By Esther Essie Wambui
If you’re Kenyan in the Diaspora and would like to in any way lessen the financial burden of your death on those you leave behind, this is for you. In addition to other means available to “bury ourselves” Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) has a new Diaspora Travel Insurance package which covers bereavement. There is an added perk for Kenyan Canadians in the form of a local agent.
Think of yourself, your friends, and other Kenyans around you. When we came abroad it was for a specific reason. Be it to study, work, or pursue greener pastures, chances are you thought you’d be headed back home as soon as you achieved that goal. Some people even set a timeline – “no more than 15 years”.
But as it tends to, life happened. That degree was not enough and you needed to position yourself better with even higher education. By the time that was done, you had accumulated a significant student loan in addition to other financial obligations. Don’t even mention the high expectations set by family back home. The only thing clear to you is that you will under no circumstances be returning home maskini (poor). Not before you at least add a quarter (1/4) plot to your name (so far, I’ve only met a handful of people in the Diaspora whose ultimate goal is not to finally return to Kenya).
In the midst of ironing out these creases, a spouse and/or dependents happen and the rest as we are wont to saying “are details”. Reasoning, facts and excuses follow – schools are better here, healthcare system works, ditto security, there are more opportunities to earn a living, and despite not working (for some of us) within your career field of choice, you feel safer hanging onto a familiar hustle. Living in Kenya comes with numerous advantages but let’s be honest, it often seems to require a bit of nepotism and “knowing people” to get anywhere. Regrettably, the few people you knew are equally busy with their own struggles and your merited qualifications scare others (lest you replace them).
Thus, before you know it, you are out here “too long” and whether or not you make regular trips to the Motherland, thoughts of the ultimate final trip and resting place start to creep in. I doubt anyone takes pleasure in planning their own funeral but living these many kilometres from our ancestral home makes that inevitable.
The challenge has been that we tend to make plans for where our remains will be interred but overlook the more important question of how – the $$$. Blame this on remnants of our culture as a society where the living customarily bury the dead. But times and locations have changed and we must adapt a paradigm shift since everyone around us is financially pressed by one issue or another.
Kenyans are many things to many people. The good, bad and ugly all intermarried. We’ve been called entrepreneurial, well-educated, intelligent, greedy, corrupt, skinny, ugly, beautiful, you name it. Admittedly, the one thing we sure are is generous to the dead. When a Kenyan in the diaspora dies for instance, we show up in droves to contribute towards funeral expenses. Whether we tend only to those of our tribal affiliation is another matter altogether. Even people little known to the community are accorded some fair measure of kindness towards their send-off.
To avoid abusing this kindness and because some people prefer to plan, there are those who have formed or joined bereavement groups (chamas) whereby members contribute directly towards the final journey and offer various kinds of support to families members of the departed. This has been a very effective means in our communities but memberships do brim and therefore the need to explore other options.
Enter banks and insurance companies:
Despite years of sending huge remittances back to Kenya, diaspora populations were largely ignored or untapped by banks. Well, not anymore! Financial institutions have in the last few years been clamouring to offer various services to the Kenyan Diaspora. While we understand this is business for them, for us it is about services that benefit us and provide convenience. It represents a little assurance that should something happen to us, our kin and friends might deal with it a little easier from the financial aspect.
Due to our lesser numbers, it’s understandable that Canada is behind the US and UK in consideration for the services offered. But our population continues to increase in Ontario, Alberta, B.C, Manitoba, Quebec and elsewhere in this vast country and we can no longer be ignored.
For a couple of years now, Kenya Commercial Bank has been knocking on our doors with their Diaspora Banking plans. This has been primarily through their on the ground representative, Jackie Kariuki, who is based in Toronto. In addition to the day-to-day banking and mortgage services she had been touting, Jackie has recently been reaching out to Kenyans in Canada to introduce KCB’s new package named “Diaspora Travel Insurance”.
My first reaction to this was a little dismissive as I didn’t need travel insurance, and even if I did, Canadian institutions already provide that. But looking deeper, it became clear the title of the cover may need to be renamed or explained. The package goes beyond travel to cover bereavement.
Here is how KCB summarizes it: “Travel insurance provides coverage for unexpected risks and financial losses that can occur before a trip starts and while you are traveling, including cancellations, baggage, medical emergencies, and more. It is purchased for short and long trips, and both domestic and international trips. Cover extends to funeral expense benefits to four named dependents of the insured.”
I presume this will interest many in the diaspora as it offers an additional way to lessen the burden of death on those we leave behind. For an annual premium of $8 per individual per month, you can be covered during one of the more vulnerable times, which is while visiting Kenya and away from other medical coverage we may be enrolled into in the diaspora.
Admittedly, we worry about encountering a medical emergency while visiting Kenya. This insurance might help ease your mind concerning “medical expenses & hospitalization, emergency dental expenses, prescription drugs and international medical repatriation. Takes care of loss of baggage/trade samples or cash. It also promises to cover personal accident death, permanent total disability, return of mortal remains/burial expenses, accompanying family member/child(ren)/companion, coffin expenses, and last expense benefit on four named dependents.”
As with other things that some of us in the diaspora learnt the hard way (cell phone, cable and other contractual agreements), the devil is in the details. Yes, your first step should and must be to ask, read and understand the content and interpretation of the fine print and what this package fully entails.
Information=power so contact Jackie Kariuki and she will help you sort through the package to make an informed, fitting decision. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 647-783-2198.
~By Essie Wambui for Wakenya Canada (email@example.com).