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)

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Freemarket Kuala Woh 3.0

Freemarket Kuala Woh 3.0? The event must have been organised before this one, right? True, and while I was invited to join 2.0, the event clashed with another freemarket I was organising in Kg Changkat Tin, Tg. Tualang. This time around, I made sure I was available to join Friends of Kuala Woh for 3.0. Thank goodness my NGO (Pertubuhan Wanita Prihatin Perak) had our freemarket just 6 days earlier in Kg Temin, Sg Siput (U), Perak. So yes, I joined 2 freemarket activities within a span of 7 days!

Saturday, 26th November 2016. D-Day. A whatsapp group was set up earlier for Friends of Kuala Woh to enable us to communicate easily with each other. It was agreed that the meet-up point would be at Tapah Toll by 8 am. Being from Ipoh, it didn't take long for me to reach Tapah Toll. Upon arriving at about 7.50 am, I checked my phone for whatsapp messages and noticed at least 2 people saying they were already waiting. But when someone mentioned she'd wait in front of Shell, I was like... huh? Shell? At Tapah Toll? I looked around me, just to be sure there was no Shell station that I didn't know of, and then it dawned on me, they must have been waiting at Tapah R&R instead! But alas, it was still early, and so they had ample time to make it to Tapah Toll on time.


Waiting at Tapah Toll

We had quite a long queue of cars convoying to the freemarket venue. Loads and loads of stuff were brought along to be given away free to the people of Kuala Woh.

Preparations under way

The crowd looking while preparations were under way


Briefing to the kampong folks before the start

And off they go!!

 
 Free clothes

 Free bags and books

 
Free toys

Free drinks

Free food

 Free ice-cream

Free groceries

 
Free sarongs

Free medical check-up

 Free dispensary

Free eye-test and glasses

Free haircut
 

Free info on Muay Thai

Free organisers. Ooops... not for grabs!


We also had zumba and sewang. The Orang Asli sewang group sportingly joined the zumba, and the freemarketeers sportingly joined the sewang.

 
 
 
 

Loved seeing the reaction of the kampong folks, especially the children, upon getting the free items.

 
 

After lunch, the freemarketeers were treated to a demo and the chance to try out the sumpit (blowpipe).

 

The event was even covered by TV3.

 

Some of the freemarketeers then went to visit the Orang Asli kampong.

 
 
Overall, the event was a huge success. The kampong folks were happy. The volunteers too were happy. Heartiest congratulations to the organisers, Fernaliz Raja Harris & Wan Irfan Rinezry, and Friends of Kuala Woh! So, when is Freemarket Kuala Woh 4.0?



Friday, 4 November 2016

New cases, old cases

When I joined Buddies in 2004, the volunteers who attended clinic duties were quite busy during clinic days. There'd be 4 or 5 new cases referred to us during each clinic. We used to go once a fortnight but because of the numbers, the Ipoh ID Clinic asked if we could be there on a weekly basis instead. The numbers later reduced to 2 to 3 new cases each time. Of late, they reduced even further, sometimes we go for our clinic duties and end up not getting any cases referred at all.

It's a good sign of course. It shows that the number of new infections had declined over the years. However, there had been times when no case referred was not necessarily a good sign. Sometimes, no case referred only meant that the new case did not turn up on the day of the appointment, which is definitely not good.

I was on clinic duty in Taiping yesterday. Although the other volunteers would usually call the Taiping ID Clinic first, to avoid driving all the way from Ipoh if there aren't any new cases, for me it doesn't matter. I have a client I regularly visit in Taiping, and so whether or not there are cases to be referred, the drive there wouldn't be a waste. Yesterday especially, I was already planning to visit the client in Taiping to deliver one of the refurbished desktop computers contributed by NGO Hub Asia.

Unlike my recent duties in Taiping Hospital, yesterday was quite a busy day. First up, there was a case of a newly diagnosed couple. Both in their early 50's, both contract workers. When the husband was hospitalised for TB, he was also tested for HIV. The moment his test results came out positive, his wife was immediately tested too. And her results too came out positive. The couple has 5 children, 4 girls and only the youngest is a boy, who will be sitting for his SPM soon. All 4 girls did not further their studies after SPM, not even for skill courses. I was told that only their eldest daughter has got a job so far, at a factory. The other three are still unemployed. One of the 3 got married without the parent's consent, and although initially she stayed elsewhere together with her husband, after they got a baby, and with the husband unemployed, the girl went back to stay with her parents, bringing along her husband and baby as well. So now this couple has additional mouths to feed.

After I was done talking to this couple, I was told there was no more case to be referred to me. As I left the room, I saw the 2 HIV+ orphaned siblings with their grandma outside. So I went to have a short chat with them to find out how they're doing. The younger boy, now in form 4, plans to start a small business after SPM. When I asked what kind of business he plans to do, the grandma said he wanted to follow into the footsteps of his aunt who now owns a small food stall. So I told him to go for a culinary course after his SPM. He seemed interested, but I will have to follow up next year after his SPM.

Just as I was about to leave the hospital, I met with another client, a lorry driver who has 8 kids. This time he came alone. The last time I saw him at the hospital, his wife had to accompany him. Back then he needed a walking stick to walk. This time, although he was still walking with a slight limp, he no longer needs a walking stick. Good for him.

I then made a move to Dahlia's house to deliver the computer, and some goodies for the younger kids. Dahlia's daughter Dilla, has taken a whole month leave from the culinary college, to concentrate on her SPM which she will be sitting for as a private candidate. Immediately after her SPM, she will move on with her course works at the culinary college, which she is due to complete in January next year. What she decides to do after that, I guess will depend on her SPM results.

As for Dahlia's 15 year old son who sat for his PT3 recently, he applied for a place in MRSM for next year and has been called for a written test on the 24th of this month. They were hoping for MRSM Taiping or anywhere else nearby in Perak, but instead was called for the written test to be done at an MRSM outside of Perak. On another note, Dahlia's no.4, a 6 year old boy, will start school next year. I will probably need to find a sponsor for the boy's education, just like his older siblings.

After I finished installing the computer at their home, a call came in from the staff nurse at Taiping ID clinic. She wanted to know if I had left Taiping because apparently there was another case (which she thought didn't turn up) she needed me to see. I told her I'd drop by the hospital again on my way back. And so back to the hospital it was.

The case the nurse wanted me to see was that of a frail looking 42 year old single mother of 2. When the lady, Farah, first told me she no longer had any school-going children, I thought both her children are grown up. I further believed so when she said her eldest daughter is married and the younger one, a son, is working. But I was surprised when she also told me her son is only 16 years of age.

You see, the girl got married at the tender age of 17 when she was in form 5, and stopped schooling immediately without even sitting for her SPM. And the boy went to school only up to form 2, because the mother couldn't afford to send him to school any longer. After leaving school, he started working as a casual worker at a nearby chalet, not earning much.

Farah herself is currently not working. She used to work at various factories on part time basis, without EPF or Socso. So how does she pay for her house rental? Sometimes her younger brother who stays nearby would help out, sometimes she'd plead to the landlord to postpone her payment or pay in part. To go to the hospital, she borrowed somebody's motorbike. When she saw the staff nurse earlier, she asked if she could have some cash so she could have lunch before going home (her kampong is not that near). Although the staff nurse sympathised, she didn't want to make it a precedent to give money to patients whenever they ask for it. I personally wouldn't encourage it either because once you start giving, chances are they may ask again next time.

Likewise, when Farah met me, she also asked if I could give her some money for lunch. My policy had always been to give them the fishing net rather than the fish. And after the short talk, I found out that Farah can sew and in fact sewing and handicrafts had always been her field of interest. Only thing is she can't afford a sewing machine. She seemed eager when I asked her if she's interested to make sewing her source of income if I can get her a sewing machine. It's definitely better than giving her cash whenever she comes to the hospital for her appointment.

At the end of it, I did give her a little bit of cash, enough for her lunch. At the same time I also told her that it was a one off thing and that I will no longer give her any cash after this but I'd try my best to get her a sewing machine for her to earn a living.

Hopefully things will work out for her.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The complicated cases

It has been more than 12 years since I first joined Buddies of Ipoh as a volunteer. After looking through the whole list of over 500 clients of Buddies, and with about 25 confirmed volunteers, on average each volunteer should have been assigned to 20 cases each. But average doesn't seem to apply to me. I listed down all the clients that I had been assigned to since day 1, and the total I have is 78 clients! That of course includes those who have passed on, or have moved to another state, or have gone MIA.

With the number of clients I had been dealing with, I've come across all kinds of problems and complicated situations faced by my clients.

There was Anita, who had problems registering for her son's birth cert, not because of her unwed status, but because she never had a birth cert herself (after over 20 years)! With her parents already dead, and problematic siblings from various fathers not willing to cooperate, the last I know, that problem had yet to be solved.

Then there was Lily, whose husband had been infected with HIV for quite some time without her being told about it. The husband's family took him back to their hometown, and when he died, they didn't even bother to inform Lily or her children about it. It was only when one of the children called to ask how their father was doing, that they were told of his death. And with a death cert indicating that the husband died of AIDS, Hana went to get herself tested. Hana was not the only one infected, her youngest son (5 at the time) was found to be positive too.

There was Fuzi, an Indonesian citizen, whose marriage was never registered in Malaysia even after 12 years. She only realised her problem when her eldest daughter had problems at JPN to get her MyKad at 12 years of age. By then Fuzi's husband had died, and Fuzi had to go through all sorts of trouble to legalise the marriage to enable her children to get their MyKad. That problem is now settled, but her youngest son, being born out of a rape case 10 years ago, is "stateless" and is still unable to go to school.

Then there was Hana. When her case was first referred to me, she had 3 children, the 1st child with a different father's name, the 3rd child with a different father's name, and the 2nd child without a father's name. After we helped them out with the children's education etc, and her family's life seemed to be more stable, Hana quietly remarried, this time with a young jobless guy only 3 years older than her eldest daughter. They then had baby, and with the husband still without a job, Hana was back to being financially burdened with 2 additional mouths to feed (the baby AND the husband). And when her husband was accused of molesting a young girl in their kampong, Hana (who never even told me about her latest marriage) had the cheek to seek my help to get a lawyer for her husband! <sigh>

Finally there's Salmah, whose first marriage failed. Both then remarried, but since the out-of-court divorce was not officially registered, there was no black & white. No problem for her ex-husband to remarry, but since Salmah herself was on paper still "married", technically she couldn't remarry. Well at least not in Malaysia. Salmah then took the "short cut" - she married her 2nd husband in Thailand. Her divorce was still not "official" by the time she gave birth to her 4th child (fathered by her 2nd husband), so again she took the easy way out, in the child's birth cert, her first husband was named as the father.

Salmah was infected with HIV by her first husband, and she then infected her 2nd husband. Now her husband needs to start treatment. So what's the problem? He's an Indonesian citizen. Treatment is not free for non-citizens, unless they're married to Malaysian citizens. He is married to a Malaysian citizen, so there shouldn't be a problem, right? Fuzi didn't have problem getting free treatment using the Thai marriage cert after her husband passed away. Apparently, in Salmah's case, her ex-husband somehow managed to get hold of her Thai marriage cert, and tore it apart. Without that marriage cert, Salmah's present husband is unable to get free treatment (and HIV drugs are not cheap).

By now the divorce of her first marriage has been officially recorded, and Salmah shouldn't have any problem remarrying. We suggested to her to officially have her akad nikah with her present husband, here in Malaysia. Solve the problem once and for all. Easy, right?

Wrong. Apparently her present husband is here in Malaysia without a permit. <smacks forehead>

If you have been following my blog from the beginning (since I started blogging in 2007), you'd surely know there had been many other problems and complications faced by my clients. The above were just a few examples. Sometimes I can't help wondering why some people get themselves into the mess when it could have been avoided. For some, maybe it wasn't really their doing (like the one without a birth cert after 20 years), but for some others, the situations they faced were avoidable. The "easy way out" they chose turned out to be even more complicated than they could ever imagine.

Monday, 26 September 2016

The talk for teenagers, and another day at the clinic

Over the weekend, there was a sex awareness program for teenagers called PROGRAM PEKERTI, jointly organised by LPPKN Perak and Family Wellness Club at YMCA Ipoh. Just like their previous similar program held in March this year, I was again invited to fill up a slot to share my experiences in dealing with HIV+ people. My slot was on the 2nd day of the 2 day program, so yesterday I went to carry out my part.

Apparently there were supposed to be 28 teenagers from 2 schools. And indeed 28 students turned up on Saturday. However on the 2nd day, all 16 students from one of the schools, made a disappearing act, together with their accompanying teacher. So during my slot yesterday, there were only 12 students attending. But the show must go on, and so we proceeded with the 12 teenagers. Creating awareness in even ONE person is still better than none at all.

This morning I was back at Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun for clinic duty. I was told by the nurse that there weren't any cases to be referred to us today, but I still waited for a while for a trainee volunteer to come, as I had promised to introduce him to the staff nurse at the ID Clinic. You see, this trainee volunteer is also a medical student and he is now carrying out a project on PLHIV for his studies, and needed to get the cooperation of the ID clinic.

While I was waiting for the trainee volunteer, a staff nurse from one of the wards called, seeking my help. They had a case of a PLHIV who needed to be sent to a shelter home in Penang, but needed transport. I told the staff nurse I'd go to the ward as soon as I was done at the ID clinic. 

So after introducing the trainee volunteer to the staff nurse of the ID clinic, I headed over to the ward to visit the PLHIV and to discuss with the nurses there. For the past few cases of guys needing transport to go to shelter homes, I'd just buy their train tickets and they'd go on their own. This time however, I was told that arrangement was not possible. You see, the PLHIV, an Orang Asli guy, needs full supervision. He even forgets if he has eaten. He may even forget where he's going and so if we were to send him off by bus or train, he may just end up lost.

I asked the nurses if he had any relatives at all. I was thinking, even if they refuse to take care of him at home, they may be willing to just accompany him on a bus or train to Penang. But I was told that his family members do not wish to have anything to do with him. He was married before, and had children from that marriage, but his ex-wife and children aren't even bothered to know how he's doing. He has a mother, but when the nurses called her to inform her that they'd need to send her son to a shelter home, she just told them to go ahead, without even wanting to know where, when or how.

The nurses initially thought I'd be able to make arrangements by tomorrow. They probably thought we have full time staff in Buddies and so it shouldn't be a problem. But we don't have anyone full time, most of the volunteers work 9 - 5 and so we can't simply go as and when we are needed. Anyway, I told the nurses, I'd have to ask around and find out if and when any of my male volunteers are free to send this guy to the shelter home.

Just as I got home, the staff nurse called again. She said she managed to arrange for the guy to be sent by ambulance. Under normal circumstances, the ambulance can only be used to transfer a patient from one hospital to another, not to send a discharged patient to a shelter home. That was what I've been told each time they seek my help to send HIV cases to shelter homes. However, due to his inability to be independent, and with no family members taking him, they decided to be a bit lenient this time. Thank goodness.


Monday, 5 September 2016

Freemarket at Kg Ulu Geroh, Gopeng

Pertubuhan Wanita Prihatin Perak (PWPP) organised its 6th freemarket yesterday. The first one was held in March this year at Chenderong near Batu Gajah. The second one in April at Kg Changkat Tin, Tg Tualang. The third in May at Kg Suak Petai, Manong. The fourth in June at Ashby Flats, Ipoh. The fifth in August at Manjung. This time, for the first time ever, we ventured deep into Orang Asli settlements, in Kg Ulu Geroh, Gopeng.

I've actually been to the place twice before, the first in 2011 for an awareness campaign. During that time, there was a part where we had to drive off-road before getting back onto the tarred road, and so we were advised to go in a 4 wheel drive. That was my first time ever driving a manual 4WD (it was a Pajero) and it turned out I was the only female driver. The second time I went to the very same kampung, it was for a trekking trip to see the rafflesia. The tour operators drove us there.

Having been there twice, I kind of knew what to expect. When a few PWPP committee members went to recce the place and to discuss with the head of the community about our freemarket project, I didn't worry at all about driving there in my faithful old Kenari. We finally fixed the date for 4th September, asked their tok batin for the number of families staying in the community so we could prepare the necessary amount of food items to bring along.

So on the morning of 4th September 2016, we met up near the Gopeng roundabout, before we went in convoy to the Orang Asli settlement. The drive took between 20 to 30 minutes.





Also joining us were staff of Klinik Kesihatan Gopeng, who provided free medical check-up (plus papsmear).




Despite the worries of a few members of the organisation about going deep into Orang Asli settlement with the different culture etc, things went really well. In fact, the Orang Asli people there were obviously more disciplined and well-mannered when it came to taking the free items we brought along with us, compared to the supposedly more "civilized" areas we went to before. Nobody even attempted to try get something while we were setting things up despite us working in open spaces, and even when we told them that they could start choosing the items, they didn't rush to grab the things. In fact, they asked first if they had to pay, and when we said everything was free, they asked if they were only entitled to one item each. And the best part was, we received more "terima kasih" here in the Orang Asli community, compared to the other places we've been to before. So seriously, if you think the Orang Asli people are less civilized, think again.








Overall, it was a wonderful experience. For an adventure and nature loving person like me, this is the kind of place I'd go to whenever I need a break from work. (In fact after the freemarket was over, I did go to the nearby Ulu Geruntum waterfalls for a short while, that was the place where I did waterfall abseiling slightly over 4 years ago.) I'm pretty sure the other volunteers too enjoyed the experience of organising a freemarket for the Orang Asli community. Beautiful place. Calming rivers. Lovely people.