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, 29 July 2009

Another house visit

I had promised Rosnah I'd visit her at home this week since she works night shift and so she'd be home during the daytime.

Since I was quite free today, I thought I might as well visit her before any other matters suddenly crop up.

After settling some business at the bank this afternoon, off I went equipped only with Rosnah's address. Nope, no GPS, no maps. While I've been to the town where Rosnah is staying, I've never been to her kampong before, although the kampong is just off the main road.

But I'm getting quite used to finding homes based only on addresses. Besides, I've got a phone, I can always call. I've got a mouth, I can always ask.

Getting to the town was not at all a problem, it's not that far from Ipoh anyway. I was looking around for signboards showing the kampong's name as Rosnah did mention there is a signboard by the roadside, but I couldn't find it. So I stopped at a pisang goreng stall, and asked.

I then found where the kampong was... but had another problem. You see the kampong is on both sides of the main road, so which side was I to go? And the house numbers, just like my kampong, are not in order.

So had to resort to the next step.... I called Rosnah, told her where I was and asked her which way to go. Rosnah told me she'd go out to the main road to look out for me.

Her house was just within walking distance from the main road actually, I had to reverse my car about 30 meters to get into the junction to her house. The signboard was there, but not big enough for me to see while driving on a busy road.

Rosnah is staying with her mom and daughter at their family house. The house originally belonged to Rosnah's grandma.

Her daughter wasn't home as she was in school for co-curriculum activities. The girl, 11, is quite active in school. Other than uniform activities, she's also active in sports.

Rosnah's mom was asleep when I got to their house. Apparently she did some gardening earlier in the morning and got so tired. Tak boleh dok diam, said Rosnah of her mother. How come that line sounds so familiar? ;)

The family seems to be coping quite well. While Rosnah herself initially found it hard to accept her husband's death and the fact that she too was HIV positive, she got her strength from her daughter who knows about her parent's HIV status but had always been cool and calm about the whole thing. In fact, her daughter was the one who gave her the encouragement to get on with life. Now, she sounds more like an adult rather an 11 year old, don't you think?

I invited Rosnah to join us for this Sunday's family day, and Rosnah was quite eager to join at first especially since her daughter adores horses, but she has to work on Sunday, so it's no go for them. Too bad...

But based on what I saw today, I think Rosnah can get along well with the other PLHIV ladies if I can get the chance to introduce her to them.

I didn't organise any Raya-do last year and I was also too busy to go for any Raya visits, so maybe this year I need to at least go for the Raya Sakan rounds like I did 2 years ago. It will be a good chance to introduce Rosnah to the other ladies.

I will just make sure I won't have meehoon goreng for breakfast. ;)

Monday, 27 July 2009

Preparations

Less than a week to go to our Family Day. The organising committee has been meeting every week to make sure all the necessary preparations are running smoothly. Me? Well, since I got a sponsor for breakfast, I've already ordered nasi lemak for 65 pax.

Yes, 65. That's the number of people who gave their confirmation that they'd be joining the Family Day - 15 volunteers and 50 PLHIVs and their families. But based on past years' experiences, there are bound to be last minute pullouts. Frankly, I'd be happy if we can reach 50 on the actual day.

The programme for the day has been drawn out. Caterer for lunch and tea already booked. Balloon man has been informed of the time he's supposed to make an appearance. Prizes and gifts for the children is handled by another volunteer - she had been doing this year in year out, so we're happy to let her handle it. The only thing that has yet to be finalised is the transportation - who'll be fetching who and where.

Logically it would be easier for each buddy to take care of their own clients - but since most of the clients and families attending the event are mine, die lah if I have to fetch all 27 of them! I'd need a coach of keretapi as they definitely won't fit into kereta Pi!

Usually we'd get a few volunteers to wait at the bus station. I'd definitely have to be there to organise who's going into whose car etc.

Other than that, my only other duty for the day is as the photographer. But don't expect to see too many photographs in this blog, you know pretty well I'm not supposed to expose photos of my clients or their family, so all photos will have to go through censorship before they can be certified as suitable for public viewing.

Right now we are also busy preparing for ICAAP (International Congress on Aids in Asia and the Pacific) in Bali, which is coming up in less than 2 weeks time. We managed to get a free exhibition booth at the Asia Pacific Village where we intend to display and distribute our Buddy Bears for HIV children.

buddybearsSo, we'd need to pack loads of 'em bears into our check-in luggage. The bears must wondering where we're taking them...

On my part, I'm also printing out flyers to be distributed during the Congress so that delegates know where to get these bears.

And yes, what about my poster? Well, it's done on my computer, but I'd need to send it for printing as my printer definitely won't be able to print a poster so big. I should be doing it by this week.

What else? Accommodation confirmed, air tickets booked, bus tickets booked (we're taking the direct Ipoh - LCCT bus). I had earlier booked the 11.45 am flight from KL to Bali, but AA decided to bring forward the same flight to 9.25 am, so now we'll have to leave Ipoh much earlier. We're taking the 3 am bus from Ipoh.

What else do I need to prepare?

Oh ya... ongkos nya buk!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

A new beginning for Sofie?

Remember in my posting here, I mentioned about Sofie and her children feeling uncomfortable staying at her sister's house?

Well, thanks to kind-hearted blog readers, Sofie and her children have now moved to another house, quite near her sister's house - so her sister is still nearby to look out for her, and Sofie and her children no longer need to feel as though they are burdensome to her sister's family.

And remember in my last posting I mentioned about Sofie seeking my favour to get a referral letter from SN so I could pass it to her during my next visit? Sofie needs the letter to be passed to the Penghulu at her place to apply for financial assistance for her family. I got the letter from SN on Thursday.

Since I will be away in Bali for a whole week in 2 weeks time, I figured if I need to visit any of my clients before Ramadhan, I'd better do so within the coming week. I'd be meeting quite a number of my clients during our family day next Sunday, but there are 2 cases needing more attention right now, and these 2 aren't joining the family day - Sofie, and Rosnah.

I had promised Rosnah I'd visit her during one of the weekdays this coming week - she'd be working night shifts then, so she'd be home during the day.

Since I was free today, I decided to visit Sofie. I did ask 2 trainee volunteers if they'd like to join me for the visit, but since they had other matters to attend to, today I went alone.

First I went to the Buddies Center to grab some groceries - rice, flour, cooking oil, noodles, etc (we have supplies of those donated by some good Samaritans almost every month), then I went over to a fast food outlet to buy something for the children. It is easier now that they are staying on their own.

I did ask Sofie for the address of her new home, but she couldn't remember her address and only managed to describe the place.

"Dulu gi rumah kakak saya masuk lorong kanan kan? Ni masuk lorong kiri, lepas tu jalan depan sikit ada buaian warna hijau kat luar tu, rumah saya lah tu!"

So yeah, I belok kiri and looked around for a house with a buaian hijau outside. Coudn't find it at first, and initially wanted to ask around, but I wasn't sure what to ask. Should I ask, "Kawasan ni rumah mana ada buaian hijau?" Naaah... I decided not to ask. Worse comes to worse, I'd call Sofie and get one of her kids to stand outside and look out for me. As I turned around I saw one house with a buaian hijau - didn't see it when I first drove into the road as I actually needed to get into another lorong to find the house.

I knew I got the right house as the door was opened and I could clearly see from outside Sofie lying down on a queen-sized mattress.

As I got down from my car, Sofie's 2 younger children were smiling sweetly at the door. Both of them, with their dimples, certainly look so so sweet when they smile. I called them both to help carry out the stuffs from my car.

"Ni semua-semua ni?" asked the boy.

"Ha'ah", I said, "angkut semua!"

The house is rather small, the queen-sized mattress alone seemed to fill up most of the space in the hall (if I can call it the hall lah). Then there was a small lorong going towards the kitchen with one small bedroom beside the lorong.

Sofie sat up and invited me to sit on the mattress.

The 2 older boys had gone out somewhere. Only the 2 younger ones were around.

Anyway, both the younger kids are used to me by now, and in fact, since this was my first visit to their new home, where their cousins were not around, they seemed to be such a talkative pair, especially the girl! I had fun joking around with them. Somehow I feel they did not talk much earlier because they were scared to say much at their aunt's house.

The boy, now 11, and the girl, 7, are about the same size. I think I've mentioned in one of my earlier postings that the boy's growth were rather stunted after a high fever he got when he was about 2 or 3. Both of them have yet to be tested for HIV - Sofie promised she'd bring them for tests during the coming school holidays. I truly hope they are not infected.

What I like about Sofie's children is that they are all very helpful. The eldest boy, Along, 15, is the one who always cleans up the house. The second boy, Angah, 13, helps to cook. The third, Abang Chik, 11, helps to wash the clothes (with the help of their old semi-auto washing machine lah). In fact, when I was at their house today, Abang Chik was actually helping to wash their clothes. I asked the youngest girl, whom they call Adik, "Adik pulak rajin buat apa?" "Adik rajin sapu sampah kat luar rumah!" she said. There are times though, when her Along just told her, "Adik masuk dalam tolong jaga mak je lah!"

Before the kids go to school in the morning, Along would send their mother to their aunt's house (the one they had been staying with before this), by bicycle. Yes, they all now use the bicycles bought, thanks to the kind donors who responded to my first posting on Sofie.

By 3 pm, after Along gets back from school, he'd fetch their mother and bring her home. Imagine... these kids are only 7 to 15 years of age and yet they are so responsible!

At their age, I was too lazy to do even the simplest house chore!

Sofie is still rather weak and needs one of her children to accompany her every time she needs to go to the hospital in Ipoh, but based on what I saw today, she did look a lot better than the last time I visited her.

The house she's staying in now doesn't look as comfortable as her sister's house, but somehow Sofie and her children themselves did look a lot more comfortable. They talked a lot more, they smiled a lot more, they laughed a lot more.

I love seeing the smiles on their faces! I love listening to their laughter! Ahh... I feel so blessed!

There is still a lot that can be done to help them, and we don't know what kind of future lies in store for them, but somehow I drove home today feeling satisfied.

Ramadhan is just around the corner. My next mission is to get some goodies which I hope to deliver to Sofie and other poor families under my care before Hari Raya. I want to see more of the children's smiles. I want to hear more of the children's laughter.

Friday, 24 July 2009

More of this and that...

When Sofie called me on Wednesday, she sought my favour to get a referral letter she had asked from SN. SN was too busy to prepare the letter there and then. By 5 pm, SN sent me a text message telling me the letter was ready.

So, yesterday afternoon I went to see SN to get the letter. And as usual, whenever I get to see SN, we'd usually talk about other patients as well.

There was one particular case SN wanted to refer to me - of a Thai lady married to a Malay man. The lady found out about her HIV infection recently when she was hospitalised for TB. This lady actually stays with her husband's family, and the moment they found out that she was diagnosed HIV positive, ALL of them including her father-in-law went for blood tests to find out if they were infected as well! Apa ke hal???

However, the family was understanding enough not to shun her or anything like that - probably because they figured it was her husband's doing. The husband it seems is an active IVDU - but claims that his blood tests showed negative results. The lady claimed her husband went to do the tests privately. SN said she wouldn't believe it until she sees for herself the test results. The husband never came along during the lady's hospital appointment, so it is hard to tell. I don't believe him either. Chances are the whole family except the lady's husband went for the blood test.

I took down the lady's details. She stays in the same town as Sofie, so I thought when I go to visit Sofie this week, I'd visit her as well. But she doesn't have any phone, neither does any of the family members. I cannot simply visit her without even talking to her yet. Like it or not, I'd have to wait until her next appointment at the hospital which is in 2 weeks time - the same day as Sharifah's appointment.

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This morning I received a text message from Shila.

"Kak, saya nak tanya boleh tak?"

Sigh, why lah these people like to waste their money sending unnecessary text messages? She could have just asked me straight away and whether I'm able to answer or not is a different matter lah!

Anyway, her question was...

"Boleh ke saya sambung makan ubat kalau saya dah lama tak makan ubat?"

I had to reread the second message - I had told her time and again not to make her own decision to stop taking her medication for whatever reason. I told her before more than once that she should call SN if there is any problem regarding her medication.

Naturally I didn't answer her question straight away, instead I asked her why she had not been taking her medication. Apparently she was unwell, down with asthma and all, was coughing and had sore throat, and when she eats anything, she'd cough and blurts out whatever she consumes. So she decided not to take her ARV medication temporarily. Hish! This woman! This was not the first time she did this. Dah naik berbuih mulut ni (tak lah sampai sawan pulak) telling her not to pandai-pandai sendiri stop her ARV medication for whatever reason. She has SN's number - just call lah!

I told her while she should continue taking her medication, since she had not been compliant, there is always the possibility that the drugs may no longer have any effect in compressing the virus, and as such, depending on the result of her next blood test, she may need to change to a new regime of ARV drugs. And if that happens, she will no longer get them free. She will have to pay, and the cost will come to hundreds.

Shila replied, still giving me excuses...

"Bukan saya tak nak makan ubat tapi bila makan ubat mesti tersedak habis ubat semua keluar. Macam mana lagi nak buat?"

I told her that while I understood her situation, she still should have called SN first to seek her advise; not decide on her own to stop taking the medication.

Guess what? Shila still had another excuse for not calling SN...

"Saya batuk kuat sangat kak, sampai suara pun dah nak hilang. Macam mana saya nak cakap dengan dia?"

I finally replied with just one short sentence...

"Keluarga pun tak leh cakap juga ke?"

Finally she ran out of excuse.

Shila... Shila... she wanted to avoid talking to SN because she was afraid she may get scolded by SN. In the end she got a few doses of SLS (short leter service) from me instead.

Tak pasal je kena leter pagi-pagi Jumaat...

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

My (a bit chubby) little Cek Mek

A few minutes after settling down at my office this morning, I received a text message from Sharifah, telling me that she and Kak Ana were on their way to Ipoh. She said she'd call once they get near my office.

So when I heard the James Bond ring tone on my hand phone, I thought it was Sharifah. But when I looked at my hand phone, Rosnah's name appeared. Rosnah was at the hospital for her appointment, and she was hoping to see me. She thought I was at the counseling room - the place where she met me the last time. I think she still doesn't understand that I'm just a volunteer and not working full time at the hospital. Anyway, I told her I'd go to the hospital a bit later and that I'd call her when I get there.

Sharifah's call came about half an hour later. I went down from my office with the necessary papers for Sharifah's blood test, started looking around, then I saw Kak Ana. Kak Ana's daughter who's back for holidays from overseas tagged along. Little Cek Mek was at the back seat with Sharifah. I went straight in to usik-usik the little girl's cheeks... waking her up from her sleep... hehehe... ini Opah tak boleh harap punya! Couldn't resist it, my little Cek Mek's chubbier than before. (the last time I saw her she was only 10 days old - now she's already 7 weeks old.)

Anyway, they then went straight to the hospital, after which they planned to go to JPN for Cek Mek's MyKid. Kak Ana promised she'd call me once they settled things so we could meet up for lunch.

After settling some things at the office, I went out for a while to go to the hospital to meet up with Rosnah. Her husband died a month ago and she herself had just been diagnosed positive, so I figured I'd better make it a point to meet her. And I was very lucky today in the sense that one car just got out of a parking space quite near the specialist clinic, so I got to park my car quite easily this time.

When Rosnah called me last month, she didn't want me to visit her at home as she was staying with her mom and she didn't want her mom to know anything about her husband's HIV. This time I assured her that I'd visit her as a friend and that I wouldn't mention anything about HIV. She finally agreed to let me visit her at home next week. So more about her after my visit, ok?

After the hospital visit, I went back to my office and waited for Sharifah's or Kak Ana's call. But this time, it was Sofie who called - from a new number. I had been trying to call her a few times before this but simply couldn't get her. Apparently she lost the old phone, with my number and all. So when she got hold of another phone, she was not able to call me as she didn't have my number. She was at the hospital today (yeah, I was there too, but I didn't see her!) and got my number from SN. Sofie had asked for a referral letter from SN but since SN was very busy today, she didn't have the time to prepare the letter. Sofie sought my help to get the letter from SN once it's ready; then pass it to her during my next visit to her house.

Sharifah called me around noon, asking if I had any more stock of free milk powder for the baby. I didn't have any since my sister had not brought back any, so I told her I'd only be getting some this weekend. It was only after I put down the phone that I figured... haiyah! So stupid lah ini Pi Bani! The home is in the same town as my sister's clinic, so I might as well get Kak Ana to get the milk powder from the clinic!

I immediately called my sister to ask if it was okay for Kak Ana to go get the box of milk powder from the clinic, and after getting the go-ahead, I called Kak Ana to ask if she'd mind going to the clinic herself. Kak Ana and Sharifah were then about to leave JPN, wanting to go out and buy diapers for Cek Mek, but when I asked where she wanted to shop, she wasn't sure herself. So I told them to go to a particular hypermarket and I'd meet up with them for lunch there.

Well, I got to the place earlier than them, so when they got there, we went shopping together. Yeah, my little Cek Mek went shopping too! This time her eyes were wide open, so yeah, I did chat (oh well, more like goo goo ga ga) with her while pushing the shopping trolley...

We then had lunch, during which we sort of "drilled" Sharifah with the kind of questions she may be asked when she and Kak Ana goes to court this Friday.

Court?? Well yes, remember earlier on I mentioned about Cek Mek's matter being reported to the state welfare? Apparently, what happened was that when the hospital welfare officer reported the matter, she just mentioned that Sharifah didn't want to bring the baby home with her. In actual fact, Sharifah didn't want to bring the baby home with her YET. Big difference there. Sharifah plans to get herself a job first, and once she's financially stable, she'd get the baby from Kak Ana. But in the report sent, it sounded as though Sharifah had abandoned her baby at a home meant for the disabled.

When the JKM officers went to take the baby from the home, Kak Ana reminded them that once the baby is out of her home, she'd be their responsibility and so they'd better make sure the baby is given her medication right on time every 6 hours. The officers didn't know heads or tails about the medication whatsoever as that was not mentioned in the report they received.

So they took the baby, reported the matter to their boss, and finally their boss called and spoke to Kak Ana who told her the whole story, even asking them to call Sharifah direct to confirm her story. After half an hour, the baby was sent back to Kak Ana. Since Sharifah is around this week, they (Kak Ana and Sharifah) were asked to go to court this Friday so a court order can be obtained by Kak Ana for temporary custody of Cek Mek - until Sharifah is ready to take the baby back with her. Sharifah will visit the baby from time to time, at least once a month.

Right now Sharifah is staying with Kak Ana until her hospital appointment in 2 weeks time. And they (Sharifah and the baby) actually stay at Kak Ana's home, not at the shelter home. The hospital welfare officer can no longer argue that the place is not suitable for the baby.

And for the moment, Sharifah is still looking around for a job. We told her not to be too choosy and just grab whatever suitable job that comes along, doesn't matter if the job is in Ipoh or back at her hometown or at any other nearby towns.

Sharifah did seem more cheerful when I saw her today. Hopefully the future too will be more cheerful for her and her baby.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Will be seeing my little girl!

When I called Sharifah last Saturday to ask her how and when she planned to come to Ipoh (her blood test is on Wednesday), she told me she'd be going to Kak Ana's place (the shelter home) on Monday and stay there until her appointment date. Kak Ana had promised to bring her to Ipoh and after the blood test is done, they'd go to JPN to get little Cek Mek's MyKid. Great, at least she gets to spend more time with her baby. I told her to give me a call once she gets to Ipoh so I can pass her the necessary papers needed to get her blood tests done. The documents were passed to me by SN earlier on.

This morning I called up Kak Ana to enquire what time they'd be coming. Kak Ana knows Ipoh quite well so when I told her where my office was, she immediately knew. They'd be passing this way anyway, so Kak Ana promised to call me once they get here, so I can pass them the necessary.

Kak Ana also agreed that after they get Cek Mek's MyKid - she'd have lunch with me - together with Sharifah and the little girl. Yes, they'd bring little Cek Mek along! My chance to meet up with the little darling after more than a month! Woo hoo! Opah Pi excited already... dah lama tak tengok cucu...

Remember my earlier posting about my little Cek Mek's matter being reported to the state welfare and they were going to take the baby away from the home? Wanna know the hoo hah that took place?

Well, I already know bits and pieces here and there based on what was told to me over the phone. But I'd rather wait and hear the whole story when I meet up with them tomorrow. So more on that after my lunch date, ok?

 

Sunday, 19 July 2009

A pleasant surprise...

One of my school friends agreed to host a lunch/tea gathering for my batchmates at her house today, and since it has been quite some time since I last met my friends, I decided to go.

Coincidentally, there was an Inter-Alumni Bowling organised by my school alumni at Sunway Mega Lanes this morning, and so I thought if I make a move from Ipoh a bit earlier, I could drop by to watch and give some support. After all, I had never attended any of TKCOGA's bowling tournament, whether internal or inter-alumni, despite being the tukang pukul canang for so many years. Well, I had never even been to a bowling alley before!

bowling

So yes, despite getting a bit lost on my way to Sunway Pyramid (never been there before either), I did spend more than an hour there. I didn't wait for the tournament to end though, as my main destination was actually lunch with my batchmates. So when it was almost noon, I said my goodbyes to my fellow old girls at Sunway Mega Lanes and headed out. It was when I was on my way out that I saw one lady whom I thought looked familiar. Hmmm... she looked like a blogger whose photos I've seen. However, I wasn't really sure if I should approach her - takut salah orang. What was she doing there? She obviously wasn't playing, so which alumni was she supporting?

But I knew her (from her blog lah) as a "ratu bowling", so I figured, whaddaheck, just ask lah. If wrong person, just apologise. I went to her and asked, "Sherry ke?"

She looked at me, blankly at first, but did not deny she was Sherry... apparently Sherry's her "nama glamour" so only certain groups of people would call her that. She obviously didn't recognise me (sebab I kurang glamour kot... ), but the moment I introduced myself as Pi Bani, barulah beria-ia berpeluk apa bagai! Frankly I thought we looked like 2 long lost friends who had not met each other for so many years - whereas in fact it was our first meet ever!

Too bad I was already on my way out for my lunch gathering, so the "pertemuan yang tak disangka" only lasted for 2 or 3 minutes. Sherry only managed to get my phone number (oh, she also did introduce her kiddies to me), and I only managed to get this photo, tak sempat nak touch up or even nak betulkan tudung yang dah senget-benget due to the earlier cheering...

Sherry

Then off I went for my batch lunch gathering. Although not many turned up, as usual, it sounded as though there were so many of us. Had good food, good company and a good time too. And I didn't come home empty handed. One of them gave me some used clothes still in good condition to be given to the poor PLHIV families under my care, and another friend gave me new stationery sets which we could use as prizes for the games during our coming family day. Yayyy!

It was definitely a good day for me... and it was such a pleasant surprise to meet you Sherry!

Saturday, 18 July 2009

This and that...

Remember in my posting about the HIV/AIDS exhibition at the private college, I mentioned about signing up for a full blood test at a cheaper rate? Well, tests done at the college were only for their students and staff, and although the public was eligible to sign up for the tests at the same special rate, we'd have to go personally to the lab at a private hospital here in Ipoh.

I decided to go this morning. We were advised to fast, so this morning I didn't have my breakfast before going to the pasar tani. And right after pasar tani, I went straight to the hospital to get my tests done. And for the second time in less than a week, I got my arm poked with 'em needles. Earlier on Wednesday, it was for the blood donation drive, and this morning it was for my RM85 full blood screening. Cheap, no? The results will be sent to PFHA, so my contact there will be calling me when they get the results. And nope, don't think I will be meeting any more draculas this week. ;)

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Remember Rosnah, the lady who called me when I was in Cameron Highlands for the Buddies retreat? Initially she called to seek financial help since she had to spend a lot of money having to come to Ipoh quite often for her husband's hospital checkups. Well, her husband died not long after that. But now Rosnah has been confirmed HIV positive, so there's a new name to be added to my already long list of clients. Her appointment in Ipoh GH will be this coming Wednesday, the same day as Sharifah's blood test.

Oh yes, Sharifah has finally contacted me giving me her new phone number. It was rather difficult when her phone went kaput earlier - all calls had to be done to her mother's phone, and most of the time when I called, Sharifah was not with her mother and so I didn't get to speak to Sharifah personally.

So, what's the latest update on Sharifah and my little Cek Mek? Wait lah until I see her personally this week, then I'll give you updates.

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Somebody asked me to compile my HIV stories, especially on women and children, into a book - but in Malay. Nak bagi family baca. Depa tak reti internet, and tak reti cakap orang putih, so she said.

Ada ke orang nak publish? And ada ke orang lain nak baca other than the person who requested for it?

Should I? Or shouldn't I?

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The exhibition, the talk, the condom and the banana

I had quite a kelam-kabut time this week. Other than a few work deadlines at my office and going over in the afternoons to the private college to check on their 3-day exhibition, last night I attended a meeting at our Buddies center to discuss preparations for our coming family day. And despite remembering to get a pack of condom to bring to today's HIV talk, I completely forgot to get the bookmarks we usually distribute to students during our talks.

PH20090716181414

Luckily my house is not that far from our center, so this morning before going to my office, I had to drop by the center again to get the bookmarks. Ada boleh kerja senang, cari kerja susah...

Anyway, today's talk at the college was a study project of their marketing students. It was supposed to start at 2.30 pm and I got there at about 2.20 pm. There were just 2 or 3 of the organising committee there. Initially the organising committee panicked due to what seemed like a lack of response, but eventually one of the lecturers cancelled his class and so they finally managed to get 53 people to attend the talk. They had targetted 50 people - so they reached their target (with help from the lecturer lah).

Most of the students were either Chinese or Indians, with only one or two Malays, and I told them they could ask questions in English or Malay... but if they asked me in Chinese, then I could only come out with one answer no matter what they asked... and that's wor pu che tau... :)

And the talk was more open. The students were not the reserved type, unlike the ones I've usually given talks to before. And boy did they get excited when this mak aji took out a pack of condom from her pocket. Well, I did teach them the ABC rule - Rule A for Abstain. If they can't abstain, go to rule B - Be faithful to only one partner. And if dah gatal sangat they can't even be faithful, at least use rule C. Condom lah, what else.

I had initially wanted to show them a demo from the internet on the proper way to use and dispose a condom, but the laptop they used for the presentation did not have wireless connection. I didn't have anything around suitable enough to be used for the demo, and I jokingly told them that while I got the condom, I didn't have time to buy any bananas on my way to attend the talk.

Well guess what? Within a few minutes one of the students came in with 2 bananas he got from the mamak shop downstairs!

And initially they thought using the condom was no big deal, but when I asked them how to dispose the condom, they said, "Just take out and throw la!" Then came the demo... baru ternganga...

Those of you who may be curious on what I mean on the proper way to use and dispose a condom, you can check it out here.

And those who may want to know how a vaginal microbiocide (now also known as femidom - that's a female version of the condom) look like, you can check it out here.

Those hoping to watch something x-rated, sorry to disappoint you - the 2 videos are demos using real condoms on unreal "gadgets". :)

Anyway, I returned the banana used for the demo to the students, in case anybody wanted to eat it... that was when the girls went aiiyyeee....

2 of our trainee volunteers also came along for the talk - the same 2 trainees in my HIV clinic team. I encouraged them to come as it was a good learning process for them. Maybe later on, after more exposure, they too can handle the talks.

As for the students, they did learn new things today (besides the condom part). From my observation earlier on before the talk, many of them were not even equipped with basic knowledge of HIV.

By the end of the talk, when I asked them if they'd be afraid to buy food from someone who is known to have HIV, the answer, "Sekarang beranilah." And I asked, "Kalau dulu?" "Dulu mungkin tak berani!"

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

First day at the exhibition

When I was approached by a private college student during my clinic duty 2 weeks ago, seeking our help to organise an HIV awareness programme at their college, I immediately agreed to help out even without seeking approval from the Buddies board members. College students are the best targets for our awareness campaigns as youths are the ones who are most exposed to ways and means of getting infected if they don't get the proper knowledge on the matter.

All the student asked for were exhibition materials for 3 days and a speaker for the talk on the last day. We didn't have to man the exhibition so I didn't have to worry about getting any volunteers to do so. I wouldn't be able to get any as the exhibition is held on working days.

But the main reason I wasn't worried about not getting any volunteers to help out was because I knew I could use our networking with the Perak Family Health Association (PFHA). So we Buddies will handle the talk, and we sub the exhibition to PFHA. PFHA has the staff to man (oh okay, woman) the exhibition, so if there were any questions, there'd be someone able to answer.

To make life easier for the PFHA staff, they decided to seek help from their contacts at the Unit Pendidikan of the Pejabat Kesihatan Daerah to get the exhibition materials. You see, by doing that, the Pejabat Kesihatan would send their people to put up everything, so the PFHA staff didn't have to worry about sweating it out to put up the materials.

So guess what? The students just had to approach one party (that's us Buddies) and end up having 3 different parties networking together. Buddies sub to PFHA, PFHA sub to Pejabat Kesihatan, finally everything sub sub soi!!

The exhibition started today. I did go over in the afternoon to check it out. Other than the exhibition, PFHA is also providing blood tests at cheaper rates for those who may want to do so. There are a few options offered, they can go for the full blood test, or HIV test, or Lipid test, or just to find out their blood type. Today we were trying to get the students to sign up for the blood tests which will be done on Thursday morning. I'm helping out the PFHA staff to give pre-test counseling to those who signed up just for the HIV test. Surely they have their own reasons for wanting to do just the HIV test, so they'd need to know more details. Quite a number of those whom I met today didn't know what window period meant. "Window oso got period ah?" Haiya...

I signed up for a full blood test. It's been 2 years since my last blood test, let's see if my cholesterol level is still a borderline case. Some of the students approached, girls and boys, are so so afraid of needles! Probably in future we need to think of other ways to get their blood samples instead of using needles... like using a parang, maybe? Hehehe...

Other than that, a blood donation drive will also be held tomorrow. Forget the takut jarum people lah to volunteer for that one. Anyway, since I usually only donate blood whenever I bump into a blood donation drive, and it has been 3 months since my last blood donation, I think I will probably let them suck my blood another round. :)

As for the talk on the last day, a fellow buddy had actually earlier on agreed to do the talk, but this morning when I called her, she was down with flu and sore throat and cough, and so she asked me to get a standby speaker. Well, since she just came back from Singapore, almost everybody she spoke to told her to quarantine herself at home! I wouldn't want to take the risk either. So very likely I will have to deliver the talk myself.

Now to get the presentation materials ready... it's already in my thumb drive, I'm using the powerpoint presentation prepared by MAC, but the statistics had not been updated yet. I'd better look through and update the statistics pages before I go for the talk on Thursday.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Shame! Shame!

 

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When I was first assigned as Sharifah's buddy, somehow her status as an unwed pregnant girl reminded me of Zana. Those who have not been following Zana's story, you can read my posting on The Problematic Young Woman - Part 5. Links to her earlier stories are in that posting, if you're interested.

Well, Sharifah reminds me of Zana only because of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Otherwise they are totally different personalities with totally different attitudes. Yes, they both got into the same kind of mess, but Sharifah is more obedient and would listen to your advice. And she also seemed to have regretted what she did. Plus she still has her mother to go back to. Zana on the other hand is so so stubborn, and would put on that selamba "I-did-nothing-wrong" face each time you try to give her any advice. I've even had blog readers who wanted to slap her (if only they could lah) just from reading my stories.

So, whatever happened to Zana? I haven't been able to contact her of late. Usually, even for clients whom I have not been in touch for some time because they have moved to another state, I would still send them Raya wishes via SMS and they (including Zana) would usually reply. But for last year's Raya wish, Zana never replied my SMS.

My guess is, she had changed her phone number for the umpteenth time and since she didn't have any favours to ask from me, she didn't see the necessity of informing me of her new number.

Well, recently I called Kak Hawa, the lady in charge of the HIV shelter home in KL where I sent Zana way back in 2006. Zana was then 7 months pregnant, not accepted by her family back home, and didn't have any place to stay. Zana's attitude really drove the people at the shelter home up the wall... even after giving birth to a pair of twins, she was always busy sending/replying text messages on her hand phone even when her babies were crying.

One of the twins died (no, not of HIV) and a few months later, Zana left the home with her other baby; but later when seeing that the baby boy was obviously neglected, Kak Hawa went to get the baby from Zana's care, with Zana's permission. Kak Hawa told her to come visit the child from time to time. Zana promised she'd get her son once she gets married.

Well, that child is now almost 3 years old, free from HIV and still staying at the shelter home with Kak Hawa. Zana herself? Kak Hawa herself isn't sure of Zana's whereabouts. Every time she called, Zana claimed she was in different locations. Sekejap cakap kat Johor... sekejap cakap kat KL, sekejap cakap kat Perak...

But what I'd like to touch on this time is Zana's 7 year old daughter. Yes, Zana has an older daughter. She was married before, to a drug addict, who died of AIDS-related diseases. The daughter now stays with Zana's parents. Earlier when I was trying to get Zana to reconcile with her parents so she could go back and stay with them (I failed because her father simply refused to accept her), I found out that even her first child was a result of out-of-wedlock pregnancy. The only difference was that they managed to get the guy (yes, the drug addict) to marry her. After the husband died, when Zana got herself into another out-of-wedlock pregnancy, her father could no longer take it.

Due to her father's refusal to accept her, Zana had not gone back to see her daughter (at least not openly... am not sure if she had made any secret arrangements with her sister to meet outside). But Zana's daughter is 7 years old - she should be in school this year shouldn't she?

Apparently Zana's parents had problems when they wanted to register the girl for school. Why the problem when the girl is their own grandchild, right? You see, Zana's father, when registering the girl for school, indicated that the girl was his adopted child. Why didn't he just say the child was his own grandchild?

My guess is the birth cert stated the girl's father as "unknown". I don't know, it had always been difficult to get 100% truth from Zana. If such was the case, and based on the fact that Zana's father had always been ashamed of Zana, maybe he was ashamed to admit that the fatherless child was his own grandchild.

Fine! But when you want to register the girl for school, and you say the girl's your adopted daughter, surely the authorities would want you to show the necessary papers to prove that the girl is your legally adopted child, right?

Aduuuh, takde problem, cari problem...

Zana's sister must have conveyed the problem to her. Zana then called Kak Hawa and asked Kak Hawa to help out. She even 'taught' Kak Hawa to do this and that. Kak Hawa refused. She had not even met the girl nor Zana's parents. Why should she go out of her way to get them out of a problem they themselves created?

The matter could easily be settled. All they had to do was to get Zana herself to go back home and register the girl for school. Zana's name is clearly written in the birth cert as the little girl's mother - so there shouldn't be any problem of providing the necessary documentation.

BUT... was Zana willing to go back home? And was Zana's father willing to accept her back? Or did the father finally admit that the little girl was his own grandchild? Both Zana's and her father's ego don't seem to make things any easier.

Right now I don't know if the problem has been settled. Zana changes her phone number so often we can't call her to find out. We'd have to wait for her to call, if she ever calls again.

All these problems came about because of SHAME. We live in such a shame-driven community, when something like this happens, all we think about is what others may think of us if we admit so and so is family. We don't think of the real victim - THE CHILD!

Which reminds me... Sharifah and Puan Nur did mention to me that when they do bring Cek Mek home, they will tell neighbours that the girl is adopted. Hmmm.... I hope they don't use the same story when Cek Mek grows up and goes to school.

But having said that, whatever happened to Cek Mek's case? Frankly I don't know. Puan Nur didn't call me as promised. But the necessary documents for Sharifah's blood tests in Ipoh are with me, and so I should be meeting up with Sharifah next week. Unless of course, she intends to skip her own hospital appointments...

Friday, 10 July 2009

Family Day preparations

With our Family Day coming up in just 3 weeks time, the organising committee now meets up every week to discuss matters, and to ensure that things will run smoothly. Who's in charge of food... who's in charge of the games... who's in charge of the balloon man... who's in charge of whatever else.

We have about 60 people confirming attendance so far including 14 volunteers. Out of the PLHIVs and their family members who confirmed their attendance, most of them are my clients, including 20 children. Fuzi and children, Murni and children, Mr & Mrs K and children, Sha and children, Lin and children, Jah, Yah and child - already 28 of them. And while Razif is not my client, he seem to be in touch with me more than his own buddy. Razif sent me a text message asking if he and his family can join the Family Day. Of course la he can. In fact, I've been wanting to meet his wife since day one but never got the chance. Razif did say he'd be coming with his wife and 3 kids, so here's the chance for me to talk to his wife, and introduce her to the other HIV +ve women.

Most of those staying outstation will be coming to Ipoh by bus, and we'll have our people waiting at the bus station to bring them to the Family Day venue. Luckily the committee didn't decide that the respective buddies are to arrange for their clients' transport to the venue. Die lah! (I'm the one with most clients attending, remember? Manalah nak muat I punya Kenari?)

Based on past experiences, there are bound to be last minute pullouts. So if the final number is 50 people, to me it's good enough. But having said that, I have yet to ask Sofie if she and her children would like to join. I didn't ask her earlier because she seemed so weak. But based on our last 2 tele-conversations, she sounded livelier than before. I know her children seldom get the chance to go anywhere because of the family's financial situation, so it'll be good if the children can go. I hope to visit Sofie soon, maybe I'll ask her then.

So what are our plans for the family day? Going round the farm... watch a demo on how they put on the horse shoe, feed the horses, the kids will get to ride on the horse (not to say ride lah, just sit on the horse, and the handler will just pull the horse for a short distance), take pics with the horses etc. We will also organise telematch for the kids. And we've also hired a balloon man to entertain the kids during our lunch break.

Actually we are also allowed to fish at the ponds there, but we'd have to bring our own fishing rods and equipments. Hmmm... I have never done any fishing in my life (I'd rather go buy at the market). Has anybody got a fishing net I can borrow? No lah, just kidding, I don't think I'd have time to do any fishing. I'd probably be busy becoming the kaypoh busybody photographer of the day...

Thursday, 9 July 2009

My grandma moments...

I've been rather busy with my voluntary work since May. That was when Sharifah's case was first handed to me, followed by Sofie's case. Due to the nature of their cases, both of them needed extra attention. With our retreat in Cameron Highlands in June, and our Family Day coming up in early August, plus all the hurdles we had to face in my little Cek Mek's case, (and not forgetting my ICAAP poster which I have yet to finalise) there seem to be so much to do.

But despite being rather busy, did you notice that I have also been updating my blog more often since June? Well, that's because other than using this blog to create awareness about the trials and tribulations of the PLHIV families, I'm also using this blog to de-stress. When people share their problems with me, I'd need to share their problems with others so I don't have to keep so much inside me. And what better way than to blog about it, eh? I still get to protect the identities of the families I'm dealing with, I get to share their problems with blog readers, and I get to de-stress! Woo hoo!

Well, there are still problems that have yet to be settled (and I don't think can be settled in the near future) but for now let's take a short break from all those problematic cases. Today, to de-stress, I'd just like to share with you my grandma moments!

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The first PLHIV I was introduced to was Wani. Wani has two 'loud' young boys who scream at the top of their voices when they talk because one of them has a hearing problem. I remember the first time I went alone to visit them (after I was confirmed as a Buddy - before that I'd just join Wani's main buddy during visits) , when I wanted to leave, they shouted loud and clear, "Bye Opah!" Wani quickly told them, "Heh, makcik lah!" That was the first time I had children calling me Opah. And that's why I sikit pun tak heran describing myself as Opah Pi to my little Cek Mek. Hehehe...

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When arwah Rina was still alive, I remember visiting her at the hospital. A makcik, occupying the bed next to Rina's, saw me, and said, "Hah, ada maknya!" She thought I was Rina's mom! (FYI, Rina was just 3 years younger than me!) I guess that makes me her child's grandma, huh?

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I was at a carnival organised by a particular company. My friend who works with that company, came all the way from KL so I made it a point to attend to meet up with her. While we were chatting with a group of her friends, some of whom brought their children along, one boy, about 6 or 7 years old, saw my compact camera which came in a unique shape. He was so curious as to what it was. After staring at it for some time, he finally got the courage to ask, very politely, "Nenek, nenek, tu apa?" Hah? Nenek engko panggil aku???! Of course, my friends had a good laugh. Me? Well, couldn't beat them, joined them lah...

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I was accompanying my sister to meet up with her then bakal besan. Since my nephew had always been telling them about his Mak and Opah, they were actually expecting his Opah (my mother) to come along. With her knee problems, my mom didn't go lah. I was the one who accompanied my sister. After my sister introduced herself as my nephew's mother, they then looked at me, and asked, "Ni ke Opah nya?"

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OK lah, I give up, ngaku je lah dah tua... :)

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

A day of phone calls!

After being told by the hospital welfare officer last Friday that Cek Mek's matter had been reported to the state welfare and that they'd be sending their people immediately to "save" the baby from the shelter home, I asked her what I had to do if I wanted to bring Puan Nur and Sharifah to see the baby during the weekend. The officer said we would have to deal direct with the new shelter home which is under the welfare department. So we (Puan Nur and myself) decided to wait and see. The way the officer said it, it was as if the welfare officers would fetch the baby on Friday itself.

I immediately looked for the new home's address and phone number. But I didn't want to call on Monday as I felt it was too soon. So I called this morning, and to my surprise, the lady who handled new intakes of occupants said so far there are no new cases, certainly not involving a baby.

I had wanted to call the hospital welfare officer I spoke to earlier, but she's not around the whole week as she's attending a course elsewhere. So finally I decided to call Kak Ana. And whaddaya know? My little Cek Mek is still there with her. Kak Ana didn't even know heads or tails about the matter being reported to the state welfare. She said the hospital welfare officer did call last week, wanting to speak to Sharifah, so Kak Ana just told her that Sharifah had gone home with her mother. That was how the officer found out the baby was at the shelter home without her mother.

After discussing with Kak Ana, she was of the opinion that if Sharifah wants to take the baby home, she'd better do so before the welfare officers come to get the baby. Because once the baby has been handed over to the new shelter home, it will not be so easy for Sharifah to get the child as and when she likes. Decision and action must be taken by this week.

I told Kak Ana I'd have to discuss the matter with Puan Nur and Sharifah first. For the moment, Sharifah's fickle-mindedness is not making things easier. Nak bela, nak kerja dulu, nak bela, nak kerja dulu...

So, I sent a text message to Puan Nur, asking her what would be the best time to call as I didn't want to be calling her to talk about these issues while she was at work. She told me to call about 3 pm.

There was another matter I needed to handle this morning... our outreach team intend to do rapid testing for some of the sex workers during our outreach next week, and although we still do have some rapid test kits at our center, we were running out of the diluent needed. So I called the assistant director of the state AIDS/STD unit, whose name card I obtained during a meeting I attended some time back (that was my main purpose of attending the meeting - to get more networking). I asked if I could go and meet him at his office later in the afternoon, but he said he'd have a meeting in the afternoon and so he asked me to come in the morning. Thank goodness things aren't so hectic at the office, so I took off immediately. Not only did I manage to get a whole box of rapid test kits together with the diluent, we also got to discuss some other matters. I was even introduced to the matron, and so I've got more contacts now.

Right after I got back to my office, a call came in. It was the manager of the horse farm where we intend to have our family day, and he was asking for the latest update of our program so he could make the necessary arrangements. I promised him I'd get the person in charge to call him by tomorrow.

As I was about to go to the Buddies center to send the rapid test kits, a call came in from an unfamiliar number. The number looked like it was an official government office number, so at first I thought it could be people from the state welfare department (since my name was included in the report sent to them). I was thinking, alamak... takde chan la nak ambil baby balik this week, if indeed Sharifah decides to bring the baby home now.

But no, the call came from the state secretariat. They were in the process of compiling all the names and particulars of various NGOs. Not too sure whatever for... but I hope they'd consider giving us funds. :) But if they ask what they can do, I may just tell them that it's high time Perak has a specific shelter home for HIV women and children. At least I don't have to pening kepala when I get cases like Sharifah's and Cek Mek's.

At 3 pm sharp, while I was at the center, I called Puan Nur. The moment she answered, I said, "Waktu sekarang pukul 3 petang." And she responded with, "Ya, tepat pada waktunya!" Got to lighten up a bit kan? (yang sebenarnya I dah mabuk phone call hari ni... semua serious matters pulak tu. Ni tak masuk lagi business calls I get at the office)

I informed her of the latest situation. Apparently on Monday, Puan Nur and Sharifah tried to call Kak Ana but their calls were not answered. They thought Kak Ana purposely didn't answer because she was angry with them! They must have called her handphone. Her handphone is usually in her handbag and would usually be answered only when she's out elsewhere.

I told Puan Nur that if they do want to take the baby home without much complication, then they'd have to take action by this week. Puan Nur said she'd have to discuss the matter with Sharifah first, and she promised to get back to me latest by tomorrow. Sharifah is the one who's very fickle-minded now, so I'm not sure yet what decision they'll take, but whatever it is, I hope they'll consider Cek Mek's interest above all rest.

Right after I got off the phone with Puan Nur, another call came in! Adoi, tak sempat restlah my phone like this. The call came from the lecturer of the private college where we'd be organising the HIV/AIDS awareness programme next week. He just called to confirm the time for the talk, and to also confirm that they'd be preparing the laptop, LCD projector etc. So all I have to bring is the CD or thumb drive for the presentation.

Just as I got home, another call came in from an unfamiliar number. It was Sofie... she called from a public phone as she doesn't have enough credit for her handphone. The handphone is for me to call her, not the other way round. I had told her earlier that if she needed to talk to me, just get any of her children to call me from a public phone and I'd call her back on her handphone. The fact that she herself called from a public phone to me is good news. It meant she was strong enough to walk to the public phone! And she sounded very lively too.

Sofie has finally got herself another house to rent, thanks to help from blog readers. She has already paid the deposit, and will move by next week. Hopefully by moving to the new house, her niece will no longer say things that hurt her and her kids. I will still need to monitor her and the children, to ensure they at least get enough to eat and that they are not deprived of education. And I must make sure she doesn't ask her 15 year old son to work. Let the boy concentrate on his PMR.

At least I see some light in Sofie's case.

But my telinga very panas lah today... too many phone calls...

Monday, 6 July 2009

When the children get depressed...

When I was first introduced to Mr & Mrs K, they were facing lots of problems. With Mr K rather weak then, and Mrs K's ATM card in the hands of a money lender, they never earned enough. Their house rental, the children's bus fares, the children's school fees, and whatever else had not been paid for a few months. They often ran out of groceries at home. Their children hardly had enough to eat. One time when I went to visit, their eldest son (then 16) and his younger sister (then 11), were having lunch by sharing a cup of instant noodles.

We tried to help them get back on their feet. With donations from friends and blog readers, I frequently delivered foodstuff, also diapers and milk powder for their baby. The children's educational needs were covered by our Children Education Fund.

Mr K then was trying to apply to withdraw his EPF. Due to his weak condition, his EPF withdrawal was approved. They managed to pay off their debts, and still had some extras. Mrs K got back her ATM card from the money lender, and as such, she'd have access to all her salary instead of being left with only the balances.

Earlier, as per their own request (before the EPF withdrawal was approved), we helped them to apply renting one of the DBI flats. The rates were cheap, and there were some job openings in Ipoh suitable for both Mr and Mrs K. It is not easy getting approval for those flats - but we managed to get their application approved.

But the approval came after they got the EPF money. By then they figured they could survive without moving to Ipoh. The house they're renting is a terrace house which is more comfortable than a flat. So they turned down the flat. And health-wise Mr K himself was better by then and managed to get himself a job - low paying but still a job nonetheless. They figured his salary could be used for rental and Mrs K's salary for household needs. Logically they should be able to survive, and I thought I didn't have to worry about them anymore.

But what did they do with the balance of their EPF money? They finished it quickly paying for their wants rather than their needs. They don't seem to think about future needs. My advise went into one ear and out the other. I was really pissed off.

After a while, they were back to square one. Mrs K even tried to borrow money from me. I simply refused. I was not about to let them make use of us Buddies. We too have to work to earn an income, they shouldn't be expecting us to give them money as and when they need it. I have to be firm with these people. Otherwise they'll never learn.

But when their depressed teenager starts contacting me directly to seek help from me, what do I do?

Yes, their 13 year old daughter, exchanged a few text messages with me. I didn't want to call her to talk to her as she was home, curi-curi using her mother's handphone. Her mother was at work, doing overtime, but her father was home. It's her father that's causing her to feel so depressed. She thinks he's back to his old habit - drugs.

According to her, she's always worried whenever her father's siblings come over to their home. They too, it seemed, are taking drugs, and it looked as though they are influencing Mr K to get back to his old habit. The girl admits, sometimes when her older brother goes out to do some odd jobs, she ended up missing school to take care of her younger siblings. Although her father was around, she was afraid he may bring them with him to meet his siblings.

Sigh...

The house rental had not been paid for quite some time now, but at least the landlord was kind enough to let them stay until end of this year. After that, they will have to move out, by hook or by crook.

According to the girl, her teacher was already making noise because she had not bought her workbooks. Whatever fees, for her and her younger sister, had not been paid either. Well yes, schooling needs can be covered by our CEF, but usually we'd bank in the amount into the guardian's bank account - in this case, Mrs K. But given their situation, and knowing their weakness in dealing with temptations, if I banked in the money into Mrs K's bank account, chances are the money would be used for something else, not for schooling needs.

Mrs K also owes the nearby grocery shop quite a sum of money. She had been getting her food supplies from that shop, promising to pay at the end of the month, but always running out of money before paying for them. Just recently the shop owner came over to their house when Mrs K was still at work. He scolded the 13 year old girl who at that time just got back from school - telling her how irresponsible her parents are. The girl didn't tell her mother, as she didn't want to worry her.

The girl openly told me she and her older brother do not wish to stay there any longer. They prefer to stay in Ipoh so that their father will be further away from his siblings and so they won't be able to visit him as often as they are doing now. She asked if I could help them get the flat.

Too late for that my dear. The rental for the flat is darn cheap, it is not easy to get approval. And since they did get the approval earlier, but they turned it down, they are now blacklisted and cannot re-apply.

At the end of her message, the girl said, "Sorry lah makcik, dah tension tak tau nak luah kat siapa."

I'm running out of ideas what to do with this family... we tried to help them get back on their feet, they blew it. There are others I know who earn much less than the K's, yet they manage.

The children need help, but how do I help them when their parents are not even attempting to improve their own lives? The only thing I can think of right now is to send foodstuff from time to time. But then again, until when?

Sigh...

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Want me to help, tell me the problem la...

When Puan Nur went to the shelter home last week to fetch Sharifah and Cek Mek, she didn't notify anyone about it - not me, not Kak Ana, not the welfare officer who had called her earlier. She only told me and Kak Ana when she was already on her way there. Puan Nur, thinking that she had troubled me enough since before Cek Mek was born, right to the time when we sent Sharifah and Cek Mek to the shelter home, didn't want to trouble me anymore and decided to make her own arrangements to fetch her daughter and grandchild.

Puan Nur didn't tell me about the welfare officer's earlier phone call either. If she had, at least I would have known about the possibility of Cek Mek's case being reported to the state welfare; and I would have insisted that Kak Ana lets her take both Sharifah and Cek Mek home. The state welfare wouldn't have been called in had Kak Ana allowed Puan Nur to take the baby along.

So much for not wanting to trouble me. Now they're troubling me even more as I now need to deal with another party. But come to think of it, remember in my letter to Cek Mek I mentioned that I learnt a lot from this episode? Well, looks like Allah wants me to learn even more. Surely there is a hikmah behind all these.

After browsing the internet looking for the address and telephone number of the new shelter home, I also looked for any other similiar homes under the welfare department closer to Puan Nur's home. I wanted to be ready with options to suggest to Puan Nur and Sharifah.

I needed to talk to Puan Nur to get more info, especially on their stand. It's rather difficult now that Puan Nur and Sharifah are at one town, baby another town, and myself another town. I did mention in my earlier posting that most of the time I'd rather be a listener than an interrogator. Well, it's interrogation time!

So yesterday evening I called Puan Nur. There was no answer. Maybe she was busy elsewhere and didn't hear the phone ring. I waited, hoping for her to return my call. After about 10 minutes, my phone rang - James Bond ringtone. Yep, it was Puan Nur. But before I could answer, the phone stopped ringing. She's purposely giving me a missed call? I figured she must have ran out of credit... after the calls she had to make earlier in the morning, twice to me and another one to the hospital welfare officer. She couldn't cut those conversations short as there were many things to discuss.

I called back, and the first thing I heard was, "Kak... sorry kak... credit habislah." Yeah, I knew that already...

Puan Nur was on her way back from somewhere, so Sharifah was not with her. I told her I've already got the address and phone number of the new shelter home where the welfare officers are sending the baby, and I intend to call the person in charge of the new home next week, but before that I'd need to know Puan Nur's and Sharifah's stand first. I told her to tell me if they have problems at home and what would be the problem if Cek Mek stays with them. I told her I need a more decisive answer. I told her I truly truly want to help, but they are not making it easy for me with their frequent change of scripts!

Before Cek Mek's birth, they wanted to give the baby away for adoption. Then they saw and touched the baby, they decided to keep her. But since they were not ready to bring her home yet, they thought of leaving her at a shelter home first and take her back later. When I suggested that Sharifah herself should stay with the baby at the shelter home for 2 months at least to bond with the little girl, they agreed. But after seeing how uncomfortable they were at the shelter home, Puan Nur decided to take them both home after just 2 weeks, without consulting anyone. Since Kak Ana wouldn't let her bring Cek Mek home, she brought only Sharifah home. And after a whole week of being separated from her baby, Sharifah began thinking of looking for a job first before taking the baby home. Then after a while, she cried and wanted to go back and stay with the baby at the shelter home. Then changed her mind again when she felt that she couldn't afford to take care of the girl without getting herself a job. If only Kak Ana had let them take the baby home in the first place, the baby would already be home and this fickle-mindedness wouldn't have occurred.

Puan Nur finally admitted to me that they felt they couldn't afford to take care of the baby - not just yet. When she was oh so determined to take care of them both earlier, she was thinking Sharifah would be home to take care of the little girl. Then when Sharifah went home without her baby, Sharifah told her about wanting to work, because Puan Nur doesn't earn much whereas raising a baby would require a lot of money - diapers, milk powder and whatever else. "Ya tak ya jugak," thought Puan Nur... but if Sharifah goes to work, who's going to take care of the baby at home? Sharifah was thinking of sending the girl to a babysitter while she's at work, until Puan Nur reminded her, "Hang nak bayaq dengan apa?" Aduuuuh...

I asked Puan Nur why she didn't tell me her problem earlier. I told her I could only suggest options if I knew what her problem was. I assured her that I really meant to help and I wasn't expecting anything from her in return. After all that I had gone through with my little Cek Mek, I can't help but feel a bit attached to the little girl. I would love it if she stays somewhere near Ipoh so I could see her often. But I cannot think of myself. I love the little girl... so much so that I want her to be loved and cared by her own loving mother!

I have seen how loving Puan Nur and Sharifah are to each other. I love seeing their mother-daughter relationship... the best-of-friends kind of relationship. Oh okay, maybe sometimes they make some silly decisions, but I can vouch that they are loving enough. I'd love to see my little Cek Mek getting the same kind of love.

One thing for sure is that Sharifah does want Cek Mek because that little girl may be the only child she'd ever have. But based on the present situation, maybe it's better if she works first, and then after two or three months, if she earns enough monthly to be able to afford sending Cek Mek to a babysitter, she can take the baby home with her.

When Sharifah was at the shelter home earlier, representatives from a particular company in Ipoh went to visit the home. When they met Sharifah and found out she was thinking of getting a job after leaving the shelter home, one of the officers left her name card, asking Sharifah to call her if she'd like to work with their company. She'd try to find a suitable post for Sharifah.

So far Sharifah had yet to call that lady. For the moment she's looking around for a job at her hometown. She'd prefer to work at her hometown so at least she could stay with her mother and so she doesn't have to worry about renting a house or a room.

I told Puan Nur that if Sharifah has no choice but to work in Ipoh, I would help find a suitable room for her to rent. And if that happens, then might as well let Cek Mek stay at her new shelter home just a little while longer until Sharifah is capable of supporting herself and her child. Sharifah can visit her child during weekends as the place is not that far from Ipoh. In fact, I don't mind volunteering to bring Sharifah there and I'm sure you know why... :)

But if Sharifah finds a job at her hometown, maybe the next best thing to do is to ask for my little Cek Mek to be transferred to a similar shelter home (still under welfare department) nearer to their place. Further from me, but nearer to her mother. The important thing is, Sharifah must must must visit her baby often.

Those were the suggestions I gave to Puan Nur. I asked them to think it over thoroughly and whatever their decision, I'd still help them. At the end of the conversation, I asked Puan Nur to convey my salam to Sharifah and to tell her to be more decisive.

"Tolonglah jangan tukar skrip banyak-banyak kali. Pening kepala otak akak la," I said, to which Puan Nur responded with, "Kaaaak.... sorry kaaaak!!"

Ah well, but you know what? I think there's something else they're not telling me.

Puan Nur and Sharifah only mentioned that Puan Nur's income is not sufficient to cover for the baby's needs. Sharifah's father is still alive, and working. How come his name was never mentioned? Sharifah did mention a bit about her father initially when I first handled her case but later on it's always, "Nanti bincang dengan mak dulu." I remember when I asked Sharifah earlier if her father was furious with her, she said her father did not scold her but he had a fight with Puan Nur instead. "Tapi sat ja, lepaih tu okay dah," so she claimed.The house that they stayed in earlier was together with Sharifah's "Tok", who happens to be her father's mother.

I knew about Puan Nur's plan to move to a new house. But after the move, I somehow no longer hear about Sharifah's father. In fact, when she went to fetch Sharifah last week, I thought she went with her husband, but later I found out she went with a friend, in the friend's car.

And remember during the first week after Cek Mek was born, we had to delay sending Sharifah and Cek Mek to the shelter home as there were some problems in getting her discharged, and Puan Nur had to go home by hook or by crook to settle something? Well, I overheard (honest, I wasn't eavesdropping) her talking to someone on the phone, "Esok aku memang kena balik, pagi Rabu kena pi mahkamah."

I didn't bother to ask lah, it was none of my business.

Hmmm... but putting all the pieces together, don't you think there's something else they're not telling me?

Aduh, this is getting a bit stressful. Thank God I've got this blog to de-stress... so bear with me, okay folks?

Friday, 3 July 2009

Alahai... problem lagi...

Depending on the situation, sometimes I hate it when I'm right. I just mentioned about it in my blog posting last night - that from the tone of her voice, I sensed Puan Nur may be having some problems. I was right. And worse still, the problem had something to do with my little Cek Mek. Aaargh!!

Remember my letter to Cek Mek? Well, when I wrote that letter to Cek Mek, Puan Nur was on her way to fetch both Cek Mek and her mom from the shelter home. I had thought they were all back at their home state by now.

Apparently, due to the short notice, Kak Ana, the lady in charge at the shelter home did not allow Puan Nur to take the baby back with her. According to Kak Ana, Cek Mek's appointment is coming up in August, so she asked that they only take the baby after that appointment so that she could arrange for the transfer of the baby's appointments to Sharifah's hometown. Kak Ana was quite adamant and Puan Nur didn't want to argue further, so yes, she took Sharifah home and left the baby there, with the plan of coming back to fetch the little girl later.

Actually getting the referral letter to transfer the girl to another hospital is a small matter. It can be done later. But I didn't follow them when they went to fetch Sharifah and Cek Mek, and so I couldn't argue on their behalf...

Anyway, early this morning Puan Nur called me. The welfare officer at the hospital of the town where Cek Mek's present shelter home is called her yesterday. Probably after thinking about it overnight and not knowing what else to do, Puan Nur finally called me this morning to tell me of her problem.

You see, the welfare officer is of the opinion that the shelter home is not conducive for the baby's upbringing. The home apparently had only been officially registered for disabled people, not for abandoned or homeless children or the likes. This same officer had spoken to Puan Nur before, and Puan Nur told her she'd fetch them on the 4th (that's tomorrow). But Puan Nur instead went to fetch them last week without notifying anyone - and ended up only taking home Sharifah, due to Kak Ana's insistence that my Cek Mek should stay on a little longer until the appointment date.

Since Puan Nur had told the welfare officer earlier that she'd be fetching Sharifah and her baby on the 4th, yesterday, the officer called Puan Nur just to confirm that she'd be coming tomorrow. She was surprised when Puan Nur related to her the whole story of what happened the week before. Realising that the baby is now at the shelter home without her mother around, and doing what she felt was the right thing to do, to save the baby from a home not conducive to the little girl, the officer reported the matter to state welfare department. Now the case is under the state welfare. Adoiii...

I asked Puan Nur to give me the officer's number so I could speak to her direct. And I gave the officer 10 minutes after office hours began to settle down before I called her. Thank goodness the officer was at her table when I called. When I introduced myself as Afizah from Buddies of Ipoh, she went, "Aha... ya!" Oh dear, don't tell me my name already known there too???

Well, at least I didn't have to make too long an introduction. The officer actually thanked me for calling. Apparently my name was included in the report she submitted to the welfare department although she didn't know my full name. No, nothing bad lah. She had to report Sharifah's and Cek Mek's history from the beginning and I was included as the person from the "badan sukarela yang bekerjasama dengan hospital Ipoh" when Cek Mek was first born. The officer knew pretty well we are a registered organisation dealing specifically with HIV cases. I even gave her my full name and hand phone number in case she or the state welfare needed to contact me. At least now I get more contacts in the right departments.

Anyway, the officer explained to me that the case is no longer under her jurisdiction now that the case had been reported to the state welfare. What will happen now is that the baby will be placed under a new "pelindung" which is a home under JKM specifically for children. Most likely JKM officers will go and get Cek Mek from the present shelter home by today and place her at the new home. From now on Sharifah and Puan Nur will have to deal direct with the new shelter home.

After listening to the officer, I think it's probably best for the welfare officers to get the baby from the present home and send her to the new home. At least Kak Ana cannot refuse because the officers will come with an official letter. And given that Puan Nur did want to take the baby earlier, only to be refused by Kak Ana, they cannot accuse Puan Nur and Sharifah of purposely abandoning the baby.

I asked the officer to inform me once it's confirmed that the welfare people had taken the baby from the present home. She promised me she would.

Only problem is, due to the temporary separation, Sharifah has become somewhat flip flop in her decision. First she thought of leaving the baby for a few more months while she gets herself a job... then she cries and wants to stay with the baby at the new shelter home. Alahai sayang oi... the new shelter home is only for budaklah, not mak budak...

Whatever it is, once the baby has been brought to the new shelter home, I will need to bring Puan Nur and Sharifah there to meet up and discuss the matter further with the new "pelindung".

My poor little Cek Mek. She's exactly one month old today and yet she already has to go through so many hurdles in her life.

Alahai Cek Mek... Opah Pi pun dah pening dah... tak jadi kerja kat opis hari ni...

Never mind, cheer up okay? Just imagine Datuk M.Daud Kilau now gelek-ing in front of you singing the song...

"Senyumlah... senyumlah... ahai Cek Mek Molek!"

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Various Updates

After I came back from my clinic duty on Wednesday, there were a few calls I had to make.

First I contacted Sofie. Remember I visited her 2 weeks ago and her condition then was very weak due to effects from her new ARV medication? Well, she needs to come to Ipoh on Friday for an appointment at the GH, and I needed to know if she's up to it. I didn't want her to skip her appointment because she felt to weak to get up.

I was pleasantly surprised when I heard a rather lively voice when I called her. Although Sofie still suffers some effects from the medication, the effects aren't that bad anymore. She'd still need one of her children to accompany her to the hospital so that she'd have someone she could hold on to while walking, but at least I don't have to worry about her being unable to get up at all.

After calling Sofie, I tried calling Sharifah but got her voicemail instead. I then called Puan Nur - thank goodness I got her. Sharifah's phone had gone kaput, that's why I couldn't call her. I think this is the 3rd time this week I've been telling about my clients' phones gone kaput. First Puan Nur, then Zainab and now Sharifah.

I needed to call Sharifah/Puan Nur to inform them about the date of Sharifah's blood test later this month. Cek Mek's MyKid should be ready for collection this month, and so might as well Sharifah collects it on the same day as her blood test.

Puan Nur was on a bus when I called - on her way home from work. I don't know, but if I had sensed things correctly, I think Puan Nur herself may have some problems at home. No, she didn't say anything about having any problems or whatever, in fact she said they're fine. I even joked with her and she laughed. It's just that after being so used to observing people's body language and voice tone, somehow I sense she has problems. No, couldn't see the body language as we were on the phone, but her voice tone somehow sounded as though she had a problem. I hope I'm wrong though. I'm not about to be so nosy to ask if she has problems, so what I can do now is to continue to be her friend and maybe when she's more comfortable with me she'd tell. I'm not the type to "saja-saja mau korek", I prefer to let them tell when and if they want to tell. I'd rather be a listener than an interrogator. I would however interrogate further if they ask for my help without wanting to tell me what the root of the problem is. That's how I've been dealing with most of my clients so far - only problem is sometimes they end up telling me more than I want to hear!

Anyway, I'd be meeting Sharifah later this month. Will need to arrange for her to sign some forms - I'm helping her to apply for some financial assistance for my little Cek Mek. Maybe if there are indeed problems at home, Sharifah may tell me then - so far she has been quite open with me.

After my call to Puan Nur, I received a call from a lecturer of the private college whose student had approached me earlier at the clinic about organising an HIV/AIDS awareness programme. By then the student had gone back to the college to inform his lecturer about his meet with me and about my request for an official letter to be faxed to us for further action. The lecturer probably just wanted to confirm the matter before he arranged for the letter to be sent. The letter was faxed to Buddies center yesterday evening.

This morning on my way to work I dropped by Buddies center to get the fax - they asked for exhibition materials and a speaker for the talk. Once I reached my office, I immediately arranged to get the exhibition materials the easy way - get hold of my contacts at the Perak Family Health Association! Since all the volunteers in Buddies are working people, and the exhibition is to be held on working days, the best option is to get the PFHA to handle that part. Buddies will handle the talk on the last day. SN, who had earlier introduced the college student to me, had also expressed her interest to attend the talk. She's even willing to take half day leave for that purpose. Just shows how committed she is to this cause - she's willing to do it on personal basis instead of making it official duty.

I truly admire SN's commitment in her work. Even the patients going for appointments at the HIV clinic prefer to see SN rather than the new doctors whenever the regular doctor is not around. She even remembers the patients by their names.

I wish there are more committed nurses like her.

Just as I was about to publish this post, I got a text message from Mrs. K's 13 year old daughter... the girl seems to be all stressed out because of her family problems. She said she and her older brother don't want to stay there any longer.

Adoiii... problem lagi...

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Busy day at the clinic

Originally I wasn't supposed to be on clinic duty today. Based on the duty roster prepared by our HIV clinic coordinator, my team is supposed to be on duty in 2 weeks time. However, since the team who's supposed to be on duty today had other matters to attend to, they asked to swap. The other 2 in my team are trainees, and so they left the decision to me.

And so yes, I was at the HIV clinic today - and it was quite a busy day too. I'm glad we swapped duties with the other team. You see, I got to meet quite a number of my clients today including one whom I have not met for quite some time.

I got to the hospital rather early. After leaving my file in the counseling/support room, I walked over to the doctor's room to inform SN that I was already there. That was when I saw a familiar looking lady - it was Nuri! I haven't met her for more than 2 years! Yes, we did speak to each other on the phone, but Nuri being the type who's not too keen on meeting up with other people, never wanted to join in any of our activities and neither did she want to call me whenever she's in Ipoh for her appointments. She's the "tak nak menyusahkan orang" type who felt that she'd only trouble me if she called me.

I noticed Nuri had lost some weight, and so I said, "Dah kurus!" To which she replied, "Akak pulak nampak dah berisi!" Aisehman... she's not the first person to say that to me this year...

While waiting at the counseling room for the other 2 volunteers to come, SN came over with a young Chinese guy. At first I thought she brought over a new patient, but instead of coming into the room, she called me out. Apparently the guy is a student at a private college here in Ipoh who went to see SN to ask if she could help them with an HIV/AIDS exhibition and a talk on the same topic some time mid July. Not that SN did not want to help, but noticing that the event is only 2 weeks away, and knowing that if the guy wanted to seek help from the hospital there'd be various departments for him to go through, SN recommended to him to seek help from Buddies instead. Coincidentally I was on duty, and so SN just introduced him to me.

So yes, I told the guy to just fax an official letter for our records and I'd take it from there. I assured him I'd help to get the exhibition materials and arrange for the speaker.

Actually this is the college where Sharifah used to study. The same place where Sharifah faced discrimination the moment her friends knew she had HIV. Ever since that incident I had always wanted to try to arrange for HIV/AIDS awareness talks at the college. So when this guy came to me instead, it was pucuk dicita ulam mendatang. I jumped at the opportunity straight away. If I couldn't arrange for any other speakers, I'd do the talk myself.

But I did manage to find another speaker to give the talk, so I think I'll mingle with the students at the exhibition instead.

Anyway, the first case referred to us today was Ah Mei, a lady in her 30's. My other colleagues had not arrived yet when she was brought in to see me, and I noticed she didn't feel too comfortable speaking in Malay. English worst still. Thank goodness, soon my Chinese colleague came in, so I asked her to continue while I copied down whatever necessary details from the lady's medical file.

After the lady left the room, Murni came in with her 1+ year old daughter - not to see us, but to see the pharmacists who share the same room with us. Her cute little girl was rather playful, not afraid of people, and so I had a good time playing with her while her mother talked to the pharmacists.

Just then SN came in with Geetha, a young lady and her 2 kids - 1 year & 2 years old. She had been frequenting the HIV clinic for quite some time (ever since she was pregnant with her 2nd child) but only now referred to us because she's having some marriage problems. Her husband, who is confirmed HIV positive but still denies it, has been having an affair with another woman of late. (Oh great, now he's gonna pass the HIV to another woman!!) He used to give his wife about RM2,000 a month for household expenses, now he gives only RM200. The rest of the money Geetha claimed went to this other woman. Geetha herself doesn't work, so she had to depend on her husband for household expenses.

We couldn't talk too long with Geetha as her younger son was already crying - he was sleepy and hungry. But his milk and other stuff were in the car. The car? Ah yes, the husband did come along to bring them to the hospital, but simply refused to go up to the HIV clinic. Whaaat lah! I promised Geetha I'd get one of our volunteers to call her soon.

Then Asiah came into the room to see the pharmacists. Yes, Asiah... remember I mentioned in my earlier posting the one who just recently found out she was pregnant? The one who asked ME how come she got pregnant? How on earth was I supposed to know what she did with her husband?!! Well, Asiah had already started on her ARV medication earlier, but now that she's pregnant, the doctors had to change the combination of ARV drugs for her.

After Asiah left, SN referred one last case to us. At first I thought we had a third woman referred to us for the day. Oh well, at least this person was dressed as a woman. It was only when I heard the deep husky voice did I take a look at the file and saw the IC number ending with an odd number instead of the usual even number for females. As far as I can recall, I don't think we've had any transexuals amongst our clients. We have gays, but not TS. Well, this one agreed to be assigned a buddy but asked for a female buddy as females are better for him/her (sorry, I'm not sure what gantinama to use) to talk to.

Yes, all 3 cases referred to us today agreed to be assigned buddies.

Before we left, SN passed to me the letters needed for Sharifah to do her blood tests before her next appointment in Ipoh in early August. The blood test is usually done 2 weeks before appointment with the doctor. Cek Mek's MyKid is supposed to be ready this month, so we figured might as well get Sharifah to go to JPN to get her little girl's MyKid on the same day.

I do hope Cek Mek will come along. Ni kes Opah rindu kat cucu!!! (Oh don't worry folks, I'll get over it...)