ICMIF member AVBOB Mutual Assurance Society (South Africa) was born in the wake of a global pandemic – the 1918 Spanish Flu – in order to restore dignity to those taken by the outbreak. AVBOB says that same humane impulse remains at the heart of who they are today, a funeral service provider and insurer with over 100 years’ experience, positioned to provide clarity and comfort at a time of crisis and confusion. At this time AVBOB is committed to doing all it can to serve South Africa with empathy, care and dignity.
AVBOB’s Funeral Service offices have been authorised to operate as an essential service, while insurance administration staff work remotely to take care of policies and claims.
The government in South Africa has laid out stringent measures around burial and cremation processes and protocols during this lockdown period and AVBOB will be fully compliant with all precautionary measures and legalities in order to protect the broader population. The organisation says this may entail inescapable compromises in religious rites and rituals, and, for grieving families already facing loss, may add a further layer of stress to an already difficult time but AVBOB is committed to doing everything in its power to soften the impact, and will centre efforts on each individual family and their needs.
Beyond that, says General Manager of Corporate Affairs, Adriaan Bester, AVBOB is looking into using technology to bring people together across distances. “We want to implement virtual services, particularly where we have chapels, and where we have the necessary infrastructure in place. In the past, some people felt that broadcasting a funeral was odd. But, through this crisis, AVBOB has realised the importance of coming together in novel ways. We believe that people will realise the value of introducing innovative technologies, and we aim to encourage that change.”
AVBOB says it is no stranger to change and is usually the first port of call when new challenges arise, and the organisation was tasked with conducting the funerals of two of the first COVID-19 cases in South Africa.
AVBOB has put every possible protocol in place to ensure the safety and well-being of its staff and customers, but says the greatest protection of all will come from behavioural changes. Studies by leading epidemiologists across the world confirm that changes in human habits are the best way to end a pandemic.
Bester believes that events such as the COVID-19 crisis compel us to re-evaluate our humanity, adopt new learnings, and adapt to changes that must be made: “As a business, we have evolved with the times. We continually re-examine how we deal with our loved ones who have passed, and how we ritualise our burials.”
In all of this, AVBOB has given its assurance to South Africans that, given the organisation’s wealth of experience, clients can expect the utmost care, empathy and sensitivity within the current guidelines and regulatory framework, no matter what may come.
In a recent press release South African ICMIF member AVBOB also announced that staff and executives have heeded President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to contribute a portion of their salaries to the Solidarity Fund.
AVBOB’s CEO Carl van der Riet says that the mutual society will make an upfront donation of R3 million to the fund. “AVBOB also committed to match any voluntary employee contributions, rand for rand, up to a value of a further ZAR 2 million. The support from our staff has been overwhelming and has led to them contributing ZAR 865 000 over the next three months. The response from employees recognises the fact that as a designated essential service, we are able to keep working and serving our communities throughout the pandemic.”
Hence, AVBOB’s total donation, together with its employee contribution amounts to ZAR 4.73 million (USD 0.26 million).
The South African President announced the establishment of the fund, which was set up to aid the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, in late March.
Van der Riet said that it is important that every South African pull together and play their part in assisting where they can in combatting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. “At this time AVBOB is committed to doing all we can to serve South Africa with empathy, care and dignity.”