Just as I was about to have lunch yesterday (yesterday masih boleh lunch ok?), a few calls came in… one after another. First it was our Buddies part-time staff. Since she’s holding our hotline number, any calls coming in for Buddies would first go through her before she gives the callers the numbers of the relevant volunteers. She called me to inform me that she had given my number to 2 people – a PLHIV who wanted to seek the help of Buddies, and a lady who wanted to become a volunteer, together with her daughter.
The volunteer-wannabe actually called while I was talking to the part-time staff. When I returned call, there was no answer. Then another call came in, this time from the PLHIV. He wanted to see us and asked where our center was. I told him we didn’t have a drop-in center, just an admin center, and so if he wanted to see us, we had better fix a specific time so I could be sure somebody would be at the center. I then gave him our address and told him to be there after 3 pm yesterday.
Immediately after that call, I noticed there was a missed call – from the volunteer-wannabe! Wah, she must think it’s very hard to get hold of me, whereas in actual fact, she just so happened to be calling at the wrong time. I don’t usually get calls all coming in at the same time (there was not a single call earlier in the morning!). This time when I returned call, she answered the phone. It seemed neither she nor her daughter knew much about us Buddies, but her daughter seemed very interested in what we do, and so she coaxed her mother to call us and find out more. I told them it would be best if we could meet up and have a chit chat so I could explain to them more - then only they should decide if they are still interested in this line of voluntary work. Since I was going to the center anyway yesterday to meet up with the PLHIV, I told the mother/daughter volunteer-wannabe’s to come to the center after 3 pm as well.
After that I immediately called a male colleague of mine, asking him if he could come to the center too as I may need a male volunteer to talk to the male PLHIV who called.
Right after my zohor prayer, the male volunteer called me. He just arrived at the center as our cleaner was coming over for her weekly cleaning job. My colleague told me that the PLHIV was already there at the center! It wasn’t even 2 pm yet! I told him to come at 3 pm! Oh well, I told my colleague to talk to him first, and I’d go there as soon as I could. Luckily our center is not that far from my house, so it didn’t take me too long to get there.
The moment I walked into the center, my colleague was there, talking to a couple. Oh, so the PLHIV came with his wife. One look at him, I thought he looked familiar. Then I looked at his wife, and yep, she looked familiar too. Then I remembered meeting them during one of my clinic duties. We didn’t assign any buddies to this guy, Jeff, because we usually don’t take in IVDUs – not because we don’t want to, but because we don’t have the expertise. Cases like these we’d usually refer them to Bakti Kasih, if they want to be referred. At that time (when I met them during clinic duty), the wife’s status was not known yet – whether she was positive or not.
Yesterday when we met them at our center, we were told that the wife, Riz, had also been confirmed positive. Apparently they had once met Fuzi at the hospital and Fuzi told them about all the help she had been getting from Buddies… the financial aid, the groceries etc. Oh dear, did she have to tell others everything she got from us?
Anyway, I explained to both Jeff and Riz that Fuzi’s case was different. Firstly, Fuzi was a single mother, it was easier to apply for financial aid for her. Secondly, Fuzi has 5 schooling children – and for that we didn’t really need to recommend her case to anyone else as we have our own Children Education Fund and Sponsorship Programme. In the case of Jeff and Riz, they don’t have any children. And based on looks, both of them still look capable of working. Having HIV is not an excuse.
Riz had stopped working ever since she married Jeff. As for Jeff himself, he does odd jobs, mostly by catching fish at an unused mine near his place and selling them to his kampong folks or at a pasar malam. It would be difficult for him to find a salaried job as he is still on methadone treatment. Who would want to employ him?
Jeff wanted to withdraw his EPF. He had once worked for less than a year and has some savings in EPF. But there wasn’t much, less than RM2K. We advised him that if he withdrew the money now, he’d finish it within days. After that? Besides, to withdraw he’d have to get his medical report from the hospital, which he has to pay for. And the only way for him to get his EPF withdrawal approved, is if the doctor certifies that he is unable to work. Based on his condition, I doubt the doctor would do that. So why waste money to pay for the medical report? We told Jeff that he might as well leave his savings there first, and only withdraw the money when he is really really not capable to work any more.
But Jeff said he’d prefer to withdraw the money now so he could use it now. He’s not even bothered how he’d survive when he’s no longer able to work. He said he probably won’t live long enough to wait until he is 50 (he's in his early 40's now) to be able to withdraw the money. Sigh! All he wants is to use the money. I bet if he is able to get his hands on the money, he’d finish it within just a few days. Degil sungguh.
Well, if he wants to go ahead and attempt to withdraw his EPF (under permanent disability), he can go ahead and proceed. We’re not going to help him with that, because if we do, when the application gets rejected (which is very likely), he’d probably come back to us asking us to do something about it. And he would have wasted at least RM40 for the medical report – which he will be complaining about later…
I told them that since we only have funds to cover for children’s educational needs, we cannot help them financially. However, we could consider sending them groceries whenever we get supply of groceries from donors. Coincidentally, there was a 10kg pack of rice at our center, courtesy of a donor, so I gave that pack to them. And since we still had some adult clothes as well, we also told them to choose whichever they could fit into.
At least when they left they were happy enough that they managed to go home with rice and clothes. They thanked us many many times for that.
Not long after they left, the mother-daughter volunteer-wannabes arrived at our center. It was the daughter who was looking for organisations to volunteer for, and from the list she found on the internet, she thought Buddies would be an interesting option. All she knew was that we deal with HIV positive people. That was it. Anyway, we explained to them what we do… all the do’s and don’ts… and they still seemed interested. So yep, we have 2 new volunteers now – the first of a mother-daughter team. Only thing to decide now is which volunteer to assign as their “mummy”…