Man who died in Africa to be farewelled

Richard Welch (centre) standing in the foundations of what is to become ‘Richard’s Ward’ in his memory. His funeral will be held on Saturday. Photo: Macleods on a Mission/Facebook.

Tauranga man Richard Welch, who died while volunteering in South Sudan, will be farewelled at his church this Saturday.

A funeral for Richard will be held at Curate Church in Christopher Street at 11am, after his remains were brought home by his son last Sunday.

Richard died on March 31 while helping to build a maternity and paediatrics ward in the small town of Tonj, South Sudan. Due to a lack of facilities in the country, his cremation and repatriation have been an expensive process.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says the New Zealand embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethopia, has been providing ‘consular assistance’ to the family.

Richard’s sister Sue Hodson told SunLive the only interaction the family has had with the embassy was in regards to finding a suitable funeral home in Nairobi, where Richard was eventually cremated.

Sue says her brother was working for the benefit of the people of Tonj when he died.

“They were making all the bricks and concrete blocks for the ward themselves. Richard was saying they made 520 concrete blocks in a hand-press three at a time. He very much enjoyed it – it was all part of a day’s work for him.

“I didn’t know much about South Sudan, but apparently they have one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and one in 10 children don’t live until their first birthday.”

The building of the maternity and paediatrics ward in Tonj continues, and it is the intention of the Mission there to name this ward ‘Richard's Ward'.

More than $20,000 has also been raised on Givealittle to help cover the costs of bringing Richard’s remains home ($15,000) as well as look after his surviving children in the immediate short term.

Death of a New Zealand Citizen Overseas

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s ‘Safe Travel’ website says the ministry can provide advice to families of New Zealand citizens who die overseas in regards to what options are available locally, such as burial or cremation, and can provide advice on the costs involved.

However, all costs associated with the death of a New Zealand citizen overseas, including funeral expenses or repatriation of remains to New Zealand and return of personal effects, are the responsibility of the family.

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