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)

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.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Spending on children’s education

Life is a whole lot less hectic for me this month compared to in December when I had a few rounds of shopping for the children’s back-to-school needs. That doesn’t mean less headache though… because now I need to look into the budget for the coming year.

There was an obvious increase in number of children covered either under our Education Sponsorship Program or our Children Education Fund (CEF).

The CEF started off many years ago just by passing round the hat to collect donations for a particular client whose children needed help with their schooling expenses. The committee than decided that a specific fund be set up so that in the event there were similar needing cases, there is already available fund without having to do another round of collection. CEF was (and still is) to cover for basic schooling needs – uniforms/fees/workbooks, and maybe bus fares on a case-to-case basis. I had not joined Buddies yet when the CEF was initially set-up.

After I joined Buddies, the committee had fresh ideas. Some families may need more than just basic schooling needs. They may need monthly pocket money as well. So we came up with the Education Sponsorship for Children program, where we get individual sponsors for each individual child needing sponsorship.

For the past few years, the amount we’ve been spending for both CEF and Sponsorship has been increasing. With additional children under sponsorship, in 2014 we spent RM41K compared to RM33K the year before. Likewise for CEF, more children received assistance in 2014 resulting in a spending of over RM38K compared to just over RM16K the year before.

Wow! That means if we combine both CEF and Sponsorship,  last year we spent close to RM80K just on children’s education alone.

I guess that shows how much we stress on the importance of education for the infected and/or affected children of our clients.

For the moment, am not too worried about the children under the Sponsorship program because the respective sponsors would top up their pledged yearly sponsored amount. But for those depending on CEF, I guess we will need to come up with some fundraising activities to ensure that the yearly assistance we’ve been giving to the children can continue without interruption.

♬ Money, money, money ♬

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Adventure & Voluntary Work Combined

Whenever I needed to take a break from my voluntary work, usually I’d organise an adventure trip somewhere with my adventure loving gal-friends. White water rafting… caving… hiking… and the likes. Or sometimes I’d just grab a promotional low-fare air ticket and travel somewhere.

After rounds of back-to-school shopping in December, I felt I needed another break. But my next planned trip is in early Feb. Nothing earlier.

Then suddenly one of the worst floods hit Malaysia, particularly the east coast, seeing homes destroyed, and people struggling to get back on their feet. For those who did not lose their homes, cleaning up the mess in a house full of mud is no easy task.

It then dawned on me that maybe my adventure-loving friends may want to help and clean one or two houses. So I asked, and the next thing I got were positive responses. Immediately I started organising things. This was going to be another voluntary work (nothing to do with my usual voluntary work though) AND at the same time an adventure for us since none of us had done anything like this before. Adventure and voluntary work combined. A perfect kind of break for me!

First, to choose a place. The floods in Kelantan was more devastating, however the road conditions are bad and we’d take longer to get there. We’re just a group of ladies and none of us had a four wheel drive. In the end we opted to go to Temerloh, which was also badly affected, but more easily accessible via the highway, although when the plan was first thought out, part of the highway was still closed to all vehicles. We figured that by the time we planned to go (that was from 10th to 11th January), the flood water would recede and the highway would be opened.

Meanwhile, the planning and preparations continued. I got a friend in Pahang to scout around for a house to clean. My target was to clean the house of either a single mother or an elderly person. We weren’t targeting many homes as we knew we had limitations in terms of manpower (or should I say womanpower?) and time. We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone, right?

Since we were going ourselves, we thought we might as well bring some necessities for the flood victims. So next thing was to ask for contributions in cash and in kind. Transportation too needed to be arranged. How would we be going? Whose car?

Preparations went quite well. The friend in Pahang did our homework for us. Other than identifying a house for us to clean, she also informed us of the necessities most sought after at this time… blankets, comforters, pillows etc. She even got us free accommodation for the night at her brother’s quarters. Despite doing things on a small scale, we still managed to get close to RM10K in contributions. Malaysians in general are such kind-hearted people!

Monday, 10th January 2015: 7 of us made a move in 3 vehicles… one MPV, one SUV and one sedan. All 3 full of stuff either to be used to clean the house identified, or to be distributed to affected kampong-folks. Another lady with her 3 children joined in another car; although they were just going for a day trip and not staying overnight.

Our first destination was the quarters where we were spending the night. That would be our “base” in Temerloh. Met up with Jehan from MNS Pahang who was on a “Back-to-school” voucher distribution mission and passed her 50 school bags we had bought in KL so she could distribute them together with the vouchers.

After unloading things from our vehicles, leaving only the items needed for our cleaning mission, we headed off to the house identified. The house belonged to Pakcik J, a 70 year old man without children, staying all by himself. When we arrived, a group of guys (volunteers from another group) were just done clearing the mud from inside Pakcik J’s house. Phew! We were spared from having to carry out one of the toughest work in the mission! All we had to do then was to clean the house.

However, we weren’t THAT lucky. Apparently there was a burst pipe somewhere and so there was no water supply at Pakcik J’s house. Thankfully however, the day before I had asked my Pahang contact to buy a water tank big enough to store some water. So although we would have preferred to use a water-jet (which we did bring along with us), we had no choice but to use pails of water to wash the walls and floor of Pakcik’s house
.
Given the limited source of water, I think we did considerably well, although we weren’t quite satisfied with the results. We told Pakcik’s younger sister (who’d be there almost every day to cook) to call us if there was water supply the next morning.

Since there wasn’t much we could do at Pakcik’s house on day 1, by noon we headed back to our base to sort out items to be distributed to flood victims. By 2pm, we were on the move again. Again, we had to depend on our Pahang contact to show us the way. The first house we visited was the home of a single mother with 7 children – all still studying. This was one family which would need help even without the flood. Next, we went to distribute the items we brought to flood victims in badly affected kampongs. The occupants of all the houses visited were all happy to get the comforters, travel mattresses, pillows and blankets we offered them. According to them, nobody has yet to offer them those items. Ever since they returned home, most of them had been sleeping on mats.

Distribution of the items ended our activities for day 1. We headed back to our base to get a good rest, anticipating that we would continue cleaning up Pakcik J’s house the next day.

As anticipated, Pakcik J’s sister called us the next morning to inform us that water supply was back. So off we went, to complete our initial mission. Although there was no electricity, someone came with a water pump generator set, complete with a jet spray. That would definitely make it much easier to clean the walls and floor of the Pakcik’s house.

However, because of the roof high floods that took place earlier, there was mud so thick all around Pakcik’s house. If we were to spray lots of water to clean the inside of the house, where would the water flow? Even the hole in the bathroom where water was supposed to flow out, was fully covered by soil and mud from the outside. The solution? We had to come-up with a make-shift drainage system first…


With the jet spray, it was so much easier to wash the inside of the house. The walls which were brownish when we came, turned white after being sprayed. We even used detergents to clean the house. Someone even commented that the house was even cleaner that it was before the floods.

We were done by around 1 pm. Cleared our things, said our goodbyes (Pakcik’s sister who was there again to cook for us, hugged us all even though we were dirty and smelly) and headed back to our base to shower and got ready to head home.

We left Temerloh by about 4 pm. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Another cucu… Cek Mek 2

Those who have been following my blog may remember my little Cek Mek Molek, born to unwed 19 year old mother, Sharifah, 5 years ago. I actually had to send Sharifah to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning 2 weeks before her scheduled c-sect. Sharifah, who initially wanted to take care of Cek Mek, ended up leaving the little girl at the shelter home.

Today I went to visit another baby born to unwed mother. Dahlia’s 15 year old daughter, Dilla, who was raped earlier this year, gave birth to a baby girl 2 days ago. Seeing the cute little baby girl reminded me so much of my little Cek Mek. So I’m just going to call this cutie pie Cek Mek 2.

There are huge differences between the 2 cases though. In Sharifah’s case, it wasn’t rape, and it couldn’t even be considered statutory rape because Sharifah was already 19. And although she didn’t want to give away the baby for adoption, Sharifah and her mother initially wanted to let the baby stay at a shelter home first, visit the little girl on a monthly basis, and then she’d bring the girl home when she’s ready. But after some time, Sharifah stopped visiting and even changed her phone number, the lady in charge at the shelter home could no longer get hold of her.

In Dilla’s case, the whole thing happened without her consent, and even if she did give her consent, it would still be considered statutory rape as she is only 15 years old. With the support of her mother, Dilla too wants to take care of the baby. In fact, she told Dahlia that she’d run away from home if Dahlia decides to give away the baby for adoption. And in this case, the baby will be brought home immediately after discharged from the hospital. No transits at any shelter homes.

I must say I am impressed with Dilla’s determination. Despite all that she had gone through, she still managed to score 6A 2B for her PT3 exams recently. And despite all the kay-poh-chees at the hospital (people got curious seeing such a young girl at the maternity ward, especially with her age written underneath her name at her hospital bed), Dilla was all smiles when I went to visit her today.

And she doesn’t plan to just stay home and take care of her baby. She plans to take care of her baby (with the help of her mother of course) AND take up a 2 year culinary course, at a college sponsored by the state government. Upon completion of the 2 year course, she will obtain a certificate, after which she can either start working, or she can use the cert to continue up to diploma level.

I really salute this girl. She’s only 15. Most of the 15 year olds I know would probably lock themselves in their rooms if they had to go through what Dilla had to go through.

Cek Mek 2 is lucky to have a mother like Dilla (and a supportive grandma like Dahlia). They still have a long way to go, but I like what I’m seeing so far.

May they all have a bright future ahead.

This is definitely a case I’m going to follow up on a monthly basis until they can be independent enough, insyaaAllah.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Done with this year’s Back-To-School-Shopping

For the past few years, I had always been reserving December as my back-to-school-shopping (BTSS) month. Previously I used to bring one family at a time to the shopping centres to shop for the children’s schooling needs. But as my list of clients grew longer, I could no longer afford to bring them one family at a time. So since 2 or 3 years ago, I started doing the BTSS batch by batch, based on where my clients stay.

This year the board decided to have it as some sort of a special event to be listed under our calendar of events. So for the Ipoh BTSS this year, we had a bigger group consisting of more clients, with a few other volunteers helping out as well. The majority of the clients needing assistance were still my clients anyway.

I started off with Kuala Kangsar, with 4 children from 2 families. Not a problem handling this one. Both families were my clients anyway.

Next up, Slim River. Again, 4 children from 2 families and both were my clients.

Round 3 was in Ipoh. 23 children from 9 families were my clients. Thank goodness there were a few other volunteers to help supervise. But I still had to swipe my card for all 9 families. Another volunteer paid first for the children of her client.

For round 4, I went to Kampar. 4 children from 3 families. Although one of them wasn’t my client, it wasn’t too bad handling it alone as there were only 4 of them.

Next, I went to Batu Gajah. 14 children from 8 families, including 2 families who aren’t my clients. And I was doing it alone.

Round 6 was in Taiping. 15 children from 7 families, including 1 family who is a client of another volunteer who did not come along. Again, I had to handle it alone.

For round 7, I went to Sungai Siput. 9 children from 4 families. I’m the main buddy to one family with 2 children, and a co-buddy to another family with 1 child. The other 2 families, with 6 children, were clients of 2 other buddies.

Round 7 was supposed to have ended this year’s BTSS, but 2 girls from Ipoh had missed the earlier Ipoh BTSS because of some family problems, so yesterday I took them out to shop for their schooling needs.

After 8 rounds of shopping, 36 families, 75 children and about RM18.5K spent, I am officially done with this year’s BTSS.

I ended up having to shop for 11 additional children who aren’t my clients. Instead of getting additional manpower from other volunteers to help me with my many clients, I ended up getting more children to handle by myself. I think next year I will have to stick to just my clients alone. Let’s just leave the Ipoh BTSS as a special event. The rest? Let the respective Buddies handle themselves.