THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Back to square one

During the early stages after I was confirmed as a Buddy, many of the clients I was assigned to were poor people whom I could not even imagine how they survived with the kind of income they got each month.

Yah and her late husband, Azman, received a Bantuan Am of RM115 a month from the Welfare Dept to feed their 4 kids. With his condition, Azman could not work while Yah too could not work to take care of Azman and her kids, especially the baby.

Fuzi, a single mom with 5 children, also received a Bantuan Am of RM115 a month. She too could not work as there was nobody to help take care of her baby at home. And since the whole neighborhood knew of her HIV, she couldn’t even get odd jobs within the neighborhood.

Mr. and Mrs. K, with 4 kids, “looked” better in terms of the condition of their house, as they stay in a small town and their house is a rumah batu instead of a rumah papan, albeit just a terrace house. But they had to pay rent as it was not their house or their family’s house. With Mr. K not working, and Mrs. K earning just slightly over RM300 a month, minus RM180 a month for rental, they had only a balance of RM120 a month to spend. Worse still, earlier before Mrs. K found a job and Mr. K seldom came home due to his drug addictions back then, Mrs. K resorted to borrowing from an unlicensed money lender to support her kids. With a loan of RM1,500 at a rate of 10% per month, and the money lender holding her ATM card, once her salary was banked into her account, the money lender would withdraw RM150 for the interest. Oops, that meant they had a negative balance to spend?? Well, they ended up not paying for their house rental and at one time were almost chased out of the house.

Although the main objective of my NGO is to provide moral and emotional support, sometimes their emotional problems are because of their financial problems! So, while we don’t give them money outright, we do try and help source for financial assistance for them – welfare aid, MAC’s Pediatric Aids Fund (PAF), SOCSO, EPF, individual donors, etc.

As a result, Yah’s Bantuan Am of RM115 per month was changed to Bantuan Kanak-kanak of RM100 per child per month; and there’s also an anonymous donor banking in a fixed amount each month into her account. She’s also getting PAF for her children and in addition, we also helped with her EPF drawings. Yah has stopped asking for financial help from me.

Fuzi’s Bantuan Am too was changed to Bantuan Kanak-kanak so she gets RM400 a month (the youngest is not considered a Malaysian citizen so does not qualify). Fuzi too gets a fixed monthly donation from the same anonymous donor and also from PAF. Since she’s so used to getting much less, it seems to me that now Fuzi is able to manage her monthly financial needs. For someone who has never worked before, she seemed to know how to budget.

But Mr. and Mrs. K’s family is a different story altogether! I managed to get a donor to pay for their monthly rental (banked in direct into landlord's account) until the end of last year so they were not chased out; for the whole of last year, I sent groceries and baby’s necessities on a monthly basis; I helped to get someone to lend some money (without interest) to settle off the loan from the money lender so that Mrs. K could get back her ATM card; helped Mr. K with his EPF drawings (from which I made sure he settled the interest-free loan first) and they are also getting help from PAF.

The problem with this family is that they don’t seem to know how to manage their finances. The more cash they can get hold of in their hands, the more they’d spend, even on unnecessary things. Despite me reminding them many times before Mr K’s EPF withdrawal was approved, to put aside some of the drawings for their future needs, and them nodding in agreement every time, somehow the moment they got the money, they got tempted with so many things. It didn’t help that the EPF drawings came right before Raya last year. Needless to say, last year they did RAYA SAKAN! They knew the help for the rental would only be until end of the year, after which they’d have to start paying on their own, yet they went ahead to subscribe to Astro simply because they didn’t know how to turn down their daughter’s request, and also to buy some new furniture for their house. The only thing I didn’t mind them buying was a new motorcycle as it would make it easier for them to commute to Ipoh for their hospital appointments.

When their EPF money came in, to them it looked like it was a whole lot of money which could last them for years. It hasn’t even been a year. The money is all gone – they had spent every single cent.

So now they are back to square one. Always short of money. Always borrowing money from others to pay off the money they borrowed from someone else. Gali one lubang to cover another.

I don’t want to start giving them money every time they are short of cash. If I do that, they’d want to borrow from me every time. But I can’t just watch the baby live without milk and the other kids live without nutritional food and without proper schooling needs. The children are not at fault. So it’s also back to square one for me – use the money from donors to buy the necessities and send to them on a monthly basis.

Hmmm… maybe I need to send them for a financial management course. Ahh… but they have already run out of money to manage… so what’s the point?

Or maybe we can get the politicians who have been telling us to “change our lifestyle” to teach the family how to cut down on costs – yep, the politicians who probably spend more in a day than what this family earns in a month!

Anyway, Mr. and Mrs. K are in Ipoh today to bring their little girl to the hospital. The girl was warded twice at the district hospital where they live, but the girl’s fever kept coming back every time after she was discharged. So they decided to bring her direct to Ipoh GH.

You know what that means? That means Mr. and Mrs. K have to take leave from work (which means potong gaji), more money needs to be spent (to travel to Ipoh), and one of the older children has to ponteng sekolah today to take care of their 6 year old sister at home.

Yep, they are back to square one alright…

18 comments:

Salt & Turmeric said...

Pi, im not gonna hold my tongue on this ok? cuba u gertak sikit diorang tu tht if they continue with their stupidity and bad money management, the childrens dept or jab. kebajikan or whoever is in charge of kids welfare will take their kids away.

no point in expecting the menteris or rich ppl to check their spending cos their money doesn go to us anyway. as u said it urself, no matter how much money mr&mrs k get, they'l find ways of spending them in a jiff!

Pi Bani said...

Farina,
Puas dah cakap macam-macam. They always either mengangguk or tunduk when I tell them this and that.

Tapi I don't stay with them and when the money came, I wasn't around to remind them. Sedar-sedar dah macam-macam dibelinya.

The only way for this family is for assistance to come in limited amount on monthly basis.

Pi Bani said...

Oh btw, bab yang I kata bagi politicians to teach the family to cut down on costs tu - bukannya suggestion tapi perli... ;)

Raden Galoh said...

Salam akak...

adehhh sabarnya you kak.. that's another fact of life that is painful...they somehow know who turn to bila sesak ni...

when they got the money, they got blinded by it...this makes them like kaya sehari, miskin setahun or bertahun-tahun? maybe they need something to make it go straight to their head?

Rita Ho said...

Pi ... It's the lottery winners' syndrome. They managed their money according to what they believe. Those who win and believe that their luck only comes once in a lifetime will be smart with their money while those who believe that they will be lucky again end up poorer than before.

The K-family believe there will always be someone or some agency out there looking after their needs while Fuzi appreciates the windfall that comes and prepares for the future when there may be none.

I know a couple of folks who think like the Ks. Always borrowing and never learning. Sad.

Pi Bani said...

RG,
Sabar tak sabar nak buat macam mana? Ikutkan hati memang rasa nak biar lantak diorang jelah, but what about the innocent kids? Tambah pulak ada baby sorang, lagi lemahlah kepala lutut I...

Pi Bani said...

Rita,
Lottery winners' syndrome, eh? Either that or the K family thought that would be the only chance in their lifetime they'd be able to spend that much, so spend they did! It didn't matter that they'd have to suffer later.

I just got back from the hospital to visit baby K. Even worse news... aargh! Tunggu, next posting...

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

eh ye la, i have to agree. or else nanti diorang naik lemak but kalau tak tolong tak sampai hati pulak. maybe the best thing is to let someone trustful to handle all their money every month. charge 10% je...hehe...

Pi Bani said...

Hai Kerp... dah bunyi macam unlicensed money lender tu je... siap charge 10%! You nak volunteer ke? I dok bayangkan you datang visit diorang tiap-tiap bulan - siap pakai kain sarong putih, bawak pulak payung hitam...

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Kak Pi,

No offense, and I'm not trying to be rude, but this 'kind of people' need to learn things the hard way. I know it's cruel and it's hard living on little money these days, but they have to learn to appreciate the help that you and the donors have been giving them.

I'm not saying they deserve to live in poverty (Jangan salah faham, ya?), but they should learn some prudence, especially when it isn't hard earned money on their behalf. I guess the saying that you only will value money when you have toiled for it, is true...

Cannot take advantage of people like that.

As for the EPF being sucked dry, that one is taking things for granted that YOU will always be there to dig them up when there is a problem, and that YOU will always find more money for them.

Hey, like that, next time, I don't want to work also lar...

Pi Bani said...

Daph dear,
I'm not even sure if "learning the hard way" works for them. You see, before this they led a very difficult life - almost chased out of the house, the kids not having anything solid to eat at home, the school bus driver not wanting to take the children because they had not been paying the bus fares, Mrs K kerja teruk-teruk but the bulk of her pay went to the money lender... etc etc etc.

The way I see it, it's not that they don't appreciate all the help - they knew before hand that some of the assistance from donors would stop by year end (I told them loud and clear). The problem is they had NEVER seen such large amount of money before, they THOUGHT the amount would be able to last them for years! Furthermore the EPF was Mr K's hard earned money when he was still working - not donor's money. So in a way they felt less guilty spending them.

Bottomline is, they simply CANNOT have direct access to too much money. They'd go GELAP MATA!!

Salt & Turmeric said...

Pi, i echo Rita's comment. you'l be surprised to know lotsa lottery winners here in the US dah jadi bankrup or their life jadi worse off than before they won the money.

Gotta stop the donation money fr going straight to them, somehow! I wonder if theres a way to appoint somebody else to manage the money?

U.Lee said...

Hello Pi Bani, firstly, haven't heard that word you replied me "lastic" more than 40 years, ha ha.
I seem to be learning or getting refreshed my bahasa from you. Thanks.
It is really sad to read of the people you mention...and some receiving that small sum of money. Now with the cost of things going up?
But sometimes a kind and passionate, understanding hand from an Angel like you will bring the sunshine into their lives.
Pi Bani, is the health situation improving or geting worse, I mean aids etc? Ipoh is not that big a population too.
Have a nice day, Pi Bani...Lee.

Pi Bani said...

Farina,
Actually the money they had spent 'macam orang kaya' was their own EPF money. They never received any of the donation money in one lump sum - so no problem of them misusing the donated money. Whatever donors gave through me or through Buddies will only get to them as and when necessary - and not all will come in the form of cash.

My regret is that if only they had put aside some of the EPF money, they wouldn't have to borrow from people every time they are short of cash, especially in emergency cases... like now when little Baby K has to be hospitalised.

Pi Bani said...

Lee,
Yeah, with prices of necessities going up, even average-income people will find it difficult to make ends meet. Those already poor, I don't know lah...

Hard to tell if the health situation has improved or otherwise - I still see so many people at the HIV clinic everytime I go but many of these may be old cases. Even for the newly diagnosed ones, they may have been infected much earlier without knowing.

Have a great weekend ahead, Lee. Don't 'cuci mata' too much looking at beautiful ladies, ya? :)

Typhoon Sue said...

getting gelap mata when receiving lots of money -- this is not just for the poor. Even ppl like moi who earn good money and consider myself quite well-off can be gelap mata sometimes. That's how my yearly bonus (which i've always planned to invest etc etc but never got around to) abis licin in a split second before i even finish saying 'unit trust'.

Pi Bani said...

Sue,
How true! Bila rasa-rasa macam ada duit lebih sikit, mulalah gelap mata. Banyak benar lah pulak GODAAAAAN...

Puteri said...

This is a sad situation .. always the case with people with not much money to spend .. every time they come in with a little more money, they splurge on even unnecessary things .. long term needs and expenses always go on the way side.

Makes you want to just shake them and drive some sense into them, don't you? Grrr.