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)

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

AIDS victims buried alive?

I read the following news from BBC News website.

I wonder what I would have done if it happened right before my very eyes... yikes!

Just shows the importance of public awareness on HIV/Aids. What do YOU think about this?

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PNG Aids victims 'buried alive'

Raising awareness of HIV/Aids in PNG is a difficult task. Some people with HIV/Aids in Papua New Guinea are being buried alive by their relatives, a health worker says.

Margaret Marabe said families were taking the extreme action because they could no longer look after sufferers or feared catching the disease themselves.

Ms Marabe said she saw the "live burials" with her own eyes during a five-month trip to PNG's remote Southern Highlands.

PNG is in the grip of an HIV/Aids epidemic - the worst in the region.

Officials estimate that 2% of the six million population are infected, but campaigners believe the figure is much higher.
HIV diagnoses have been rising by around 30% each year since 1997, according to a UN Aids report.

Ignorance
Margaret Marabe, a known local activist in PNG, carried out an awareness campaign in the Tari area of the Southern Highlands earlier this year.

"I saw three people with my own eyes. When they got very sick and people could not look after them, they buried them," she told reporters.

She described how one person called out "mama, mama" as the soil was being shovelled over their head. Villagers told her that such action was common, she said.

HIV/Aids is mostly spread in the country through heterosexual intercourse, and polygamy, rape and sexual violence are widespread.

Those caught up in the epidemic are often thought to be the victims of witchcraft.
Women accused of being witches have been tortured and murdered by mobs holding them responsible for the epidemic, according to officials and researchers.

Church leaders have described Aids patients being thrown off bridges or left to starve in back gardens in the past, the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney reports.

Ms Marabe, who works for the Igat Hope organisation in the capital, Port Moresby, said people in remote parts of the country remained ignorant about HIV/Aids and urged the government to take action.

"There are no voluntary counselling training centres in Tari. There are also no training programmes on HIV," she was quoted by PNG's Post-Courier newspaper as saying.

PNG's Secretary for Health Dr Nicholas Mann admitted to the BBC in an interview last year that the multitude of cultures and languages in the country made it difficult to get the HIV/Aids message across.

But he said Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare had brought the issue under his remit, and the government was working with agencies on a co-ordinated approach to tackling the crisis.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Yah's kampong revisited

During the Buddies Family Day held recently, one of Yah’s daughters asked, “Kenapa makcik dah lama tak datang rumah?” Alamak…. guilty as charged….

The truth is, ever since Yah and her children moved further up north, I simply couldn’t find the time to visit them as often as I did before. Usually those with babies I’d visit more often to send them the baby necessities like milk powder and diapers, but since this family is staying further and Yah for the past few months had been traveling to Ipoh quite often to get things done (hospital appointments, blood tests, EPF withdrawal applications etc) I’d just hand over to her 1 or 2 packet of milk powder for her to bring home each time. I couldn’t give more as it would be troublesome for her to bring the bulky things up and down the buses.

But after her daughter asked me why I hadn’t been visiting them for so long, I thought I’d better make it a point to spare one Saturday or Sunday to do so.

So, yesterday I made sure I had no other commitments. I had called Jah earlier to ask her if she’d like to follow me. Being someone who loves to “jalan-jalan” but never really having the chance to do so, Jah agreed to follow me even before I could tell her where we were going! Jah is the easy-going, fun-to-be-with type of person, so I figured bringing her along for my house visits would not only be good for Jah, but also to the PLWHA families I visit.

I told Jah to be at the bus-station by 9.30 am, but she called me before 9.00 am to say she was already there!! I just came home after my Saturday pasar tani routine… so had to rush off immediately to the bus-station to fetch Jah. Jah was all excited. She had never been anywhere north of Ipoh before, so her excitement was understandable. Anyway, Jah had always been a highly excitable kind of specie…:). The journey at the highway was smooth, but after having to exit the highway and follow the trunk road to go to Yah’s kampong, there were so many lorries on the road. Sigh!

By the time we got to Yah’s house, it was already after 11 am. Yah and the kids were already waiting for me. Yah’s son, Abang Chik was his usual naughty self. Upon seeing visitors coming in, he rode his bicycle into the house, prompting his grandma to shout at him. The more I see Abang Chik, the more convinced I am that he has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Not that I’m an expert, but after listening to Yah’s stories about him, and seeing for myself the kind of kid Abang Chik is, I’ve been searching on the internet on this kind of kids. He never pays attention, he never listens and he’s always up to something. Tak makan saman! Even his teachers in school can’t cope with him. Scolding him day in day out will not help him. I advised Yah that Abang Chik may need professional help. Yah agreed to bring Abang Chik along to the hospital the next time she needs to bring baby Aini to see the doctor.

As for baby Aini, she’s doing just fine. Aini’s already 1 year plus now and she’s a chubby little baby (banyak telan susu free… so her mother says!). During my last visit (I think it was in May) Aini would cry at the sight of strangers in her house. This time she no longer cries. Her grandma (Yah’s mom) kept telling her to “pergi kat mama”, referring to me as the “mama” because I’m the milk supplier (not my own milk, of course… this is a case of lembu punya susu, si Pi dapat nama… haha!). Of course, baby Aini was very cautious… probably afraid that I may take her away from her family… I don’t really visit that often anyway.

Remember I mentioned earlier that Yah has got her EPF money and that she wanted to buy the piece of land her aunt wanted to sell? Well, Yah had already taken out some of the money and went to KL to meet the aunt. But the aunt ended up canceling her intentions to sell the piece of land because her children disagreed. Although nobody stays there any longer, they wanted to keep the house as their “balik kampong” spot.

So, Yah is back to square one… still has to stay in the same old house on a rented piece of land, which, although the landlord has given the OK for them to keep on renting, is still subject to the landlord’s son’s change of mind anytime.

And as for the money that Yah withdrew from her bank account? Well, she put them all back in. That’s how trustworthy Yah is when it comes to money. She doesn’t spend as she likes and she always think of her future. If the money is for the purpose of buying a land, she won’t spend it on anything else even though nobody can stop her from doing so.

Some of the poor, like I said before, would finish off their money in no time the moment they get their hands on a lump sum of money… like Mr. K’s family for example. Aah… this one’s another story… I’d better give them a pep talk soon before they get their EPF money. It will be fasting month soon and they may be tempted to spend and finish the money before Raya!!

Anyway, after leaving Yah’s house yesterday, I brought Jah for lunch… she’s always game for makan free! I even tapau-ed some food for her before I sent her home. Just as we were approaching the town where Jah lives, suddenly I saw a bus heading right towards my car. For a while there I thought I was on the wrong side of the road. Then I realized the bus was trying to overtake a tractor. Lucky thing there was enough space on the left for me to swerve to before I flashed the lights to the bus driver. Knowing pretty well he was in the wrong, the bus driver raised his right hand and smiled to me. Sheeeesh!! The cheek of him! He could still smile!

Thank God nothing bad happened and I am still here to post this entry. It will be fasting month soon and I will have lots of house visits to do to send some Raya goodies to the poor families…

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Update on Fuzi

Remember my earlier posting about Fuzi’s problem in getting her Narathiwat marriage cert recognized in Malaysia? Without that her children may not get their MyKad and will only be given PR status. Those who missed that story or may have forgotten what it was about can read it here.

I went to visit Fuzi again yesterday with a load of diapers, milk powder and cereal for Iwan, her youngest child, plus other food stuff for the other kids. Also gave them some photos taken during the recent Family Day.

It was during the school holidays, and so all the children were home when I went to visit. By now the children are used to seeing me; they are no longer shy to open up the packs of food I brought for them.

I asked Fuzi on the latest status of her marriage cert, and was told that now she’s just waiting for the letter asking her to come to the Mahkamah Syariah to formalise things. But according to the guy who was helping her out, most likely it will be approved. Hopefully soon. Wina will be going to secondary school next year and will need to get her MyKad done soon. For the time being, she’s only getting a PR card.

What I’m rather curious about is the money that Fuzi had to pay. I can understand she had to spend quite a lot to pay for some penalties, attestation, travelling and all that stuff. But I found out that other than the penalties and all, Fuzi had to pay a few hundreds to the guy supposedly helping her out. She didn’t know what the money was for – she just wanted to get things done so when she was asked to pay, she just paid. No receipts were issued. She had been putting aside bit by bit, some of the money banked in monthly to her account by an anonymous donor, for emergency needs. That was how she managed to fork out the money.

I began to get suspicious. I asked around and a friend told me that if the amount is in hundreds, then most likely it was “under the table” money. Ahh!! The desperate poor need help and people in the position to help are taking advantage of them instead. The guy probably considered it as his “fee” for helping her out. Just like the scumbags who charges a few hundreds for helping out poor people apply for their EPF withdrawals!

Somehow there are many out there who feel it is okay to gain some side income this way… without considering how difficult it is for the poor to fork out the money. The more desperate the poor are, the easier it is for the scumbags to take advantage of them.

Sigh…

Friday, 17 August 2007

Rina's story

When Rina’s brother in KL first called to ask for help for his sister who was diagnosed HIV+, I didn’t ask much of Rina’s background… whether she was married or single… how she got infected, etc. The main thing was to help her first – and to gain the family’s trust. Only when they trust us will they tell us about their personal stories.

When I called Rina’s mom, she did tell me some basic information; but when I asked if I could visit them at home to assess their situation, Rina’s mom sounded rather reluctant. That is understandable considering it was my first call and she had never met or heard of me before. She didn’t know if I could be trusted as she had never even heard of Buddies. Since Rina couldn’t walk and they didn’t have any transport, I offered to fetch them at home. But still not trusting enough, Rina’s mom said they would go by taxi.

So I let them be.

As mentioned in my previous posting, Rina didn’t turn up for her appointment that day because she couldn’t get up. When the mother called me in the afternoon, it was already too late for me to fetch them to bring them to the hospital as the HIV clinic only opens until afternoon.

So I went to visit them at home and it was obvious Rina was not able to walk on her own. I immediately told them to call the HIV clinic to fix another appointment. They got the appointment for yesterday morning so off I went to fetch them at home to bring them to the hospital. Thank God Rina’s younger brother came along, as Rina had to be carried into my car, and when we reached the hospital, she had to be carried from my car onto the wheelchair.

Due to her condition, the doctor called her in first before the other patients. And as I had suspected from the beginning, Rina had to be warded for further tests.

It was while waiting for the doctor to examine her in the room that I managed to have a private chat with Rina’s mom. Here’s Rina’s story…

Rina is a 40 year old lady. She was married about 9 or 10 years ago and the couple was blessed with a son, who is now 8 years of age. What Rina and her family didn’t know back then was that Rina’s husband was a drug addict. Although he didn’t have any permanent jobs (he was doing all sorts of odd jobs) the family accepted him into the family because Rina loved him. Initially when they were newly married, they rented a separate house to stay on their own, but Rina’s husband was always broke and it was Rina all along who had to support him. Eventually they moved back to Rina’s parents house.

Rina, being the soft-hearted kind, always fell for her husband’s pleas whenever he asked for anything. He needed a handphone, she bought him one. He needed a motorbike, she bought him a motorbike. Although Rina’s mother and siblings didn’t like what was going on, there wasn’t much they could do as it was Rina’s money.

When Rina’s father was still alive, Rina’s husband sometimes even asked for money from him, listing down all sorts of needs. And much to the mom’s dismay, the father always relented.

Rina’s younger brother always saw the husband going to a particular alley. The brother began to get suspicious as he knew that the place was famous amongst drug addicts. So he went back and told his mom about it, and they decided to tell Rina. But Rina scolded them saying that they were just lying to her because they didn’t like him.

One day when the couple went back to the husband’s kampong to visit Rina’s in-laws, her mom and brother ransacked their room. And as they had suspected, they found drugs hidden in his belongings.

Now Rina stays with her mom while her husband stays with his mom. They are not divorced, just separated. In fact, they have been living separately since their son was about 2 years old. Nowadays, he does come to visit once in a while but the son usually never wants to see the father. Furthermore, usually if he drops by, he always asks Rina for money. Even recently, when Rina had already stopped working, he did come to tell her his “sad story” about his motorbike needing repairs… about him losing the hand phone Rina bought for him… and whatever else that indirectly meant he needed money.

However, this time around Rina could not help him even if he managed to melt her heart with his sad stories. Rina herself was not working so where on earth was she supposed to get the money? The only way she could get money was from her own family members – obviously they wouldn’t give a single sen to her good-for-nothing husband! They’d take care of Rina and her child, but no way were they going to support him! Not when they know the money would probably be used to buy drugs!

Ever since Rina was diagnosed HIV positive, she became hyper-sensitive. Although she never said it directly, from the things her mom told me about her, I think deep down inside her she’s wishing she’d just die and not bother anyone any longer. She doesn’t care about her health. Her mother kept reminding her of her hospital appointments, but it was Rina herself who was so stubborn – giving all sorts of excuses. Whenever her siblings nagged to her that she should take better care of herself, she said they hated her. She wouldn’t listen to them.

That was why her brother sought our help. And true enough, coming from an “outsider”, Rina didn’t say anything much. When I told her she MUST go to the hospital, she relented. So that was how we managed to get her to the hospital yesterday. I found out from SN that Rina was supposed to have started her medication already (meaning her CD4 level is already quite low) but because she didn’t go for further blood tests as required by the doctor, they couldn’t start her on medication yet. In addition, by the time I brought her to the hospital yesterday, her blood pressure was already too low. There was no way the doctor would let her go home. Whether she liked it or not, she had to be warded for further tests.

I told her mother to call me if Rina starts being stubborn again. Now that I have been given the green light to visit them at home, I can drop by from time to time to check on her. I will need to lift up her spirits – right now she probably thinks she’s the most unlucky person in the world.

What she doesn’t realize is that she’s lucky to have her family support – something that not all the PLWHAs seem to get.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

New cases, old cases...

Usually on Sunday mornings, I’d spend a bit more time outside doing all sorts of ‘kampong’ exercises – mowing the lawn, pruning the trees, gardening etc. Now it is rambutan season so plucking the fruits comes into the list as well. And since the fruits are quite high up I also need to climb… (Not the tree lah, I climbed up a ladder!) On other days I’d stop by 8.30 am as I need to go to my office. Saturdays are my off days as I’d be going to the Pasar Tani. But on Sundays, I can actually spend more time sweating out.

Now, what has the above intro got to do with my voluntary work? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. :) It’s just to explain the missed call I saw on my hand phone last Sunday when I went back into the house after some extra sweating out. The call came from the secretary of my NGO, who also left me a text message asking me to call her back ASAP. She wouldn’t leave such a message unless it was really important.

Apparently she got a call from a Malay guy who was seeking help for his sister who was diagnosed HIV positive. Since my friend was then in Cameron Highland for holidays with her family members, she promised this guy she’d get another volunteer to help out. I was the other volunteer she meant.

The guy actually works in KL and his mother had been telling him to come back to Ipoh to help out his sister who needed to go for her hospital appointment. The family is not a well to do family and they don’t have their own transport. Since he cannot get leave from work that easily, he looked through MAC’s list of affiliates to see if there was any operating in Ipoh from whom he could seek assistance. When he saw Buddies in the list, he called. The number listed so happened to be the number of our secretary, and so that was why he called her.

After getting some information from him, I promised him I’d call his mother in Ipoh to discuss how I could help out. I also told him to inform his mother that I’d be calling so that the mother would not be too suspicious as to how I got their number. When I called and spoke to the mother, she explained the problem. Her daughter, Rina, who was diagnosed HIV positive slightly more than a month ago, had swollen feet and was unable to walk on her own. However, still somewhat ‘new’ to HIV, and being the stubborn type, Rina wouldn’t even let her mother help her out when she needed to go to the toilet.

Her mother told me that Rina’s appointment would be on Wednesday (today) but when I asked for her permission to visit them at home to assess her situation, she sounded rather reluctant to let me come. Maybe she didn’t really know if she could trust me. Maybe she was afraid I may spread the news to the whole neighborhood that her daughter is HIV+. When I asked if she needed help to bring Rina to the hospital, she said they’d get a taxi. So, I let them be. It is my NGO’s policy that before we do any house visits, we MUST get their permission first. If they are reluctant, we simply don’t visit them at home.

I was not on clinic duty today, but I promised to meet up with Rashid’s wife at the hospital so I still went to the HIV clinic this morning. Rashid’s wife, Hana, had also been diagnosed positive recently and therefore today was her first appointment at the HIV clinic. Funny thing was, Rashid, who had been warded for over a month already, from Ipoh GH transferred to the district hospital at the town where they stay, also had his appointment today, and was brought to Ipoh in an ambulance from the district hospital… without Hana’s knowledge. Nobody called her to inform her about it. If she knew she could have just followed them in the ambulance without having to come to Ipoh by bus.

Hana is in a dilemma. She’s frustrated; she’s confused; she’s afraid. When Rashid was warded in Ipoh GH, she seldom visited as she needed to work. With her 12 hour shifts and odd working hours, she finds it hard to find time to come to Ipoh. When she came, there’d be one or two people scolding her – telling her that she should visit more often so that Rashid wouldn’t feel as though he had been abandoned.

The problem is she is the lone breadwinner for the family. Her pay is calculated on daily basis, so if she takes leave, it will only mean lesser pay at the end of the month. If she gets paid less, how is she supposed to support her children – two of whom already schooling?

When Rashid was transferred back to the district hospital, Hana was not informed. Probably the hospital staff tried to call her during her working hours, during which she had to switch off her phone. Hani is rather concerned about having her husband warded at the district hospital as it is such a small hospital and so many of her kampong folks, including some kay-poh type, works at the hospital. As a matter of fact, a particular kay-poh lady, who works as an ayamah, told her she’d look at Rashid’s medical records to find out what’s wrong with him.

Well, Rashid has been diagnosed with a long list of illnesses other than HIV. Amongst them that I know include Hepatitis C and meningitis. Hana is worried that if her kampong folks find out that Rashid and herself has HIV, her children may be affected.

Rashid’s mother (staying in another state) has already been informed about Rashid’s illnesses, but to date, she has not visited. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see on this couple’s developments.

When I was at the hospital, I asked SN about Rina. She was supposed to come for appointment but according to SN she never turned up. So my colleague called up Rina’s brother to ask what was happening. We found out that since Rina could not get up on her own, she and her mother did not come. We told her brother that the mother was reluctant to have me visit at home. So finally the brother called up Rina’s mother to tell her to trust me and let me come to their house.

When I was heading home for lunch, Rina’s mother called. She misunderstood her son and she thought I’d be fetching them at home to bring them to the hospital today. I had to explain to her that the HIV clinic only opens until 1 pm and therefore bringing Rina to the hospital would be a waste of time as it would already be too late. But I promised to visit them at home to assess the situation.

So I went to visit them just now, and yes, Rina obviously needed help. Both feet were badly swollen and there were also some red spots on them. She was in pain. I told her mother to call the HIV clinic immediately to fix for another appointment. They got the appointment for tomorrow morning at 8.30 am. So will fetch them tomorrow and send them to the hospital…

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Money, money, money...

For the past week, I’ve been getting a few calls from my PLWHA clients, informing me of the status of their EPF withdrawal applications.

Right after she got her cheque by mail, Ani called me up to thank me for helping her with the application. I didn’t do anything much, but she still wanted me to know first. And I really appreciate her telling me about it without me asking. Not that I’m such a busybody wanting to know whatever goes on with her life, but I prefer to know the latest status of all my clients so I can prioritize whoever needs help more.

Just 2 days after Ani called me, Yah called me. She said she went to update her bank book and found out that her EPF money had already been banked into her account. Great news indeed! Now she can settle the purchase of land and house from her aunt and no longer need to worry about being chased out of the present house by her landlord’s son as what happened previously.

Both Ani and Yah applied for EPF withdrawal to build/buy a house. Ani is currently staying in a small kampong house together with her in-laws including her husband’s younger siblings. Since nobody else knows about the couple’s HIV status, it can be quite difficult staying in the same house with so many others. With the EPF money, Ani’s husband can now build a separate house on a nearby piece of land.

I was told by a fellow volunteer that he had brought Mr. and Mrs. K to EPF office last week for the same purpose. Mr. K’s medical report was signed by a specialist so hopefully he doesn’t need to go to any panel clinics to confirm his health status. My friend (the volunteer) did ask the EPF officer about the question I posed to him earlier, as to why the applicants need to go to private panel clinics when they have already submitted medical reports issued by government hospitals… it didn’t sound quite right. And the officer’s answer was, “Itu keputusan Lembaga KWSP, bukan keputusan saya.” Yes, the typical “that’s not my job” answer. This means they don’t care about the logic behind any procedures that need to be carried out… if the big bosses say the applicants need to jump off a building to prove their disability, the applicants WILL be asked to jump off the building! (Of course I’m exaggerating here, but you get the drift…)

Well, Mr. K’s EPF withdrawal should be approved soon and hopefully the money will help the family get back on their feet.

While I’m not too worried about how Ani and Yah will use their money, I am a bit concerned about Mr. K’s family. I have seen how Yah manages her finances, and I believe her EPF money will be put to good use.

But Mr. K’s family being the “gali lubang tutup lubang” type (first borrow from A, then borrow from B to pay back A, and so on and so forth). They have never seen big amount of money in their life, so seeing a big amount in their bank account may tempt them to use up the whole amount of money in no time, thinking there’s a lot more to spend! I have already seen quite a few of such cases, especially the men (sorry, men… but I’m saying this based on what I’ve personally seen). But Mrs. K promised me they’d put aside at least RM10K in ASB, so I hope she’ll keep her word when the money comes in.

Hopefully, they will spend the money WISELY.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Family Day : My Observations

Although during our Family Day outing last Sunday, we made sure we didn’t mention anything about HIV or related topics, I still managed to observe the PLWHA families, especially those under my care.

Hey, why the raised eye-brow? Just because I was enjoying myself silly, it didn’t mean I never bothered to observe the people around me, okay?! I always like to observe people (although I don’t usually notice things like new jewellery or new watch or the likes as I am not bothered by them) and so even while sliding down the Tube Raiders…


OR

Cliff Racer…



OR floating along the Adventure River… passing by the big monkey (not a blogger) with the bulging tummy…


I still OBSERVE people!

Of course, there may be other people observing me… and probably wondering why on earth was this makcik behaving like a hyperactive child (*chuckle*)… but I was not at all bothered by that.

I was actually observing how they got along with each other…

What I noticed was that there were a few groups. One group was the not-getting-wet mothers group. They sat there chit-chatting while watching over their children who were having fun getting themselves all wet. In this group were Yah, Fuzi and Aini and they were accompanied by a trainee volunteer who also did not want to get wet.

Zainab and Mrs. K did make friends with them but at the same time they had younger kids who needed to be supervised at the pool while Mr. K was not feeling well enough to be moving around too much. So he just sat under the hut and relaxed.

It was nice to note that Mrs. K’s 12 year old daughter and Aini’s 13 year old daughter got along really well as though they had known each other for years. In fact while I was floating along the adventure river they were on another tube nearby and kept warning me, “Makcik jaga-jaga Makcik, nanti basah!” every time we were about to pass any sensor-activated “animals” (monkeys, frogs, whatever) which would spray water on us when we pass by. Yeah, right, jaga-jaga nanti basah… as though we weren’t already wet…

On the contrary, Shila’s daughter Laila was so attached to her mother that she didn’t make any new friends despite there being a few other children around her age. As a matter of fact, she got along better with Jah, the happy-go-lucky PLWHA who became close friends with Shila ever since they met during the International Aids Memorial Day (IAMD) in May. But Jah can actually get along well with simply anybody… even the Thai lady (married to a Malaysian Chinese) who couldn’t speak Malay or English. How did they communicate? Like chicken and duck…

There was one particular PLWHA I was interested to get to know. From day one at the HIV clinic, Miera, a young Malay lady, specified that she didn’t want a Malay buddy. Initially she was also to attend the IAMD in May, but when she found out that the accompanying buddy was a Malay lady (yours truly lah) she was quite reluctant. She withdrew. She was afraid that fellow Malays would look down on her, it didn’t matter that her buddy (a Chinese lady) told her many times that I was alright. So when Miera joined our Family Day outing, I thought it was a good chance to get her to mix with the rest without having any fear of being looked down upon.

What I noticed was that Miera was the quiet type. Yes, she finally did make some new friends with other PLWHAs, Malays and non-Malays, but she didn’t really talk much. Since she was single, she didn’t have any kids to look after and so she joined us volunteers… Malays, Chinese, Indians… for the fun rides and slides. When we queued up for the Cliff Racer, coincidentally I was right behind her and so she had no choice but to become my partner sharing one tube. And while climbing up to the starting point of the slides, she finally talked to me! I gave her the choice whether she wanted to sit in front or at the back when sliding down. Just like my fellow volunteer who partnered me for the Tube Raider, Miera too preferred the back seat for the Cliff Racer! (I guess they were thinking whatever happens let me face it first!!)

Well, thank God I didn’t break any bones in me, but the Cliff Racer definitely broke the ice between me and Miera.

At the end of the day, some of the PLWHAs did exchange phone numbers, but knowing them, the “credit habis” excuse will be used most of the time when I ask them if they have been contacting each other…

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Buddies and the lost world...

When I told some of my PLWHA families to be at the bus station before 9 am, I had expected them to be there earliest 8.45 am. But at 8.10 am as I was getting ready at home, Yah called me to say she and her children were already at the bus station. Oh well, it was before 9 am...

Anyway, right after I arrived, Shila and daughter Laila got there, followed by Jah and then Mr. K's family. So I got one guy (he's a PLWHA but volunteered to be one of the pickup person) to ferry Mr. K's family, one lady volunteer to ferry Yah and her children, while I waited there together with Jah, Shila and Laila for the arrival of another PLWHA, Kamala. Kamala arrived rather late as her bus stopped at almost every small town before reaching Ipoh.

But oh well, although we were the last to reach the park, the timing was just nice as the park opens at 10 am and we arrived there just minutes before opening hours. By the time we got there my fellow volunteers had already organised things for the rest who had reached there earlier.

OK, so people.... welcome to the LOST WORLD OF TAMBUN...








This is the main pool.








We didn't waste much time after we got in. After bringing them to our reserved hut and briefing them on what time to gather for lunch, we were all off to look for whatever fun available at the theme park. There were a few who preferred not to get wet, so they were our official "tukang jaga barang"...

I didn't waste much time either. After changing into my errr... three piece suit... (long sleeved t-shirt, trackbottom and headscarf) I was actually one of the first to try out the water slides on the tubes! Hey, I needed to test if the slides were safe for the rest, okay? ;) (hehehe... yeah, sure!)






This is supposed to be the kiddies pool. But look at the adults crowding there waiting to be splashed by the water from the barrel up there...














The kiddies pool was even safe for toddlers. Look at this little girl here crawling in the kiddies pool.







It was quite difficult getting the kids to gather themselves back at our reserved hut for lunch. They were enjoying themselves so much they simply didn't want to get out of the water! And after lunch we originally planned to have telematch, but since the kids were so eager to continue with whatever fun rides and slides available, we decided to cancel the telematch and let them do as they like...

Well, I decided not to get wet after lunch, so together with a few other volunteers, we went for the dry rides. First, the pirate ship, swinging from one end to another, which sent some of my colleagues screaming. It was a blessing none of them threw up... our timing wasn't really proper, you see... this was immediately after a heavy serving of nasi beriani for lunch!!

Then we took the tram ride around Lost World of Tambun before we proceeded to the spinning chairs.





No, this is not the spinning chair I was talking about. This is less thrilling so I decided to skip this one and wait for the spinning chair. That's why I managed to get this pic... I wasn't on it! But despite it being less thrilling, a few fellow volunteers took the ride and screamed anyway.








Some of my friends who took the ride above decided against trying the spinning chair but our secretary who insist on trying every available ride took the ride together with me and another male volunteer. The male volunteer who joined the ride initially didn't want to try the spinning chair ride but when he found out I wanted to go for it, he said, "Alamak, kalau you naik I pun kena naik jugaklah. Kalau tak tergugatlah aku." At the end of the spinning chair ride, our secretary who insisted on trying everything had to be helped off her chair... hehehe...

Then off we went to see the tiger feeding show.




Many years ago when I was in upper six, I had a poster of a tiger on my room door at the hostel. I remembered a few juniors who passed by my room, upon seeing the picture of the tiger, they'd exclaim, "Eh, eh... gambar Kak Pi!" (I was the headgirl at that time, so you get the drift lah.) So now let's see if any of these tigers look like me...








After the tiger feeding show, those who wanted to take pictures with a snake were allowed to do so. No, I did not, but some of us did...



If you are afraid of snakes but insist on trying everything including taking pictures with those slithing creatures, this is how you'll look like in the pic! Meet our secretary...












After tea, we handed over presents for each child. We made sure nobody went home empty handed. After that we made a move. Although the children would still like to stay until 6 pm if only they could, the older people simply could not take it any more...

The PLWHAs and their children had a great time I know. So did the volunteers. I enjoyed myself for sure. For the whole day I felt like a teenager all over again!

That was until I got home... and then my aching body screamed...

HOI WOMAN, YOUR TEENAGE DAYS ARE LOOOONG OVER!!!

Ouch!

Saturday, 4 August 2007

All set to go!

Park arrangements...
*Booking.... done.
*Informed them of the menu of our choice for lunch and tea... done.
*Full payment... done.
*Called up for final arrangements for the day... done.
-->PARK ARRANGEMENTS : CHECK!

Transportation for PLWHA families...
*Checked with families how they are going for the family day... done.
*Those needing people to fetch them up at home, arranged for buddies to fetch them... done.
*Those from outstation coming by bus and need people to pick them up at the bus station; arranged for a few buddies to wait at the bus station... done.
-->TRANSPORTATION FOR PLWHA FAMILIES : CHECK!

Prizes and presents...
*Sorted out prizes for the telematch... done.
*Sorted out presents for all the children so that none of them will go home empty handed... done.
-->PRIZES AND PRESENTS : CHECK!

-->INFORMED BUDDIES OF FINAL ARRANGEMENTS : CHECK!

-->RECHARGED BATTERIES FOR CAMERA : CHECK!

-->SPARE CASH FOR CONTINGENCIES : CHECK!

We're all set for tomorrow's Family Day - a great opportunity for me to introduce my PLWHA clients to each other... a great opportunity to get them to form a peer support group amongst themselves...

BUT... oh well, I'll probably be too busy the whole day to initiate all that.

Busy??? Busy enjoying myself lah... somewhere around here...


Here's a scenery from the place where we're going tomorrow....








See you later, folks!

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Help needed to find missing person (Updated)

UPDATE 7th August 2007:
Salhi Khaessa Ahmad has been located!! He was found weak and confused, wandering in Kuala Lipis. The district hospital there sent him to Kuantan GH. Luckily someone who had read about him recognised him and called his parents. Thanks to all who had passed the info around and to all who had offered their prayers for Salhi and his family.




Original post:

Looking at the picture above, some people may think the guy's big enough to take care of himself. He looks normal and healthy. But the fact is, this guy, SALHI KHAESSA AHMAD, has mental illness and his family has been desperately looking for him since he went missing on July 13th 2007. A police report has been made, but since he is already 26, the case is not given priority.

Below is an email from his sister, Dr Najmiah Ahmad:
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Salam,Hi all.
I know this is about to become like me airing my dirty laundry for the world to know, but I feel so desperate. I need to tell this to you girls.

My brother Salhi has been ill with a psychiatric illness.Schizophrenia to be precise. He is 26 and he started having mental disturbance at 17 when he was in MCKK lagi.He was the genius of the family, the badut of the family and the best little brother anyone could ever wish for.

Past 10 years saw him deteriorating and my heart sgt sgt sebak when this time, I went to the hospital in KB to find him locked up in a cage, together with people I would not even look at, bcos they scare me. He had extra muscular twitches and gaunt facial expression. Memang tak nampak mcm my used to be little brother anymore. In between bites of coney dog ( dia suka A&W) he managed to tell me 'Nak sekolah balik Kak Mie please '. Repeatedly. I just held back tears.

We took him out, and he was stable during my wedding. Masa reception I kept him occupied with a camera so people don't feel obliged to make a petty talk with a 'weird' looking man. Everything was fine.

On Friday the 13th, he left home saying he wanted to go for a walk. RM 3.50 in his pocket. He never came back. Duit tak ada, IC tak ada. We looked for him everywhere, satu Kelantan. No news.

He hasn't taken his medications for 2 weeks now, I tak tahulah how he is now. Mungkin kalau you all jalan2 kat KL nampak budak gila (i have to accept this now) talking to himself, kotor, kurus tak terurus, kejap cakap english kejap cakap kelantan, that's him. Let me know.

What i fear is that he got hit by a lorry ke, in a ditch somewhere waiting to be found. I am writing almost with tears all the time. Partly because I am frustrated there wasn't much time for me in Malaysia, to do anything. Police report has been filed and my other brother has written in the Star. Now this waiting game is making me very apprehensive..

Usually he'll find means to go back to Kuala Kangsar. 2 kali he was found in MCKK in the past. His memory seemed to have stopped at that point in hislife. Allah sahajalah yang tahu why he is tested this far. To him he is still 17.

Doakan so he's looked after by people yang he come across, who would find sympathy in them to give him food and a place to shut his eyes. Insy. Amiin. And I am sorry if anybody finds this upsetting.

Love,Najmiah
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And here's a second email from Najmiah:

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I go through a cycle of optimism and pessimism. Looking at how he was found last time after 4 days missing , by the roadside, cengkung and dishevelled, makan tak minum tak tidur tak, I just hope he's still alive.

On the cause of his illness, I am not the best to outline the cause, but what i know is always complained about being bullied in MCKK. To what extent we didn't know because at the time it's our fault we thought he was 'just saying it'. So nobody paid attention to his complaints.

After getting some prize money for his 8As PMR from a Japanese Minister he ran away from school but not to home, but to KL. When we found him he said he couldn;t stand school. Nak balik rumah takut my dad marah. My dad took him out of school and he went to a school in Kelantan. Towards his SPM he was getting worse but managed 2A1 - Physics and Add Maths. Already on tablet he joined the flying school, he was always fascinated by airplanes, always wanted to be a pilot. Half a year he was there (Kedah i think) they found his tablets and he was expelled. He took a turn for the worse.

When he got slightly better I got him enrolled in a private college. He received a best student award when he was on this medication tradename Domatil. Somehow the tablet was stopped ( pricey I think) and he was on Risperidone ( for those medics who are interested) , he is never stable since and he couldn't sit his exams.

To what extent was he bullied? Was it very bad that he couldn't tell anyone? Sexually? Or was he already 'crazy' so people bullied him? Chicken ke egg ke. I reserve my comments for now on boarding schools. May he returns safe. Amiin.

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And this is the link to the article in the Star:
http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2007/7/27/nation/18416888&sec=nation


Anyone who has seen him please contact his father, En. Ahmad at 09-786 6040, 017-970 3227 or 012-296 2642.