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Fiji Time: 12:56 AM on Thursday 24 April

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A warm touch for the dead

AQELA LALAKATO
Tuesday, May 08, 2007

IT wouldn't be every woman's cup of tea but it's a job that gives Alisi Seruvatu the distinction of being the first woman in Fiji doing it.

Yet, Alisi feels it's the female touch in her handling of the funeral director's role for Tugi Funeral Homes that will add to the company's efforts to provide a new approach to organising funerals.

"I believe that a lady brings a special quality of warmth and compassion to the funeral services. I also believe that a lady offers a refreshing and unique approach to funeral services," she says.

Having been on the job for more than three months, Alisi's previous work experiences as secretary, personal assistant and sales consultant have helped her fit in well into her new assignment.

While she handles funeral arrangements, her involvement is much more hands on to the point of driving one of the company's two hearses.

The other one is driven by the owner of the company, Simione Tugi.

"At first it was scary but then after a while I got used to it," Alisi said of driving the hearse a four-wheel drive.

She has done the job at the oddest of hours, carrying the dead to their villages, and sometimes deep into the interior.

"Sometimes I have to wait at Nadi Airport, for bodies flown over for burial here. From the airport I drive them to their homes or villages.

"At times flights come in early in the morning, so I'm on the road from the airport a few hours later and reach the village in the afternoon. If the village is right in some interior place, we can be there by the evening."

She has been to Ra, Naitasiri, Tailevu, Lovoni, parts of Western Division, Namosi on the job.

She related one experience she had recently, when she had to drive the hearse to Nasukamai Village in Ra.

"Since I was travelling alone and was new as well to the place, I had to ask my cousin sister to accompany me. It was a whole day's travel, leaving Suva early in the morning.

"The villagers told us it would be impossible to travel back to Suva on the same day as it was nearing the evening and the smog would blur our sight."

Both women persisted.

Despite the smog and a puncture, they managed to reach Suva safely.

Alisi finds her work very challenging but finds satisfaction in being the first female in Fiji doing such a job.

She said it was luck that brought her to Tugi Funeral Homes.

"I knew the owner of Funeral Homes through business. And when he started the business, he asked if I could help him."

Funeral Homes was set up by Simione Tugi, a former general manager of the Fiji Public Service Credit Union, in 2003 with the idea of making it easier for people to organise funeral arrangements.

Located in Samabula, the company offers packages for either simple or elaborate, religious or secular, traditional or contemporary funeral arrangements.

It's all-in-one product includes everything from caskets, hearse and funeral service to sheds and portable toilets for outdoor ceremonies, video shootings, tombstones and bookings for funeral lots.

The one-stop effort extends to even arranging the traditional magiti (feast) after Fijian funerals, all at a price.