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)

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Nurin Alert?

It’s been more than a week since Nurin Jazlin Jazimin was laid to rest. The public was outraged with the brutal murder of the innocent child to the extent that there has been so much blame-storming going around. Blame the parents… blame the police… blame the authorities… blame the neighborhood… blame whoever as long as not themselves! Reading all the comments and speculations, somehow the tune of the song “Bangau oh bangau” keeps playing in my mind. Sigh…

This was not the first time something like this happened to an innocent child. There were a few other cases when innocent children were brutally murdered by some sickos out there. Each time there would be speculations as to what happened… who was at fault etc. Yet the same thing keeps on happening again… and again… and again. Malaysians mudah lupa?

When some people start blaming the parents of negligence, I can’t help but think of the PLWHA families. Many of the PLWHAs whose cases I’m handling are from poor families, and mostly, single mothers. Or, if the fathers are still around, they are already too weak to work. As such, many of them have no choice but to depend on their young ones to run errands for their family. Go to the shop, look after the baby or whatever else on their own.

Fuzi, for example, depends a lot on her 12 year old daughter. The nearest grocery shop and public phone are quite far by walking distance, so the daughter (who is quite small-sized by the way), has to cycle all the way alone to buy necessities or to make a phone call when necessary. I managed to settle part of the problem by giving Fuzi a used handphone so it’d be easier for me to call them or for them to call me. And I also do send them groceries some of the time… but I definitely can’t do that all the time!

Some may argue that Fuzi should be the one to cycle to the shop and leave her eldest daughter at home to take care of the younger siblings. But how can we be sure the children are safe by themselves at home? A personal friend of mine, an adult, was murdered at her home in 2001 behind locked doors! Robbers broke into her home and when she struggled, they murdered her. Is anywhere safe anymore?!

Another thing about Fuzi’s family is that the place where they stay don’t have any public transportation. So the children go to school by bicycle along a very quiet road. And since they leave home about 6.30 in the morning, the road is not only quiet, but as there are no street lights for quite a long stretch, it is also dark! Mind you, this is not what Fuzi wants for her children really, but does she have a choice?

Okay, so now a few suspects have been nabbed by the police for the murder of little Nurin. Assuming that these people are indeed guilty of the crime; does it mean we can now sit back and relax? HECK NO! There are many sickos out there, and as mentioned by Kak Teh in her posting Beware The Faceless Monster, paedophiles don’t have their sickening hobbies etched on their forehead. So how are we to know?

Action must be taken NOW… by the police, the authorities, parents and the public at large to avoid such incidents in future. What sort of actions can be taken?

In one of Nuraina A.Samad’s posting, Princessjournals commented that Malaysia should adopt the Amber Alert. Ahh, finally something constructive instead of just arguing over who was at fault and who was not.

What is AMBER Alert? The AMBER Alert System began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. AMBER stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was created as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, Texas, and then brutally murdered. Other states and communities soon set up their own AMBER plans as the idea was adopted across the nation. Read more about it here and here.

So yes, many agree that this system can be adopted here in Malaysia. Of course, why not? Since the American system was created as a legacy to Amber Hagerman, let’s call ours NURIN, as suggested by RockyNationwide Urgent Response Inter-Network. Or something like that.

I may just be an ikan bilis blogger whose blog is not read by too many people, but as mentioned by Princessjournals here, if bloggers put up a concerted effort to highlight this matter on their respective blogs, we can reach a wider audience, and it may get the attention of the relevant authorities to adopt a similar system here in Malaysia.

Let us try to create awareness on safety. Let us all learn all the do’s and don’ts. What to do in an emergency… what to do first when you suspect a child missing… what to do when we see a child wailing while being dragged by an adult (don’t go and immediately clobber the adult without finding out what's going on! He/she may be the parent and the child throwing tantrums!!)

Yes, let’s stop blaming people. Let's instead create awareness amongst the public on what can be done collectively.

I am all for the AMBER/NURIN Alert system. What say you?

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Sigh...

Fuzi called me up yesterday. She just came back from the welfare office where she finally got her financial aid for the months of June, July and August. Yep, for the past 3 months she didn't get the promised financial aid with all sorts of excuses given. Imagine, if a particular blog reader had not been putting in a certain amount into her account each month, it would have been very difficult for Fuzi and her 5 kids.

Anyway, while I was happy she finally got her welfare money, I was quite annoyed when I found out that the welfare officer asked her to open up another bank account so that they can bank in her financial aid every month into her account without her having to come all the way to their office.

Now, that would make it easier for Fuzi, right? So, why was I annoyed?

You see, when her welfare application was first approved earlier this year, Fuzi already had a savings account with BSN. The welfare officer then asked her to open up a bank account with BCB (now CIMB), with the promise that they'd bank in the money into that account. OK fine, so Fuzi opened up a BCB savings account. But the money NEVER once went into that bank account. They always come up with all sorts of excuses why they couldn't bank in the money. Amongst others, "Tak ada masa."

OK then, now they say they will bank in the amount into her savings account again. Just give them the same bank account number lah! Kan?

Nope, now they say Fuzi got to open an account with Maybank. Pulak... tak sudah-sudah menyusahkan orang yang dah memang susah!

Sigh...


Today I went to visit Mr. K at the hospital. Mrs. K was there too. Mr. K's EPF withdrawal has gone through and they've already got the money. Alhamdulillah. With Mrs. K having to take so many days of unpaid leave, the timing is just right.

Or is it really?

Remember I said in one of my earlier postings that I was quite concerned about this family getting their EPF money just before raya? Well, since Mr. K was in the hospital when the money got through, I thought it was quite safe.

But just now while I was with them at the hospital, I saw the two of them signalling one another, obviously they wanted to tell me something, but afraid to do so. They looked like typical "guilty" kids trying to admit to their parents something they had done which they knew would not get the parent's approval. Only this time the kids were Mr. and Mrs. K while I was the garang mama.

So what did they do? Mr. K, being the "I wasn't the one who did it as I was in the hospital" one, finally spoke up. Apparently, after being pressured by her kids, especially the 12 year old daughter, Mrs. K had just installed Astro at home. Yeah right, blame it on the kids! All the kids saw was a big amount of money which they probably thought would last a looooong time! And all they saw was just probably the fee for installing the Astro kuali! (Ooops sorry, I am so used to calling that thing a kuali...) What they didn't think about was the monthly fee that needs to be paid. All the while they had been having problems even with their water and electricity bills, now they want to add another monthly bill?! Mrs. K didn't have to give in, did she?

What I was particularly mad about was the fact that I had reminded them to be very careful once they got the money and to spend only on necessities. I can survive without Astro at home, why can't they? I remembered Yah's late husband who spent like a rich man when he got his EPF money, one of the first thing he did was to install Astro at home and then told his wife to pay for the monthly subscription fee! He finished all his money in just 2 weeks! Thank goodness Yah herself is not at all like her late husband. When she got her EPF money recently, she immediately put aside a certain amount into ASB. And the balance of the money, she used them on necessities and long term income generating purposes.

Back to Mrs. K, I gave her my piece of mind. I told her she must spend wisely. Spend on necessities, necessities, necessities!

They promised they'd open up SSPN account for each of their children. I'll make sure the next time I see them to ask if they have done so. Maybe my next visit to their house, I may just lecture the children as well.

Sigh...

Before I left them just now, I said, "Nanti balik jangan lupa beli TV besar 42 inci pulak ya?"

Mrs. K gave a sheepish smile.

Oh, she got my message alright...
LOUD AND CLEAR!

Monday, 24 September 2007

Ramadhan House Visit #2

After my usual pasar tani routine last Saturday, I went over to my NGO centre to load my car with the stuffs which I needed to send to Fuzi’s family. I was sweating by the time I finished loading the things – this time I had more stuff than usual because they include a box and a big plastic bag of goodies contributed by a blog reader, and there were also more groceries than usual due to more cash contributions received.

So off I went to Fuzi’s house. As always, the kids were smiling when they saw my car coming. I called them to help get the things out of the car. Surprised there were so many things, the eldest girl asked, “Semua ni?!”

By the time I got in and sat down, the children were already excited, curious to know what was in the box. They saw there were a few paper bags inside and they were wondering what were inside the bags. I told them the things were all theirs so they could take the things out to see for themselves. And boy, were they excited to find out that each one of them got a bag of goodies each!

I asked about the status of Fuzi’s marriage certificate… whether she managed to get it ‘legalised’ yet. According to Fuzi, the guy who promised to help her had called her and told her to see him this week to settle the marriage cert issue. Once she gets that settled she will need to go to Putrajaya to settle her children’s citizenship status. I asked if Fuzi needs to pay any more money. I was shocked when I was told that the guy asked Fuzi to pay RM1,000 to settle the whole thing!! Earlier on Fuzi had already paid RM300 to get things started. No receipts issued. Now another RM1,000? Even for me that’s a big sum of money… how on earth did he expect Fuzi to fork out the money?!

I told Fuzi that if no receipts are issued then most likely the bulk of the money may just go into the guy’s own pocket! To which Fuzi replied in her Indonesian accent, “Tapi dia nampaknya seperti orang baik-baik, kak!” Aduuuh… but of course my dear… they always act like nice people. The money is the initiative for them to help you…

Okay, so it’s not good to “buruk sangka”. Maybe there is some kind of fine Fuzi need to pay because for many years her late husband never officially registered their Narathiwat marriage. But come on… RM1,000… and no receipts whatsoever?

Or maybe the guy sincerely wants to help, but he needs the money to give “duit kopi” to whoever he needed to seek help from to get things done. Oh I don’t know!! I would love to see this guy and ask him for a breakdown of what the RM1,000 was for. But Fuzi doesn’t want me to make a hoo hah of it for fear I may jeopardize her chances of getting the whole thing settled as soon as possible. So no, she’s not keen on having me accompany her to see this guy.

Alright, but where on earth is she going to fork out the money from? I told her to be frank with the guy and tell him that she’s a non-working single mom and live solely on welfare. When I told her that her PAF application has been approved and that she’ll be getting an additional RM160 per month beginning this month, she was so happy saying she can save that money for this purpose. All she wants to do now is to make sure there are no more hiccups in her children’s citizenship status. She’s willing to “ikat perut” for it.

Up to you, Fuzi… but I’m still suspicious. I have never done all this stuff before so I don’t really know how much money is really involved to get this done. Whatever it is, I sure hope all the citizenship problem will be settled soon so that her children’s citizenship status will not be questioned in the future.

Anyway, besides Fuzi’s marriage cert and her children’s citizenship problem, the family seems to be coping well. The children looked happy and to me that’s what matters most. In fact they are already talking about going to this year’s Raya-do… like the one I organised last year. I haven’t even planned anything yet for this year…

Friday, 21 September 2007

A present from the children

I wasn't in the mood to post anything for the past 2 days. Poor Nurin's case really made me lose my mood to write anything.

But continue with my work I must. Nurin is at a better place now... but other kids need my attention. Yep, in my case, the HIV infected/affected kids.

I promised Yah I'd meet her at the hospital today. She came to get this month's supply of medication and wanted to meet up with me as well. So I told her to wait at the usual place between 12 to 12.30 pm.

When I got there I saw Yah carrying a big box nicely wrapped. Her eldest daughter tagged along. When they got in the car I asked whose present it was. At first I thought she was kidding when she said, "Untuk kakak lah." Huh? For me? Then she said, "Budak-budak pesan... depa suruh bagi hadiah ni kat makcik."

Apparently her kids, particularly the 2 older girls (9 and 7) had been saving for some time their daily school pocket money to buy me a present. Of course their mother had to top up a bit. Whatever the occasion was I don't know but I felt guilty at first. I would have been happy if they just made their own card and wrote something sweet. They could have used the money to buy something for themselves yet they chose to buy something for me. But then I figured if giving me a present makes them happy and excited, oh then, whaddaheck! Just accept the present and make them happy! :)

Well, I couldn't take them for lunch today (puasa lah!!) so I sent them straight to the bus station. But even during the short drive from the hospital to the bus station I managed to get some updates from Yah.

Yah had put aside part of her EPF drawings into ASB. She had to use part of it to repair her house. You see, recently during a rainstorm, a big papaya tree fell onto the kitchen and so the house needed some major repairs. Being the resourceful type, she went to see the YB for her area and managed to get the YB to sponsor half of the repairs.

She's also using some of the money for income generating purposes. She's renting a piece of land (a paddy field to be exact) and will work on the paddy field. No doubt the income will come later but at least she's already thinking long term.

That was about all the update I could get from Yah today. She was in a hurry. She said she needed to stop by a friend's place on the way back before going home. At this point, her 9 year old daughter who tagged along said, "Mak jumpa kawan tu nanti lama ke? Kalau lama nanti bagi kak long sepuluh ringgit, kak long balik sendiri." THAT of course drew immediate response from me, what with Nurin's case still very much in my mind. I told her she must NEVER go back alone! No doubt she felt it was no big deal... she knows what bus to take and she knows where to get down. What she doesn't know is the danger lurking around!

Anyway when I got home in the afternoon I opened the present. The children actually bought me a table lamp clock - minus the bulb. I will have to get the light bulb myself lah...

Later after my zuhur prayer, I went out again. This time to little Boboy's place. His guardians sought my help to fill some forms to ask for financial aid from MAC and so off I went with some Raya goodies for the kids. Boboy looks much better ever since he started taking his HIV medication. When asked what he wants to do when he grows up, he said, "Nanti Boboy dah besar Boboy nak kawin." Oh dear... you cute little boy...

While I was at their place I received an SMS from Zainab. She said her elder daughter (5 year old) had just been warded for kidney problems. Oh dear, oh dear... now I susah hati again...

Will try to visit the little girl at the hospital tomorrow. It was getting late so I had to go home. Got home, went into my bedroom and saw the clock, and remembered Yah's children... sejuuuuk hati...

Ahh, thank you kids. You made my day...

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Ramadhan House Visit #1

I had initially wanted to visit Fuzi first for my Ramadhan house visit this year. But given Mrs. K’s present situation, I decided to visit her children first. Fuzi is at least getting some contributions coming in already, so she’s not in such a desperate situation.

Mrs. K on the other hand had to take unpaid leave for almost a month now to take care of her husband. Mr. K seem to be getting weaker and according to the doctors, will need to be monitored at the hospital for another month or so. Which means she’s not getting any income this month and may not be getting any income for the next month as well. From other sources? Zilch. Her children who had been left at home to fend for themselves are running out of food to eat for sahur and buka puasa. Today Mrs. K rushed home to figure out something for the children.

Yesterday I went shopping. With the amount of stuff I had to load into my car, I might as well put a sign on my car door… “Pi Bani Grocery Delivery” :) . I bought stuff for 3 families first. Will have to buy more later. Right after shopping for the stuffs yesterday, I unloaded them all at my NGO centre. I didn’t want to bring all those things in my car when I went to my office this morning!

So, today just before going to Mrs. K’s house, I had to go back to my NGO centre to load back some of the stuff into my car - rice, flour, sugar, cooking oil, margarine, bread, canned food, dried food, milo, milk powder, diapers… and oh, I made sure I bought some buka puasa stuff for today. Today I bought them nasi ayam. Thank goodness Shah and his 12 year old sister helped me to unload the things when I got to their house.

Shah earlier on had to miss school to take care of his younger siblings. Right after UPSR was over, his 12 year old sister took over so that Shah could go back to school. His sister had explained her situation to her class teacher and so her absence from school after UPSR is with her teacher’s knowledge.

Mrs. K asked for my opinion on the prospect of the family moving to Ipoh and rent the MBI flats. She always seems to seek my opinion first before the family decides on anything. Apparently she heard from a friend about the cheap rental rate of the flats. Yes, my colleague and I know about it too but all the while we didn’t suggest to the family to move to Ipoh as Mrs. K had a job near the house they are currently staying at.

Mrs. K said she can always find another job in Ipoh. There are so many supermarkets and hypermarkets around. As a matter of fact, she had already asked if there was any vacancy at the hospital and was told she could start anytime if she was willing to work night shift as one of the security guards.

It will also be good for Shah if the family moves to Ipoh. It will be easier to get him a place for Aliran Kemahiran at one of the Sekolah Teknik.

It will also be much easier for them to go for hospital appointments, and not forgetting, it will also be easier for me to visit them…

Okay, so my next task is to find out more on how to apply for one of the MBI flats and then help the family apply for one.

p/s

To the donor who sent some goodies to be sent to the 3 families... I have already sent Mrs. K's today.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Help find Nurin Jazlin! (Updated)



UPDATE: DNA tests confirmed that the body of a girl stuffed in a gym bag was indeed Nurin's. For more details read here and here. Utusan's report in Bahasa Malaysia here.

Father claims Nurin's body for funeral. The story here.

Nurin laid to rest: See photos here.

For the family's version of the whole story, please go to the blog set up by Nurin's uncle which has been renamed to In Memory of Nurin Jazlin (fka In Search of Nurin Jazlin) .


Original posting:

8 year old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin has been missing since August 20th, 2007. Her uncle has set up a blog in an effort to reach a wider audience to help find Nurin Jazlin.

Here's the link to the blog: In Search Of Nurin Jazlin

Please, let's all help find Nurin Jazlin!

Monday, 17 September 2007

I'd better get started...

It’s the 5th day of Ramadhan. I haven’t started my house visits yet. Contributions are already coming in. In fact a blog reader has sent some stuff in boxes ready to be sent to 3 families – Fuzi’s, Yah’s and Mrs. K’s. Their blog names were already written on the boxes. I had to cancel all the names and put down their real names. I don’t want them to get curious as to whose names were written on the boxes…

I have also received some cash to buy goodies for these families including other families not mentioned above. I haven’t bought the goodies yet… still trying to come up with a proper list of things to buy.

I don’t want to send the stuff too early. I want the children to feel the raya atmosphere. But if I wait till later I may not have enough time to visit all the families that need help. So, I’ve made up my mind… by this weekend I’ve got to start visiting and send the Raya goodies to the families.

Supply of milk powder for Fuzi’s baby I think is probably running low now. So I’d better visit them first. I’m sure her other kids are already expecting me to come anytime soon.

Mr. K is still in the hospital. Last week Mrs. K called me. “Kak, tadi doktor datang… dia kata nak ambik abang punya air tulang belakang. Tak apa ke kak? Saya serba salah laa… ada makcik sebelah ni kata kalau boleh, jangan, takut lumpuh. Macam mana ni kak?” Hmmm… she’s asking ME to advise her? I told her the doctor should know better than I do…

Anyway, this only means the children are still by themselves at home - which makes me wonder what they eat for sahur and buka puasa. When I visit them I’d better make sure I buy something for their buka puasa as well.

My main problem is to send stuff to Yah’s house. That will definitely need to be done on a weekend or a public holiday as her place is quite far. I need to go in the morning so that I won’t come home too late. I don’t like the idea of rushing home for buka puasa and I’m not the type to buka puasa outside. So yep, definitely need to put aside a Saturday or Sunday for that purpose!

There shouldn’t be any problem sending stuff to Zainab’s house. Her house is nearby my office so I can go during any of the weekdays. Will also need to send stuff to Shida and Rashid’s wife… and Nuri and Ani… and Aini, and oh, not forgetting, Lily’s children.

WHOA! I can’t postpone this any longer. I have to start soon!

You know what this means?

It means tomorrow I’d better start SHOPPING!!

Friday, 14 September 2007

Tag, tag, tag...

Hmmm… some people seem to get keTAGeh to this tagging/meme thing… sigh… well, I just so happen to be one of those who don’t really fancy them, but I’ll just try to be a sport this time, ok? Talk about being grateful in my previous post, I have to be grateful I got tagged. It shows I have blogger friends who think of me. Of course, I don't have to LIKE being tagged and I can’t promise to be a sport every time though…

Nightwing tagged me for the 10 questions tag. Earlier on Pearly tagged me with the millionaire tag, but since there is a millionaire question under the 10 questions tag, consider both tags done here... sorry folks, but...


"I'm just a LAZY BUM! LAZY BUM!" (to be sung to the tune of LADY BUMP)



Although I am a law abiding citizen, I don’t usually bother to follow any of these tagging rules (actually too lazy to go through them…). So I shall just answer the questions okay?

Q1. What were you doing 10 years ago.
1. Performed Umrah with 9 other family members after having performed the Haj with my mom the year before.
2. Did freelance accounting – working from home.
3. Installed internet at home.
4. Sold my old red recond Ford Laser (that was my first car!)
5. Grew older…

Q2. What were you doing 1 year ago.
1. Went to AIDS Village in Hatyai, Thailand together with my NGO members.
2. Visiting homes of poor PLWHA families around Perak.
3. Sent a pregnant girl to a shelter home in KL.
4. Attended a workshop organized by MAC.
5. Grew even older…

Q3. What are 5 snacks you enjoy. (not in any specific order)
1. Chocolates
2. Keropok
3. Kerepek
4. Kerapak… oops, no such thing… ok lah, kuih-muih
5. Anything edible lah

Q4. What are 5 songs you know the lyrics to.
1. Negaraku
2. TKC song (my school song)
3. Doe, a deer a female deer… :)
4. Chorus of Rasa Sayang Eh
5. Chorus of Chan Mali Chan
(Oh wow! I know the lyrics to so many songs!! Fuuuyyooohh!!)

Q5. 5 things you would do if you are a millionaire.
That depends…if I’m a millionaire of Rupiahs, I shall remain as I am. If in currencies such as Ringgit, or better still Dollars, Pounds, or Euros…
1. Figure a way to reduce my income tax.
2. Pay off all my debts.
3. Contribute to the poor especially in respect of their children’s education.
4. Invest in such a way that I will be able to quit my office work and do full time voluntary work.
5. Travel to interesting places around the world.

Q6. 5 bad habits. (Where got?! Me very sopan one…)
1. Sometimes tend to spontaneously say things without thinking of the outcome. (that’s why I prefer writing, I can re-read and edit)
2. Lie down on the settee after dinner. (and I’m complaining perut buncit!)
3. Simply dump things on my table at home… it is such a mess! If I tidy them up, later on I wouldn’t know where to find this and that. So I have to leave them messy… (yeah, excuses!)
4. Simply chuck whatever receipts (whether still useful or not) into my handbag.
5. I tend to postpone doing things which I have to do but don’t enjoy doing.

Q7. 5 things you like to do.
1. Set up a home in Perak for HIV women and children.
2. Do full time voluntary work.
3. Perform the Haj again.
4. Learn Arabic.
5. Stop people from tagging me… (wishful thinking?)

Q8. 5 favorite toys.
1. My laptop
2. My hand phone
3. My digital camera
4. My USB recorder/player
5. My electric bike at home

Q9. 5 things you’d never wear.
1. Stilettos (I won’t be able to walk in them!)
2. Too much jewellery (I don’t feel comfortable wearing too many of them…)
3. Anything too fitting.
4. Anything too revealing.
5. My underwear on the outside (like Superman, Wonder Woman etc.) - ni dah tak tau apa nak jawab la ni...

Q10. 5 things you hate to do.
1. Tags
2. More tags
3. Even more tags
4. And again, more tags.
5. Oh no, there’s another tag to be done!!


You get the drift?!


Phew… that was a tough one! And since I’d like to get this over and done with, here comes my respond to the other tag by Daphne Ling… the Fives! (no, not Jackson 5 lah...)

5 things in my handbag/bag
1. My purse
2. My blood donor book
3. A multipurpose penknife
4. A pepper spray key-chain
5. Lots of unwanted receipts

5 things in my purse
1. Cash (sometimes more, sometimes less...)
2. MyKad
3. Driving license
4. Credit cards/ATM cards
5. My blood group card

5 favorite things in my favorite room (the living room)
1. The TV
2. The settee (where I lie down while watching item 1)
3. A family photo taken during Hari Raya a few years back
4. A copper tooling “Ayat Haikal” (Quranic verses) on the wall.
5. A masjid-shaped clock bought in Mekkah.

5 things I would love/like to do
*Please refer Q7 of the 10 Questions Tag above.

5 things I am currently doing
1. Planning for my Ramadhan house visits to send goodies to poor families.
2. Blogging
3. Responding to these tags.
4. Wishing that nobody else will tag me.
5. Thinking of my next posting (after I clear these tags)

Okay, so now I have to tag 5 people. I hereby tag:

1. Superman (or anyone by the name of Suparman)
2. Batman (or anyone who loves bats)
3. Spiderman (or anyone who loves spiders)
4. Ultraman (or Auta man, if Ultraman can't be found)
5. Wonder Woman (or any WOMAN who's always WONDERing what to do...)











There you go... TAG DONE! Legaaaa....

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

A time to reflect...

Ramadhan is here again...

Even before Ramadhan there are already cooking programmes on TV specifically for Hari Raya. There are also lots of promos from hotels and restaurants for special Berbuka Puasa deals. Not forgetting the Bazaar Ramadhan everywhere. I thought we are supposed to eat less in Ramadhan… but somehow it appears as though every year, Ramadhan is the “food fest” month. Funny isn’t it?

And soon, trust me, we’ll be seeing the various promos for Raya entertainment programmes. Amongst them would include promos of movies and more movies which have no significance whatsoever to the month of Syawal – Malay movies, English movies, Hindustan movies… just name them…

For those who intend to balik kampong for the coming Raya using public transportation, I bet the rush to book tickets is already on (and with problems involving bus drivers and all, it will be crazy). Ah, and not forgetting, there’d be some people who are now desperately looking for tailors who are still willing to take their orders for baju raya.

Anyway, no matter what you intend to eat for sahur or berbuka puasa, no matter what your plans are for this year’s Raya, let’s spare some thought for the unfortunate ones.

Spare a thought for... the orphans. No parents to spend their Ramadhan or Syawal with. No kampong to go back to.

Spare a thought for... the poor. They hardly earn enough to get one decent meal daily. Unlike us, even though we can't eat during the daytime in Ramadhan, we still get to eat what we want at night.

Spare a thought for... the homeless people. While we sleep in the comfort of our own beds and mattresses, there are people out there who sleep on the pavements... no mattresses, just old newspapers.

Spare a thought for... those in war torn countries. While we here are taking life for granted, the people in the war torn countries are lucky if they have a safe shelter to stay under. We only have to bear with the sounds of firecrackers and home-made meriam buluh (ban or no ban, we’d still hear lots of those putus jari stories!), there are people out there who live in fear of deadly gunshots and bombings.

Spare a thought for... the Palestine refugees. Some of them may be staying in safe refugee camps in neighbouring countries, but how nice can their Eid be when they are uncertain of when they'll be able to return to a land they can call home.

Spare a thought for... the elderly people staying in old folks homes. When other old folks wait in excitement for their children to come home, imagine the loneliness of the old folks who have to spend their Hari Raya without the presence of children and grandchildren.

Spare a thought for… the HIV infected or affected families who are being marginalized… they need love and compassion, yet they get stigma and discrimination…

Yes, spare some thoughts for them and reflect on ourselves...

Are we grateful for the family and friends that we have? Or are we bitter over certain things that certain people have done?

Are we grateful for all that we have achieved? Or are we unhappy over the things that we failed to achieve?

Are we grateful for the chance to try and try again if we fail? Or do we feel hopeless every time we fail?

Are we grateful for all the love that we can share? Or are we the unloving kind of people who couldn't care less what happens to others?

You cannot be grateful and bitter.
You cannot be grateful and unhappy.
You cannot be grateful and without hope.
You cannot be grateful and unloving.

SO JUST BE GRATEFUL.

Yes, let’s just be grateful. Let’s be grateful by using this blessed month to spread love and good deeds to fellow beings. And let’s continue the love and good deeds even after Ramadhan is over.

To all Muslim readers of this blog, may you have a meaningful Ramadhan. To all the rest, we can all spread love and good deeds, can’t we? Every day, every month, throughout the year, throughout our lives…

Monday, 10 September 2007

Lily's children: An Update

Remember Lily, the woman with such a complicated life? For those who did not follow her story, you can read about her here and here.

In Lily’s life story, so many things should not have happened. Amongst others, her husband, who was taken by his family members back to their hometown in another state when he got too weak, did not tell her he had HIV. Then when he died, his family members did not inform Lily or any of her children about his death. It was only a few days later they found out about his death – that too because Lily told her eldest daughter to call her paternal grandma to find out how the father was doing.

Lily’s relationship with her in-laws worsened and even to get her husband’s death cert, Lily had to resort to going to JPN. When she got the copy, she got a shock upon seeing HIV/AIDS indicated as the cause of death. Then she brought all her children for tests, and how sad it was for her to learn that not only she herself was infected, but also Boboy, her youngest 4 year old boy.

Coincidentally, not long after I posted Lily’s story, Lily died. It came as a shock to me, because when I saw her the week before, she looked fine. Lily did not die of HIV-related illness, but instead due to complications related to dengue. I wrote about her funeral here.

Lily’s complicated life may have ended then, but life continued to be complicated for her children, especially for Boboy, the HIV-infected child. Although Lily’s brother, Bashar, took over the responsibility of becoming the children’s new guardians, he was very concerned about taking care of Boboy. Not that he didn’t love the boy, but being someone who didn’t know much about HIV, he was thinking maybe he should give Boboy to someone who knows more about HIV to take care of him. I wrote about this here.

I have never met the children after Lily’s funeral. Initially I wasn’t too sure who would be taking care of the children. Then I wasn’t too sure how Bashar’s wife would take it, so my contact with the children was only through my telephone conversations with Bashar. They were supposed to have joined our Family Day outing last month, but pulled out last minute as one of Bashar’s own children was not well.

Recently I decided to call Bashar again to find out if he’s getting enough financial assistance to take care of the orphans. Apparently he had already submitted his application for financial assistance from the Welfare Department, but to date nobody has visited them yet to assess their situation.

This time I took the opportunity to ask for permission to visit the kids at Bashar’s home. Although Bashar said most of the time he’d be outstation (he’s a lorry driver), he gave me the green light to visit anytime as his wife is always home. She sells some tidbits at home to get extra income for the family.

So, today I went to visit them. They live in a small low-cost terrace house which is comfortable enough for Bashar, his wife and their 2 small kids. It is a bit packed now that they have 4 additional children staying with them, but they seem to be coping. All the children were home except for one who was in school (afternoon session).

Bashar was not in town, but his wife seemed welcoming enough. Although I have never spoken to her before (she seemed to avoid me on the day of Lily’s funeral), this time she was talking freely about the kids and the problems they face.

Apparently, the children’s paternal side of the family are still trying to get at least one of the children under their custody. Just to be sure that they weren’t forcing the children; Bashar and his wife had a heart to heart talk with the children and asked to them to decide for themselves who they wanted to stay with. The children chose to stay with Bashar.

I don’t know how true this is, but I was told the children's paternal aunt needed at least one of the children to be with her to enable her to withdraw the EPF of the children’s late father. This one… I tak mau masuk campur

On a lighter note, the children’s late father’s Socso has been channeled to Bashar as the children’s new guardian. At least there’s extra cash to cope with the sudden extra dependents. They have also applied for Lily’s Socso, but this may take some time to be approved.

However, I’m a bit disappointed to learn about what happened to Boboy. You see, the little boy has already started on his HIV medication recently. For HIV medication, it has to be taken regularly at a fixed time. No delays. So the boy’s guardians must ensure that the boy takes his medicine right on time. Since Boboy’s new guardians are loving and responsible enough, that’s not a problem.

So, what’s the problem? You see, Boboy has been going to a certain kindergarten ever since his mother was still alive. Now that the boy has to take his medication at a specific time, Bashar and his wife had to tell the kindergarten teacher to make sure Boboy takes his medicine at a specific time. When the teacher saw the medication, somehow she knew it was for HIV.

Since then, although the teacher didn’t say it directly, she kept on insisting that Boboy didn’t need to go to school yet as he was still young. Even Boboy himself is reluctant to go to kindergarten now because he said, “Cikgu tak layan.”

Boboy doesn’t know heads or tails what illness he has and he doesn’t know heads or tails the stigma and discrimination some people seem to have against HIV infected people. He must be wondering why his teacher didn't seem to layan him of late.

Oh the poor boy…

Friday, 7 September 2007

Free education? More help for the poor?

So, the yearly school fees have been abolished. Last year the exam fees were abolished. Text books will be made available to all. And the reports say we now have FREE primary and secondary education.

Really?

I have seen various lists given by various schools to their students at the end of last year and the school fees were only a small fraction of the total amount that the students need to pay. The fact that different amount needs to be paid by students of different schools shows that whatever fees that need to be paid or things that need to be bought are determined by the respective schools.

Let me recall the various items that I’ve seen on the various lists provided by the various schools…

They have PTA fees… tuition fees… computer fees… co-curriculum fees… and whatever else they can think of. In addition, the students must buy exercise books and a whole load of workbooks, some are written as optional, but most are compulsory.

There you go… that’s called FREE education.

OK fine, so some NGOs like mine try to help out by providing financial assistance through our Children Education Fund and the likes…

But just when we thought we settled their schooling needs, after a few months we find out that some of them are required by their class teachers to buy certain other books… not as an optional additional book, but a MUST for them to buy to be used in class. They even get scolded when they don’t buy the book.

I have to admit, there are some dedicated teachers from some schools who’d go out of their way to help the poor students. They visit the students at home if the students don’t turn up in school for a few days. They find out the family’s background if the students don’t pay their fees. But there are also teachers who don’t think of their students’ welfare and simply assume that these students lack discipline.

Speaking of visiting the students at home, it’s not what the teachers are paid to do, right? It’s just a social responsibility. Since the teachers are already burdened with a whole load of other things to do, I shall not say anything further on that.

So let me just move on to another issue… welfare.

Just recently my colleague who’s in charge of client’s welfare, liaised with the Welfare Department, asking about the status of Fuzi’s welfare aid. He was told that Fuzi’s monthly welfare aid (of RM115 per month to feed 5 kids) had been extended for another 6 months. But Fuzi has not been getting the monthly financial aid on a regular basis and I think I’ve highlighted this story a few times already.

What we’re trying to do now is to get Bantuan Kanak-kanak (BKK) for the single mothers like Fuzi instead of Bantuan Am. They’d be able to get more through BKK. My colleague asked the officer why Fuzi was given Bantuan Am instead of BKK. He was instead asked by the officer why Fuzi herself didn’t come to the welfare office to apply. God knows Fuzi had been to the welfare office before. She came in the morning; the officer was not in yet. The other staffs don’t seem to be able to help, only this ONE officer. She waited and waited, and finally she was told to come back after 2 pm. Since it was troublesome for her to go home first, she waited until 2 pm. Still, no sign of the officer-in-charge. Then she was told the officer had a meeting to attend.

When my colleague told this story to the officer he was liaising with, the lady officer asked, “Kenapa dia tak telefon dulu?” Yeah right… my colleague (who is OKU himself) had his own share of making appointments but still end up with disappointments! Most of the time, the officer-in-charge is in a meeting called at the very last minute.

My colleague then asked why the officers from the welfare department can’t visit Fuzi at home instead. Surely they’d need to assess the family instead of just interviewing Fuzi at their office. And guess what was the answer given to my colleague?

“Tak ada masa. Tengah sibuk sangat ni.”

Hmmmph!

So, while I am not complaining about the Budget, I am very, very skeptical about the funds reaching the intended recipients.

Will the hard core poor really benefit? For the moment I will just have to wait and see…

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Hospital visits

I was on clinic duty again yesterday. After the usual driving around the hospital a few times trying to find a parking space, I finally found a spot, again, where the sign says…

P: KAKITANGAN HOSPITAL SAHAJA

I’d only use that spot whenever I’m on clinic duty (and when I’ve given up driving around) although I cannot be considered a “kakitangan hospital”. After all there was the big letter P there… and I am… ehem… P! :)

We only had one new case referred to us yesterday, so there is not much to tell about yesterday’s clinic duty. We (the volunteers) spent more time talking to each other. As the afternoon visiting hours start at 12.30 pm, I excused myself from the clinic by then to visit 2 of my PLWHA clients in the wards.

Remember how I helped to bring Rina to the hospital for her appointment and she was immediately admitted to the ward due to her weak condition? Well, it has been 3 weeks since then, she’s STILL in the ward. The swollen feet doesn’t look so bad now but Rina is still unable to walk. Even when trying to sit down she’d feel one kind.

But emotionally Rina looks a lot better now. At least yesterday I saw her smile. And she talked a lot more than when I met her earlier. Of course she’s already feeling restless having to stay in the hospital for so long, but since she’s still unable to walk, she doesn’t really have much choice.

I don’t know what it is about Rina but since day one when I brought her to the hospital, I always seem to bump into people who either know me or people who don’t know me but still ask what my relation was to Rina. 3 weeks ago when Rina was being helped from my car onto a wheelchair, I happened to bump into a kampong folk of mine. She’s not the kay-poh type, but seeing that the “patient” came down from my car, of course she became interested… in case the person was a family member of mine. Not much problem with this one, I just told her that Rina was a friend, and immediately the kampong folk of mine assumed that Rina was a colleague at work. Doesn’t matter lah… just don’t ask anything further…

Then yesterday when I visited Rina in the ward, the first person to ask was a hospital staff. She asked if I was Rina’s auntie. Auntie?! According to the staff we both looked rather similar. OK la… but why assume auntie? Why not sister? Do I look so old? Rina is after all, already 40 years of age. But I have to admit, Rina’s mom (whom the staff sees every day) looks young so maybe that’s why the staff thought I was an aunt. (I’m trying to console myself here… hehehe)

Then the makcik whose bed was besides Rina’s came back from the toilet to her bed. The moment she saw me she said, “Ha, ada maknya!” Huh?! She thought I was Rina’s mom?? Haiya! Do I look that old? Hmmm… maybe I look motherly? (I doubt it, really!) Aduuuh…. never mind…

After visiting Rina, I went down to another ward at the floor below to visit Mr. K who had been hospitalized since last week. Mrs. K was there too. Since Mr. K needed help to go to the toilet etc, someone had to stay at the hospital with him. Mrs. K has been accompanying him at the hospital since day one which means that her children are by themselves at home. That’s not too bad considering they have a reliable 16 year old boy taking care of his younger siblings including the 8 month old baby. But the bad thing is that it also means the boy has been missing school since last week. And Mrs. K too has been taking leave from work since then and that means much lesser pay this month!

Ah well, problems… problems…

Monday, 3 September 2007

The bimbo in a limbo

Bimbo? Who me? Heck no! I can’t seem to remember any bimbo moments of mine. Not that I have a lack of memory… but this surplus of forgetfulness that I have ain’t helping me. Oh okay, maybe I purposely deleted the embarrassing moments in my life…

I’ve actually been tagged by Typhoon Sue to reveal my blonde bimbo moments. Blonde? I do have some strands of grey hair (maybe even more than my grey matter, really) , but since none of my hair has gone blonde yet, (as if it ever will!) let me just tell you about a grey-haired bimbo instead…

*trying to recall*

Urgh… I think this grey-haired bimbo is getting too old to remember lah. Sorry Sue, unable to respond to your tag… you’re not going to sue me, are you?

Instead, allow me to tell you about the problematic teenage girl whom I was asked to talk to. This case had nothing to do with my usual HIV cases. The girl was simply a stubborn, problematic girl whose mother had given up trying to change her into a better person. As a matter of fact, the mother was the last person this girl would listen to.

So, how was I pulled into talking to this girl? Actually a friend of mine sought my help. The problematic teenager so happened to be my friend’s… emmm… niece… or cousin… I forgot (Ahh! My surplus of forgetfulness is showing again!!).

Anyway, as I had never met the girl before, my friend promised to bring the girl to meet me at a specified time in front of a specified restaurant. After introducing us, my friend left the girl with me. We figured the girl wouldn’t talk if my friend lingered around, so I told my friend I’d call her once we’re done.

I took the girl into the restaurant, ordered some food and started chatting. It wasn’t so difficult getting this girl to talk. She even admitted that she had been giving problems to her mother. She used to be so close to her father that after her father died she became rather rebellious. She never listened to her mother. Actually what made it even worse was the fact that her mother made decisions for her without even consulting her – with good intentions of course, the mother simply wanted the best for her daughter.

There was however something about this girl that reminded me of Zana. Remember Zana, the problematic young woman whom I sent to a shelter home before? The similarity between the 2 was that both of them tend to tell different stories to different people. In this girl’s case, I could sense that some of the stories she was telling me were simply made up by her creative mind. The stories simply didn’t tally and didn’t make sense.

After about an hour or so talking to this girl, I figured it was time to go. So I called my friend to come back and fetch this girl. We both then got up to leave the restaurant. Just as I was about to walk out the door, one of the waitresses in the restaurant chased me, and said rather loudly, “Kak, belum bayar!”

Alamak… malu… malu…

Already embarrassed, I apologized to the waitress, saying that I had truly forgotten to pay (I told you I had a surplus of forgetfulness, didn’t I?!) . After looking at the bill, I gave her a sum of money and told her to keep the change. Not much, just a few ringgit balance, but the main reason for telling her to keep the change was because by then I was too embarrassed to wait even a second longer.

Imagine, there I was, trying to help a problematic teenage girl who was always giving problems to her family… yet I ended up walking out without paying for my food. For all I know, the problematic girl may have thought I purposely walked out without paying but got caught instead!

BIMBO!!! How could I simply walk out just like that without paying?! (Ooops, did I just reveal a bimbo moment of mine?)

Anyway, since I mentioned Zana’s name, here’s a little update on Zana. Zana and her baby need to leave the shelter home by the end of this year. Due to lack of space, only HIV infected children are given priority. The rest will have to leave. While the other ladies are going back to the home of their parents, Zana’s family has still not accepted her. Or rather, her father still cannot accept her back into the family, and in that family, whatever the father says is law. With Zana herself still too stubborn to apologize to her father, I’m in the dark as to how I can get them to reconcile…

If Zana is to live on her own, she will need to find a job. But who is going to take care of her baby when she goes to work?

I’ve got to start thinking on what to do with Zana and her baby.

Yo! This grey-haired bimbo is now in a limbo…

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Merdeka eve house visit, and more house visits to come

I got a call from Mrs. K last Monday, saying that Mr. K had to be hospitalized at the district hospital near the town they’re staying. The problem was, the moment the staff at the ward found out he had HIV, they gave Mr. and Mrs. K the “one kind” of treatment. Mrs. K too was stared at as though she was an alien. To think that there are even some hospital staff who still has some sort of stigma against HIV patients, imagine those not in the medical line. So Mrs. K asked for her husband to be discharged so she could bring him straight to Ipoh GH. At least in Ipoh GH they won’t be treated as aliens. Furthermore, Mr. K’s medical records are all in Ipoh.

So by Tuesday morning, Mr. K was brought to Ipoh by his wife and accompanied by their eldest son, Shah. Mr. K was quite weak so they needed Shah to accompany them just in case. You know what that meant? That meant…
- Mrs. K had to take leave from work, and given that her salary is calculated on daily basis, she'll get less pay this month.
- Shah had to miss school to accompany his parents.
- The couple’s 12 year old daughter who will be sitting for her UPSR next week also had to miss school, because since Shah had to follow them to Ipoh, somebody else would need to stay home to take care of the 8 month old baby.

Anyway, I was supposed to visit them earlier in the week and bring along some groceries for them, plus the baby’s supply of milk powder and diapers. Since they were busy with Mr. K’s hospitalization, I postponed my house visit. But on Wednesday I was told the baby’s milk powder was almost finishing, so on Thursday, the eve of Merdeka, despite both Mr. and Mrs. K being at the hospital, I still went to visit the children at home.

I know for sure Shah didn’t go to school again that day. Mrs. K is accompanying Mr. K at the hospital and so Shah has to take over the responsibility of taking care of his siblings at home, particularly his youngest baby sister.

The children were waiting for me when I got to their house. I sought Shah’s help to get the things down from my car – milk powder, diapers, rice, oil, sugar, bread, biscuits, canned food, eggs, Milo, noodles, etc. All bought using the money contributed by various donors including readers of this blog. The moment the 10kg pack of rice was brought in, the 5 year old girl said to her 12 year old sister, “Akak, hari ni adik nak makan nasi…” Oh dear… I think they have not been eating rice for the past 2 days at least… maybe even more.

As usual, I didn’t stay long. Knowing they would not open up any package of food stuff while I was still around, and suspecting that they may not have had proper lunch yet, I left so they could eat whatever I brought for them. And I lost count of how many times the children said “Terima kasih makcik” when I was leaving….

After the visit, I headed straight to my NGO centre. There I decided to call Bashar, the uncle and guardian to Lily’s children. I wanted to know if the orphans are getting any help from the welfare department. According to Bashar, an application had been submitted and he received a call from an officer of the welfare department saying they would be visiting the family at home to assess their situation. It has been quite some time since that call… still no sign of any visits. I sought his permission to visit the children at his home. I have not met the children since Lily’s funeral. Bashar said he may not be home as he works as a lorry driver and may be outstation, but I can always liaise with his wife. The HIV infected child, Boboy, is already on medication and Bashar is very concerned about making sure Boboy takes his medication on time. The good thing was that Bashar was no longer talking about handing Boboy over to somebody else who knew how to take care of an HIV infected child.

On a happier note, I was told that Lily’s eldest daughter got good results in her UPSR trial exams. I sure hope she will do well in the UPSR exams next week.

Yesterday Malaysia celebrated her 50th year of independence. I had wanted to post this entry on Merdeka day but since the eve of Merdeka, right through the whole of Merdeka day, the phone lines in my kampong went dead. The last time that happened, somebody stole the telephone cables. I guess to some people out there, Merdeka means they are free to take what they want as and when they wish!

So, while I had more time during the long weekend to blog, there was no internet connection. Sigh…

I took the time to reflect…

While I have had a blessed life, there are still some people out there who are not as lucky.

While I have more than enough to eat day in day out, some children are just happy at the sight of the little amount of food at their home.

While I now have the opportunity to take care of my mother, there are kids who had lost both their parents at such a tender age.

Well, there is still hope. As long as there are caring Malaysians out there who are willing to walk the talk, the not-so-fortunate families can still be helped to build a better future for them, particularly the children.

WE can help, can’t we?

I am already beginning to get contributions to be distributed to the unfortunate families before the coming Raya celebrations, followed by Deepavali in early November. Come Ramadhan I will have to do more house visits to make sure the contributions reach the intended recipients in time.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all those who had been giving their support to me in carrying out my voluntary work. Your support has motivated me to try to do even more for the unfortunate families.

THANKS A LOT, FOLKS!