It has been quite a while since I last visited Fuzi’s family. If I recall correctly, my last visit to her house was some time in December last year. Even then, it wasn’t really a house visit - I went to fetch them at home and brought them shopping for the children’s schooling needs.
Fuzi’s case was first referred to me in August 2006. She had no source of income then, with 5 other mouths to feed including a 3 month old baby boy. The family depended on whatever a few neighbors and other good Samaritans gave them. Her whole neighborhood knew about her HIV due to a mulut murai nurse staying in the same kampong. In addition to that, her youngest child was conceived not with her late husband (who had died a few years earlier). Somebody broke into her house and raped her.
Finding out about her pregnancy after that was devastating enough. Finding out about her HIV infection was like the end of the world. With an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and HIV to add, the thought of the stigma and discrimination she was to face was a situation she never imagined.
Fuzi was confident that she got the HIV from the rape case. After giving birth to the youngest, Fuzi was concerned that her baby, Iwan, may be infected. She made sure she didn’t miss any appointments at the hospital although sometimes she only had enough to pay for her bus fares to Ipoh, but not to go back home.
After her case was referred to us Buddies, and to me personally as her buddy, we tried our best to help her out. In her case, moral and emotional support alone was not enough. She needed financial help as well. But other than our Children Education Fund (CEF) which is solely meant for children’s education, we didn’t have specific funds for their other needs. I got our Client Welfare Coordinator to help Fuzi apply for Welfare Aid, but that would usually take some time before approval. So what would Fuzi and her children eat meantime?
With a baby whom Fuzi couldn’t breastfeed because of her HIV, she’d need milk powder. And diapers too. Both these items aren’t cheap. Well yes, she could use cloth diapers, but there were times, especially during rainy seasons, when she’d run out of diapers.
I wrote about Fuzi’s financial woes here.
Fuzi’s problems didn’t end there. By the time her eldest daughter needed to get her MyKad done, Fuzi had other problems. You see, Fuzi, being Indonesian, married her late husband, a Malaysian, in Narathiwat. Trusting her husband fully that the marriage would be registered in Malaysia later, Fuzi wasn’t aware that her marriage had not been registered here. It wasn’t much of a problem when her husband was still alive. All her 4 children with her late husband had their birth certs done without any problems, indicating clearly that their father was a Malaysian citizen. But after her husband passed on, and Fuzi herself went to bring her daughter to apply for her MyKad, the citizenship problem began. She was told to get her marriage cert legalised before proceeding with her children’s citizenship confirmation. I wrote about this problem here, here and here.
While Fuzi was concerned that her youngest child would be infected, she did bring all her children for blood tests, just in case. While her first 3 children got the A-okay clearance from the doctor, Ijam was asked to come for a second test. But it wasn’t easy to bring Ijam for tests as he was afraid of needles. Every time he knew his mother planned to bring him to the hospital, he would run out of the house and hid somewhere until he knew it was too late to go to the hospital! Fuzi did finally coax (read: bribe) him to go by promising to buy him toys. And how heartbreaking it was to find out that Ijam was indeed confirmed HIV positive as well.
So Fuzi didn’t get HIV from the rape case after all. She must have got it from her late husband! You can read about this here.
The above problems were more than enough for Fuzi to handle. You think? Well, it didn’t help that her 3rd child was such a naughty boy. The boy, Faiz, was caught by his teacher in school for “menghisap” as told by Fuzi to me. I took for granted Fuzi meant “hisap rokok”. You can read about it here. Little did I know then that it was something worse than that. Not even drugs. What could it be then? Find out for yourself here. Just the thought of it gave me the creeps!
Well, financially we managed to help Fuzi out. Other than getting month financial aid from the Welfare Dept (of RM115 per month – to feed 5 children!), after I started my blog and posted her story, an anonymous blog reader agreed to remit a certain amount into Fuzi’s bank account every month. Her children’s schooling needs are covered either by our CEF or by our Sponsorship program.
As for legalising her marriage cert and confirming her children’s citizenship status, all I could do was to forward her to trusted sources to seek help from, ie those who wouldn’t take advantage of her.
There wasn’t much I could do about little Ijam’s HIV, except to give Fuzi some moral support, and to make sure the boy doesn’t miss his hospital appointments and medication.
I used to visit Fuzi’s family frequently on a monthly basis. After about 2 years and after I was confident that Fuzi would be able to stand on her own with the financial help she was already getting, I reduced the frequency of my visit. I didn’t want her to start depending too much on me and Buddies.
Well, today I decided to visit her. I did bring along some foodstuff with me plus a bagful of used baju kurung still in good condition, donated by someone who had cleaned up her wardrobe (to get new ones maybe?).
I didn’t even tell Fuzi I was coming. She seldom goes out except to the hospital. Only Fuzi, her eldest daughter Wina, and her youngest boy Iwan, were home. The rest were in school. Iwan will be 4 years old next month. How time flies!
I was pleased to note that this time around Fuzi didn’t have any new problems to tell me. In fact, her earlier problems seemed to be heading the right direction. Iwan has been confirmed to be spared from HIV. Fuzi has already got her marriage cert legalised. With that she managed to proceed with her daughters’ citizenship status, but procedures are procedures, it may take at least 6 months before the children can get their MyKad. But in their birth certs their citizenship had been verified and Wina’s teacher agreed to help out with Wina’s registration for PMR this year even without a MyKad. Of course, it did help that Wina is one of the brighter students and so the teacher went out of her way to help register the girl for her PMR.
As for the other children, they are doing okay in school. Not as good as Wina, but at least they look forward to school. And Faiz is no longer giving Fuzi the problems he used to give her. Fuzi resorted to “blackmailing” him – telling him that if she hears of any more troubles caused by him, “Nanti Mama minta tolong Makcik Afizah hantar kamu pergi rumah anak yatim!”
Hmmm… that wasn’t the first time my name was used for blackmailing purposes…