200% mark-up on the normal rate.

It means every day Ashleigh remains in the country, an additional £40 is added for mortuary charges. The family are also having to pay translator and document costs.

Godmother Charlene thanked people for their support which will now help the family lay her to rest.

"Ashleigh's parents had raised the initial costs quoted and it is important to them that they pay these costs too," she said.

"It was the unreasonable and extortionate additional cost caused by the pandemic that I reached out for support with.

Ashleigh Wallis was described by her family as "incredible" daughter. Picture: Charlene Howland
Ashleigh Wallis was described by her family as "incredible" daughter. Picture: Charlene Howland

"We have achieved what we set out to do. Thank you all so much. From the bottom of my heart I honestly can't thank each and every one of you enough for helping me to reach target so quickly.

"When people come together the most amazing things can happen. Although I am no longer asking for a donation, your kind words are a continued support."

Ashleigh, who was originally from Gravesend and attended St John's primary and secondary school, graduated from university during the pandemic and set her sights on teaching abroad.

In September 2020, she set off for Taiwan and worked in a primary school teaching English as a second language.

A post-mortem preliminary result shows no obvious cause of death and it has not yet been confirmed whether a bang she sustained to the head shortly before her death is related.

Speaking previously, Charlene, 39, paid tribute to her "incredible" god-daughter.

"Ashleigh was amazing," she said. "She was a really funny, witty and smart little girl. She was fearless, she knew what she wanted to do and she was going to go get it.

"She had the biggest heart and she was always so helpful. She was just a great kid. Ashleigh loved doing that job and she was always smiling. She was never not smiling."

She added: "Ashleigh had a determination about her and nothing was ever going to stop her. She was just coming into her own. She was - and would have been - incredible.

"We are in awe of her."

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