Betsy Williams designed Manaakitanga Funerals to provide tikanga and values based, affordable funeral services to whānau across the Waitaha region. Manaakitanga Funerals began 2 years ago during the COVID-19 pandemic when Betsy’s whānau were gathering weekly for karakia due to an illness in her family and she saw the need for this kind of support.
“I had a friend who was ringing up all the funeral homes to see if they had a Māori funeral director, but these big funeral homes don’t have that. They may have Māori workers in their businesses, but they don’t practice the tikanga when they get a tūpāpaku and the whānau.”
Betsy was first put in touch with Charlie McKenzie from South Island Funerals who was looking for someone that could provide whānau Māori with a whānau focused service. “Charlie who is now my colleague, was looking for a Māori worker as he was unable to service our people with what they were wanting from a funeral home, our people want someone who knows the tikanga. He saw that there was a need for this type of kaupapa, one that serviced Māori but one that also didn’t put whānau in debt.” Betsy was then offered the opportunity of working with this well-established funeral homes service in Ōtautahi, which enabled her to create Manaakitanga Funerals as a separate arm to the business.
“Charlie really has helped me so much. He has shown me how to be a good funeral director, what to do and when, and then for my side of the business I bring the tikanga, manaaki and aroha to what’s provided. This is how Manaakitanga came about.”
“The process once the whānau have called me can be quite long. Depending on where their loved one is, I may meet with them at the hospital in the ward or at their home, and then talk to the whānau about what they want. It’s all about what the whānau want. From there, I do as much as I can to support them through that time whether they are looking to go through an embalmment process or need help with dressing the tūpāpaku. We then can take them to their homes or to the marae.”
With a background working in kohanga and hospitality services, Tāua Betsy didn’t have any experience as a funeral director but had always wanted to work in this line of mahi, she explains “and now I’m 56 and I’ve wanted to do this type of work since I was 16 or 17, I always tell people you’re never too old to do your dream job.”
Betsy is now looking for a new funeral home building as she sees the business growing, especially with the high demand for the care and traditional approach that they’re able to provide. “We will grow, you know we’re not just here for Māori, we also work with other cultures such as Samoan, Japanese and so on. Each of these cultures have their own tikanga, but we work with them to provide them with what they need in a way that looks after them and their cultural practices.”
“The Wave Funding has been awesome, we’ve been able to buy two hearses, and a lot of other materials that we’ve required. We were also able to buy a coffin for one whānau so that we could prepare the tūpāpaku for them. I was encouraged by my whānau to apply for it, I didn’t even realise that what I did would be considered as Whānau Ora. It really has been awesome having Te Pūtahitanga’s backing and support.”