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A fitting finale

October 29, 2017

Fitting departure

Fitting departure:  Mimi Wu is measured for her burial clothing at Tung Wah Group of Hospitals social enterprise ONCE.

Personalised planning

Personalised planning:  ONCE Business Manager Asta Chiu says funeral planning services give clients a final send-off that meets their needs.

Colourful design

Colourful design:  Seventy-six-year-old Shen Tao has chosen a loose-fitting purple-and-red qipao for her funeral.

Blue burial

Blue burial:  Seventy-six-year-old Kwok Sing-kwai has chosen a blue design for his funeral.

Sewing skills

Sewing skills:  ONCE employs grassroots women to make the burial clothes.

Death is a taboo topic in Chinese culture. But for 66-year-old Mimi Wu, making preparations for her final send-off gives her peace of mind.

 

After seeing the chaotic and hasty preparations for funerals made after her friends died, she decided to plan her own funeral.

 

"Many of my deceased friends have lots of siblings. When they died, their relatives had different opinions on how the funerals should be organised. One relative preferred a Buddhist ritual, while the other wanted a Christian one."

 

Last wishes

While she cannot decide on when she dies, Miss Wu said she can have a say in how her own funeral will be conducted.

 

"I want to hold the ceremony in a small hall and invite my best friends to join. I want it to be like a party."

 

The idea of planning your own funeral is gaining acceptance among Hong Kong's elderly.

 

Established in 2013, Tung Wah Group of Hospitals social enterprise ONCE provides funeral planning services for the elderly, according to their preferences.

 

As the non-profit organisation employs underprivileged staff, it has a three-year grant of $1 million from the Home Affairs Department's Enhancing Self-Reliance Through District Partnership Programme.

 

The programme provides seed grants to eligible organisations to set up social enterprises which help alleviate poverty.

 

ONCE Business Manager Asta Chiu said she and her team study the backgrounds, personality and requirements of their customers to ensure their burial attire meets their needs.

 

"During the first meeting with clients, I ask them about their lives, year of birth, childhood, marriage and school life.

 

"From the snapshots they provide of their lives, we can know what kind of a person they are.

 

"We can also get a rough idea of their personality, whether they are cheerful or gentle and highly educated. This information helps us design the clothes they want."

 

Custom-made commemoration

ONCE makes bespoke burial garments and tailor-made memorial products, including shrouds, envelopes for condolence money, guest books and sympathy cards.

 

Miss Chiu said their services allow their clients to say goodbye to their friends and relatives in a better way.

 

Seventy-six-year-old Shen Tao is a ONCE client.

 

When preparing for her husband's funeral she understood the importance of bespoke burial clothing.

 

"When my husband died, I knew nothing about burial clothing. I was told he could wear his usual clothes, so I just used his old clothes for his funeral. However, it was difficult to put them on his body after his death."

 

With her health worsening in recent years, she went to ONCE to have her funeral planned.

 

It has tailor-made a loose-fitting purple-and-red qipao for her funeral.

 

Another ONCE client Kwok Sing-kwai, 76, has chosen a blue design.

 

The travel enthusiast said it embodies his love for the great outdoors.

 

"It means I will be buried at sea after I die."

 

Green goodbye

To offer an alternative to the thick and more decorative burial clothing sold by funeral parlours, all ONCE burial clothes are made from ecological materials.

 

Miss Chiu said they use thinner fabric with less plastic and metal materials that can be cremated more easily.

 

"We think we should provide environmentally friendly burial clothing to reduce the carbon footprint."

 

Apart from providing job opportunities for the underprivileged, the social enterprise also works with fashion design students and non-governmental organisations to hold exhibitions on death education and burial clothing.

 

The shows help promote its business and eco-friendly messages.

 

It hopes to serve more elderly in future and give them a fitting final send-off.



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Green Burial