I joined Buddies of Ipoh some time in 2004. Initially I was just a trainee volunteer, following the senior volunteers in their visits. By 2006 I started visiting my clients at their homes on my own. Gradually I started to bring along trainee volunteers in my visits.
Since then, every Ramadan, without fail I'd be visiting the poor PLHIV families assigned to me, delivering groceries courtesy of donors. Since most of the clients assigned to me were from poor families, there were quite a number of homes I had to visit. The more clients I was assigned to, the more homes I visited.
Gradually, some of the families started to become more independent. The number of visits then reduced. After I became the Buddies chairperson, I did not visit the clients as often as I used to. But every Ramadan WITHOUT FAIL I would be visiting the poor among my clients to deliver them some goodies before Raya. I always made it a point to buy groceries and deliver, rather than giving them cash, unless it was totally necessary.
From 2006 to 2019, every Ramadan would be a busy month for me and my Kenari, visiting clients all over Perak. My Kenari's mileage was always higher in Ramadan (the other high-mileage month is during December's back-to-school-shopping). Frankly, I always enjoyed the visits. I always looked forward to my Ramadan visits. Not only did I get to reach certain places in Perak that I hadn't been to before, every visit was an eye-opener for me. Seeing for myself the trials and tribulations some of these families had to go through, always made me feel humbled, and thankful for the life Allah gave me.
Then came 2020. The Movement Control Order came into effect in March, and is still on-going now in the month of Ramadan. No home visits. No visits even to the nearby Masjid. My tarawikh prayers are done on my own at home. My Kenari's mileage this Ramadan is the lowest ever recorded. The longest journey it made was to a hypermarket about 3 km away from home.
So what happened to the poor PLHIV families I usually visit? Well, I still get money coming in from donors to be distributed to these families. While I usually make it a point to NOT give cash, this year I had to make an exception. My clients are after all, from all over Perak, and I can't be delivering groceries to them like I used to. I too had to stay home. This year, for the first time, I had to transfer cash into their bank accounts, and hope that they wouldn't be using the money for anything other than necessary. Since quite a number of them had been depending on daily wages to survive, having to stay at home meant they had no income. So no, I doubt they'd be using the money for their wants instead of their needs. Besides, I don't give them the cash in one big sum. After a reasonable time, when more money came in, I gave the clients some more. I doubt they'd have any "extra" to spend on anything else.
I guess 2020 is my (and my Kenari's) rest year. I am sure there is a hikmah to all these. Whatever it is, I am thankful that I am still able to communicate with people from all over despite having to just stay at home.
It's up to us now to not make the situation worse. Let's continue to do things we've been trained to do during MCO (social distancing, washing of hands etc). Let's all pray that things will get much better soon, insyaaAllah.