Of the 94 total attendees for Sunday’s Family Day, 17 were volunteers while rest were the family members of 20 different clients – half of them mine. Out of the 20, 9 of them were single mothers (one of the ladies didn’t come though… only her 3 children came with their grandma because the client had to work); 3 were women who got HIV from their first husbands, then remarried and present husband tested negative (so far); 1 woman still married but husband didn’t bother to go for testing; 1 single father; 2 married men; 3 single men (one of them came with his sister) and one 14 year old HIV+ child who came with her aunt.
And while only (huh? ONLY??) 10 of them were my clients, I was happy to note that I recognised and knew the names of 9 of the other 10 clients. There was only one single HIV+ man whom I didn’t recognise because I had never met him before. Indeed it helped a lot that I knew them… with such a big group, if I didn’t know them, it would be difficult to know who was in our group and who was not. Even with the sign indicating that the hut was reserved for us Buddies, there were still a few outsiders who selamba-ly came, sat and put their things on the tables at the hut. Knowing pretty well they weren’t from our group, I just told them that the place was reserved.
But anyway, being an observer, here’s my observation of my clients who attended the Family Day on Sunday:
FUZI – A regular for our Family Day outings. Her children always look forward to the annual event. There was no problem for Fuzi to get along with the others. Only problem was her children were overly adventurous. The boys who caused panic when they went missing during the day were Fuzi’s 2 younger boys!
LIN – Her second time joining. She missed last year’s not because she didn’t want to join, but because she couldn’t. Lin came with her grown up daughters (in their early twenties) and the 2 younger ones, 15 year old boy and 13 year old girl. And being a close-knit family, they were enjoying the day together as a family. So Lin never worried about not having any other “gang” during the day’s events.
MARIA – Not a new client. I was first assigned to be her buddy when she was pregnant. The boy she gave birth to is now already 4 years old. Maria had always been the reserved and quiet type. After all these years, finally this year she indicated her interest to join our Family Day. But she had doubts. She asked who else was coming… to make sure she knew at least one of them. She asked if we’d mention anything about HIV during the day’s events. She specifically requested to follow me in my car when I told her that a few volunteers would be waiting at the bus station. Maria came to our Family Day this year together with her daughter. I tried introducing her to a few other female clients, but their conversations just went as far as “Tinggal kat mana?” Most of the time, Maria just went around the park with her daughter. Even when she was at our reserved hut, I didn’t see her chatting with anyone else. She just sat there quietly. Aduh… very very difficult for others to break the ice with her. And since I had so many others to attend to, I couldn’t be attending to Maria all the time!
ASIAH – Another old client but newcomer to the Family Day. However, unlike Maria, Asiah does talk to the other ladies. Her only problem all the while was that her husband never wanted to join and always told Asiah, “Tak payahlah pergi.” I’m not sure what made him change his mind this year, maybe he finally figured out that at least his children deserved to be given the chance to enjoy themselves once in a while. However, Asiah’s husband didn’t join us at our hut. He sat at a nearby hut until they went back. Oh well, at least it was a good enough start. Asiah finally got to join the event and got to meet and speak to the other HIV+ ladies.
SOFIE – Became my client last year but during last year’s Family Day at the National Stud Farm, she was bed-ridden and simply couldn’t join us. She just became my client at that time and her children weren’t too familiar with me yet, so they didn’t join either. Although this year was their first time at our event, they didn’t have any problems adjusting. Even Sofie herself joined her children in the pool and the walk around the park. Those who had seen her condition last year would probably never have thought she would be able to enjoy herself at the park this year!
MR & MRS K – They had joined our Family Day once before but due to all sorts of problems, didn’t join us for the past 2 years. Last year their youngest had to undergo a heart operation (hole-in-heart). The problem with this family was that they always seem to be in financial trouble. Even this year, Mrs K got her daughter to send me a text message to ask if I’d be sponsoring their bus fares to Ipoh to join the family day! I told them they would have to cough the fares up themselves as we’re already paying a significant amount of money per head for their entry into LWOT. Well they made it to Ipoh… and from what I saw, they enjoyed themselves on Sunday. I got to speak to Shah, their eldest son who also joined the family day this year. Shah had earlier this year said he wanted to go down south to work so he could help his family. Although I advised him to attend a 6-months course under Giat Mara, they (Shah & his parents) didn’t even bother to give it any second thoughts. But Shah is no longer working and when I asked him on Sunday if he didn’t intend to find himself a job, he said, “Entahlah, tanya ibulah. Ibu suruh dok rumah jaga adik.” Ah, after all those talk about getting a job down south, now all he does is babysit his younger sister? Why can’t Mr and Mrs K at least think of Shah’s future? Why can’t they think of any other options? What will become of the boy (he’s 19 this year) in future if all he does now is stay home to look after his younger sister? Adoi… why can’t they THINK?
HANA – Hana’s family joined our family day 2 years ago at Taiping Zoo. However they didn’t join us last year because Hana had to work on Sunday. This year again, Hana couldn’t join us, but I guess she felt guilty that the children would have to miss out all the fun simply because she had to work, this time she decided to send the children to join us, accompanied by their grandmother. At least she wasn’t being selfish.
MURNI – Murni started joining our Family Day last year (then she was still a new client) and by the looks of things, I think she may well be a regular to our annual event. This time even her husband came (he didn’t join last year but still let his wife join our activities without any restrictions).
ROSNAH – She once told me that she didn’t want to join activities involving other PLHIVs as she was afraid others may know of her status. As a matter of fact, she knew Shila (not my client) who stays in the same town. But when I extended her the invitation this year, she was one of the earlier ones to reply, asking me to book 2 places – for her and her daughter. And she didn’t seem to have any problems getting along with the others during the day, and even asked me to take pics of her at the various attractions at the park. I did notice however, that even though she came in her car with just her daughter, she didn’t offer to take Shila home despite them staying not far from each other.
RIN – My newest client and definitely a first timer to our Family Day. She came by car but since she didn’t know the way to LWOT, asked to join the group from the bus station to follow my car from behind. Since she only had 2 young children as passengers in her car, she even offered to take a few passengers from the other families. She got along well with the other clients and didn’t have any problems blending in with the rest.
Today, the following text message came in from Rin:
“Salam kak, apa khabar? Kesempitan ini saya nak ucapkan berbanyak terima kasih dan saya rasa terharu dengan sokongan Buddies. Di samping itu saya dapat kenalan baru. Harap dapat teruskan lagi di masa akan datang!”
For the first time, one of my clients actually sent me a text message to thank us. Not to say the others never thanked us, but usually they’d just say terima kasih at the end of the day when they were about to go home. That, and the fact that these families always look forward to the next family day, are good enough for us, really. But getting an additional thank you message 2 days after the event? That’s certainly an extra boost!