After his mother passed away, Accessible Properties tenant Trevor Wetere (Waikato Tainui, Ngā Puhi) carved a headstone for her grave. The unveiling was coming up and there weren’t the funds to buy one.
“I felt it in my heart that I had to so I bought a $30 sandstone boulder from a local quarry and carved a teardrop memorial for her.”
“This experience taught me a valuable lesson, that grief comes at a high price for the vulnerable and there can be unresolved grief issues within whānau from tangi or funeral debts.
“It motivated me to create an alternative option to mainstream services, Kowhatu Memorial Charity, which is Aotearoa’s first to offer memorials for just a koha.
“I formed a relationship with Siva Kilari, who’s the director of Universal Granite, the largest importer of granite and marble in Auckland.
“Thankfully he believed in my idea and I use offcuts of various marble and granite table tops that he supplies to carve the headstones.
“It’s a privilege for me to be able to alleviate some of the burden for people when they are grieving. Whānau are so grateful and now we have a waiting list of about 100 to do.
“We’re even fielding requests from Australia, and Siva Kilari and I are working with a charitable trust in Brisbane to model our charity for the benefit of first nation and other families in Australia.
“What we do helps Māori whānau observe their tikanga but it resonates with people from all cultures. It helps families do what’s right for their loved ones and by using materials that would go to landfills, it is respectful of our environment as well.”
Trevor’s son Mijean has joined him in the work, which they do out at another son’s property, and they also carve and sell taonga to help support their charity work.
To find out more about the Kowhatu Memorial Charity, go to the website - www.kowhatumemorial.com