Members of the Zaman International advisory board and board of directors participate in the ceremonies at Islamic Memorial Gardens in 2009.
Group helps parents arrange children’s burials
By DANIEL HERATY
DEARBORN — A local nonprofit organization is helping families who can’t afford to bury children who have died.
Plots for Tots, a program run by Zaman International, started in 2002 with the goal of allowing parents whose children were stillborn or died in infancy the chance to be properly laid to rest.
Zaman founder Najah Bazzy, a registered nurse, went to a hospital to give a lecture when she was directed to a room where 222 fetuses were being kept in tubs and jars. Only one was given a religious burial, according to the organization’s Website. Dr. Joffer Hakim, Zaman International vice president, said Bazzy probably paid for the burial of that child out of her own pocket.
“That’s where Plots for Tots really got started,” he said. “These parents who lost these babies didn’t have the money for a burial. The hospital didn’t know what to do with them, and the families didn’t want them cremated because of religious tradition, usually, so they were just left there.”
He said that when the program got under way, Medicaid only covered up to $75 — just enough to cover the cremation.
In 2008 the organization purchased 235 plots in Islamic Memorial Gardens in Westland that are used strictly by Plots for Tots. “We secured lower rates with (John N. Santeiu & Son Funeral Home),” Hakim said.
Zaman also works with J.E. Martensen & Co. in Detroit, which provides headstones.
“Whenever a baby is stillborn or miscarried, a Muslim family who can’t afford a proper burial, we’re notified,” Hakim said. “Then we arrange (everything) through John Santeiu to take care of the details.”
Hakim said although the organization has laid to rest only Muslim children thus far, Zaman has an agreement with the nondenominational Maple Grove Cemetery, which is next door to Islamic Memorial Gardens and has the same owner. He said the funeral home or cemetery will contact Zaman and inform them if a family is in need.
“We have an arrangement with them so that if a non-Muslim family needs us, we can bury the baby in Maple Grove cemetery,” he said.
“Churches and other religious organizations, they already take care of their own. In the Islamic community, there was nothing. That’s why we put it into Islamic Memorial Gardens, because those were the people that were missing out on this kind of thing.”
Bazzy founded Zaman to function as an umbrella corporation encompassing other programs designed to help people in need, including Bayat Al–Zahara, which provides food, clothing and other essentials to people and families in need; and Building Ongoing Opportunities through Sustained Training, or BOOST, which teaches skills to women who have been negatively affected so they can support themselves and their families.
“In 2005, she decided to put these programs together,” Hakim said about the genesis of the organization.
Bazzy previously worked in hospitals in the United States and other countries to educate staff members about the practices and beliefs of different cultures.
“She’s done a lot of transcultural nursing,” Hakim said. “She tries to teach the medical staff and the nurses to be more sensitive (to cultural differences).”
(Daniel Heraty can be reached at [email protected].)