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The beautiful thing that happens in Amsterdam if you die and have no one to attend your funeral

The Lonely Funeral project was started by poet Frank Starik, who wrote, "Everyone—and this is the point—every person deserves respect."

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Every life deserves to at least be acknowledged.

Funerals can be many things—a sombre mourning, a celebration of life, a time for family to honor a loved one—but one thing they should never be is unattended.

But the reality is that some people simply don’t have people. Maybe they’re estranged from their family and have outlived all their friends. Maybe they fell into a life of drug addiction and lost all of their close connections. Maybe no next of kin can be found or they just happen to die in a life stage when they have no one around to attend their funeral. Whatever the reason, some people's send-offs from earthly existence are purely legal affairs with no personal touches whatsoever.

Two decades ago, some poets in the Netherlands decided that was an unacceptable ending for a human life. In 2001, a poet named Bart Droog began attending the funerals of people who had no one to attend them and honoring the dead with a poem based on whatever was known about their life. A year later, Dutch poet and artist Frank Starik took the idea even further, launching The Lonely Funeral project to ensure that someone who cares consciously acknowledges the life of a person who has died.


The idea was to create a network of poets who would find out whatever they could about the person, write a custom poem about their life and read it at their funeral. As of 2018, over 300 "lonely funerals" had been attended by poets in Amsterdam and Antwerp (where Flemish poet Maarten Inghels launched a Lonely Funeral project seven years after Starik's).

The Lonely Funeral project has continued to expand to other countries as well. Scottish poet Andy Jackson has begun writing poems for "lonely funerals" and attending them in his hometown of Dundee and he hopes to expand the project to the rest of Scotland.

"I feel everybody deserves something humane at the end of life" he told the BBC. "Nobody should be completely unmourned. If we want to live in humane country these are little things we can do for people. It becomes the job of the community."

A natural question is how the poets know what to write if the person was all alone.

"They would have a passport, some details from the police or from social services, a photograph or some information about their life maybe," Jackson explained to the BBC. "Something that would give away something of who they were that a poet then could use to form the basis of a piece of work that would actually celebrate the real person—not somebody you couldn't identify."

Starik and Inghels have even published a book, The Lonely Funeral: Poets at the Gravesides of the Forgotten, which includes poems for 31 forgotten lives and descriptions of their funerals—a small piece of dignity offered to perfect strangers.

There's perhaps nothing more beautiful than the impulse to recognize someone simply for the sake of their humanity. It's a reminder that we are all connected in some way, even if it's just by the reality of life and death.

As Starik wrote in his preface to The Lonely Funeral: "We do not know to whom we say goodbye, so we feel no pain. But everyone—and this is the point—every person deserves respect."

Leave it to the poets to remind us of the inherent worth of every human being and to honor it with such a simple, selfless service.

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From political science to joining the fight against cancer: How one woman found her passion

An unexpected pivot to project management expanded Krystal Brady's idea of what it means to make a positive impact.

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Krystal Brady utilizes her project management skills to help advance cancer research and advocacy.

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Cancer impacts nearly everyone’s life in one way or another, and thankfully, we’re learning more about treatment and prevention every day. Individuals and organizations dedicated to fighting cancer and promising research from scientists are often front and center, but we don’t always see the people working behind the scenes to make the fight possible.

People like Krystal Brady.

While studying political science in college, Brady envisioned her future self in public office. She never dreamed she’d build a successful career in the world of oncology, helping cancer researchers, doctors and advocates continue battling cancer, but more efficiently.

Brady’s journey to oncology began with a seasonal job at a small publishing company, which helped pay for college and awakened her love for managing projects. Now, 15 years later, she’s serving as director of digital experience and strategy at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which she describes as “the perfect place to pair my love of project management and desire to make positive change in the world.”

As a project manager, Brady helps make big ideas for the improvement of diagnosing and treating cancer a reality. She is responsible for driving the critical projects that impact the lives of cancer researchers, doctors, and patients.

“I tell people that my job is part toolbox, part glue,” says Brady. “Being a project manager means being responsible for understanding the details of a project, knowing what tools or resources you need to execute the project, and facilitating the flow of that work to the best outcome possible. That means promoting communication, partnership, and ownership among the team for the project.”

At its heart, Brady’s project management work is about helping people. One of the big projects Brady is currently working on is ASCO’s digital transformation, which includes upgrading systems and applications to help streamline and personalize oncologists’ online experience so they can access the right resources more quickly. Whether you are managing humans or machines, there’s an extraordinary need for workers with the skillset to harness new technology and solve problems.

The digital transformation project also includes preparing for the use of emerging technologies such as generative AI to help them in their research and practices.

“Most importantly, it lays the groundwork for us to make a meaningful impact at the point of care, giving the oncologist and patient the absolute latest recommendations or guidelines for care for that specific patient or case, allowing the doctor to spend more time with their patients and less time on paperwork,” Brady says.

In today’s fast-changing, quickly advancing world, project management is perhaps more valuable than ever. After discovering her love for it, Brady earned her Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification through Project Management Institute (PMI)—the premier professional organization for project managers with chapters all over the world—which she says gave her an edge over other candidates when she applied for her job at ASCO.

“The knowledge I gained in preparing for the PMP exam serves me every day in my role,” Brady says. “What I did not expect and have truly come to value is the PMI network as well – finding like-minded individuals, opportunities for continuous learning, and the ability to volunteer and give back.”

PMI’s growing community – including more than 300 chapters globally – serves as a place for project managers and individuals who use project management skills to learn and grow through events, online resources, and certification programs.

While people often think of project management in the context of corporate careers, all industries and organizations need project managers, making it a great career for those who want to elevate our world through non-profits or other service-oriented fields.

“Project management makes a difference by focusing on efficiency and outcomes, making us all a little better at what we do,” says Brady. “In almost every industry, understanding how to do our work more effectively and efficiently means more value to our customers, and the world at large, at an increased pace.”

Project management is also a stable career path in high demand as shown by PMI research, which found that the global economy will need 25 million more project managers by 2030 and that the median salary for project managers in the US has grown to $120K.

If you’d like to learn more about careers in project management, PMI has resources to help you get started or prove your proficiency, including its entry-level Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification program. For those interested in pursuing a project management career to make a difference, it could be your first step.

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