Saturday, 6 September 2008
RELIEF FUNERAL HOME – GIVING MALAWIANS A DECENT BURIAL
Relief Funeral Home was incorporated in April, 2005, as a business name operating as a subsidiary company under AWJ Holdings Limited. We started operations in April 2007 after 2 years of facing numerous challenges. Our services include the following: Body collection and mortuary, Embalming, Hearse services, Body storage, Flower services, Mobile body fridge hire, Lowering device hire, Burial service, Accessories (Blankets, sheets etc.), provision of caskets and coffins, Radio adverts, processing of Death Certificate and other documentation, Arrangement of post-mortem services and Body exports.
I once participated in body washing and preparation at the Kamuzu Central Hospital mortuary. I was bothered about the condition of the mortuary and the fact that there was “no decency in death”. The mortuary which was built to store 54 bodies was piled up with over 100 bodies. We literally had to pull out “our body” from the pile of “once distinguished individuals”. This was in late 1990s. It was only in 2004 when I decided that when I die, my body will deserve some decency. This was after I had witnessed many burials in Lusaka, which have well run professional funeral homes. I joined up with my colleagues Captain Alick Sakala, Jacob Mwanza both Zambian nationals to form the company. Joshua Nthakomwa, who is managing the company, has now taken up shares in the company.
It was very difficult to find premises to operate from. Since its incorporation in 2005, the company only found premises in 2007. The general response had been that if they were going to let out their premises to Relief, then they would never use it for other business again. So, they either out-rightly rejected or raised their rentals to unrealistic amounts so as to cover anticipated “risk.” Even in the current premises, we are not allowed to store bodies.
Malawians have for along time have been comfortable with making of coffins and providing of hearse services. Embalming was seen as a domain of hospital/College of Medicine. Most bodies prepared by Mortuary Attendants (who are unqualified) are covered in “powder soap” (surf, OMO) as a way of preservation. But we all know what happens that by the following day, bodies are in a poor state.
Unfortunately the industry being almost non-existence is not regulated and not only has Government allowed “Mortuary Attendants” to use Government facilities to make money for their own pockets, but have allowed Government, in a sense lie to the public that the Mortuary Attendants are embalming the bodies.
We operate a mortuary (at Likuni Hospital), and in the minds of many, mortuary services are for Government and hospitals to undertake. Therefore, for a private company to operate a mortuary is weird. However, the mentality is less now than it was to those who have been exposed to the concept. People are beginning to realize (though very slowly) the need for such a professional service. Relief Funeral Home is the only private sector operation in Lilongwe undertaking professional embalming and body export/repatriation.
Despite providing an essential and critical service in Malawi, our 2007 land application to construct our own premises remains shelved in Ministry of Lands.
Relief still operates on hope and it is my dream that before I die, Relief will bring full “decency in death” by providing state of the art funeral services.
Our offices (only booking and display) are at Pacific Parade, Area 10 in Lilongwe and we can be contacted on 01-265-794 875 and email: firstname.lastname@example.org