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, 25 June 2007

House visits/Phone calls: What do I say to them?

I was going through my PLWHA contact log book and noticed that most of my house visits are to the homes of Fuzi, Yah, Mr. K and Zainab. The first 3 families are not only poor, they also have babies. Zainab’s house is quite near my office and so visiting her is not a problem at all. Although Fuzi and Mr. K are staying out of Ipoh, I still visit them quite frequently as the journey usually takes just about ½ hour from Ipoh town. (some people need more time than that just to get to their office!) As for Yah, now that she has moved to further up north, my visits are limited although I still try to visit her as often as I can. My car would serve as a delivery van each time I visit them – full of groceries, diapers, milk powder and whatever other things donated.

When Rose was alive, she was the one I visited the most, not so much because she was poor, but mainly because she was very weak at that time (her cancer of the cervix had spread by then) and needed lots of support, physically and spiritually. My car was then more like an “ambulance”, ferrying Rose to and from the hospital.

The not-so-problematic PLWHA clients, I’d usually just pay them a courtesy visit from time to time, sometimes just once. Most of my contacts with my PLWHAs are by phone.

Before any first time house visits, I’d have to seek my clients’ permission first. Sometimes they do not wish us to visit them at home – they’d rather meet outside. Either they’re scared kepochi neighbours may ask all sorts of questions… or they have other family members staying in the same house who don’t know about their HIV. Coincidentally, the 2 clients whom I’ve met a few times but never visit them at home are both staying in the same kampong – Nuri and Ani. With the 2 of them giving the same reason why they don’t want me to visit at home (reason being kepochi neighbours), I have no reason not to believe them. And I can imagine what kind of neighborhood they live in.

Even those whom I visit, I cannot simply bring any of my colleagues (I’m supposed to bring trainee volunteers to come along with me when I visit my clients). I will have to assess the situation first – got kepochi neighbors or not… is the PLWHA comfortable or not if I come with another volunteer…

You see, sometimes when I bring along a fellow volunteer, the PLWHAs I visit don’t talk much. In cases where I need to know more details about their background, I’d usually go alone. They are usually more ready to open up if I go alone. Sometimes they even tell everything from A to Z – even if it meant to highlight their own weaknesses. Rose’s sisters were surprised when they found out I knew quite a lot of things about Rose’s past.

And even if I do go alone, whether or not they open up will also depend on who is at home during my visit. Maria for example, had so many things to say when I visited her, but the moment her husband got home (husband knows me, we met earlier at the hospital) suddenly she became quiet.

Ifa’s like that too. To get her to really talk things out, I will have to be with her alone – nobody else around. She has this female cousin who is very close to her, but even if only this female cousin was around when I met Ifa, Ifa would just say yes or no to any of my questions. Nothing further. But during that one time that I managed to talk to her alone, she even told me all her wrongdoings in the past.

The late Lily too, wouldn’t talk much whenever Roy was around. Thank goodness after she moved to another house, I managed to visit her quite often without having Roy hanging around so Lily could share her problems without having to filter whatever she needed to say.

But with people like Jah, the happy-go-lucky PLWHA, you can visit her anytime with anyone, she’d be happy to see you. And you won’t have much of a chance to talk – she’d be doing most of the talking! Even her mother commented that the house was always quiet when Jah wasn’t around.

Some people ask what do I say or do to make them talk. Well, not much really. I don’t know, somehow they just talk. I’m not their counselor. I’m just supposed to be their buddy. Someone they can trust and talk to without fear. The important thing is to gain their trust.

The first few meets all I do is just listen and listen, and only ask questions when there is a need. I don’t give them advice unless they ask for it. Only after I’ve gained their trust, I can slowly talk some senses into them if I feel they’re not doing something right. If from day one I tell them they shouldn’t do this, they shouldn’t do that, they’d probably think I’m just another kaki leter and they would probably try to avoid future contacts.

Tomorrow night my NGO will be having our monthly board meeting. We always meet on the last Tuesday of each month. And tomorrow we will decide where we will be going for this year's Family Day. I will then have to start calling my clients to invite them and to confirm how many people are going to join us. Lots of phone calls to do...

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

A 60-second HIV test and anonymous test sites.

http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/
media/news_releases/archives/nr_07/
jun/hivtesting_bg_05_20070622.pdf

loveujordan said...

salam,

Pity those who have to live around the kepochi neighbours.... I've never had any kepochi neighbours , so I don't really know how those kepochis 'work' ....

I thought all who live together with any HIV patient should/must know about him/her( the patient ) condition.

J.T. said...

It is about gaining trust. I was involved with a youth group two years ago. Those teenagers hardly said much when I first met them. They eventually did when I spent time interacting with them.

I can never compare the lives of those teenagers with a PLWHA, though. Extreme difference. But the point is ... some open up, some don't. Some say a lot, some not. Everyone is made up differently and all of them possess different levels of trust - how much to share, etc.

Pi Bani said...

Anonymous,
Thanks for the info.

LUJ,
These kepochi neighbours like to make their own assumptions and stay away from the PLWHAs instead of showing empathy/sympathy. Many of them don't even dare come near.

Pi Bani said...

JT,
I've also spoken to a few problematic youths before. Same thinglah, you need to gain their trust first. The difference is that basically the youths don't want to talk if they feel that us adults are just trying to tell them what to do; while the PLWHAs won't talk if they feel that we look down on them and that we'd be telling the whole world of their HIV so that the whole world will look down on them too.

Deep down inside them, either the problematic youths or the PLWHAs, they actually do need someone to talk to, even though they may deny it.

ruby ahmad said...

Hi Pi,

People opening up to us is more about the inside out thing, Pi. People in trouble can smell their buddies. They can sense us. Actually we do radiate what is inside of us. So them opening up to you without you having to say or do much has to do with your good intentions from inside and they detected it. It is the pheromones thing.

I am just amazed at the sacrifices you made. Wonderful. Keep well love.

Pi Bani said...

K.Ruby,
Pheromones? I thought no pheromone receptors have yet to be found in humans? What are you saying... me animal ka?! hahaha... (paham what you meant, saja buat tak paham!)

Raden Galoh said...

Pi... I can imagine that you are a person that someone would be comfortable with...

You are right, some people are shy when there is a presence of someone they do not familiar with... Lagilah dalam keadaan mereka, tentu terfikir ramai akan prejudice dgn apa yg mereka daah alami...

Pi Bani said...

RG,
InsyaAllah soon you will find out for yourself if I really am someone you'd be comfortable with. Just don't put your hopes up too high.. haha!

J.T. said...

Pi,

Why I said it is extreme difference between youths and PLWHA is because I cannot even begin to imagine what goes through a mind of a PLWHA but I do have an inkling how a teenager can feel. But since you have worked with both, you can confirm there is no difference. They just have different fears of opening up to someone else. Thanks!

I am in awe of your work. You are doing so much good. :)

nyonyapenang said...

if there is no trust, there would be no talk. it may take quite a while to gain someone's trust but it many just break into pieces if it's not handled with care.

TRUST is a very fragile commodity.

MarinaM said...

Hi Pi, sorry haven't visited for so long. But I see you are relentless in your work and that's wonderful. Your blog is just so important for people to understand what living with HIV really means.

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Kak Pi,
This morning wanted to bising here, but was prevented from doing so because my wireless has been naughty (tak bagi I log in)...Anyway, I guess people open up to people whom they're comfy and feel secure with (that's you!)...See you Sat!

Pi Bani said...

JT,
Yes exactly, they have different fears. That's why it's best if we get some background info first before we talk to them.

Nyonya Penang,
Coincidentally in your latest posting you also talked about trust, didn't you? You're right, no trust, no talk...

Pi Bani said...

K.Marina,
Although I wasn't sure at first if I should start this blog, sharing stories of my clients, after seeing the responses, I'm glad I did. Thanks for your support.

Pi Bani said...

Hi Daph!
You gaduh with your wireless ka??

Anyway yes, see you Saturday. Will call you.

Apandi said...

Everyone and I mean everyone have some little corner in the darkest part of their psyche where they keep their little secrets. Sometimes it leaks and needed to be aired, to someone who will do no harm, not someone close or someone depended on but a kind, non-judgmental soul. And that is you.

Pi Bani said...

Apandi,
Do you have any dark little secret you'd like to share with me? I promise I won't tell anyone... except my blog readers... *chuckle*