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

Monday, 16 February 2009

Is she poor, or is she not?

I wasn’t really feeling too well on Sunday – the throat was beginning to feel a bit hoarse, and the head was beginning to feel a bit groggy. I had already made arrangements to do some house visits for sponsorship assessments and canceling them would mean a few other people would have to change their plan too. So I just took a dose of aspirin and got myself a nap just before noon.

I did feel a bit better after that, although I was coughing a bit, but at least the head didn’t feel as groggy. So after lunch, off I went, first to my NGO center, to get some groceries to be brought along for the house visits, and to fetch a colleague who had promised to wait for me there. Then we went to the home of another colleague who stays nearby before we headed off to Lin’s house.

Lin was expecting us obviously. Her front door is usually closed whenever I visit her but yesterday the door was open. Only Lin and her 12 year old daughter were home. Her 14 year old son was off at his grandma’s house while the other son currently waiting for his SPM results was off with his friends elsewhere.

It has been slightly over 2 months since Lin got the court order for her ex-husband to pay her alimony of RM300 per month. So far, she has been getting the money for December and January; albeit a bit late (he promised by 25th but usually pays at the very end of the month). Lin has been scouting around for work but so far to no avail. It’s tough getting a job nowadays. It’s good enough if you don’t lose a job you already have. So, Lin has been helping out at her brother’s nasi lemak stall and every afternoon before she goes home her brother would pay her RM10 for helping out. Maybe a few times she’d get RM15 if the business is slightly better on any day. No pay of course if she has to go elsewhere and can’t help out at the stall.

The bicycles given to them last month have been put to good use. Yes, her 2 children have been using the bicycles to go to school. At least it shows they do appreciate the help they’ve been getting – unlike some people who tend to make it look as though it is our duty to help them. Yeah, yeah, there have been cases where first they ask for bicycles, then they get bicycles, and they say it’s not practical for the kids to cycle to school, so they ask for bus fares etc. Of course, it’s not as bad as Hana who once included in her list of “things needed” – motosikal RM2,000. Duh!

Anyway, there were no doubts whatsoever amongst the sponsorship committee involved in the visit that Lin’s children deserved financial aid for their educational needs. And seeing how the older siblings have performed (the 3 older ones are furthering their studies in higher learning institutions), I feel good about the 2 younger ones also doing well.

After Lin’s, we headed off to visit Meng Lan. My colleague who is Meng Lan’s buddy had never been to Meng Lan’s house before although they have met outside. So, she had to call Meng Lan to get directions to her house.

Now, one glance at Meng Lan’s house, you’d wonder why she’s asking for financial help for her daughter’s schooling. Meng Lan is a single mom and the daughter, a single child. They stay in a comfortable looking double storey terrace house and there is a car at home (a Kancil). On the outset, I wouldn’t classify them as “poor”.

The house was actually bought by her late husband. At that time, they were staying at Meng Lan’s in-law’s house in a nearby town, and so the double storey terrace house was rented out. When Meng Lan’s husband passed away about 11 years ago, Meng Lan and her daughter moved to this house. There were still some installments to be paid for the house, and her late husband didn’t have any EPF (he was self employed) to cover for the balance of payments. So Meng Lan had been working from home (she sews shoes for a particular shoe factory and gets paid based on how many shoes she sews). When she doesn’t earn enough, her sister would help with the payments. But business has not been well of late, and so Meng Lan got less and less shoes to sew. As a matter of fact, for the past 2 months, she has not been earning anything, that even to eat, her sister who lives nearby helps her out.

Her daughter will be sitting for her PMR this year and needs tuition. Her school doesn’t seem to provide tuition for their students. Private tuition is rather expensive.

We know of organizations who’d help the hard-core poor, but with the house and the car Meng Lan cannot be considered as hard-core poor. Of course people don’t know about the leaks at her house which she can’t afford to repair. She said she had applied for Welfare help but so far none of the officers have visited. Frankly speaking, if they did, they’d probably not approve her application. I remember they almost stopped Fuzi’s financial aid when they found out Fuzi had a hand phone (I gave her a used phone that my friend was not using anymore). Chances are the officers will just ask Meng Lan to sell her house and car if she needs money. Yes, then what?

Meng Lan is in a difficult position. Selling the house and the car may only solve her short term problems. Then what? Those are the only properties that she has. For long term, it’d be better for her to keep the house and the car. Besides, with the current economic situation, I doubt she'd get a good price for the house even if she does intend to sell it.

So how? Is she poor? Or is she not?

For today, I haven’t been able to think properly – even at the office earlier today the head was getting groggy again. I got home in the afternoon, had lunch and thereafter a dose of medication, and after zuhr prayer, off I went zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….


mamasita said...

Hai Pi.
Ada kancil and a double-story house to pay, tapi if her income has been badly affected then she needs some short-term help before she can get back on her two feet..kesian dia.

mekyam said...

hi pi,

maybe meng lan can take in a lodger or two. with a double storey terrace, she probabaly has at least a room to spare. if she wants to rent out more than one room for extra income, perhaps she and her daughter can share the master bedroom.

usually arrangement such as above means no-cooking. so the lodger may want to pay her to provide dinner on weekdays or something.

meng lan could also think about how to generate income with her car. like using it to do deliveries or run errands for a fee, or something along those lines.

Pi Bani said...

I pun kesian kat dia. Tapi as usual lah, since this sponsorship thingy involves duit orang, risau juga nak buat decision. Although I always let the sponsors themselves choose the child they wish to sponsor, most of the time they'd pass the ball back to me and left it to my discretion to choose for them.

Pi Bani said...

Yes, Meng Lan has thought of renting out 1 or 2 rooms. But so far she has yet to get any tenants. Maybe it's because of the area. It would be much easier for her to get a tenant if her house is anywhere near a college or factory.

Anonymous said...

Salam Pi
My neighbour pun single mother. Ada dua anak, girls. Hubby dah meninggal. Dia memang duduk rumah dua tingkat. Siap ada kereta lagi. Tapi memang dia tak ada income yang cukup untuk belanja hari-hari. Kalau tengok dari luaran, memang nampak mewah. Dia dah cuba nak jual rumah for the past 4 years, tapi tak ada buyer. Ada pun nak murah, tak berbaloi. Agaknya dah tau org tu sesak, nak tekanlah. Kereta tu memang nampak macam bagus, nissan sunny, tapi lagi tua dari anak sulung dia.Kalau jual pun tak sampai 10k. Lepas tu nak naik apa pergi kerja and hantar anak sekolah? Bas bukan senang nak dapat. Lepas jual kereta, nak beli kancil pun tak cukup. Nak beli motosikal, anak dua. Nak ambil tenant, rumah dekat sempadan tempat jin bertendang. Siapa nak sewa bilik? We, the neighbours, try jugalah tolong. Malam-malam dia gosok baju untuk we all. Kalau nak kenduri, we all tempah kuih kat dia. Biasa-biasa pun dia buat kek dan cookies untuk jual. Ramai juga neighbours yang tolong jualkan kek dan cookies dia kat office. Tapi, besides the ironing, yg lain seasonal. Mak-bapak dah tak de. Adik-beradik pun susah. Keluarga mertua dah buang lama dah sebab kahwin dulu dia orang tak restu. Hantu Raya Berhad (Amanah Raya lah) dah bantu Mak Bapak mertua kebas semua duit insuran nyawa dan KWSP husband. Konon ganti dengan rumah dan kereta tua tu. Bebudak balik sekolah nasib baik ada neighbour yang tolong tumpangkan. Lepas tu dua beradik tu duduklah dalam rumah tu tunggu Mak dia orang balik. Bukan semua neighbour baik pulak tu. Jandalah katakan. Muda pulak (30's). Fitnah org berkepuk. Dahlah bini-bini ada yang curiga. Laki pulak ramai yang celaka anggap dia ni 'Janda Gersang' (dia banyak dapat sms mengarut macam ni). Kesian Pi. Kadang-kadang kita aja nampak dia senang. Mungkin Meng Lan pun macam dia. Like my neighbour tu said "Kak ingat senang ke nak minta bantuan? Kalau tak kenang anak-anak, sanggup saya mati kebulur. Orang ingat kita ni ambil kesempatan atas kematian suami. Dia org sedar tak yang kita tak minta hidup macam ni?".

Kak Ani

Pi Bani said...

Kak Ani,
Thanks for sharing. At least I don't feel too serba-salah about including Meng Lan's daughter in our sponsorship program. Meng Lan ni pun jenis yang in-laws dah tak ambil peduli dah after her husband passed away. I guess to them she and her daughter dah ada rumah, dah ada kereta, bolehlah hidup sendiri. Nasib baik jugalah ada her own sister yang masih sanggup tolong bagi makan.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

to own a house does not necessarily mean she can afford everything. the organisation pun kalau boleh guna la kebijaksanaan sikit.

sekian dulu buat waktu ini.

Pi Bani said...

Of course owning a house doesn't mean she can afford everything. Likewise, charitable organisations aren't meant to help them with everything either - just basic things. Macam the organisation yang I kata trying to help the hard core poor, they look for people who don't even have a decent place to live in and don't have enough food to eat. Dah memang guideline diorang macam tu. Meng Lan obviously doesn't meet their criteria because she already has a decent house (and a car to add to that) and her sister is helping out with the food. It's never easy having to decide how to spend other people's hard earned money. My NGO ni pun masih boleh consider Meng Lan because the basic need we're trying to help out with is her daughter's schooling needs. Itu pun after having visited many other homes of the poor where having rice for lunch is good enough for them and an additional telur goreng is considered a luxury, anyone would have to put in a lot of consideration before approving cases like Meng Lan's.