A senior writer of a monthly magazine emailed me last week, wanting to interview me on my voluntary work; and asking if I could arrange to get any HIV+ mothers to be interviewed as well.
I had no problems about being interviewed, as long as they were willing to come to Ipoh for the interview. It would be good publicity for the Buddies. As for them interviewing my clients, well, I could ask a few of my clients, but if they refuse I would have to respect their decision and would not persuade them further. Some conditions would have to be met of course - the clients shall remain anonymous - so no photos of them and no real names either. And since we are not supposed to bring outsiders to the homes of our clients, the interview would have to be held elsewhere.
Since Fuzi has a +ve child, at first I thought she may be the right person to be interviewed. After all, her neighbors already know about her HIV status. But due to the discrimination she has been facing from her neighbors of late, Fuzi was reluctant.
I then called Shila and asked her the same thing. Shila was quite okay with the idea as long as she could remain anonymous. And since Shila is good friends with Jah, I told Shila I'd try to rope in Jah as well so that she wouldn't be the only one interviewed. Asking Jah was not a problem at all. She'd always jump at the opportunity to jalan-jalan anywhere, and upon hearing that Shila would be joining as well, she said yes on the spot. In her mind was... jalan-jalan and FREE LUNCH!! :)
And so the date was fixed - we were to meet the senior writer at a particular shopping center at 2 pm on Sunday. I told Shila and Jah I'd fetch them at the bus station at 1.30pm and I promised them after that I'd send them back right to their doorsteps.
With the program set for Sunday, I figured I'd spend my Saturday relaxing at home. I needed time to relax too.
While I was relaxing at home on Saturday, blog-hopping in cyberspace, a call came in with the familiar James Bond ring-tone. It was from Suhaila. I have never met Suhaila before. SN had referred Suhaila and her husband to us, as this couple is a poor couple with a young child. Her husband, Samsul, does odd jobs and as such they don't get fixed income. The last time they came to the hospital for their appointments, I was busy at work. So I told them to meet up with a colleague who was on clinic duty that day. That was quite some time ago.
Suhaila called on Saturday to ask if there were any latest developments about their application for financial help, particularly for their child. She said my colleague had promised that he'd visit them at home to arrange for the financial help. Since I wasn't really sure what were discussed the last time they met at the hospital, I told Suhaila I would have to discuss with my colleague first. I also told her that we are all working people and since she stays quite far from Ipoh, we may have problems finding the time to visit them. It's not like I can just drop by at their place on my way home from work.
When I asked my colleague later, he said Suhaila and Samsul were supposed to call him the next time they were to come to Ipoh for their appointments, to hand over whatever copies of supporting documents needed. Yes, he did mention that we Buddies may be visiting them when we have the time. I guess Suhaila and Samsul took it that it was part of our job to help them. I doubt they are aware that we are doing this voluntarily without getting paid.
Anyway, the future of a child is at stake here, so I will try to arrange a visit, hopefully soon.
Later the same day, a call came in from an unfamiliar number. The caller introduced herself as Anita, and asked if I was Cik Afizah; and when I said yes, she asked to speak to my colleague. And I was thinking... aiya, want to speak to my colleague, call my colleague lah, we don't stay in the same house!
Apparently she was referred to us during our last clinic duty (I wasn't on duty then) and since there were problems she needed us to help her with, my colleague promised to visit her at home to assess her situation. But my colleague had been unwell himself lately, and so he had been postponing the visit. Anita didn't take down my colleague's number. So she decided to call me since my number was written on the brochure that she got. Since the girl stays in Ipoh, I told my colleague that we'd visit her after Jah's and Shila's interview with the magazine writer. I asked my colleague to call Anita and inform her of our plan and that we'd bring along 2 HIV positive ladies as well.
Came Sunday, after attending a kenduri and my zohor prayer, I headed to the bus-station to fetch Jah and Shila (and Shila's daughter, Laila). Just as I was about to reach the place, a text message came in from Shila, telling me they were on their way. They were about 10 minutes late.
I then brought them to the shopping complex to meet up with the magazine writer. The interview went smoothly, and was held over lunch, paid for by the interviewer. Selamat poket aku... :)
After an hour or so, the interview (and lunch) was over. I then took the ladies to my NGO center where I promised to fetch my colleague to come along to visit Anita. It wasn't much of a problem looking for Anita's home - her sister's home actually, Anita stays with her sister. Anita has a cute, adorable, rasa nak cubit-cubit 2 1/2 month old baby - so while Jah, Shila and Laila just watched, I was busy, very busy... playing with the baby!
Anita's story has a lot of pusing-pusing and bikin pening, so I'll save her story for my next posting. (sorry, the Pak Malim-syndrome at work here!)
Since it was getting late and I had promised Jah and Shila I'd send them home, we couldn't stay longer at Anita's home. And since I was going to send Jah home, I promised Hana I'd drop by for a while at her home (Jah and Hana stay in the same town). I needed to get a copy of Rashid's death certificate.
Hana had just moved to a new house - in the same kampong and at the foot of the hill instead of perched on the hill. I still had to climb a bit, but this time I could see the house from where I parked my car - unlike her last house. Her last house was getting dangerous to live in anyway. Hana had forewarned me that her father was home and that he doesn't know anything about her HIV (her father has 2 wives and spends most of his time at the home of his 2nd wife). As such I was not to mention anything about her HIV status. I just went as someone from a charitable organisation.
After leaving Hana's house, we sent Jah home before dropping off Shila and Laila on our way back to Ipoh. It was a rather busy day for me.
More house visits are planned for this week - but before that, I will be coming up with Anita's pusing-pusing bikin pening story in my next posting. Stay tuned!