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, 1 July 2015

2 more families revisited…

After sorting out all the vegetables that I got from Kak Mimi and Rubi during my visit on Monday, yesterday I decided to visit 2 more families staying nearer to Ipoh.

First up was Imah. I had only visited her once, after she called me seeking help. At that time, she was no longer together with her husband, but there was no proper divorce. Whenever she tried applying for help from relevant agencies, she couldn’t prove she was a single mother as there was no document to show that. To support her one and only child, and to pay for her living expenses including house rental, she started selling nasi lemak at a stall near her rented house.

Why didn’t she file for divorce? Well, she intended to. In fact during my first visit, she showed me the relevant forms, all filled up. All she needed to do then was to submit them. BUT… she needed to pay a certain amount when submitting the forms, and since she didn’t have enough money, she just put the matter aside.

Unless and until she had the papers to prove that she’s indeed a single mother, it would be hard for her to apply for financial aid from the relevant agencies. Based on that, I managed to get someone to donate a small amount of cash to help her submit her divorce papers. And so she finally submitted the forms and managed to finalise her divorce.

Yesterday morning when I visited her, she was making some kuih to be sold during pasar Ramadhan. She’d just send her kuih to a few stalls so she herself doesn’t need to spend time selling them. That way, at least during iftar she’d be home with her one and only daughter.

Imah told me Baitulmal has approved some financial assistance for her, by way of paying for her monthly house rental. The cheque will be prepared under the landlord’s name, but Imah herself will need to go to their office every month to get the cheque, after which she will pass the cheque to her landlord. At least now Imah doesn’t have to worry about her house rental. That’s one burden off her shoulders.

Imah’s daughter, now in form 4, doesn’t know that Imah has HIV. Imah doesn’t want her daughter to worry. She wants the girl to concentrate on her studies. I don’t know how long she can keep that a secret though.

After visiting Imah, I went to visit Lin. Remember Lin? Ex-wife of Mr Darling? There were quite a number of her stories during my earlier blogging days. It had been quite a while since my last visit. I used to visit her without fail on a monthly basis, delivering groceries etc because during that time, she was struggling to bring up her children. Divorced, and ex-hubby not consistently giving alimony to support her 6 children, all studying at that time. She found a job as an assistant at a restaurant, then she started selling pisang goreng at somebody else’s stall and in the end after attending a short sewing course with Giat Mara, she started sewing baju kurung so she could work at home.

So why am I no longer visiting her regularly? Because the family is already independent. Her 3 older children (all girls) completed their studies, 2 with diplomas, and one with a medical degree. All 3 are already working, in fact one is already married.

When I got to Lin’s house, I heard the voice of a baby. The baby is Lin’s grandchild. Yes, Lin is already a grandma! It was good to hear updates about Lin’s children.

Number one never managed to get a job relevant to her qualifications, so after moving from one job to another, she has now started her own business, having her own boutique. Didn’t do too well initially, but since she moved to a more strategic place, the business is doing better now.

Number two, the one with medical degree, is now doing her housemanship at a general hospital.

Number three, married, and the mother to Lin’s grandchild, works at a private company.

Number four, a boy, never did too well academically, and had been jumping from one job to another. He is engaged and is expected to get married later this year.

Number five, another boy, also didn’t do too well academically, but after some coaxing, agreed to do a vocational course and seem happy to be doing so now. He is already in his second semester doing a course he likes.

Last but not least, number six, a girl, is now doing form six. Hopefully she will emulate her sisters academically.

Visiting Lin and getting updates about her children reminded me why I like doing this voluntary work. Seeing them succeed in life and getting a better future instead of inheriting poverty from their parents, makes me a happy person. Hopefully the other families who are still struggling right now, will also have a happy ending like Lin’s.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

2-in-1 visit

After I called Kak Mimi last week and found out about all the problems she was facing, I figured it’s about time to pay her a visit. And since a long lost client of mine, Rubi, who finally contacted me recently, stays in the same town, I might as well visit her too.

So I decided to visit them both yesterday. I was still at home when Kak Mimi called, confirming if I was coming. She works as a guard at a school and so there was no point of visiting her at home. I told her I’d give her a call when I reach Rubi’s house. You see, both Kak Mimi and Rubi know each other well and Rubi’s house is nearer to where Kak Mimi works.

Off I went, setting my GPS to a school mentioned by Rubi to me earlier (not the same school where Kak Mimi works). Rubi told me to call her when I reach the school, and so that was what I did. I had initially thought Rubi would either come on a motorbike or something to fetch me, or she’d give me further directions to drive to her house. Coincidentally, Rubi so happened to be just nearby when I called her, and so I met her right in front of the school.

I was then asked to park my car by the roadside. Apparently Rubi’s house is on a hill and we had to walk all the way up to reach her house. Oh well, it had been quite some time since I last had any climbing/trekking activities, so I guess my visit yesterday included one. Only this time, we had to trek up carrying some weight as well because I brought along some groceries for Rubi, including a 10kg pack of rice and a 5kg bottle of cooking oil.

When I got to Rubi’s house, I immediately called Kak Mimi. Kak Mimi told me she’d meet me there in a short while. She then asked for a one-hour time-off from her boss. Poor Kak Mimi was almost out of breath by the time she reached Rubi’s house. Kak Mimi used to open up a food stall in front of her old rented house, but due to so many problems, she has stopped doing so. After that she got the job as a guard at the school that I mentioned earlier.

As for Rubi, she has remarried since a year ago. Her husband however, does odd jobs and doesn’t have fixed income. Rubi herself works as a helper at a vegetable farm.

Anyway, knowing that Kak Mimi took time-off from work, I didn’t want to waste too much of her time, so after she caught her breath, we went back down, and she showed me the way to the new house she’s renting. You see, when I called her earlier, she told me not only about the flash flood that damaged quite a number of her belongings at home, but also that she had to look for a new house to rent because the landlord of the old house she had been renting for the past 10 years wanted the house back.

Kak Mimi managed to find a vacant house for her to rent, but her problem is the amount of cash needed to pay for all the deposits. The new landlord however, had already given her the key to the house despite not getting any deposits yet. Kak Mimi is supposed to pay the amount on the 1st of July, when she plans to move into the new house.

The inside of the house had already been cleaned by Kak Mimi and her sons. It was still empty as all Kak Mimi’s things will only be brought in on the 1st. I could see the house wasn’t in the best condition (room door without knobs etc) but it was good enough as shelter. After handing over the groceries that I brought along for Kak Mimi, I also handed over some cash donated by her son’s education sponsor given through me. Kak Mimi felt so thankful she almost cried.

After the short visit to the house, Kak Mimi showed me the way to her workplace. At least during my next visit if I can’t find her at home on a weekday, I know how to find her at work. Once we got to the school, Kak Mimi reported back to work while I turned back to head home.

And oh, while the supply of groceries had already been unloaded from my car, by the time I headed home, it was loaded with fresh vegetables given by both Rubi and Kak Mimi.

A whole load of vegetables in the car! I know I won’t be able to finish them. So guess what? While I actually didn’t have any plans for today, I figured I might as well slot in visits to the homes of 2 more clients in Ipoh, and share some of the vegetables with them.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Another visit done, another visit planned

I was on clinic duty last Monday. When I was told by the nurses that there was supposed to be one new case to be referred, I waited at the support service room. I waited and waited and waited… and got bored waiting.

So I decided to call an old client of mine, Kak Mimi, whom I had not contacted for a while. I’m so glad I made that call. She has a load of problems on her shoulders but was too shy to seek help. The moment I called to ask how she was doing, only then did she start telling me the problems she was facing.

Kak Mimi stays about 1 1/2 hour drive from Ipoh, so I can’t simply drop everything and go visit her as and when I like. I need to properly plan my visits. Coincidentally, another client of mine, Rubi, who I had lost contact with for some time, contacted me recently after she got my number from Kak Mimi. You see, they stay in the same town and know each other well. Rubi had lost her handphone earlier and lost my number with it. So she was unable to contact me after she got herself a new phone and number.

During the early stages after I was assigned as Rubi’s buddy, she was still rather shy and didn’t talk much. We only met once at the hospital, and before I managed to gain her full trust, we lost contact. That was until Rubi met Kak Mimi and found out that Kak Mimi too knows me. I guess Rubi had more confidence in me after listening to Kak Mimi’s stories about how Buddies and I have been helping the family. So she got my number from Kak Mimi and finally contacted me via whatsapp. She was pleasantly surprised to find out that I actually still remember her.

Since I am planning to visit Kak Mimi, I might as well visit Rubi during the same trip. Am hoping to visit them by early next week.

Meanwhile yesterday I went to visit Zainab. She stays in Ipoh, and so I didn’t really have to plan ahead to visit her. I just needed to find out when she’d be home during the daytime (she works on shifts at a factory). When I found out she was home yesterday, I immediately went to visit her, with some supply of groceries bought earlier using money donated by some generous friends of mine.

Only Zainab and her older daughter (fondly called kakak) were home. The younger child (Adik) was at school. Kakak goes to school in the afternoon session. Zainab’s husband, Zaki, had to go to the hospital for his routine blood test.

After all these years, Zainab remains the sole bread winner for the family. Zaki did get jobs from time to time, but always ended up quitting with all sorts of excuses… tak laratsusah kerja malampekerja lain semua pekerja asing… and whatever other excuses. In the end, Zainab herself gave up and told him to just stay home and take care of the kids. Zainab herself has hypertension in addition to her HIV, but despite the stress she has to face at work, she never even thought of quitting.

Anyway, Kakak whispered something to Zainab while I was there. I was wondering what it was about. Apparently the girl wanted her mother to ask me about this year’s Family Day. This family is a regular for our Family Day, and the 2 girls always look forward the annual event. I haven’t started inviting my clients yet for this year’s event as the board has not decided on the venue yet. I will have to contact every client on my list once the board has made that decision.

Okay, so one home visit done this week. My next visit will be to the homes of Kak Mimi and Rubi.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Visiting the K’s

It had been quite a while since I last went to visit the K’s at their home. When their case was initially passed to me, I visited them quite often, almost on monthly basis, sending them groceries. With Mr K being unwell and Mrs K the only one working, they were always short of cash. They even took a RM2K loan from a chetty, and the chetty held Mrs K’s bank ATM card. At the end of each month, the chetty will take the interest amount and will only hand over the balance to Mrs K for her own use. The agreement between them was that the chetty will only return the ATM card when Mrs K settled the loan.

A blog reader of mine was kind enough to settle the loan amount for her. I went with Mrs K to the chetty’s house to hand over the cash myself (if I gave the money to Mrs K, she might be tempted to use the money for something else) and to make sure Mrs K got her ATM card back.

I thought things would be better for the family once the loan was settled, but no, they didn’t to know how to manage their finances. The moment Mr K managed to withdraw his EPF under permanent disability, the first thing they did was to install Astro at their home.

It didn’t take long before they finished up Mr K’s EPF money. Every time they were broke, Mrs K would try to ask me to lend her some money, promising me she’d pay me back when she gets her duit kutu or something like that. I never did lend her any money, but that didn’t stop her from trying and trying again whenever she was broke. It only stopped after I started to give her the silent treatment.

Anyway, I usually only send monthly groceries to poor families until a certain period. The idea was to help them out until they’re independent enough. But with the K’s, when you help them once, they expect you to help every time. I started distancing myself, only keeping in touch from time to time especially to see that the children’s educational needs are met. For the past 3 years, I only visit meet them during our year-end back-to-school shopping.

A few weeks ago, Mrs K sent me a message, asking if there’d be any financial assistance for this year’s Ramadhan, as there had been a few years ago. While other clients would be too embarrassed to ask for such things, Mrs K never failed to ask. She said since she works at a canteen and the canteen is closed in the month of Ramadhan, she’s not earning anything during the month.

I didn’t bother to reply her message this time. Silent treatment method in use again. That was until a few days ago, when I decided to send them some groceries, courtesy of donors. When I asked if she’d be home today, she said she was supposed to start work at a supermarket this very day. But later she texted me again, saying she starts work at 6pm, so she should be home in the morning.

And so off I went to visit her this morning. This time to their 5th rented home ever since I took over their case. I had already heard from the nurse at Ipoh ID clinic that Mr and Mrs K were no longer together, so I was not expecting to see Mr K at home. True enough, when I got to their house, there were only Mrs K and her 2 younger daughters at home, her 3rd child now in form one, and her youngest who underwent hole-in-heart surgery when she was younger, is now 8. Her eldest son, who never furthered his studies after form 5 despite me advising him to go for vocational courses, just started work at a factory 2 weeks ago. Previously he was just doing odd jobs here and there, no EPF or Socso.

I told Mrs K to tell the boy to at least stick with the job if he doesn’t want to go for any vocational courses. At least for this job at the factory, they have EPF and Socso contributions, and if he works hard enough and is loyal to the company, he stands a chance for promotion later. With his qualification, jumping from one job to another won’t do him any good. Mrs K told me that was what she advised her son… to work hard and not to depend too much on others. Hmmm… funny coming from someone who never failed to ask for financial assistance.

Her eldest daughter (her 2nd child) actually had a better outcome after her SPM. She managed to get a place at a college in KL and I even managed to get her some financial assistance for registration purposes. I thought she was still studying at the college, but today I was told the girl dropped out after just a few months. According to Mrs K, the girl fainted quite frequently and missed quite a lot of her classes and so she decided to just quit.

Recently the girl was hospitalised for 2 weeks. Tests showed she didn’t have enough red blood cells. She’s on medication and is doing better now but will still have to go for follow up appointments at the hospital. Meanwhile she managed to get herself a job as a clerk at a motorcycle shop nearby.

As for Mrs K herself, when I didn’t reply her message asking if there were any financial assistance for the month of Ramadhan, she started looking around for jobs and ended up getting the part time job at a supermarket, until after Raya when she will go back to her job at the canteen. See? My silent treatment actually works. She actually went out to look for a job, didn’t she?

I didn’t bother to ask about Mr K as I didn’t want her to start saying bad things about her ex-husband. And since she too didn’t get into that topic, it was even better for me.

Hopefully with her 2 older children already working, she will stop asking for money from others. I still wish the children had better education, but there’s not much I can do on my part if they themselves aren’t willing enough.

Monday, 15 June 2015

An update on Fuzi’s family

When Fuzi’s case was first referred to me about 8 or 9 years ago, she had loads of problem. After her husband died, her house was broken into by an intruder who raped her. As a result, she got pregnant, and blood tests showed she was HIV+. Precautions were then taken to reduce the risk of mother-to-child infection.

Fuzi’s case was referred to me after she gave birth to that child. Fuzi has 4 children from her marriage. Although Fuzi believed that her HIV infection was a direct result of the rape incident, all her 4 children were brought for testing as well. To everyone’s surprise, her 4th child, Izam, then only 5 years old, was found to be infected.

So, Fuzi’s HIV infection wasn’t because she was raped! Apparently her late husband used to go to Golok quite frequently with his friends. Ahh… she probably was infected by her late husband, and her husband died without even knowing he was HIV+. Fuzi herself, an Indonesian, married her late husband, a Malaysian, in Narathiwat, Thailand. But her late husband never registered their marriage in Malaysia.

Her problems started to surface after her husband died, and after the rape case.

Since her marriage wasn’t registered in Malaysia, her first 2 children, despite their birth certs indicating they’re Malaysians by virtue of having a Malaysian father, had problems getting their identity cards done. All because their father is no longer around, and the mother is not a citizen. Thank goodness, after a rather long and difficult process (with strings pulled here and there), she managed to get her sijil nikah certified and legalised, and her children managed to get their ICs done. Once that matter was settled, the following 2 children didn’t have any problems getting their ICs when they turned 12.

Her youngest, Iwan, being born without a father, cannot be considered a Malaysian citizen as he has to follow his mother’s status. With Fuzi having to renew her visa on yearly basis to stay here with her Malaysian children, Iwan remains a non-citizen. By right he should be holding an Indonesian passport to remain here, but that’s another problem. To get that passport, Fuzi will have to bring him back to Indonesia to get an Indonesian ID first. The thing is, according to Fuzi, in Indonesia, she’d have to furnish them with a legal sijil nikah for Iwan to get that ID card. With him being born out of wedlock, someone will have to legally adopt the child first. Fuzi had been trying to apply for PR status so that Iwan can go to school in Malaysia, but to date, all her applications were rejected. But she was told she’d stand a good chance when her eldest daughter turns 21 so the daughter can be the “guarantor” for Fuzi’s application.

The family used to get monthly welfare aid. Fuzi personally doesn’t qualify as she’s not a Malaysian citizen, but her 4 children qualify. However the assistance was given under the name of the children’s uncle, who used to stay nearby. Now that the uncle has moved elsewhere, they are no longer getting the monthly welfare aid. Fuzi’s only source of income for the moment (other than education sponsorship the children are getting from us) is a fixed monthly amount banked in by a generous blog reader.

As for her children, other than the youngest who can’t go to school because of the uncertainty of his citizenship status, the other 4 were/are all covered by our sponsorship program. The eldest is already doing a degree course at a local university. A very responsible girl, from time to time, she gives a small amount of her scholarship money to her mother.

Fuzi’s 2nd, also a daughter, is now in form 6. Despite not doing too well in her studies previously, she did considerably okay in her SPM but failed her English. Seeing her older sister doing quite well, she too seems to be more motivated to do well in her studies. According to Fuzi, the girl has improved in her studies, including her English.

The problem is with Fuzi’s 3rd child, her first son. The boy always ended up in some sort of trouble in school. Fuzi tried to transfer him to another school. After his PMR in which he didn’t do too well, Fuzi enrolled him in a vocational school where he had to stay at the school hostel. The boy ended up running away from school. In the end he just decided to drop out of school. I had no chance to talk to him as he was never home when I went to visit. Furthermore, since last year he has been staying at a friend’s house. I suggested to Fuzi to enrol him in a short vocational course somewhere like Giat Mara, but according to Fuzi, it is very difficult to get him to agree. The boy, now 17, is currently working at a factory. When he gets his monthly pay, he spends his whole salary for himself and his friends. Not a single sen has been given to his mother. As a matter of fact, sometimes when he ran out of money, he’d ask his mother for some cash. But his 2 sisters always scolded him and wouldn’t let their mother give him any cash.

Fuzi’s 4th, the HIV+ boy, is now in form one and had always been an average student. He has however, showed some improvement in his studies after he joined his siblings in teaching their youngest brother who doesn’t have the opportunity to go to school. Teaching his brother turned out to be good for him too.

The youngest boy may not be able to go school yet even though he is already 9 this year, but his older siblings do teach him whatever they can at home. And in the afternoon, he goes to a Sekolah Agama Rakyat nearby. In other words, his mother and siblings are making sure the boy doesn’t simply waste his time at home.

So despite everything the family has to go through, they are coping quite well under the circumstances. There are still problems that need to be resolved, but hopefully, with their perseverance, things will eventually end up well.