Remember Selvi, the homeless lady whose case was referred to us from Taiping Hospital before we started our support services there? She had been hospitalised for a few months when we visited her, and when we asked where she’d go when she’s discharged, she told us she had nowhere to go.
Selvi has 5 children. The 2 younger ones, aged 5 and 6, were sent to an orphanage run by an NGO, while the older 3, aged 11, 12 and 13, stayed at a different shelter home.
When Selvi got discharged, it became a problem for us to get hold of her. A fellow volunteer who works in Taiping Hospital took the address and phone number given to the hospital by Selvi before she was discharged. The address was that of her sister who stays in a nearby town. But calls to the number given never got through.
After a while, Selvi herself called the volunteer, saying she was not staying with her sister, and gave an address. Supposedly, the house was empty house belonging to a friend who wanted her to take care of the house.
When the volunteer tried to look for the house, there was no such address. Adoi, how lar?
Then we were told that her 6 year old daughter was hospitalised. But how were we to inform her about it when we didn’t even know where she lived? She had defaulted her hospital appointments again and so we weren’t able to meet her there either. Not much we could do.
Today a call came in on my hand phone from an unfamiliar number. It was a welfare officer from the district where Selvi’s 2 younger children stay. The lady officer was asking if I knew of any homes which would take in HIV+ children as there was a child who had just recently been diagnosed HIV+ and the people at the home where the girl stays now is scared to take care of the little girl. So they referred the case to the welfare department and the lady officer who called me was the one who was assigned to handle the case.
When she mentioned that the orphanage was a private home run by an NGO, somehow it just clicked in my mind that this could be Selvi’s child the officer was talking about.
Me: “Budak ni maknya ada lagi kan?”
Welfare Officer: “Dengarnya macam tu lah, tapi tak dapat dihubungi. Nama budak ni *Becky.” (*not real name)
Me: “Oh kalau yang tu saya taulah. Kami pun memang tengah mencari mak dia.”
Anyway, the officer asked me if I could tell her where she could send the child to. I wasn’t able to answer off hand, so I told her I’d have to call her back. She immediately gave me her personal mobile number so that I could easily get in touch with her even when she’s out of the office.
First thing was I got the fellow volunteer in Taiping Hospital to get more info on Becky’s condition. Then I called another colleague in Ipoh to ask him to find out if there are any homes in Ipoh willing to accept an HIV+ child. There definitely isn’t any home specifically for HIV children, but who knows, there may be those who are still willing to accept.
Then I remembered Becky’s younger brother who stays in the same home. It didn’t occur to me earlier to ask if they only intend to send Becky alone to another home, or are they planning to send both? They are already separated from their 3 older siblings, I certainly wouldn’t want these 2 to be separated as well.
I decided to go to the Buddies Center to get the necessary contact numbers, and I also asked my colleague (the one whose favour I sought to find out if there are any homes in Ipoh willing to accept Becky). Before long my colleague in Taiping Hospital sent me her report via SMS. Becky has a CD4 of only 21! Oh dear! She had been on treatment since November. Her younger brother however, has been confirmed negative.
I then called the welfare officer.
Me: “Bukan ke ada adik *Becky sorang lagi kat rumah tu?”
Welfare Officer: “Ha’ah ada, tapi dia dah confirm negatif.”
Me: “Habis tu, yang nak dipindahkan ke rumah baru ni sorang ke berdua?”
Welfare Officer: “Yang positif sorang je puan, yang sorang lagi tu negatif.”
Apparently, the welfare officer thought the homes for HIV children are only meant for infected children. I told her that these homes would usually accept HIV affected children as well as the infected.
“Oh, saya kalau boleh memanglah tak nak pisahkan budak-budak tu!” she said.
OK good, now that matter is clear. Place them together if possible. I asked if she could arrange for the transportation to send the children to the shelter home if the place is out of Perak. I told her we are all volunteers and so it would be a bit difficult for us to find the time to go all the way. The officer said she’d have to ask her boss first, but assured me there shouldn’t be any problem.
When my colleague arrived at the center, he told me he asked 2 homes in Ipoh, and both were not willing to accept HIV cases.
Frankly, after knowing that Becky’s CD4 is so low at only 21, I thought probably it would be in Becky’s best interest if she goes to a home where the caretakers have enough knowledge about HIV cases.
So I immediately called the lady in charge of a particular home in Selangor, specifically handling HIV cases. Usually for cases involving Muslim ladies/children, I’d be calling Rumah Solehah. This time since the clients involved are non-Muslims, I called up Rumah Jaireh. The lady in charge confirmed that she was willing to accept not only Becky and her younger brother, but also their mother if we manage to get hold of her.
After getting that confirmation, I immediately called the welfare officer again, but this time, there was no answer. So I sent her a text message, giving her the contact number of the lady in charge of the shelter home. If the welfare department is to send Becky and her brother to that home, then might as well, they deal direct with the home.
Meanwhile, I am still hopeful that we’d be able to get hold of Selvi, although frankly, I’m not even sure if she is still alive…