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, 9 May 2007

Outreach or out of reach?

Although my NGO's main activity is to provide moral and emotional support to HIV infected persons, we also emphasize on prevention. That would include our involvement in exhibitions, giving talks to the public and not forgetting... outreach work to those in the high risk group, particularly sex workers.

Not all the volunteers in my NGO are involved in this outreach work. Only those who are willing enough to go out late at night to the back alleys known for this kind of activities. One of my fellow volunteers, for example, is not comfortable doing outreach work. He's afraid someone who knows him, sees him at such a place, and without asking, goes home and make up stories that he's involved in immoral activities. Another volunteer who's the type to sleep early at night, would probably be walking around like a zombie if she forces herself to go for outreach work.

No, we do not force our volunteers to do things they are not comfortable doing. After all, our main activity is support service for the HIV infected.

Me? Well, I am not a late night person either. When my colleagues are still out there on the streets late at night, I'd probably be in bed. Besides, it is not advisable for people like me to go. You see, if I go for outreach, the people we're trying to reach out to would most likely be out of reach! Why? Because with my kind of dressing, the moment they see me, their first thought would be, "Aargh! Jabatan Agama raid!! RUN!!" Hey, no kidding...

There are only 22 volunteers in this NGO. Yep, just a small group. Minus those who cannot or are not willing to go for outreach work, that leaves even a smaller group to carry out the job. So the outreach work by my NGO is only done once a month. Maybe it is not as effective as it could be if it's done more frequently, but at least we are attempting to pass the message and educate them on the risks of HIV in their line of work.

While I don't join my colleagues for on-the-street outreach work, I have met some of these sex workers up close and personal... twice. Both at my NGO centre. Most of them... homo/bisexuals and the transgendered...

The first occasion, a few of them came over to explain to us on the do's and don'ts when dealing with sex workers, especially the homo/bisexuals and the transgendered. What kind of words would piss them off... what are the terms they usually use... You see, to educate them, we need to befriend them first. How on earth are we supposed to educate them if they run away everytime they see us? We cannot simply go to them and say, "Hoi! Why the heck are you doing this immoral job? Got nothing better to do ka?!"

Nosirree... can't do that... they will end up avoiding us, continue with what they do the way they have always been doing... and worse of all... get infected and then spread the virus. Raids? The moment they are released they'll just continue their ways. People don't change overnight just by telling them what is right and what is wrong.

The second occasion I met them was when we managed to gather a few of them to do rapid blood testing at our centre to see if they are infected. It was a last minute arrangement but my colleague wanted me to be there to handle the HIV post-test counselling. Whether the results are reactive or non-reactive, we'd still have to give them a post-test counselling.

I was a bit late as I wanted to perform my asar prayer first, and by the time I got there, they just started with an intro given by one of my colleagues. I noticed a few of the sex workers felt a bit uncomfortable at the sight of this "Mak Haji" coming in (there were at least 2 Malays amongst the sex workers who came).

During the post-test counselling session, I managed to get some background info on how they got involved in this line of work. Most of them are from problematic families. They told me how they tried to get out of this line but always end up getting back in. Once they're in, it's difficult to get out. Most of the time it's because they couldn't get any other jobs due to their past history. Oh, if you think that's just a lame excuse, answer my question frankly... how many of you are willing to hire a former sex worker? As a maid? As a cleaner? Anyone?!

Talking to them was a good lesson for me. I learn to be thankful for what I am today. I am grateful to my parents for bringing me up the way they did. They brought me up with lots of understanding and lots of love. All my life I may have complained about a lot of things, but looking back, life has actually been rather easy for me.

I know I still have lots of weaknesses, so I must remember not to be too judgemental on other people...

17 comments:

Apandi said...

Ameeeeen. Especially like the non-judgmental part though in reality its sometimes very hard to practise.

Pi Bani said...

Yes Apandi, it is sometimes hard to practice, but I will just have to remind myself (or somebody will have to remind me) everytime I TER-judge people...

J.T. said...

Truth be told, it is hard not to judge. When our lives have been on a fairly easy road (compared to some we have come across in your story), we tend to "not see" where they come from unless we have a one-on-one sharing.
I am guilty of pre-judging too. Need to learn not to...

Pi Bani said...

JT, we're humans. We all have weaknesses. That's why we need constant reminders. I do hope that if I ever go out of line, someone will be courteos enough to remind me (gentle reminder lah... don't whack with the penyapu lidi!) ;)

Raden Galoh said...

It takes a great courage to do what you do Pi...and to deal with those people without prejudice...and not being judgmental... it's not easy...it's not easy...

I'm too JT. guilty of pre-judging...

Pi Bani said...

Raden, I was a nervous wreck the first time I had to meet them face to face. Didn't know what to expect. But I kept telling myself to keep an open mind and LISTEN before I say anything...

Mat Salo said...

Oh Pi,

You are coming closer and closer to valuing and understanding the Human Condition Pi; made by The Almighty, many -me included- with warts and all! Yes, so easy to judge people, it's only natural, but always remember WHO the real judge is!

Like always, thanks for bringing these into the mainstream!

Pi Bani said...

Aduh Mat Salo... I still have lots to learn about the human condition. Each new situation I face, I'll be learning something new. The lessons never end...

may said...

Hi !

I am also trying very hard not to do it.
"It is easier said than done".

But everytime I need to remind myself.

I am glad there are people like you out there for those HIV patients and their families.
They need support and most of all a listening ear.
Keep up the good work.

Pi Bani said...

May, many things are easier said than done. Nobody's perfect. But we still got to try, don't we? Like you said, we need to keep reminding ourselves.

elviza said...

Pi,

We are humans. Humans judge. That much I understand. How you control it and how you put it to good use would make all the difference.

Everytime I read you, I am humbled.

Pi Bani said...

Yes Elviza, humans judge. The problem is when we judge people before even knowing the whole story behind them. Imagine what would happen if a court judge makes judgement before the accused has the chance to defend him/herself... (mentang-mentang cakap dengan lawyer, siap bagi contoh court judge!!)

elviza said...

Pi,

In your honour, in my admiration for your work, in my absolute respect for your selfless devotion - I have dedicated a posting for you in my blog.

Do read it when you have time.

God be with you throughout your journey my friend.

Anonymous said...

K Pi,

I am an admirer of your work, your dedication and above all your love and understanding for the downtrodden. It inpires and now I have better aspirations about what to do in my spare time with my spare cash.

Fern

Pi Bani said...

Thanks Fern. I've been contemplating for quite some time whether I should write on the voluntary work I do. But finally I decided I should - to share with the public my personal experiences in an area most people do not want to be associated with. I just want the public to understand. If my stories inspire you, it's a bonus.

Thanks again!

U.Lee said...

Hi Pi Bani, you made me smile read your experiences. I can imagine how sensitive some of your activites are.
You are a good woman, Pi Bani. I admire you very much.
You have a great day, Pi Bani. UL.

Pi Bani said...

Yes some of these activities are indeed sensitive. So many things to be considered. Have a great weekend U.Lee!