THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Visiting a problematic client

When a doctor from a klinik kesihatan called me a few weeks ago to refer a case to me, and asked when I would be free to visit, I purposely chose a date after our family day. Giving myself just a one day break, I told him I should be ok for Tuesday 9th September.

Family Day was over 2 days ago. And I totally forgot about my visit to the klinik kesihatan. Luckily a nurse called me up yesterday to confirm if I’d be coming.

So off I went this morning. Since I had never been to the area before, I had to depend on my old faithful GPS to show me the way. And since the place I was heading to was a klinik kesihatan, it was listed in my GPS. Frankly, if not for the GPS, I probably wouldn’t be too confident about driving to the place. The last 15km was a small winding road with palm estates on both sides of the road.

When I got to the place, first I had quite a lengthy discussion with the doctor and the nurse. I was informed that this patient of his, Siha, had started missing her appointments since June, giving all sorts of excuses. They then started sending her medications to her house. Even the doctor himself went to visit her at home, trying to coax her to continue going for her appointments, and to never miss her medication. But Siha eventually got fed-up with the visits. When the doctor or any of the nurses tried to talk to her, she’d just keep quite. Even when she talks, she’d just say a single word, just a yes or a no, or if her answers came in more than one word, it’d be “tak tau”.

Siha’s present marriage is actually her second marriage. She was infected by her first husband, an active IVDU when he was alive. One of her children from her first marriage had also been infected with HIV. The son, who is 19 this year, had been going for his appointments with the paediatrician earlier when he was younger, but the moment his appointments was transferred to the adult clinic, the boy started missing his appointments and stopped taking any medication.

Siha also has a 3 year old son from her present marriage. The boy has been confirmed to be negative. Apparently Siha is now the second wife of a hot-tempered guy who doesn’t even have a permanent job. From what I was told, Siha’s first husband, when he was still alive, told this 2nd husband to take care of Siha when he’s “gone”. The doctor suspects that Siha may be facing financial problems, especially since the husband actually depends on his first wife’s salary (the first wife has a job) for a living. Siha herself is actually an orang asli from a nearby kampong.

Anyway, when we first got to Siha’s house, the door and windows were closed. The condition of the house was quite bad, with quite a lot of the top part of the window panes missing, and the wooden window sills rotted. Before the nurse knocked on the door and gave the salam, initially she thought she heard someone’s voice inside. But the moment she knocked, whoever was talking suddenly became quiet. No matter how hard the nurse knocked or called out Siha’s name, there was no response. Obviously Siha didn’t want to open the door. I guess she didn’t want to listen to any more “lectures” as to why she shouldn’t miss her appointments or her medication.

After a while another nurse from the nearby klinik ibu & anak came. She had been following up with Siha and the 3 year old boy from day one and is already a familiar face/voice to the boy. So when the boy heard the 2nd nurse’s voice, he opened the window. He got a scolding from his mother for doing so. Anyway, with the boy opening the windows, we could see inside. It was just a small house anyway, and there was no way for Siha to hide anymore. Reluctantly, she opened the door. The moment I asked if I could go in, she told us, “Apa-apa cakap dengan suami saja!” It looked to me as though she was afraid her husband may scold her.

I told her I didn’t want to talk to her husband. I wanted to talk to her so I could determine what sort of help I could give her.

True enough, she didn’t talk much at first. But as I started to talk about her children’s education, she began to give more-than-one-word answers. When I asked if her 19 year old son (the hiv+ boy) was working, at first she didn’t say much. She just told me he was somewhere else sleeping. But the moment I asked if the boy would be interested to further his studies in a field he may be interested in, suddenly Siha’s face lit up. “Dia memang suka tengok buku”, replied Siha. That’s her way of saying that her son loves to study. The nurse who accompanied me was pleasantly surprised to see a smile on Siha’s face.

Looks like I managed to hit the right note. I didn’t want to go into her appointments or her medication. Not just yet. She seemed quite comfortable talking about her children’s educational needs, so that will be my main topic of discussion with her for the moment. Later, after I gain her trust, hopefully, I will slowly try to get into the other matters.

Siha promised to ask her son if he wanted to further his studies. When I left my number with her, at first she said she didn’t have any phone, then suddenly she remembered, “Eh, Hairul (her son) ada.” Unlike previously when she’d just ask the nurses to contact her husband if need be, this time, she seemed eager to get her son to contact us direct.

Siha also started talking about the problems at the house she’s staying in. Other than the poor external condition, it seems almost every electrical appliances at her house is no longer working. The only one working is the fluorescent light at the main area where we sat.

Hmmm… why hasn’t her husband been taking care of that I wonder…

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

An update on Fuzi’s children

When I arrived at Fuzi’s house yesterday morning to fetch the family and send Wina off to register for university, I got a shock seeing the load of stuff Wina wanted to bring along. My biggest worry was that they may not all fit into my Kenari, especially since Wina’s 3 younger siblings were coming along and I couldn’t use the back seats to put Wina’s stuff.

My first round of arranging the things at first didn’t work out, but after a retry, I finally managed to arrange all of Wina’s stuff into the car without having to ask any of the children to hold some of the things on their laps.

The 2 hour journey gave me the opportunity to find out more about the latest updates of Fuzi’s other children. So far the girls don’t seem to be much of a problem. But the boys… ahhh… a different story altogether.

Wina, the eldest daughter, had always been dependable. A very responsible girl, and respects her elders. She had always been good in her studies too, despite sometimes having to miss school to take care of her younger siblings at home whenever her mother had to go to the hospital.

Fuzi’s second, Didi, also a girl, is now doing form six. Her SPM result wasn’t too bad, however failing her English paper limited her options. However, it’s good to know that she is very much more hardworking than she ever was before.

Fuzi’s 3rd child, Hafiz, had been the most problematic since day one. He had been getting into all sorts of trouble ever since he was in primary school. Being called to school to meet with the school authorities was a norm for Fuzi. Earlier this year, together with a group of his friends, Hafiz got into a fight in school with another group of students. In the end, Fuzi was asked to transfer him to another school. Fuzi did. She enlisted him at a technical school, making him stay at the school hostel. After a while Hafiz ran away from the hostel, and so he is now no longer schooling. He is not staying at his parent’s home either. Instead, he is staying with a foster mother within the same kampong. Which was why he did not join us for yesterday’s trip to send Wina off to university.

Fuzi’s 4th, Ijam, the hiv+ boy. Doing average in school, but would be happy be skip school for whatever reason. Thank goodness Fuzi no longer has any problem giving him his HAART, like evident yesterday when he needed to take his medication in the car on our way back. Previously Fuzi had to force the medication down his throat. So far, except for his hiv, I don’t see any other problem with Ijam.

The youngest, Iwan, is 8 this year but is still unable to go to a proper school due to his citizenship status. For readers who hasn’t been following the story, Iwan was born out of a rape case (after Fuzi’s husband passed away), and so doesn’t have a father stated in his birth cert. With Fuzi still unable to get PR status, Iwan is considered a non-citizen/non-PR too like his mother, and so couldn’t be accepted at any of the government schools.

A Malaysian pair did offer to “adopt” Iwan (on paper only) to enable them to enlist him in a government school, and the application was initially approved, but a nosey neighbour, who had never liked Fuzi, reported the case to JPN and Welfare Dept. Officers from both agencies came to visit one night, and lo and behold, they found that the boy who was purportedly adopted by the couple, was still staying with Fuzi. The adoption was then revoked, and Iwan’s status is back to square one.

Fuzi did explain the whole situation to them, telling them she was only doing it to enable Iwan to go to school. They suggested to her that once Wina, the eldest daughter, who has Malaysian citizenship, turns 21 (she is 19 this year), then she can apply to adopt Iwan.

OK, so until then, Iwan doesn’t go to school?

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Going off to university

When Wina, Fuzi’s eldest daughter, was offered a place at one of the local universities, I knew she’d need some initial financial help. No doubt she’d be able to apply for funds like PTPTN and the likes, but surely there are some other preparations needing money. With Fuzi depending on monthly welfare aid to support her family, I knew they wouldn’t have much to spare.

So yesterday I decided to pay them a visit to check on Wina’s preparations.

Thank goodness I decided to drop by. There were still so many necessities that she had not bought. Her shoes were all worn out. She needed to buy some other things as well. Although she had been working temporarily at a supermarket while waiting for the results of her UPU applications, she’ll only be getting her pay on the 30th. She needs to register at the university on the 1st. If she has to wait for her pay to be banked into her account, she can only start buying her things on the 31st.

In addition, she needs to bank in some registration fees into a bank account specified by the university, and to bring along the bank-in slip on registration day. She needs money for that too.

Seeing that she had not bought most of her necessities, I told them I’d bring them shopping there and then. Wina was caught by surprise, asking if I was serious. Of course I was serious lah…

So off I took them shopping. She needed shoes, luggage bag, a small back pack for her to use to class, some stationeries and some clothes she can wear to class.

While shopping Fuzi told me that the usual “kereta sapu” she used to hire to go anywhere with her family whenever needed, was repossessed by the bank as the owner had not been paying his instalments. Which means Fuzi can’t hire the same car to send Wina for the registration. She had been asking around for others who may be willing, but all of those asked, were only willing if Fuzi would pay triple of what she used to pay to the earlier guy. So Fuzi sought my help if I could arrange for some kind of transport.

Hmmm… while I had a few children from our education sponsorship program who had already registered at various higher learning institutions earlier, all of them had some sort of transport (uncles or other relatives). So I had never personally sent off any of these children when they registered for higher learning.

Considering I’m free this coming Monday, I figured why not take the opportunity to personally send Wina for her registration. I already had the satisfaction of knowing she was offered a place, how much more satisfactory can it get seeing for myself one of our sponsored children registering at the university?

There’s always a first time for everything.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Those little precious moments

Having been involved with Buddies for more than 10 years now, there definitely had been some ups and downs in my voluntary work. With so many problematic clients assigned to me, there were times when I felt I was almost on the verge of burnout.

Which is why it is good to take a break from time to time. In my case, since I am the adventure-thrill-seeker type of person, my kind of break usually involves adventurous activities like hiking, caving and the likes.

But what had really kept me going were those little precious moments of satisfaction seeing the success stories of my clients and their families, particularly the children.

I can’t really describe how I felt when Lin’s daughter came back from overseas with a medical degree. She is now doing her housemanship at one of the general hospitals. Although by the time this family’s case was handed over to me, the girl had already obtained a scholarship to study overseas (in other words I had nothing to do with her success), but helping to reduce the burden her mother had to carry as a single mother to 6 children still studying either in school or in higher learning institutions, and later on seeing with my own eyes how the family has progressed (4 of the children are working now), the satisfaction I got was still priceless. 

When we started our Education Sponsorship Program for the children of our clients in 2008, our main aim was to ensure that the children from the poor families would not be deprived of basic education despite what their families had to go through. We wanted to make sure they completed form 5 at the very least.

While there were still a few cases where the children stopped schooling before completing form five, at least we did offer them help. Still the kids were adamant about no longer going to school despite all our coaxing. Those moments can be quite frustrating.

But those are very rare. We are beginning to get positive results from the sponsorship program now. With one already in university and a few more in other higher learning institutions or vocational colleges, things are beginning to look brighter for these children.

Today came another of those precious moments. I can’t really describe how happy I was when I found out that Fuzi’s eldest daughter (who went to a matriculation college last year) was offered a place in one of the local universities to do a degree in accounting. I personally know the girl as a very polite and responsible girl, and I sincerely hope one day she will be a successful person who will motivate other children from underprivileged families to be successful as well.

We still have many other children under the sponsorship program. We started off with only 9 children sponsored in 2008, to date over 40 children either had benefitted from or are still beneficiaries of this program.

These children may not be my own, but the pride and joy I get when they succeed in life is like they are my own.

I look forward to many more of those little precious moments.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Distributing Ramadhan contributions to various families

Usually during Ramadhan, I always get contributions from various donors to be distributed to the poor families among my clients. This year is no different. The amount of cash that came in this year was more than RM5.7K, and that doesn’t include contributions of groceries and diapers.

I’ve been distributing the contributions, in cash or in kinds, to at least 21 different families. I’ve still got a few more families to go, with less than RM1K balance in hand. For some of the families, I visit them at home to hand over the contributions. However, I can’t afford to go to the homes of each and every client, particularly those who stay quite far from Ipoh, and so for some I distribute the cash by banking into their accounts.

Tomorrow I will be meeting up with Wani to get my orders of Raya cookies from her. She usually gives me samples before Ramadhan to enable me to help get orders for her. But I had never been a business-minded person, so going around looking for orders is out of my league.

But since I do usually go around giving Raya cookies to a few of my clients, I made it a point to order the cookies from Wani. To me it’s a win-win situation, I get to help Wani with her business while at the same time make some contributions to some of my other clients.

Some of those cookies will go to Fuzi’s family. I do plan to visit them this week, as the latest news I got from Fuzi is that she has already got a confirmation letter from Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara to enable her youngest son, Iwan, to register for school. Iwan is already 9 years old this year but has not been able to go to school in view of his citizenship status. You see, Fuzi is an Indonesian citizen. While her older 4 children are Malaysian citizens by virtue of having a Malaysian father (although there were problems initially because the marriage was still not registered in Malaysia when their father died), Iwan had a different problem because he was born out of a rape case. Iwan’s birth cert indicated his father’s info as “Maklumat Tidak Diketahui”, and with Fuzi still unable to get PR status even though she had applied numerous times, Iwan was unable to register at any of the Malaysian government schools.

Now that matter is settled, we now need to register him for school as soon as possible. He had already missed 2 1/2 years of school because of all the problems. Hopefully after this the boy’s future will be brighter.