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)

Monday, 5 March 2007

How it all began

Somehow I love doing voluntary work. The satisfaction I get of it is more fulfilling than monetary rewards. (but that doesn't mean you can take advantage of me and get me to do all sorts of work for free!!)

I was looking around for charitable organisations where I could offer my services. I wasn't interested in high profile organisations, they usually have enough people. I have joined an organisation before, supposedly a "charitable" organisation. But their activity planning involved more of organising trips for members here and there... hmmm... not the kind of activities I was looking for.

Then someone told me about an organisation of volunteers providing support services to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). I was told they didn't have enough volunteers - particularly Malay volunteers. When I found out that they actually didn't have a single Malay female volunteer despite the fact that more and more Malay ladies are getting infected with HIV, I thought it was no longer an option for me - it was an OBLIGATION!

You see, in this NGO called "Buddies" (some people, obviously not so English literate, read it as Buddhist instead. I got a shock once when a Chinese girl called me up and asked, "Ini Buddhist Centre ka?"), a buddy is assigned to every PLWHA who wants a buddy. (They have to give their consent before we can assign a buddy to them). We call them our "clients". As far as possible we'd assign a female buddy to a female client, a Malay buddy to a Malay client, and so on... so they'd have a buddy whom they'd feel comfortable talking to and opening up to.

Yep, I finally found an NGO which suits me - suits my heart, suits my soul, suits my style. My fellow Buddies are the low profile type, very casual and fun to be with. Despite being the only Malay and Muslim lady, they treated me with respect. We respect each other's religion in whatever that we do.

Anyway, the moment I got confirmed (we'd have to be under probation first to ensure that the volunteers are suitable for this line of work - we don't want our clients to go bonkers getting buddies who are not understanding enough), suddenly one by one client was assigned to me. All with different sorts of problems. Financial problems, family problems, marital problems - all related to their HIV status.

To date I've been assigned 16 clients including 2 infected children. I am also the co-buddy to 5 other clients. I've experienced facing the deaths of 2 clients last year. I've experienced getting calls/SMS in the middle of the night from clients who desperately needed help. (This is not routine though... only once in a blue moon)

Now, which client shall I start with? I think in my next posting I'll tell you about the lady who died last year... of cancer...

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