Tue, Oct 04, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Councilor volunteers as undertaker for the poor

By Yen Hung-chun and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Independent Changhua County Councilor Chang Hsue-ju (張雪如) is undertaking volunteer work for the deceased on behalf of lower-income families.

Chang has made a name for herself over the years not only as a county spokeswoman, but as an occasional mortician and funeral officiant.

She frequently assists financially disadvantaged families meet funeral expenses for their deceased relatives, and she even performs washing rituals — washing an average of 80 bodies per year.

One Yuanlin Township (員林) resident said whenever someone in the area says they are unable to afford funeral expenses, Chang immediately comes to mind, adding that everyone in her office is a certified funeral officiant and they have all conducted washing rites.

Chang said that she has seen countless families struggle with funeral expenses and has embraced the task of helping those families for 20 years.

Recalling the first time she performed funeral rites, Chang said she had seven families to help, but was unable to raise sufficient funds in time. Rather than raise cash for each family, she resolved to conduct the rites herself, combing the hair and cleaning the bodies of each departed relative, she said.

“To say I was not afraid would be lying,” Chang said, adding that she calmed herself by speaking to the bodies, telling them: “I am here to serve you, to make you beautiful so you can go live happily in paradise.”

Chang said that after working with so many bodies, she is no longer frightened by them, adding that she has a sense of “resolve” in her when she performs the funeral work with her assistants.

Chang said that the work she does is not meant to take away business from industry professionals, adding that she only helps disadvantaged families.

She said that the professionals who take on work for her worth NT$70,000 to NT$80,000 are sacrificing their time and income to do so.

“When I see those poor departed people in their final state, it is not me helping them, but rather them teaching me,” Chang said.

Chang is now in her fourth term as county councilor. Her father, Chang Hsun-chang (張順昌), was also a county councilor.

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