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)

Saturday, 5 May 2007

A strong-willed woman

When Nuri was first referred to the Buddies during one HIV clinic, she made it clear that she didn’t want a buddy. To her, having a buddy meant someone would be calling her from time to time reminding her she has HIV. She didn’t want to be reminded, she wanted life to continue as it was before, and she didn’t want anyone to know she’s HIV positive.

We respected her decision. We offered our support services, but if the PLWHAs felt they didn’t need or want our services, so be it. However, in any case, we would still give them our brochure with our contact number to enable them to call us in case one day they need our help.

That was the case with Nuri. About 8 or 9 months later she called one of the volunteers she met at the HIV clinic. She needed help with her welfare application. After helping her out with the necessary, this volunteer handed over the case to me. No, not because he didn’t want to help her, but he figured Nuri, being the “kampong girl” type, would feel more comfortable with a fellow Malay lady. And there being no other Malay lady volunteer in my NGO, I was the only choice.

I became her buddy from then on. I started off with a phone call to introduce myself. She seemed comfortable enough talking to me. But to be able to really help her, I would need more information about her and her family. I asked her permission to meet up with her. She was not comfortable with the idea of having me visit her at home, for fear her nosey neighbours may be asking all sorts of questions. But it would be troublesome for her to take a bus all the way to Ipoh just to meet me, so I offered to go to the small town where she lived and we could meet somewhere in town. She agreed.

So during one of the weekends, I drove to the town where she lived. We met up in town and went over to a food stall where we could chat while having something to eat and drink. She finally opened up and told me her story.

When Nuri’s husband died about 3 years earlier, Nuri never knew he had HIV. According to her, her husband had been going to the hospital for routine check-ups but he never told her what illness he was suffering from. As such, Nuri never bothered to go for tests – not for her, and not for her children.

Being a non-working single mother to 4 children, friends/neighbours tried matchmaking her into a second marriage. She however was never interested. Although her late husband’s pension money may not be enough to cover her family's needs, she was determined to figure a way out without having to marry another man. She'd rather apply for welfare help to get her back on her feet while she tried to figure a way to generate more income for her family.

Somehow, one day when a drug user in her kampong died, and the kampong people were saying that the guy had HIV, Nuri remembered that her late husband too was an injecting drug user. So she went for blood tests just to be sure. What a shock it was when she found out she was HIV positive, and her CD4 count was already below 200! Immediately she brought all her children for testing. While 3 of her children were confirmed negative, her youngest daughter, Fara, was not as lucky. Fara had actually been infected since birth but Nuri only knew about it 7 years later – all because she was never informed about her late husband’s HIV status!

Little Fara had always been the sickly type, but Nuri never suspected this girl had HIV. Fara’s CD4 was only about 60+ when she was first diagnosed. She was already having lung infections by then… always missing school from time to time due to illnesses. All Nuri told the school teachers was that Fara had lung infections. Telling them that Fara had HIV may result in the poor girl facing discrimination in school. Fara herself still doesn’t know she has HIV.

Now Fara is 9 years old and not as sickly as before. Nuri makes sure she doesn’t miss her hospital appointments and her medication.

Nuri herself is now operating a food stall near her children’s school. Her income may not be fixed, sometimes business is good, and sometimes it’s not. But this is one strong-willed woman. I believe she'll survive.

And she now doesn’t mind having a buddy. She understands now that the buddy is there not to remind her of her HIV status, but just as a friend to talk to or to seek help from without the fear of having to hide anything.

14 comments:

Mat Salo said...

Pi, your writing is powerful Pi and so moving because you write from the heart about something so "alien" to us all. But most off all, you write about BEING HUMAN. I, for one, know not single soul with PLWHAs, and I can say for most of your readers too...

Yes, we all NEED a buddies; sometimes, sadly, better than our own kin...

Lady Patsy said...

Hi there Pi. Have been blog hopping. My hats off to you for the great work that you are doing - anyone can offer mere lip-service, but to actually commit oneself in good works such as this is not easy. Once again, I really admire you and keep up the good work.

Pi Bani said...

Mat Salo, even us volunteers in this NGO need buddies. That's why we have a "volunteer care" coordinator - to help out in case any of the volunteers themselves need any help.

Lady Patsy, thanks for visiting. Do hop in again the next time you blog hop...

rad said...

Salam Pi.Sayu je rasa baca entry 'Pinjam RM10' tu..
Salute to you & friends for doing whatever you can to help ppl.
Wanting to help and actually helping are two different things I guess. The least that I can offer is the feeling of empathy..

Pi Bani said...

Rad... at least you feel the empathy. There are people out there who still feels that all the HIV victims "deserve what they got".

ummi said...

Pi,
I am so amazed by what you are doing now. And you write really well too. I would like to reach out the same way you are doing now. Do email me, if you need any help.

Pi Bani said...

Ummi, it's good to know that you too want to reach out to the people in need. We'll keep in touch, ok?

Daphne Ling said...

Im glad Nuri is doing well, and little Fara too. Sad huh? It's not Fara's fault, and instead of getting emotional support from her second parents (aka teachers), she has to hide the fact that she has HIV. But then again, who knows? The teachers might be supportive: I know my mum would =) Send my regards to Nuri and her family, and keep up the giving spirit, Kak Pi!

Pi Bani said...

Daphne, your mum's a wonderful person, and I'm sure many teachers out there are wonderful too. But all it takes is just ONE person to do the damage. Nuri didn't want to take any chances with Fara.

There were already a few cases involving HIV infected/affected children who faced discrimination. See lah... I may do a posting on this some time...

J.T. said...

Pi, such wonderful work you do. I am glad that Nuri now knows that the 'buddy system' is really a blessing in disguise. We all need buddies in our life.
Great job Pi. :)

Pi Bani said...

Yes JT, we all need buddies in our life. But I can understand the concern of the PLWHAs who are reluctant to be assigned any buddies initially. They just don't know who they can trust... they're afraid the whole world will know about their HIV status... and a whole list of other worries...

Thanks for visiting, JT.

Monster Mom said...

thank you for the lovely true stories... thank you for the support. I wish someday that I could volunteer and lend my shoulder for someone to cry on....

QOTH said...

Pi, one of the saddest things is when innocent victims are penalised for something that is entirely not their fault. Especially when it involves small children who know nothing and who are blameless. Some people are just so ignorant.
Your volunteer work is really inspiring.

Pi Bani said...

Monster mom, I'm sure your shoulders are good enough for someone to cry on...

QOTH, it always break my heart whenever a family assigned to me has an infected child. It's bad enough when their parents alone are infected...