I just realised I’ve been a volunteer with Buddies of Ipoh for 6 years now. How time flies…
Some people are still asking me how I got about to joining Buddies (not Buddhist, not Baddies, okay?).
Actually it all started by sheer coincidence. One of the Buddies then (this was in 2004) approached a friend of mine, trying to get her to join Buddies as a volunteer. They didn’t have a single female Malay volunteer then and were desperately looking for one in view of the additional number of female Malay PLHIV clients. Well no, basically there wouldn’t be any problems assigning non-Malays to the Malay clients, but when you get HIV+ ladies staying in Malay kampongs with somewhat kepochi neighbors, doing house visits could be a problem.
Anyway, my friend who was approached agreed to meet up with the Buddies chairperson then to be ‘interviewed’; and at the same time she asked if she could bring somebody else along. That somebody else was yours truly.
Coincidentally I was looking around for ways and means to somehow ‘contribute’ back to the society. I did join a few other activities and organisations, but somehow I felt as though I was contributing more to the society (as in persatuan) instead of society (as in masyarakat). So when my friend told me about Buddies and coaxed me to join her for the interview, I thought… why not.
And so we were both accepted as trainees. However my friend, who was already an active Rotarian, couldn’t find much time to spare for Buddies and so she finally opted out. She ended up only becoming the “middle person” to pull me into Buddies.
As for me, initially I didn’t really get enough exposure. As trainee, I wasn’t supposed to be meeting any of the clients by myself. A senior volunteer was assigned to be my supervisor (in Buddies term, we’d usually call the supervisor as the Mummy or Daddy to the trainee). I think throughout the whole year I only got to visit just one client twice. Either my “mummy” was busy to bring me to visit other clients, or I wasn’t free when she was.
Luckily for me, with my flexi working hours, I managed to join the HIV clinic team. At least I got to meet newly diagnosed HIV patients and I got to learn how to deal with them.
I finally got myself confirmed as a Buddy in 2005 (actually I think the exposure I got wasn’t really enough, but they were desperately short of volunteers especially with more and more HIV+ Malay ladies referred to us). It wasn’t long before I began getting all the problematic cases such as Ifa, Maria, Zana, Rose… and the list continues.
By 2006 I was pulled into the committee… 2007 treasurer… and by 2008 I got elected (on paksa-rela basis) as the chairperson, a post I’m still stuck with.
Alhamdulillah I finally got to do something that gives me satisfaction. Doing all the ground work and getting myself exposed to the trials and tribulations of the PLHIVs were indeed what I needed. Although dealing with all their problems can sometimes “make my blood go upstairs” ;), the exposure made me appreciate life more than I ever did before.
No, I don’t have regrets doing this. I am in fact THANKFUL. Thank you Allah for giving me this opportunity.