Nineteen family members share a home while waiting to take father’s body to Niue
The Foliola family have been waiting since July to repatriate their deceased father to Niue. While this has lead to disagreements with the Niue Government, there is hope for the family after being confirmed for the first of their two repatriation flights this month.
Family and church were the two most important things in life for Niuean father Sunday Foliola.
And according to his daughter Priscilla, he was also no slouch when it came to keeping active.
“He wouldn’t come home and sit still; he’d quickly message and say, ‘I’m gonna do some DIY today outside the home,’ and he loved planting,” she says.
Which is why it came as a shock to his family and friends when he was admitted to hospital in June and placed in an induced coma.
Sunday didn’t recover and tragically passed away 10 days later at just 58 years old.
“He passed away due to his sweet, sweet heart having a blocked artery — a 100% blocked artery that he wasn’t even aware of.”
Sunday hoped to retire in Niue, so Priscilla and her siblings have been trying to carry out their father’s dream by returning him there for his burial.
They are desperate to see out this task before his body deteriorates significantly.
“Embalming is not forever, and his body is fragile, and I want to take my dad home in one piece.”
They were granted entry by the Niue Government in August to fly to Niue on September 7th, but the flights were later cancelled due to New Zealand’s level 4 lockdown.
In the meantime, 19 family members have been sharing a small home in West Auckland while they wait for Sunday’s repatriation.
“It’s been tough. We’re all grieving in our own different ways. We just remind ourselves of the sole purpose of why we’re here, you know. We’re here for a reason; Dad’s brought us here together.”
Most of the members have travelled to New Zealand from overseas, which has meant they have had to put their lives on hold for the last four months. Their financial obligations back home have placed incredible strain on them.
“With finances and all, I mean, they don’t go away; we can put them on hold, but they just keep growing.”
The family were under the impression that they would be rescheduled to the next available flight, but almost a month on since the repatriation flights recommenced, the family are still struggling to get confirmation from the Niue Government.
“It feels like everything we’ve submitted has fallen on deaf ears.”
When Tagata Pasifika contacted the Niue Government for comment, they responded saying that they were dealing with a backlog of nearly 200 passengers.
“The number of passengers per fortnightly passenger flight has been reduced significantly to less than 30, and home quarantine on Niue has been suspended. Niue has limited MIQ public health facilities, so the number of returning passengers is determined by available capacity.”
“The Foliola family have been allocated seats on the next available flights. They have been informed of this.”
When we approached Priscilla for a response, she confirmed that they had been given consent to fly this month but were still waiting on official confirmation to enter Niue.
“They have not confirmed our paid tickets, so that’s why we’re worried. Like, are we even guaranteed these seats?” she says.
With the reduced number of passengers on repatriation flights, Priscilla has had to downsize her travel group of 23 family members.
“I changed my mind completely and thought it would be fair to have just the mains — mum and the children and our babies go — to be fair. We cut it down to nine.
On Wednesday, the family received confirmation for three of the family members to travel on November 16th.
They are yet to hear about the remaining passengers travelling later this month.
Priscilla has withdrawn herself from the travel group to keep the numbers down but is hoping the government will give her consent to travel with her Dad’s body on December 14th.
Whether or not she does remains to be seen. Her biggest priority for now is that her Dad is buried before Christmas.
“It’s really hard to be hopeful in this situation that we’re in, but we continue to soldier on and be as optimistic as our sweet Dad was.”
Donate to the Foliola family’s Givalittle page here: www.givalittle.co.nz/cause/we-just-weant-to-take-our-dad-home