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Kiwi Funeral Directors on call for Samoa

Seeing the devastation measles is causing in Samoa has the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand (F.D.A.N.Z.) heartbroken and ready to offer support.

Measles has claimed 70 lives so far in just two months and there are few signs the death toll will slow. With just two funeral homes in Samoa, F.D.A.N.Z. President Gary Taylor reached out see if Samoa needs help managing the situation.

The association, along with the New Zealand Embalmers Association is the New Zealand Funeral Disaster Response Team, led by Simon Manning.

He coordinated the funeral sector’s response to both the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011 and the mosque attack in March this year.

Mr. Manning said Ligaliga Fusi and Sons Funeral Services and Sefo’s Funeral Services Samoa have said they are managing thus far, “but the situation is challenging.”

He was told there is no shortage of people building the massive amounts of caskets required.

“The Samoan funeral homes will be helping families through the funeral and grieving process and making sure that they all have a very personal and meaningful funeral. 

“We stand by ready to assist them if the situation worsens and they need help”.

“It’s terrible to see the crisis unfolding in Samoa … our hearts go out to all those who have lost loved ones,” FDANZ    Gary Taylor said.

“We have offered the support of the NZ Funeral Disaster Response Team in any way that they see fit and will continue to monitor the situation and respond to any requests. 

“We have also offered support to the funeral home staff who are caring for grieving families.”

Mr. Manning has been responding to the funeral needs of disasters since 1979, when an Air New Zealand flight crashed into Mount Erebus, resulting in 257 fatalities and no survivors. 

He said whenever a major event happens that results in a significant loss of life, local funeral directors are often overwhelmed with the demand for their resources and services. 

In a disaster, Mr. Manning puts the call out to his colleagues to see who is free to help, and they come as volunteers to bring their skills where they are needed.

He said while the two funeral homes in Samoa say they are coping well, he will check on them frequently.

“They are not used to dealing with the numbers, of children particularly, dying so there will be an emotional drain on them.

“We want to support them more emotionally because if they want to share their stresses at any point they can pick up the phone, or I will ring them, and just check they are okay.

“It might be when all this is over and everybody goes back to whatever normal looks like that they also know someone is looking out for them.”

Mr. Manning said he and his New Zealand colleagues are thinking of Samoa a lot and worrying for everyone. 

He has worked in the funeral business for 39 years and has worked with Pacific families a lot in that time. It is a privilege to become a part of the aiga (family) for the time he and the family are together, he said.

“There are always cuddles and kisses from the aunties, and they feed us well,” Mr. Manning said. “I love Samoa.” 

One area his organisation could help is in the provision of caskets. But both funeral homes in Samoa say they have enough, and Mr. Manning imagines for men especially, being able to help a family by building a casket will be a good way to grieve.

“I would think it is actually a nice thing to do, to be able to do something. 

“There is so much you want to do but don’t know how or what to say and you can feel a bit useless. Being able to do something, if you have the skills to build, you are using your talents to make a difference in this terrible situation.” 

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