One of our volunteers, Sarah, a Malay female, is leaving for overseas. Which means, she’s leaving Buddies as well. Oh dear, we already have a shortage of Malay female volunteers, now she’s leaving too?
Nonetheless, I’d like to thank Sarah for being with us for the past few years. I wish her all the best for her future.
Other than having one less volunteer, there is another issue that we’d need to resolve. Since our volunteers are assigned as “buddies” to our clients on a one-to-one basis, when a volunteer leaves, that means there’d be clients without a buddy.
Luckily Sarah didn’t have many clients due to her busy work schedule. She had only been assigned 3 clients, but one has moved to another state, leaving her with only 2 clients, including one who was just assigned to her 2 months ago, after I personally went to visit the lady, Aza.
Since Aza stays up north of Perak, I will probably have to hand over the case to our new volunteer, a Malay lady doctor, who resides nearby. But the lady doctor is still considered a trainee volunteer, and as such I will still have to supervise.
The other client, Aini, stays in Ipoh. Sarah had been her buddy for the past 3 years already, and they are already very comfortable with each other. When Aini found out Sarah was leaving, she got worried. Who would she contact in case of any needs? Her children are under our sponsorship programme. Other than Sarah, Aini also knows me; and so when Sarah told her that I’d still be around, Aini was a bit relieved. During our Family Day early this month, I gave her my number and made sure I kept her number in my hand phone too. Until we can decide on whom to take over as her buddy, I guess I will have to be her main contact for the time being.
This month being Ramadhan, I’d usually have people contributing cash and goods to be distributed to the needy. Usually, for Aini, I’d just inform Sarah to get the stuff from our center to be delivered to her client. Not this time though.
Since Aini stays in Ipoh, it’s not so much of a problem for me to go and visit her as I wouldn’t have to spend so much time on the road. So I decided to visit her after my Saturday pasar tani routine. I still had 2 boxes of groceries in my car, so I figured I might as well deliver one box to Aini, and after that, deliver the other box to another client of mine who stays in Ipoh, Zainab.
I had informed Aini that I’d be coming, so by the time I got to her house, she was already waiting for me. Her kids, who were sleeping downstairs, ran up when Aini told them I was there. Apparently all of them missed sahur because nobody heard the alarm! By the time they got up it was already 6.30 am.
Before her kids came down again later, Aini whispered to me that none of her kids knew of her HIV status. They know of us as just a “Persatuan Kebajikan” but didn’t have a clue as to what kind of NGO we really are. OK, got the message loud and clear, that means I shouldn’t be talking about HIV to Aini when her kids are around. Aini has some other health problems as well, including kidney problems, so maybe we can play around with the story that we are actually helping poor families with health problems.
Aini actually used to have a job as an assistant at a pharmaceutical shop. The shop than closed down and she wasn’t able to find a job since then. She used to have a car when her husband was still alive, but even that car had to be sold off. Initially she didn’t want to bother us to inform us of her problem. She was surviving on her savings. But after a while, that too was depleted. She needed help desperately. That was when she finally informed Sarah, and Sarah immediately contacted me to ask if we could do anything. Of course, the first thing that came to my mind was the children’s education. And so after a sponsorship assessment visit, we approved her children for our sponsorship programme, and after highlighting the matter through my blog and facebook page, I managed to get a sponsor each for her 3 children.
Now Aini gets welfare aid of RM300 per month to support her children. Since she couldn’t get herself a proper job, she now takes care of a child. A working couple send their child under the care of Aini from Mondays to Fridays, and Aini gets RM200 per month for that – just enough to cover for her house rental.
I’m not sure for how long she can continue doing that though. According to her doctor, based on the condition of her kidney, she may need to start on dialysis in 2 years time. Once she has to do that, no way can she babysit anybody’s child. Even as it is, when she needs to go to the hospital for her appointments (for HIV and for her kidney problem), she’d send the child to her mother’s home nearby. But once she starts dialysis, she’d have to go to the hospital more often. Too often in fact.
As for her HIV, her CD4 had dropped to 270. The doctor told her she’d have to start on anti-retroviral medication, but gave her a choice of whether to start now, or after Raya. Aini decided to start after Raya, at least she can still fast this year. Once she starts taking her HIV medication, she will have to take them all her life.
I told Aini to inform me directly if her children have any other needs for their schooling other than the amount I bank in monthly for their pocket money and bus fares. Anything to do with their schooling is covered under the sponsorship programme.
Anyway, after leaving Aini’s house, I headed straight to Zainab’s house. I had been trying to call her, but my calls simply didn’t get through. I’d usually make sure Zainab’s home before I visit. You see, she works on shifts at a factory. I’d only visit if she’s on night shift, as she’d be home during the day. But since my calls didn’t get through, I decided I’d just go and visit – if she’s home, I’d go inside her house, otherwise, if it’s just her husband Zaki and the kids home, I’d just deliver the groceries, and just get some minimum updates from outside the door. I’d have to be very careful, nanti apa pulak orang kata, bini pergi kerja, bawa perempuan lain masuk rumah pulak…
When I got to their house, the door was closed. I gave the salam, and knocked on the door. Zainab’s 7 year old daughter, called kakak, opened the door. “Ibu ada tak?” I asked. “Ibu kerja,” said the girl. “Kejap ya, nanti makcik angkat barang dulu.”
As I was carrying the box of groceries, Zaki came to the door. I asked why my calls couldn’t get through. Zaki said somebody broke into the house and took their phone. Duh! Orang susah pun kena rompak.
Zaki mentioned that kakak’s kidney problem is surfacing again. Kakak was hospitalised in Ramadhan last year due to her kidney problems. Her face was so bloated I couldn’t recognise her when I went to visit. I took a look at kakak’s face, and yes, it did look a bit bloated, although not as bad as last year. Zaki said they’d have to bring her to the hospital on Monday for her appointment. Looks like she will have to go through another round of check-ups and medication.
I didn’t stay long. After getting the short updates, I told Zaki to convey my salam to Zainab and immediately left.
Now my car is clear, but will be filled up again with groceries before I continue with more visits…