Kiwi retirees provide coffins for Samoa

By James Robertson 11 December 2019, 2:00PM

Ron Wattam received a call late on Thursday. It was, as he is now used to fielding, a heartbreaking request.

But it was a task he and his team of volunteer retirees from Rotarua in New Zealand jumped to take on, in the service of Samoa at its time of need. 

“We’re a group of about 25 retirees; our youngest member is 70 and our oldest member is over 90,” the 77-year-old told the Samoa Observer over the phone.

“We usually meet every Wednesday to make coffins.”

The charitable trust, was founded with the aim of helping people in need lower the costs of funerals. But this is the first time they have worked on a project with another country.

Mr. Wattam was approached on Thursday the Samoan-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, who told them the measles crisis had left the nation short of coffins.

“He asked if we would help do coffins from small children,” he said.

The group pulled unprecedented 12-hour shifts and received donations of timber, satin and handles from their suppliers who were only too happy to support the cause.

“The response from everyone has been great,” Mr. Wattam said. 

“We [complete the job] right through from a slate of timber through to its finished product.”

“We can sand them, finish them, paint them and line them”. 

Their hard work had paid off.

By Tuesday when he spoke to the Samoa Observer he said they had close to finished their task of 20 new children’s coffins and four adult-sized ones to transport them in.

All that remains is for the cargo to be blessed and for it be transported by sea to Apia, which Mr. Wattam expects to be done by this weekend.  

“We are willing to do more,” he says.

“We just need to speak to someone on the ground [in Samoa to coordinate efforts].”

Anyone interested can get in touch with Mr. Wattam can contact him via

By James Robertson 11 December 2019, 2:00PM

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