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)

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Needs vs Wants

After 11 years as a volunteer with Buddies of Ipoh, and easily being the one with the most clients to date (I have actually lost count of how many clients I have in total, but I do know I have the phone numbers of so many clients stored in my hand-phone), I can say I have dealt with various situations and dealt with various types of people.

While it gives me great satisfaction when the families we’ve helped changed their lives for the better, I have to admit this voluntary work can be frustrating at times, especially when the people you’ve helped ended up trying to take advantage of you and expect more from you, as though transferring the responsibility of taking care of their well-being over to you. Worse, when they think they can ask you for anything just because we’ve helped them before.

I’ve always told my volunteers to never ever start lending money to their clients. More likely than not, once you start lending them money, they’d come back to you… not to repay the loan, but to ask for more. It’s never enough.

Even when you don’t lend them money the first time they try, doesn’t mean they won’t try again later… like the K’s who never gave up trying to borrow money from me despite the fact that Mrs K thinks I’m somewhat ‘garang’. They’d come up with all sorts of sad stories as their reason for wanting to borrow money. And it’s always like “cukup bulan saya bayar”. Trust me, their cukup bulan never comes. And how can I forget, this was the very same family who, once they got their EPF money, installed Astro at home ahead of anything else… and ended up not fulfilling their promise to open up SSPN savings accounts for their children. Their reasoning? “Kesian budak-budak nak tengok astro.” Well, I couldn’t do much in this case, because the money was theirs.

Then there are some who don’t try to borrow money, but would try to ask for simply anything just because their children are covered by our Education Sponsorship program. Once I told Hana to list down the things required for her children’s schooling. She came back to me with a long list of items and their costs, and included in the long list was “Motosikal – RM2,000”. And another time, she also asked me to pay for her son’s circumcision.

Latest, there was this client who wanted to transfer her daughter to another school in KL (& stay with the girl’s older sister) and sought my help for some schooling expenses. That was okay, I guess, but within the same message, she also said her daughter would also NEED a hand-phone as well.

From what I noticed, these families who can’t set their priorities right (between their needs and their wants), aren’t doing too well. Their children don’t do well in school, and if something doesn’t turn out well, it’s always somebody else’s fault. Anybody can be blamed as long as it’s not themselves… can be their employers, can be their co-workers, or can even be their neighbours. Worse comes to worst, just blame their own health, even though I’ve seen clients in worse conditions continue working to support their family.

On the other hand, those who know how to set their priorities right, putting aside all their wants to concentrate on their needs, tend to do much better in their lives. They never ask for anything other than the necessary, and even then, as far as possible they’d avoid asking for anything at all until I ask them if they need anything, even during hard times. They use their trials & tribulations to remind their children about the importance of education and to not waste the help they get. And yes, their children tend to do better in their studies, we already have the sponsored children from these families who are already in universities and other higher learning institutions.

In fact, one case I’m very proud of is Lin (those who have been following my blog from the beginning may remember her as Mr Darling’s ex-wife). She really had to go through some tough times when all her 6 children were still studying. She was really happy when her 3 younger children received financial support for their schooling, she made full use of our help without even once taking advantage of us, and now her 3 older daughters are already working. In fact, one of them is a doctor. And I must add that her daughters are wonderful responsible beings.

These success stories are the ones that has kept me going with this voluntary work despite the occasional frustrations I’ve had to face.

Of course, from time to time I also want a break from all these. No, I don’t just want it. I need it.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Chairperson’s report 2014

*Sharing my report in the Buddies Annual Report for 2014. Our AGM was held last night, and I finally managed to step down as the chairperson, although still serving in the committee, this time as the vice-chair. Hopefully this means I will have more time for my many clients, and hopefully too I can concentrate more on our Education Sponsorship and Children Education Fund.*


2014: My 7th year as the chairperson. Activities went on as usual… the clinic duties in Ipoh and Taiping, the hospital visits, the home visits and the phone calls. While most of the cases referred to us came from either Ipoh or Taiping hospitals, we did get a few referrals from other sources as well.

So far we have never turned down any invitation to give talks on HIV, and in 2014 we were invited to give a talk to foreign workers in Kamaya Electric and I personally was invited as a guest speaker during KANITA USM International Women’s Day celebration in USM Penang, sharing my experience in carrying out my voluntary work with Buddies.

For a few consecutive years, we have also been joining the ID Clinic of Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun, Ipoh to put up an exhibition at the hospital in conjunction with World AIDS Day in December.

3 of our volunteers attended the National AIDS Conference in Kuantan, Pahang in October 2014. And to make sure the volunteers are updated with the latest developments, an ICAAP-sharing session was held earlier in the year where those who attended the International Congress on AIDS in Asia & the Pacific (ICAAP) in Bangkok in 2013, shared their experience and the knowledge they gained during the conference.

The Annual Family Day also went on as usual, this time at Bukit Merah Water Park. This is one event the regular attendees look forward to every year. I already have clients asking me where 2015 Family Day will be held.

Our year-end routine, the back-to-school-shopping for children of our clients, was bigger than previous years this time around. Over 100 children were brought (separately depending on which town they stay in) shopping for their schooling needs. The expenses were either covered by our Education Sponsorship program, or our Children Education Fund (CEF). We spent a record high RM38K under CEF and over RM41K under the Sponsorship program in 2014 alone.

Mainly due to high spending under CEF, for the second year running our accounts showed a deficit for the year. The amount was however covered by the surplus from previous years. We hope to be able to get more donations for the coming year to enable us to continue helping the families of our clients, especially involving the education of the children.

To all donors, thank you so much for your support all these years. I hope you will continue to support us, for without enough funding, we won’t be able to carry out our voluntary work as best as we’d like to.

To all volunteers, thank you for the time and energy you put in despite not getting any benefits out of it. And thank you for putting up with me for the past 7 years.

Of course, how can I not thank our beloved patron, Datin Yap Roh See, for always being so supportive.

After 7 years as the chairperson, it is about time I step down and pass the baton to someone else, someone who will hopefully bring some positive changes to the organisation. I will of course continue to offer my services as a volunteer, helping out whichever way I can.


Monday, 9 March 2015

The Post-SPM Sponsored Children

It’s March. SPM results have been announced. I didn’t want to be such a kay-poh-chee to ask my clients for the results of their children’s SPM on the day the results were announced, but for those under our Sponsorship program, I didn’t have to ask. Their mothers felt obliged to inform me of their children’s SPM results, whether the results are good or bad.

Lin was the first to inform me, sending me a photo of her daughter’s results slip via whatsapp. The last of her children to sit for SPM, the girl didn’t do too bad getting credits for Maths and Science but just a pass for English. The girl is rather fickle-minded as to what course she wants to apply for, but I believe her 3 older sisters who have succeeded in their education (one with a degree and the other 2 with diplomas), I believe they should be able to advise her on the best course to take.

Another sponsored child who sat for SPM last year was Aini’s son. He was never good academically, concentrating more on games in school, so I wasn’t expecting good results from him. True enough, he got 2C 3D and failed all other subjects including maths. Aini did say however, that her son was interested in vocational training, so I helped out in searching online for vocational courses he could apply for using his results.

The best results was obtained by Maya’s daughter. The girl scored 6A 3B and 1C, the C for English. I am pretty proud of her results, considering the limited resources she had. She has applied for matriculation in addition to a few courses offered through UPU. Based on her results, I hope and I believe, she should be able to get an offer from any of the higher learning institutions.

I know there are 2 other children under sponsorship who also sat for SPM last year, but I have yet to obtain their results as their families are under another volunteer. I do hope all of them, no matter how good or bad their results were, will move forward and further their education. For those with poor academic results, at the very least, go for vocational/skill training.

I will follow up with these families again later, in case they need help with the initial expenses when they register for whatever courses they plan to pursue.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Desperate for help

The last time I went to visit Aini at the hospital last month, I was told she’d be staying at her elderly parent’s home once she’s discharged from the hospital.

True enough, she did. At least if anything happened to her, there’d be someone at home. The least the parents can do will be to call someone for help.

That solved one problem. But another problem surfaced.

Aini submitted her application to the welfare department to continue getting monthly welfare aid. This time however, when told that she’d be staying with her elderly parents, she was told to include the household income including her parent’s income, if any. So she included the monthly pension her father is getting, which is slightly more than the ceiling income to qualify for welfare aid. And so her application was rejected.

With her inability to work, and EPF all finished up to settle some previous loans after her husband died, Aini has no more income to support herself. For the past few years she had been depending on the monthly welfare aid. Although she didn’t get much, she made do with what she had. Her eldest daughter is studying at a polytechnic, her second son is waiting for her SPM results, while her youngest is in form 3. None of them are working yet and still very much dependent on her. Only the youngest son’s schooling expenses are covered under our Education Sponsorship Program.

While her father may be able to feed them at home, Aini needs more than just food and shelter. She is getting weak and even has problem walking. Due to her condition, she needs supply of adult diapers. In addition to that, she has to go to the hospital quite often for her appointments. So she definitely needs money and can’t rely on her father’s pension.

Desperate, Aini decided to call me to seek my help. She’s usually quite embarrassed to ask for my help unless she’s really out of options. Obviously she was really desperate. I told her to try Baitulmal instead. She said she’d get her daughter (who was at home for the CNY holidays) to get the necessary done.

Meanwhile I started asking around for help, and thank goodness, a few responded. From the amount received so far, I’ve already given her some immediate relief. The balance, together with more funds expected to come in, will be given to her on a monthly basis so that she’d have at least some money every month to buy her needs. At least her father wouldn’t be too financially burdened.

I do hope things will get better soon. I know for a fact she is really unable to work, not just making excuses like some people I know. She really deserves all the help she can get.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

And the visits for the year has begun

Although I usually slow down a bit in January after a hectic back-to-school shopping month in December, January 2015 hasn’t even ended and already I’ve done 3 visits for the year… 2 home visits and 1 hospital visit.

First visit was of course to Laila’s home. Remember Laila, the orphan… one and only daughter of the late Shila? Laila usually spends the school holidays at her paternal grandma’s house in another state and has never joined us during our BTSS. Her grandma, the one taking care of her, would usually buy the necessities first and I’d reimburse her the amount when I visit in early January. Laila seems to be doing fine. She’s already in form 3 this year, how time flies.

Just when I thought I could just do all my work from home for the rest of January, updating whatever necessary, Aini’s daughter sent me a text message, informing me that Aini had to be hospitalised. So yep, that was my next visit. As usual, I’d take the opportunity to do some stairs exercise when I visit any of my clients at the hospital. And since Aini was warded on the 8th floor, up I went all the way 192 steps up.

Aini looked weak. She could hardly walk. Worse, she had been staying alone for the past month. Her eldest daughter is studying at a polytechnic in another state, her second son has gone for PLKN, and the 3rd son, in form 4 this year, stays at his grandparents house, which is nearer to his school. If Aini collapses at home, nobody would be around to help her. I told her to stay at her parents home, together with her youngest son, once she is discharged.

While I was driving to Taiping yesterday for my clinic duty there, Aini called to inform me she had been discharged. Thank goodness she did manage to get the new card from the Welfare Dept (the card indicates that she is a recipient of financial aid from the Welfare Dept.) as I told her to. Last year, because she did not bother to get a copy of the card (to her what’s important is that the monthly financial assistance gets into her bank account on time), she had to pay over RM250 when she was hospitalised. This time around, if not for the card, she would have had to fork out over RM300. But since I had already taught her daughter what to do, just by showing the welfare card, they didn’t have to pay for hospital charges.

Anyway, there was no new case referred at the hospital when I went yesterday. So I just got the ID clinic roster for this year from the nurse, to enable me to do up the voluntary duty roster for us Buddies.

Then off I went to a bicycle shop with the intention to buy 2 bicycles for Dahlia’s children. One for her 14 year old son who’s very active in school activities (the school bus driver usually doesn’t want to wait for him) and another for Dilla, the 16 year old girl who just gave birth to a baby girl late last year. She needs the bicycle to go to the culinary college where she has started classes.

But when I got to the shop, which was recommended by Dahlia herself as she said the bikes there are quite cheap, the shop wasn’t even open yet. And it was already almost 11 am! I then decided to go straight to Dahlia’s house. Only Dahlia and the 3 toddlers were around… her 2 youngest children aged 3 and 1 1/2 years old, and her 1 month old granddaughter.

According to Dahlia, the baby’s blood sample had already been taken for DNA testing. The DNA test is needed as proof to charge the guy who had raped Dilla last year, resulting in the pregnancy. Apparently, the police records show that this isn’t the only rape case the guy was involved in. There was an earlier rape case, but no action was taken because the family of the raped girl retracted their report.

I must commend the way both Dahlia and Dilla are handling the situation. Despite the looks neighbours are giving them, despite the trauma that Dilla had to go through, they are going on with life without moaning about their past. Dahlia is getting some extra income by giving tuition service at home, while Dilla seems to be doing fine with her culinary classes.

I really hope a bright future awaits them.

And oh, as for the bicycles, I decided to just leave some money with Dahlia and told her to get her children to go to the shop themselves to buy the bicycles.