When you bury someone from abroad

funeral flowersAn article by Nora Fakim in the Guardian newspaper a few days back carried an article as  ‘Why Africans in the UK pay so much to send relatives’ bodies home’ – “home” defined as being in a given country on the African continent.
This article struck a chord primarily because I happen to be of African ancestry/origin and have experienced some of what was raised in the article. I also believe I stand to experience more if not similar occurrences of these in the coming future of my residence outside of Africa.  After witnessing the often distressing scenarios where relatives back home have sold off ancestral burial grounds or constantly make financial demands towards various funeral rites, most persons I’ve come across have all but resigned themselves to being cremated or buried here in the UK.
My first experience of having to deal with returning a deceased relative back home was in 2008. My paternal aunt and adoptive mother had passed away after years of residing out of Uganda for over 30years. Without a written Will stipulating what she wanted, it fell on me and my siblings in the UK to ascertain from her religious affiliates what she would have wanted done pertaining to her burial, alongside that of our elders and her living siblings back in Uganda. Her religious affiliates were very clear, she didn’t mind her body being cremated and ashes scattered in a chosen garden or her remains returned to her ancestral home.
We opted to go with the latter given the insistence of our father, who was the brother to the deceased. However in so doing, the financial aspect of organising for all this fell upon us here in the UK. Fortunately, my adoptive mother had life insurance and honest religious affiliates in the likes who assisted us in overseeing all that was necessary to get her remains returned to Uganda without the need to seek or mobilise fundraising requests from the Ugandan community in the diaspora etc.

 

The one aspect I find contradictory to the argument for returning our deceased to the African continent irrespective of whichever genesis of reasoning comes down to economics which more often than not, falls on those in the diaspora to fund-raise. Namely, the cost of returning the remains of the deceased, the burial costs and the maintenance of the grave. Most often, all this is expected to be undertaken by the person(s) in the diaspora.

There are factors that need to be weighed by all. Those in the diaspora need to hold frank conversations amongst themselves, companions, relatives or families; over what they would want to see take place in case of their deaths. Persons need to be proactive in setting a plan of action that is transparent instead of opting to push their Will in a shroud of secrecy or cultural/religious dogma. There’s often a taboo about discussing their Will I’ve found when the subject has been raised.

There is no one rule fits all. Options need to be explored by diasporans especially if they’ve been in paid legal employ during their years of residence abroad.

The options to look into; 1.) Life insurance: – that can help towards returning a deceased back home and which persons can pay a regular contribution towards in the course of their residence in the UK.

2.) The cost of a plot of burial in the UK which can range from anything like £3,000.  Such information is readily accessible with such co-operatives like http://www.co-operativefuneralcare.co.uk/arranging-a-funeral/immediate-concerns/paying-for-a-funeral/?gclid=Cj0KEQiAno60BRDt89rAh7qt-4wBEiQASes2tRl6uJDOtL8nP9JEPF45mabvc29O4Hd-dXhhmVcv-cgaAgPj8P8HAQ

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Cancer: Prevention is often the safest and cheapest option…

Cancer these days has become synonymous with grief akin to that felt with the impacts of wars witnessed all around the globe.  Irrespective of what type of cancer, the impact on those directly affected remains that of both physical and psychological pain.

Like the HIV scourge of the late 80’s, Uganda is now seeing an increase in cases of cancer-related deaths. Given my visits to Uganda are often related to set personal projects, it hasn’t been possible for me to gauge data as to exactly why this increase is manifesting now.  All that I can say is that the diagnostics are readily available in most cases.  However, access to treatment and appropriate diet required following commencement of therapy in those that seek diagnostics, can be compounded due to lack of funds.

In some cases I’ve witnessed, persons will present with advanced symptoms of cancer after having first tried out local herbs from alternative persons passing themselves off as herbalists or medical doctors. In other cases, they’d have been under a misapprehension that they were being bewitched and thus sought help from spiritualists/religious pastors or witchdoctors.  The end results being, that without early and concise diagnosis along with appropriate management, the disease matured such that by presentation to a major hospital, the patient is already weak and with compromised organs; and often without sufficient funds for the medication or diet required to stabilise let alone treat them.

What I do know and believe in is that preventive measures need to be taken. Interpersonal communication will definitely be an effective measure. I also feel awareness programmes regarding the symptoms of women who are at risk on different levels could be of great help.  This is where  mass communication media  comes in to enable and facilitate  the relevant awareness levels regarding such diseases. I focus on breast cancer, but there are plenty of chronic diseases that fall under this umbrella that can be prevented or managed at a primary level of direct community and or public engagement.

For my part, I’m kicking this off with breast cancer awareness and prevention.

Women who have menstruated early, with late or no pregnancies, late menopause, who have not breastfed their babies, are particularly at risk. However, please note that whilst most breast cancer is reported in women due to societal attention to the reproductive role of women, breast cancer does occur in men too. If there is a family history of cancer – your mother, sister, maternal aunt (Mother’s sister) or maternal grandmother (Mother’s Mother) – please treat it as an early warning sign.

 
• Learn and practice breast self-examination, and have mammograms as recommended by your gynaecologist.
• Evaluate diet, too much of fat in your diet is a certain culprit. Keep sugar* intake to a minimum – even honey. Selenium found in the soft bones of the fish, as well as whole grain food sources, protect against breast cancer.
• Exercise on regular basis.

*Data found to support  other findings that impaired glucose metabolism may play a role in pancreatic cancer etiology. A diet high in glycemic load may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer in women who already have an underlying degree of insulin resistance.

Are you Affirming Your Black Child In These Five Ways?

The desired change has to take root from within ourselves.

MILESTALES

I hear the same stories from parents of black children day after day. Their daughters are

expressing the desire to have hair like long straight-haired April in their kindergarten class. These

same girls are fawning over the white skin and long flowing hair on Barbie or Elsa from Frozen.

Boys who look like young Gary Coleman are asking why they don’t look like and have hair like

Jake from from Jake and the Neverland Pirates or Justin from Justin Time. The parents that I

speak to tell me that that they try their best to affirm their children with compliments on their

appearance, but their children are still interested in looking like someone else or being someone

else. I think that teaching our children to love and embrace themselves, their skin, hair, unique

personality, etc. is THE most important lesson to teach. Please watch my

TEDx talk on this…

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