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, 24 April 2016

Freemarket at Kg Changkat Tin, Tanjung Tualang, Perak

After the launch of our first freemarket in Chendrong, Batu Gajah last month, this month Pertubuhan Wanita Prihatin Perak (PWPP) is better prepared for our second freemarket, this time at Kg Changkat Tin, Tanjung Tualang on Saturday, 23rd April 2016. This was actually a special request by the Ketua Kampong, as they were organising some events of their own on that day, and when they heard of last month's freemarket in Batu Gajah, they sought our favor to organise one at their place as well.

This time around, I had to pass some of my collections to a few other volunteers because I had double than what I collected last month and so I couldn't carry them all in my car in one trip. Since we had our first AGM on Thursday 21st April, I took the opportunity to pass a carload of items to a few other volunteers who attended the AGM. Once I emptied my car of the first load, I managed to load the balance of the items into my car for the trip to Tanjung Tualang.

The place is further from Ipoh than the last freemarket. I left home a few minutes after 7 am, and by the time I reached the place, it was already busy with activities by the kampong folks. The freemarket stall was still empty though, and so as soon as a few other volunteers arrived, we immediately started to set up the place. This time we had a load of various items to choose from... clothes, books, shoes, handbags, cushion covers, toys, sejadah, flowers, a few pillows and even a carpet. It was heartening to see the kampong folks choosing the items for themselves and their family members at home.

As for the food items, we saved them for last. This time we made sure only those who queued up would be given a food item. Since we had a limited number of each item (rice, cooking oil, flour, sugar and biscuits), we only allowed them to choose one item. As expected, rice was the first item to be grabbed, followed by cooking oil, sugar, biscuits and flour.

Once freemarket was over, and while a few of our volunteers started packing up, a few of us went to visit 2 poor families living in the kampong. We handed over some contributions as well, including pillows, comforters and rice.

All in all, it was a successful outing. And with the women-folks of the kampong setting up a Kelab Wanita Prihatin of their own, whatever balance of items we had (mostly clothes because we managed to collect a whole load of clothes from donors), we packed the items nicely in boxes and left them with the club so they can use in their own future activities.

I am all set to collect more items for future freemarkets in other venues in Perak. Would YOU like to contribute anything?

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Visiting the Orang Asli lady

While I was running some errands in Ipoh on Tuesday, a call came in from a doctor (FMS) who covers Sg Siput area. He called me a few years ago to seek help for a HIV patient of his, who's also an Orang Asli (OA). So I went to the clinic, and after discussing the case with him, he got a nurse to accompany me to the lady's house. But since it was difficult to get this lady to cooperate, added to the fact that she didn't have a phone, I had trouble following up on this case.

So when the good doctor called me again on Tuesday to seek my help for the same case, I knew it was probably because the situation was getting more desperate. Apparently this lady just underwent a surgery recently, is a bit more willing to talk, and has a whole lot of problems. Since today I had to go to Taiping Hospital for clinic duty, I decided I might as well drop by Sg Siput on my way back. Although the clinic I needed to go to was quite a distance from Sg Siput town, it was still more cost effective going on the same day as my Taiping duty.

The doctor himself was not on duty today at that particular clinic, he informed the nurse (the same nurse who accompanied me a few years ago) to liaise with me. Once I reached the clinic, 2 nurses met up with me, asked if I wanted them to accompany me to the OA's home. Of course I wanted them to accompany me... it had been some time since my last visit, and the kampong is further in and quite a distance from the clinic. Besides, the OA lady is more familiar with the nurses, and so I wanted her to feel more comfortable in the presence of familiar faces.

The moment I parked my car by the roadside near the OA's house, the nurses commented, "Hah, adalah tu kat rumah, tingkap buka!" We had to walk up a slightly hilly area. Her 18 year old son was sleeping, covered himself with a blanket despite it being a hot day. Probably because of the presence of a lot of mosquitos. I slapped myself quite a number of times today because of the mosquitos.

The house was previously owned by her late 1st husband. Before the husband died, he told his good friend to take care of his wife in case anything happened to him. After the 1st husband died, and after the end of the lady's iddah, the good friend took the OA lady (both 1st and 2nd husbands are not OAs) as his second wife. The OA got pregnant, was found to be HIV+, and when all her children got tested, her eldest son, now 18, was also found to be HIV+. The boy however, refused to get treatment, and simply ran away whenever the staff from KK went to visit them at home, trying to coax him to go for treatment.

The husband now no longer cares about the OA. He took their child (now 5) to stay with him, and wouldn't even let her visit the boy. Only when the boy cries and ask for his mother, then only he'd bring the boy to the house, drops him off there before coming to pick him up again. He however never really divorced her. He just told her that he'd never return to that house again, and in fact told her to get out of the house and go live elsewhere. Apparently, he had sold the land to his relatives staying in the same kampong. Now even his relatives who bought the land are pestering the OA lady to move out.
As for the 18 year old boy, he does odd jobs to earn some income. Sometimes he'd get paid helping to paint houses, sometimes he'd help his friend sell burgers. He has a motorbike bought under his friend's name, because he himself doesn't have a license. All the while he had been riding the motorbike without a licence. Why? Because neither he nor his mother could afford to pay for him to sign up for lessons/test.

Anyway, before this OA lady can apply for assistance from various agencies, her status needs to be cleared first. She is a single mother but on paper she's still somebody's wife. And when you apply for assistance from these agencies, it's the black & white status that counts. So first thing we need to help her out with is to bring her to Pejabat Agama to file for a divorce. When we spoke to her today, she's willing to do that provided somebody can bring her to the Pejabat Agama.

Next, is to find her another place she can stay without having anyone telling her to move out. One option is to find her an affordable house to rent, and apply for help from Baitulmal to pay for her monthly rental. Another option is to apply for one of the PPRT houses meant for Orang Asli like her. In both cases however, we'd need to get her divorce to be formalised.

I'm also hoping to arrange for her son to get a motorbike license so that we don't have to worry about him being caught by the police for riding a motorbike without a license.

The OA is still recuperating from her surgery, so we'd probably give her some time before we bring her to the Pejabat Agama.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get donations from friends to help her out while waiting for her divorce papers to be finalised.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Sambutan Hari TB, Diabetes & AIDS Peringkat Negeri Perak

Saturday 2nd April 2016 - As early as 6.20 am, I had already left home, heading to the town of Parit Buntar for this event. Buddies of Ipoh had been invited to set up an exhibition booth during the event, and I was personally invited to be one of the panelists for a forum held in conjunction with the event. Since the event was held in Parit Buntar, I had earlier decided to use the services of 2 of our northern volunteers to man (ermm... I mean woman) our booth, since I'd be busy with the forum. Besides, I felt it wasn't too practical to bring along volunteers from Ipoh with me for 2 reasons: (1) My car was loaded with the exhibition materials, and so only the front passenger seat was left available. (2) Having to make a move so early in the morning, I wasn't too confident the other volunteers in Ipoh would be as punctual as I want them to be.

While my GPS suggested that I used the Bandar Baru exit, I instead exited the Taiping Utara/Kamunting exit, to fetch a volunteer from Kamunting. She waited for me at the Taiping Utara toll area, and so I didn't even have to go out of my way to fetch her. From then on we used the old trunk road to head to Parit Buntar.

The day before, the moderator of the forum sent me a message to ask if I knew how to get to Dewan Kerian Permai, where the event was to be held. She offered to wait for me somewhere. I told her I'd just use my GPS to find my way, but I'd call her if the need arises.

Turned out we reached the place even before the moderator (who lives in Bagan Serai) and our other volunteer (who lives in Parit Buntar) did. It was only while we were setting up our booth did the Parit Buntar volunteer arrive.

The 2 volunteers at our booth.

 Meanwhile, I joined the forum panelists. They had a doctor as the moderator, and they had doctors to talk about TB and diabetes. And suddenly there's this makcik without any medical background to talk about HIV/AIDS. It would have been different if the whole forum was about HIV/AIDS and they had different panelists to talk about different aspects of HIV/AIDS. This time however, I was there representing the topic of HIV/AIDS as a whole. Needless to say, I was quite nervous at first in case someone bombarded me with a clinical related question. Thank goodness even the medical questions were general stuff I was able to answer.

After the forum, the Pengarah Kesihatan Negeri, Dato' Dr Hjh Juita Ghazali officiated the event, before she went round the exhibition booths.

 Introducing myself to Dato' Dr Juita. We had "met" on the Perak TKC Old Girls whatsapp group, but never met face to face, hence the introduction.

A photo at our booth with Dato' Dr Juita and Dr Puvanes.

The event ended at noon. Lunch of nasi ayam was provided by the organiser, all packed, and so after dismantling our exhibition materials, the 3 of us from Buddies had lunch at our booth, before loading all the materials into my car. We then went to a bicycle shop to buy a bicycle for a 10 year old girl (daughter of a client of mine who stays in the same district). I was unable to send the bicycle personally to the girl since there wasn't enough space in my car to load the bicycle, but the shopowner was kind enough to help deliver the bike to the girl.

After a short rest at the home of our Parit Buntar volunteer, it was time to head home. This time we decided to enter the expressway via Bandar Baru (which means we were actually in Kedah for a short while), exited Taiping Utara to drop off my Kamunting volunteer, and then made a u-turn to re-enter the expressway. All in all, I think the event was a success.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Freemarket in Chendrong, Batu Gajah, Perak

While most of the voluntary work I share in this blog involve my work with Buddies of Ipoh, I am also a committee member of another NGO called Pertubuhan Wanita Prihatin Perak, set up just last year. We got together to help out the Rohingya boat people, and eventually decided that we should set up a proper registered organisation.

Our first project for this year is to organise a #freemarket, starting off at Dewan Orang Ramai Chendrong, Batu Gajah, Perak. This being our first of more planned freemarkets in future, we decided to turn it into a Karnival Wanita Prihatin, to include other activities like coloring competition for children, and setting up various booths including education booths. YB Dato' Nolee Ashilin, the ADUN for Tualang Sekah officiated the event and the launch of our first freemarket.

The response from the public was overwhelming. We received a whole load of contributions consisting of clothes, shoes, books, toys, food items and various other stuff. It being the first freemarket held, many were still oblivious to the concept of freemarket, some couldn't really believe that they could have the items for free.

I noticed one boy, still in primary school, who tried on a pair of school shoes, even though the shoes looked quite old. To me he obviously came from a poor family. While he was trying on the shoes, I silently hoped that they would fit. Thank goodness they did.

Then there was a lady who came with her young children quite late, when most of the better items had already been taken up by those who came earlier. She was looking for children's clothes. Noticing that this was also a needy family, a few of us volunteers took the trouble to search for suitable clothes to be given to them. Thank goodness we did find a few, so they did not leave empty handed.

After we packed up and as I was heading to my car to head home, I saw another lady who came with her son, asking another guy about the exact location of the freemarket, only to be told it was over. She must have only heard about it from others who had already taken some free items earlier. But by the time she got there it was too late. Sigh...

We are hoping to do this on a monthly basis in different locations all over Perak.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Homeless by choice

Remember last month I mentioned about sending 2 homeless guys to a shelter home? We helped to buy train tickets and to pay the initial registration fee to the home for both guys.

I visited both cases when they were warded at Ipoh GH. The first guy, J, when asked, did agree to go to a shelter home, but if possible he preferred the place to be in Perak. But when told that there was none available in Perak specifically for HIV cases, J finally agreed to go to a home in Sg Buloh. The arrangement was that I'd buy him a train ticket up to Sg Buloh station, from there he'd go straight to Sg Buloh Hospital, and someone from the shelter home would fetch him at the hospital. For J, so far so good. He's still there at the shelter home. No complaints.

As for the other guy, H, when I visited him in the ward, he did mention he didn't want to stay at a shelter home. He was then staying at an old abandoned home, without doors and windows, without any furniture whatsoever.

I was rather surprised when the nurse from Ipoh ID clinic called me to seek my help to arrange for transportation and to pay for the initial registration fee to the shelter home for H.
"Eh? Hari tu dia kata dia tak nak dok shelter home?" I asked the nurse.
"Sekarang dia dah setuju," the nurse replied.

I figured he must have ran out of options and finally agreed to go to the shelter home. So I bought him the train ticket and arranged with the rep from the shelter home to pay for the registration fee once this homeless guy reaches the shelter. But before H went, he sent me a text message, asking if there'd be any financial assistance for him. Financial assistance? We already bought the train ticket, we agreed to pay for his initial registration, what else did he want? Apparently he was asking for monthly financial aid. Banyak cantik! I told him that we're only assisting, not taking over responsibility. After he left for Sg Buloh, I thought that would be the last I'd hear of him.

Late last week, a call from an unfamiliar number came in on my handphone. The caller turned out to be H, coming up with stories that he had to leave the shelter home because the doctors told him to start on methadone and the people at the shelter don't accept methadone cases. And so he was asking me for transport money to get back to his old place. Methadone? I thought he said he was no longer taking drugs? When I asked if he was taking drugs, he denied. Then why on earth would the doctor want him to take methadone? In the end I just told him I'd have to find out more from the nurse at Ipoh GH.

Within less than an hour he sent me a text message, "Macam mana ba?" I didn't bother to reply. I hadn't even spoken to the nurse yet, and he was already pestering me for money. Our assistance actually stopped the moment we sent him to the shelter home. He shouldn't expect us to give him money as and when he wants them. Who does he think we are?

When I went for my clinic duty at Ipoh GH on Monday, I took the opportunity to ask the staff nurse at ID clinic. Apparently when H called me to ask for transport money to go back to his old place, he was already back! The nurse was surprised when she saw a case brought to the specialist clinic from the ward, the guy looked familiar and finally she recognised it was H. She then called the rep from the shelter home and found out that H only stayed there for a week (he told me he was there for a month). And H told the nurse a different version of reasons.

He denied being on drugs, but the truth is, he was brought to the hospital by the police, after he passed out when the police caught him taking drugs. No wonder the doctor in Sg Buloh wanted him to start taking methadone. And the reason he left the shelter home was because he couldn't get his supply of drugs there. They did not chase him out. He was the one who left.

So now H is back to being a homeless guy... by his own choice.