THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Saturday, 30 January 2010

More visits, more deliveries

As mentioned in my previous posting, I intended to deliver groceries to Sofie's family today. So right after my pasar tani routine this morning, and after cooking lunch for my mother, off I went to the minimarket which had been selected by the charity club to supply groceries worth RM300 a month per family to 2 of the poor families I'm dealing with.

Earlier this week when I went to get the groceries for Lin, I went on a weekday, so I took all the stuff in the afternoon and delivered them straight away. I had told the minimarket owner that I'd be coming again on Saturday to collect the stuff for the other family, but apparently they thought I'd be coming in the afternoon, so when I got there about 10 am, the stuff weren't ready yet. Well, I didn't tell them exactly what time I was coming, but I did ask what time they open in the morning on Saturdays, so I can't say they were totally clueless. But never mind, not one who likes to make a fuss of such things, I told them I'd wait for them to get the things ready.

The things were ready within half an hour, after which off I headed to Sofie's house, avoiding every road possibly affected by the Thaipusam procession.

Ika and Saiful were playing outside their house when I got there.

"Dah mandi belum?" I asked.

"Belum", said Ika, smiling. It was about 11.30 am by then.

Sofie was inside, grumbling while tidying up the mess her children made. When she was bed-ridden, all 4 children were very helpful in keeping the house neat and tidy. Now the good news is Sofie does seem to be better (ie can clean up, can cook etc but still tires easily) but the bad news is, the children seem to be getting lazier now that they have their mother taking care of their needs.

Well, Along & Angah were not home, so I couldn't give them a piece of my mind, but I took the opportunity to remind Ika and Saiful not to take things for granted.

Sofie admitted that it was probably her fault. When her ex-hubby was still staying with them, she took care of every single need without training the kids to help out with at least some of the house chores. Then when her husband left, and she got bed-ridden, the children somehow, due to their concern for their mother's well being, took the effort to help out with the household chores. But now that they see their mother getting a bit better, they're taking for granted that it would be just like old times.

I can understand they just want to be kids, but they must also understand that their mother is not fully recovered. Heck, even some well to do families with healthy parents train their children to do at least some of the household chores! Cannotlah manja lebih-lebih!

Anyway, after visiting Sofie's family, I headed to Wani's house, which is in the same town, but further in. Wani had sent me a text message earlier to tell that she had paid for her children's school fees etc, and that she'd send me the receipts the next time she comes to Ipoh. Since I was already in town, I figured I might as well get the receipts from her to enable me to reimburse her as both her children are under our Sponsorship program. I sent her a text message earlier informing her that I might be coming today but when I got to her house, I found out that she had lost her handphone and did not get my message. The receipts are still with the children's teachers. So I told Wani to post the receipts to Buddies centre when she gets them.

Wani's eldest boy has hearing problems (he now uses hearing aid), and goes to a special class in his school. The fees for students of this special class are higher than that of other students.

After Wani's house, I headed back to Ipoh, but not straight home. Remember in my previous posting I said I'd buy a bicycle for Rosnah's daughter on Thursday, leave it at our centre and get it back on Sunday to be delivered to Rosnah? Well, I did go to the bicycle shop on Thursday, but since the shop owner said they do open on Thaipusam, I figured rather than having to get the bicycle out of my car, leave it at the centre, and putting it back in on Sunday, I might as well get the bicycle from the shop today so I don't have to get it out of the car until I reach Rosnah's house.

So yep, I just paid a small deposit and told the taukeh I'd come to get the bicycle on Saturday ie today. And so, after coming back from today's house visits, I straight away headed to the bicycle shop and had the guy putting the bicycle into my car. All I have to do is to get the bicycle out of my car just once - when I get to Rosnah's house tomorrow morning.

On my way to the shop, I saw a Perdana, also carrying a bicycle, but with one of the tyres sticking out of the boot, and the boot having to be tied with a rope to keep the cover down.

Right now this is what the inside of my Kenari looks like...



Hah! Kecik-kecik Kenari aku pun, sekurang-kurangnya sekadar nak angkut basikal, masih boleh tutup & kunci semua pintu! (tapi kalau ada extra passenger nak menumpang, dok lah mencangkung sebelah basikal tu...)

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Various updates

We had our Board meeting last night. It was the first meeting for the year so there were quite a few things to discuss. Amongst others were setting the date for our coming AGM in March & setting the deadline for submission of reports by the various coordinators to be included in our annual report.

So yep, it’s report writing time again! Me? Just like last year, other than the Chair’s report, I will also have to write up the report for our Children Education Fund and Education Sponsorship for Children program. And oh, since most (if not all) photos of activities were taken using my camera, I’d have to prepare the photos of activities as well. Paperwork is the part I dislike most, especially since I have enough paperwork to be done at my office. I prefer doing groundwork like house visits & all. But having said that, when a report has to be done, I don’t like it if it’s done cincai-cincai either, especially since the reports will be given to various people/organisations, especially donors.

Meanwhile remember Azimah (the unwed mother) and Halimah (the pregnant lady) from my clinic duty last week? I had initially postponed assigning a buddy to them. I wanted to discuss during the meeting if there was anybody else amongst the female volunteers who could be assigned as their buddies. But in the end, I still ended up as their buddy. However, we also agreed that 3 of my older and not so problematic clients be handed over to other volunteers. So I “gave away” Jah, Murni and Zainab. I can bet you they will still be calling me anyway, but at least I know these ladies don’t mind if other volunteers call them.

Frankly I think we are short not only of female Malay volunteers, we are generally short of female volunteers. Besides, most of the PLHIVs needing our services are the females. Many of the HIV+ males usually would just say they’re doing okay and don’t need a buddy. Even the ones agreeing to be assigned buddies, would usually just opt to contacts by phone calls only. It is especially obvious during our annual Family Day, majority attending the event would be the female PLHIVs and their children.

But guess what? We’re organising a gathering for the male PLHIVs this coming Sunday. We were supposed to have one for the females in the afternoon, and one for the males at night. Ended up we’re calling off the gathering for the females but will go on with the gathering for male PLHIVs. Frankly for the females, those who’d come would probably be MY clients and the few I asked either need to work or have other matters to attend to this coming Sunday. Besides, most of my clients already know each other and already have each other’s contact numbers. But they still seldom contact each other because they all claim “credit habis”.

I do hope the gathering for the male PLHIVs will be a good start to get the male PLHIVs to form a peer support group.

I will not membusykan body at the male PLHIV gathering so I have made other plans for the weekend. This Saturday insyaAllah I will be doing the second round of this month’s McPi McDelivery – this time to Sofie’s house. I’m purposely visiting on a Saturday this time because Ika, Sofie’s daughter, has complained that I always visit on a weekday afternoon when she’s at school. Tak aci, she says, that her brothers all get to meet me and she can’t. So okay, once in a while I visit on a weekend when she’s home.

Before that I may need to shop for a bicycle first. Rosnah’s daughter needs a bicycle to go to school. I hope to deliver the bicycle on Sunday. So yep, probably tomorrow I’d shop for a bicycle and keep it at our centre. Then Saturday, after my pasar tani routine, off to the minimarket to get the supply of groceries for Sofie’s family and straight away deliver to Sofie. Then Sunday, get the bicycle from the centre and deliver to Rosnah.

Confirm lah my car jadi delivery van this weekend!

Monday, 25 January 2010

The monthly delivery begins

As mentioned in one of my earlier postings, a particular charity club has agreed to sponsor monthly groceries for Sofie’s and Lin’s family. Yesterday, I finally got the go ahead from the lady in charge to start getting the stuff from a particular minimarket near my office and deliver the stuff to the respective families.

Since each family is getting RM300 worth of goods, I was not about to get the things for both families at one go. So this morning I told the minimarket owner that I’d be taking the stuff for the first family in the afternoon while for the next round for the second family, I’d come again on Saturday morning.

I decided to visit Lin first. I sent her a text message yesterday saying that I’d be coming today to her pisang goreng stall. She replied, asking me to come to her home because she had not been doing any business for the past 3 days as advised by the doctor.

This afternoon, I went over to the minimarket, stuffed my Kenari with rice, sugar, cooking oil, flour, milk, canned food, anchovies, onion, garlic, dried chilly, eggs, soap, laundry detergent and whatever other goods prepared by the minimarket owner, then off I headed to Lin’s house for this month’s McPi McDelivery!

The moment Lin opened the door, I saw her right wrist in bandage. She had been feeling some pain at her right wrist for some time already, but since to her “takda kerja” means “takda gaji”, she went on with her daily routine at her pisang goreng stall. That was until last Friday when she wanted to do something in her kitchen and she suddenly felt a sharp pain. After that her wrist became somewhat swollen and the pain became more and more unbearable, so she sought the help of a friend to bring her to the hospital. Done the x-ray, nope, no broken bone. The doctor just bandaged her wrist, gave her some pills and told her to take a complete rest for at least a week.

“Doctor bagi surat cuti tak ni?” I teased Lin. “Kalau ada pun saya nak bagi kat siapa?” Lin replied, laughing away.

I guess the delivery of the groceries couldn’t come at a better time! Lin may miss one week’s worth of pisang goreng sales, but today she got one month’s worth of groceries, more than what she used to buy.

And oh, remember the last time I brought them shopping for schooling needs… her youngest daughter Marlia was not around because she was enjoying herself at her paternal grandma’s house? Well, apparently their father, Mr Darling, had bought Marlia’s school uniforms etc but didn’t bother to buy anything for Rahim, Marlia’s older brother. When Marlia finally returned home, she showed off all the new school stuff their father had bought for her, just to make him jealous. How do you think Rahim must have felt? Well, Rahim didn’t want to lose out either. He went to his room, took out all the stuff bought for him when I brought them shopping, and it was his turn to show off to his little sister, “Alaaa… tak heran lah. Makcik Afizah hari tu belikan untuk abang lagi mahal lah!” Hehehe… it was Rahim’s turn to make Marlia jealous.

Anyway, amongst the excuses Mr D gave to Lin when he was late in giving her the monthly alimony, was that he was short of cash after having to buy all the school stuff for Marlia. So I conspired with Lin… I told her to get the receipts for all the school stuff Mr D bought for Marlia, and since both Rahim and Marlia are under our sponsorship programme, I’d reimburse LIN with the exact amount Mr D had spent.

Guess what? Lin did manage to get the receipts (and whaddaya know, the supermarket where Mr D bought the stuff is called Pasaraya Borong Sakan!”) totalling RM145. And so today I reimbursed Lin with that amount. At least that will cover part of the alimony she’s supposed to get from Mr D. But of course, it’s hush hush lah… Mr D doesn’t know anything, otherwise he won’t pay the alimony at all!

I think Marlia must have been pampered when she went to stay with her paternal grandma during the last school holidays. Chances are, to jaga hati, whatever she asked for, she got. When school reopened recently she was pestering Lin, saying she wanted to go stay with either her father or her grandma. And the girl kept on pestering even when Lin was busy at her pisang goreng stall. I think Marlia was just trying her luck with her mother, who knows, maybe if her mother didn’t want Marlia to stay with the father, then she (Lin) would more easily give in to Marlia’s other requests.

Well, it didn’t work out that way. Lin of course wanted Marlia to stay with her, but she got so fed-up, she picked up her phone, and right in front of Marlia she called Mr D, telling him to come fetch Marlia after work so Marlia could stay with him. “12 tahun saya jaga dia, dia dah tak nak dok dengan saya. Abang ambillah dia, tukar sekolah semua sana terus, senang cerita!”

Mr D got worried. I don’t think he worried that Lin got mad – he worried that if Marlia stays with him, he’d have to spend more monthly. He seems to spend a lot on his present wife and step-daughter, and so having Marlia staying with him may trouble him even more financially. The older children who visit their father from time to time, always come back reporting to their mother, “Kita dulu kalau makan, satu lauk aje. Dengan mem baru ni, berderet lauk…”

After that incident (the call from Lin asking him to fetch Marlia), Mr D didn’t answer anymore calls coming from Lin or any of his children. When his 3rd daughter tried to call him to get a copy of his salary slip (for scholarship application purposes), he didn’t answer either. The daughter finally sent him a text message, and a few days later the reply came, telling the daughter that he left his salary slip on the TV set at their Opah’s house.

He seems to avoid meeting the children. (hmmm… must have been lectured by present wife for spending so much on Marlia already!) But you know what? His 3 older daughters are all already in higher learning institutions, including one studying overseas. In a few years time, they’ll be working. I betcha it will be Mr D who’d be wanting to see his children more often then…

Friday, 22 January 2010

The unwed single mothers

Ever since I joined Buddies in 2004, I have been assigned to so many HIV+ women, most of whom were just victims who got HIV from their husbands/ex-husbands/late husbands. Rose, Maria, Cikgu Maznah, Nina, Lily, Zainab, Yah, Fuzi, Rina, Hana, Jah, Sha, Lin, Sofie, Murni, Nuri, Ani, Suhaila, Asiah were all married at least once. Wow, such a long list – I don’t think any of the other Buddies have had such a long list. And I haven’t included people like Wani and Shila who kept contacting me even though I’m not their buddy. Out of that long list, 4 have passed away while one had been avoiding us from the beginning.

But this time I am not going to talk about the married ones. Having met another unwed mother during my clinic duty on Wednesday, I got reminded of the other HIV+ single ladies I’ve been assigned to. 6 of them altogether – Ifa, Noni, Zana, Sharifah, Anita and the latest, Azimah.

However, 2 of them, Ifa and Noni, did not get pregnant. So their problem were not as bad as the other 4.

It’s still too early for me to say anything much about Azimah, since I haven’t really dug deep enough, but I did manage to have a chat with Kak Ana and Sharifah after the clinic duty on Wednesday. Yep, I did get some updates from them about Sharifah & baby + Anita & baby.

Sharifah looked good. Although her present job is not a permanent job, at least it’s something. And she’s also still looking around for a permanent job, hopefully one which provides EPF and Socso as well, unlike her present job. During clinic, the doctor did ask if she wanted to transfer her appointment to her hometown in another state but Sharifah decided not to. Firstly, she didn’t want to risk having anyone know about her HIV at the hospital in her hometown. Secondly, her baby, my little Cek Mek, is for the moment here in Perak at Kak Ana’s shelter home. So having her appointment in Ipoh would give her the opportunity to be with her baby whenever she comes for her appointment.

But for the moment Sharifah is not so much of a problem. She’s calmer, smiles a lot more, and I must also add that amongst the unmarried single mothers I’ve handled thus far, she’s the most obedient and would at least listen to advice.

Our concern this time was more about Anita. Kak Ana is beginning to lose her patience with Anita. She’s not compliant with her ARV, and every time Kak Ana nags about the importance of taking her ARV on time, Anita would tell Kak Ana’s assistant, “Mama tu saja suka cari salah aku.” She’s stubborn, egoistic and wouldn’t listen to advice.

Worse, whenever her son does something naughty, she’d either pinch or beat the boy. Whenever Kak Ana reminded her not to be too hard on the son (the boy is usually not that naughty when taken care by others), again Anita would use that “saja suka cari salah aku” line. If she’s on the phone and the boy cries, it’s phone first, boy later. Sometimes the boy’s diapers got so wet, she still didn’t bother to change them. When asked why, she said, “Jimat sikit.” Jimat my foot!

Kak Ana does give her some money every month (she does help out with the cleaning up of the home). She uses it to buy cigarettes at the nearby shop and to top-up her phone so could communicate more often with her boyfriends. And I don’t know what story she has been telling a particular supplier to the shop, but somehow she managed to borrow money from that guy. (I believe her version of “pinjam” is “tak payah bayar”)

Once Kak Ana asked her if she actually loved her son. Her answer? “Kadang-kadang sayang, kadang-kadang tak.” Like that oso can ah??

And when she got mad, she’d threaten to leave the place. Eventually, Kak Ana too would naik angin.

Kak Ana: “Kalau engkau nak sangat keluar, Mama tak boleh larang. Bagi Mama nombor talipon Kak Afizah, biar Mama bagitau dia.” (actually Kak Ana does keep my number, she just wanted Anita to know that she’d have to inform me if Anita leaves the home)

Anita: “Tak ada. Dah buang dah nombor dia!”

Kak Ana: “Eh, engkau sedar tak dia yang tolong engkau selama ni?”

Anita: “Tau!!!”

Anita is not ashamed to tell people she has HIV. Once she even told one of Kak Ana’s assistant, “Aku tak kisah bagitau orang aku ada HIV. Sekarang aku ada gang.” When Kak Ana’s assistant asked who, she told her about Sharifah, Cek Mek’s mother. Actually before that Kak Ana’s assistant never knew. Only Kak Ana and her husband had known about their HIV status before this.

And guess what? Anita had even attempted to seduce one of the male staff at the home! That guy is now so scared of Anita!

Whoa! Somehow, Anita is beginning to remind me more and more of Zana. Stubborn, hard-headed, never wanting to listen to advice, and… hungry for sex!

Kak Ana admitted to me that between Sharifah and Anita, the difference was bagai langit dengan bumi.

But looking at their cases, I realised that the main difference in the backgrounds of these 3 problematic young ladies were… family support! Sharifah’s family still accepts and supports her while it’s the total opposite for Anita and Zana.

Their upbringing had a lot to do with their attitude now. Sharifah is such a soft-spoken girl, and after having met her mother, I understand why. It’s just that she got into this mess because she had been so naive and as such, was easy prey.

Anita and Zana on the other hand were brought up in a totally different environment altogether. They were so used to using foul language, and I don’t think the word “sopan” exist in their dictionaries. They never got enough love at home, and so they go out looking for so-called “love” (but got it all wrong and related it to “love-making” instead).

So we can’t really blame Zana and Anita 100% for becoming who they are. Only problem is, would we have enough will and patience to guide them back to the right path? Sigh…

I have high hopes that Azimah would not turn out to be anything close to Zana and Anita. She does, after all, have the backing and support of her mother and brother. She and her baby have a home to return to. THAT makes a whole lot of a difference.

I hope to have a more woman to woman (makcik to anak muda is more like it) talk with Azimah soon. And hopefully her mother too would want to meet up with me.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

First clinic duty for the year

I was on clinic duty again today – my first for the year 2010.

Knowing how difficult it can be to get a parking space at the hospital, today I decided to go early. Other than hoping to get a nearer parking space, I also intended to go to the blood bank to donate blood. It has been 6 months since my last blood donation. Clinic duty was supposed to start at 10 am, I got to the hospital before 9 am.

Easier to get a parking space? Hah, fat hope! I ended up parking at the same parking area quite far from the specialist clinic. Although it was still within walking distance for healthy and fit people, for those who are unwell and unfit, the walk could be quite tiring.

That being my first time donating blood at the Ipoh GH blood bank (usually I’d just go to blood donation drives at various places other than the hospital), I had to ask and look around to find the location of the blood bank. There weren’t any donors when I got there. Only when I was filling up the form did one guy walk in to donate blood as well. The advantage of donating blood at the blood bank is that there is more privacy (otherwise at shopping complexes you’d have to lie in bed in public) and definitely more comfortable (aircond, TV, more comfy bed etc).

Having donated blood a few times already, and my record already on their computer, they didn’t bother to check for my blood type. (My blood type? A for Afizah…) They just took my weight (minimum is 45 kg – when I got on the weighing scale, even someone with poor eye-sight could see I clearly passed the minimum weight!!) and tested my blood for hemoglobin. I passed the hemoglobin test as well, no problem at all.

The nurse, while poking my arm with the needle to get my blood, asked, “Saja datang nak derma darah ke?” I told her right in the face that with the parking problems and all, I wouldn’t bother to come if it was just to donate blood. The only reason I decided to donate blood at the Ipoh GH today was because I needed to be at the hospital anyway for my clinic duty.

According to the nurse, they will be having a blood donation drive this weekend at Jaya Jusco and Tesco Ipoh. So, those of you in or around Ipoh who wish to donate blood but too lazy to go to the hospital to do so (ahem, speaking for myself, really), why don’t you go shopping this weekend and donate blood at the same time, huh? There’s always a need for blood at the blood bank.

Anyway, I got to the HIV clinic by 9.30 am, went over to the doctor’s room to tell SN that I was already there, then off to the counseling room. While waiting for cases to be referred, I took out my mini notebook for my internet dose for the morning, using gelombang curi… (hospital punya lah!). Another volunteer then came in. She thought clinic duty was supposed to start at 9 am, so she thought she was already late, whereas in fact she was early!

It wasn’t long before SN came in to hand us the file for the first case referred to us today. Just as I was going through the file, SN came in again with another case. So I took the first case, and my colleague took the other case. Then another colleague came in just in time for another case to be referred. So, we ended up taking one case each. The other two volunteers are still trainees but had been quite exposed to clinic duties since last year, so I let them handle the cases themselves this time around. Besides, I was there if they needed to consult me for anything.

The case I handled would have probably been passed to me even if I wasn’t on duty today. Azimah - a young, unmarried mother of a 2 months old baby. Yep, another of those out-of-wedlock cases. The ones which would have to face 2 kinds of stigma – for giving birth before marriage and for getting HIV. I always get this type of cases. But thank goodness, in Azimah’s case, I don’t have to worry about finding her a shelter home. Azimah, who stays with her mother, brother and sis-in-law, at least stays with her family who accept her and her baby. Yes, there is a particular sis-in-law who kept insisting that Azimah should be staying at a shelter home with her baby, but that sis-in-law stays elsewhere. So lantak pi dia lah apa dia nak kata!

Azimah at first looked rather calm and didn’t talk much. I was thinking maybe since she had family support, she was emotionally okay. Apparently, in the beginning, she was still unsure whether to trust me or not. Or maybe she thought, by way of my dressing, I may be lecturing her about dosa pahala and all.  Only towards the end of the session when I was about to send her back to the doctor’s room, she started to talk, and from time to time wiping the tears in her eyes. Ah, I finally did manage to break the ice! Obviously she does need a buddy, and so I told her I’d call her later and maybe we could arrange to meet up so we could talk in a more private environment. There wasn’t much privacy in the room given to us – the hospital doesn’t have enough rooms to spare. Azimah welcomed my suggestion.

After sending Azimah’s file back to SN, I got back to the counseling room to see if I could help out with the other 2 cases. The second case seemed to be handled quite well and since it was a Chinese-speaking group, I let my colleague continue. The 3rd case, handled by a male colleague, was that of a pregnant lady. But the lady’s husband was also there and so my colleague didn’t feel too awkward. He however, passed the case to me the moment he saw me walking back into the room. The lady, Halimah, is 6 months pregnant. Her present marriage is her second marriage. Her present husband was tested negative and so Halimah had probably been infected by her first husband who died 10 years ago. She did mention that she knew her late husband had been sleeping around with other women but she never knew if he was infected.

Well, if her husband died 10 years ago, that would mean Halimah herself had been infected at least 10 years ago as well (maybe even earlier). But she never knew until lately. She remarried 6 years ago, and only got pregnant recently – that was when she found out she had HIV. Alhamdulillah, both Halimah and husband seemed to be taking this quite well and although they did accept our services, it will need only minimum monitoring, unlike Azimah’s case which will need to be followed more closely.

There was only one more case referred to us after that – of an ex-IVDU. He just came out from Pusat Serenti some time late last year and only started taking his ARV less than a month ago. His parents are supportive enough to accompany him to Ipoh (he’s from another town) and based on his CD4 count, I believe he had been compliant in taking his ARV. From a CD4 of only 14 when first diagnosed, his latest blood test showed a CD4 of 112. I hope with his family’s support, he will be able to lead a more positive life in future.

There being no more cases after that, I told my colleague they could go off first. I still needed to wait as Sharifah had promised to meet up with me today. I checked with SN but it seemed Sharifah had not even registered yet. I tried calling her, I couldn’t get through. Since Sharifah did mention she’d be staying at Kak Ana’s shelter home to be with Cek Mek, I figured she’d probably come to Ipoh GH with Kak Ana. So I tried calling Kak Ana, and immediately upon answering the phone, Kak Ana said, “On the way! On the way!” Apparently they purposely came late to avoid waiting too long to see the doctor; but this time their late was a wee bit too late. Kak Ana couldn’t get a parking space when they got to the hospital, so she waited in the car while Sharifah went up alone to the HIV clinic. It was already 12.40 by the time Sharifah registered at the counter. So she got nagged by the nurse at the counter for coming late. Then I went over, and Sharifah got nagged by me for coming late. Then SN came to see us, and Sharifah got nagged by SN for coming late. Then Sharifah went in to see the doctor, and she got nagged by the doctor. Hahaha! Oh don’t worry, Sharifah is not the overly sensitive type. She actually laughed when I nagged to her in my usual joking manner. She promised me next time she’ll make it a point not to come too late.

After clinic, we went down to where Kak Ana was waiting and told her that next time, they shouldn’t come any later than 12 noon. No point nagging only to Sharifah when Kak Ana’s the one who’d be driving her to the hospital. Kak Ana just giggled.

We then went off for lunch and had a long chat. We talked about Sharifah, about Cek Mek, about Anita and about Anita’s son. Ooh… got problem, especially with Anita’s attitude of late. Long story… so I’d save that story for my next posting…

Monday, 18 January 2010

This and that

Sofie called me yesterday to inform me that Azlan, her eldest son, was offered a place at a Sekolah Menengah Teknik in Perak, not too far from her place. As mentioned in my posting here, Azlan’s teacher and headmaster had recommended that he applied for a place at Sekolah Menengah Teknik, noticing his interest and capability in that line. His PMR result for Kemahiran Teknikal proved so too.

Azlan is supposed to register this coming Wednesday. Sofie called to ask me if he should accept the offer. Of course, she wants what’s best for the boy but at the same time she’s worried because she fears she can’t afford to pay for all the expenses, especially if he is to stay at the school hostel.

I told Sofie to just accept the offer and worry about the payments later. As long as Azlan is eager then just go for it. He is after all under our Sponsorship Program and his schooling expenses should be covered by this fund. So yes, this Wednesday, Sofie will be going with Azlan to register him at the school and to listen to the briefing. I told her to get back to me immediately once she gets the list of whatever requirements including payments.

I don’t mind going along with them but I am on clinic duty this Wednesday. I will try to visit them after that to see to their needs.

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Mrs K has not given up trying to borrow money from me. Apparently when she didn’t get any response from me earlier, she borrowed money from somebody else, promising to pay this person back soon, within a week. Then this person started harassing her for repayment, and so Mrs K tried me yet again, hoping that I’d give in when she uses her “saya dah terdesak” line.

Before this, I’ve resorted to saying no outright. I’ve also resorted to telling her I wouldn’t entertain any requests from her to borrow my money. I’ve resorted to not responding at all to her requests to borrow my money. Didn’t seem to work, did they? Well, this time, I replied telling her that we Buddies are not allowed to lend money to our clients. She was quiet about it after that, only SMS-ing me about other matters.

I’m not sure how long it will last until her next try. I do pity the kids though… wonder if they’re getting enough to eat. Now that they’ve moved further it will be even more difficult for me to find the time to visit them.

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Sharifah (Cek Mek’s mom) sent me a text message last week saying she’d be going for her hospital appointment this coming Wednesday. She plans to go to Kak Ana’s shelter home today and spend 2 days with Cek Mek before coming over to Ipoh for her appointment and then back to her hometown.

Sharifah did mention she’s beginning to get rashes and was wondering if it had anything to do with her HIV. Coincidentally I will be on clinic duty this Wednesday so I told her to look for me at our usual room. InsyaAllah I will be getting more updates about her when we meet.

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I was outside doing my routine kampong exercise yesterday morning when a child who was cycling by, upon seeing me pruning the trees, stopped to ask, “Makcik, makcik tengah buat kerja ke?”

I was tempted to say “Tak, tengah main pondok-pondok” but oh well, she’s just a child…

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Hello Kitty

After my pasar tani routine this morning, and after cooking for lunch (malas nak fikir apa lauk nak masak, so masak laksa je lah…) off I went to visit Zainab’s family.

Zainab had sent me a text message earlier this week to inform me that she had some more receipts with her to claim for her children’s education. The last time I brought them shopping, it was to buy their uniforms etc, this time the receipts were for the workbooks, fees and whatever other nonsense charged. I don’t know, ever since “school fees” were supposedly abolished back in 2007 (I think), these kids seem to have to pay even more fees! Yuran PIBG, yuran komputer, yuran tambahan and whatever other yuran (pronounced: YOU RUN).

Anyway, after confirming with Zainab that it’s her off day today, I told her I’d visit, get the receipts from her and reimburse her for the payments she had made to her daughter’s school.

As I got to the house I used to frequent, it looked as though nobody was home. In fact, there was a sign saying, “Untuk Disewa”. AIYAH!! Then I remembered Zainab telling me in December that they’d be moving to another house by year end. The landlord purportedly wanted to sell the house, but the sign I saw indicated otherwise. For whatever reason, the landlord just wanted new tenants. Maybe he wanted to increase the rental to a much higher rate.

Despite telling me that they’d be moving to another house, Zainab never gave me the address. So I had to call her to get the address. “Akak masuk aje belakang ******, jalan teruuuus aje sampai hujung.” I still insisted on the address. At least I can update their contact report in the files.

The place was not that far from the old house, so it didn’t take me long to find their newly rented place. Zainab’s 2 daughters waited outside so I could see them without having to go through the trouble of looking for the house number. The new place is slightly bigger than the old place, and looked more comfortable too. But according to them, there are lots of mosquitoes at their new place.

Kakak and adik (Zainab’s 2 daughters) were playing with a little black kitten whom they had “adopted”. Oh, the 2 girls simply love cats. They’d adopt any stray cats/kittens dropping by their house.

The moment I sat on the couch, the little black kitten got away from the 2 girls and jumped onto the couch, and selamba-ly sat on my lap. Ah, a laptop kitten! Adik took the kitten from my lap and put the kitty on the floor. Again, little black kitty jumped onto the couch, looked at me and put up a “muka kesian”. Only after a few minutes did he jump back down to play with the girls.

After getting the receipts from Zainab, and reimbursing her with the exact amount, I decided to make a move. As I was walking towards my car, I heard adik shouting, “Hey, nak ke mana tu?!”

No, she wasn’t shouting to me. Adik was shouting to the kitten. Little black kitty actually wanted to follow me home!

Oh no, little kitty, you go back to your kakak-kakak okay? I’ve got enough uninvited stray cats around my house…

On another note, I think I’m almost done with all the back-to-school expenses for my many children. I’d better submit my claims before the next Board meeting.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Of sponsorship fund and standing instructions

I am almost done with the back-to-school expenses of the children under our Education Sponsorship Program and the Children Education Fund for those without sponsors. Just a wee bit more to go to ensure that all their fees, workbooks, exercise books, uniforms, stationeries etc are all settled.

There may be a few more children from families assigned to other buddies who have not submitted their claims to me. I will have to wait for the respective buddies to do the necessary.

I have also sent the yearly reports on the sponsored children to their respective sponsors. Ahhh… got to send the reports early lah… otherwise how to ask for this year’s sponsorship amount, right? ;-)

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My NGO is already considering taking in a part-time staff to help out at our centre. And we’re also thinking that this part-timer may be able to help reduce our own workload. Well, for me personally, the one job that is taking up quite a bit of my time is the Sponsorship Program. I was hoping maybe somebody could help ensure that the necessary amount is disbursed to the various recipients’ bank account on time very month. But the person we are now considering for the part-time job is only coming in after office hours. So asking her to go to the bank is out of the question.

What I’ve been doing for the past year was to remit the sponsorship amount online via my personal bank account and submit the claims to my NGO at the end of each month. I need not go to the various banks to bank in the money, but still, in the midst of my day to day work, the remittances were not fixed on a certain date. And sometimes I had problems accessing the website, and so the remittances may be later than usual.

Now that my NGO has opened up a separate bank account specifically for sponsorship purposes, I thought, to make life easier for me, I’d opt for standing instructions to the bank to remit a certain fixed amount each month to the respective bank accounts of our recipients. But when I referred to the bank, the officer said they cannot do it for us because ours is an NGO where the signatories may change, and the recipients’ bank accounts are with other banks, not their bank.

Huh? I can easily do standing instructions via my personal bank account to ANY bank accounts in Malaysia. And my NGO can’t because we may change signatories? Hello? Unless and until the NGO gives instruction otherwise, the earlier instruction should be valid, shouldn’t it? The signatories wouldn’t be signing the SI based on their personal capacities, they would be legally representing the NGO!

Is every bank’s policy the same I wonder?

Aargh! Talk about making life easier! I don’t like the idea of using my personal bank account for the standing instructions. Maybe I should give them sitting instructions!!!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Macam-macam…

My colleague who was on clinic duty last week called me to inform me that there was a lady needing our Children Education Fund (CEF) assistance. He promised her that one of us Buddies would be calling her within a week for that matter. However, as at yesterday when I went to the Buddies Centre, I couldn’t find the contact report for the lady. Neither had I received any text message from our HIV Clinic coordinator giving me the name and contact number of the lady. So I had to call up my colleague again and a few minutes later the clinic coordinator called me up and promised me to SMS me the name and number of the lady.

So finally this morning, exactly a week after my colleague informed her that somebody from Buddies would be calling within a week, I called the house number. A boy answered the phone, and when I asked for Selvi, I just heard the boy shouting to somebody. I waited for a while, until the boy came back to me and spoke to me in Tamil!

“Boleh cakap Melayu ka?” I asked.

He then passed me to another lady. I asked if she was Selvi, but nope, it was her “amma”. For some reason which I couldn’t understand, Selvi couldn’t come to the phone. I then asked for Mr Subra, Selvi’s father. According to Selvi’s amma, Mr Subra just went out. So I left my number asking her to get Mr Subra to call me back.

Within just 15 minutes, I got a call from Mr Subra. I explained that I called regarding financial assistance for his grandchildren’s education. After getting directions to get to his house, I told him I’d try to drop by after 3 pm to get all the necessary particulars and receipts. My colleague did tell me earlier that it wouldn’t be necessary to go to their home as Selvi’s father can bring her to our centre. But to me, I’d rather visit them so I could assess their real situation at home.

And so I did visit them at their rented terrace house. I got all the necessary receipts. Initially I thought if the total amount needed was between two to three hundred ringgit, I’d just use the cash in my purse first to reimburse them and then claim later. After all they were not claiming for purchases of uniforms, but more for workbooks and whatever fees. Fuhh! Seems that Tamil schools charge much higher fees. Each of them needed to pay at least RM200 to their respective schools for fees and workbooks. After calculating everything, the total came up close to RM700. So no, I couldn’t give them cash there and then. Instead I took down Selvi’s bank account number and told her that once payment is approved, I’d bank in the money into her account.

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A particular charity club has agreed to sponsor groceries for 2 of my HIV families on a monthly basis. Beginning the end of this month, all I have to do is to get the supply of groceries from a minimarket near my office and deliver them monthly to Sofie and Lin. The total amount is definitely more than what I usually deliver during my previous visits. The bills will be paid direct by the charity club to the minimarket.

Now I can use the money donated by various donors to buy more necessities for other needy families.

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I stopped by an ATM this morning on my way to work to withdraw some money. The bank was not open yet and there was also nobody else at the cubicle although I could see the bank’s guard inside the bank. Just as I was done withdrawing some cash, a Mat Bangla walked in, saw me, and asked, “Makcik, sini boleh masuk wang ka?” I said yes and showed him the cash deposit machine. “Makcik boleh tolong ka, saya tatau macam mana mau buat.” (ish, mamat sorang ni… I know la I no longer qualify to be called adik manis, tapi kalau ya pun nak mintak tolong, panggil la akak ke… bagi chan la sikit kat orang tua ni)

The guy then proceeded to give me RM400 in cash, so if anybody was to run away with somebody else’s money, it would have been me who ran away with his money! Anyway, nothing untoward happened. Saja nak cerita that a Mat Bangla called me makcik this morning… hehehe…

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Another SMS... another topic...

After not responding to Mrs K’s SMS on Friday, I was just waiting for her to send me another “desperate” SMS on Saturday or Sunday, as they needed to move house on Sunday and needed to pay for the transport. Well, she didn’t make any further attempts to borrow from me, so I guess she managed to harass somebody else for it.

Came Monday, an SMS came from Mrs K. Aik? Dah pindah pun nak pinjam lagi? Or at least that was on my mind when I saw Mrs K’s name as the sender. But no, this time her SMS had nothing to do with money.

Mrs K asked me if she should go for HIV screening. Those who had been following their story from the beginning may remember that Mrs K had been spared from HIV despite being pregnant when Mr K was first diagnosed positive. Even the doctor told her to go for a second screening when the first test showed negative results. They wanted to be sure the baby would be protected from the virus. All tests showed negative results.

Since then, Mr and Mrs K have been practicing safe sex ie by using the condom. Mr K must avoid passing the virus to his wife. But yesterday they panicked. And although she felt rather embarrassed, Mrs K finally decided to send me a text message. You see, after having sex they realized that… ALAMAK! CONDOM BOCOR!

Oops! Why am I telling all these “cerita dalam kelambu”? Aren’t these confidential issues? Well yes, they are. But these are amongst the issues involved in their day to day life. These are the things that go through their minds. These are the matters that matter a lot to them although may not matter so much to us. (Besides, I don’t use real names in my blog, so you don’t know who I’m talking about except their blog names.)

Some people tend to relate condoms to immoral activities. But here’s an example where the condom needs to be used by a legally-wed couple. And some people tend to take for granted they know how to use the condom properly. I mean, when I give talks on HIV to youths for example, and I asked if they knew how to use the condom properly, their answer was, “Sarung sajalah!” They didn’t see the importance of things such as expiry date, how to wear, how to take it off safely etc.

I don’t really know what went wrong with the condom Mr K was using, but Mrs K is now at risk.

And despite having explained to the PLHIVs about the do’s and don’ts of HIV, about window period and what not, Mrs K was so panicky she asked if she should go for blood tests immediately. She forgot all about the window period. Chances are if she goes for blood test now, even if she is infected, it is too early to be detected.

All I could tell her was to wait for at least 2 weeks before she goes for HIV screening. And if the results turn out negative, she’d need to go for another test after 3 months.

Looks like Mrs K may not be able to sleep well for the next few months, until she can be sure of her HIV status.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The calls and SMS

I am not done yet with “my children’s” back-to-school expenses. While the uniforms, shoes, etc had been bought during the school holidays, I had to wait until school reopened before getting the amount needed for their fees, workbooks and whatever else that needed to be bought at or paid to the respective schools.

Rosnah SMSed me to inform me of her daughter’s school fees. I replied her SMS, asking if she’d be home during the day this coming week. She works on shifts, so if she’s on night shift, I can visit her during the daytime, pass her the money and collect the receipts or whatever supporting documents. Rosnah’s reply came…

“Keja pagi tapi nak jumpa dr pkr 14#1”

Huh?? After a few minutes of trying, I still could not comprehend her message. So I replied, saying I couldn’t understand what she meant. I waited, but her reply never came. Either she herself couldn’t understand her message (hehehe) or she couldn’t understand what I didn’t understand… (do YOU understand?!)

The next day Rosnah called. She told me she’d be home over the weekend if I wanted to visit. I had already planned to have a good rest at home and I was not about to change my plans unless there was any emergency. I didn’t consider this an emergency. Then she told me her appointment at the HIV clinic would be on 14th January. Ohh… so “dr pkr” is doktor pakar! (no, dr is not for “dari” and pkr doesn’t represent the political party) And 14#1 is 14/1. Aduh… pening kepala otak orang tua ni nak comprehend bahasa SMS lah!

After that another SMS came from Mrs K. Despite apologising for her earlier message, this time again she repeated her long mendayu-dayu SMS without comma and fullstop. And again she was still attempting to borrow money from me, this time even asking me to give my bank account number as well, so she could pay back the money by remitting the money direct into my bank account at the end of the month when Mr K gets his pay. If you recall in her earlier message she mentioned Mr K would get his pay on the 10th, now she says end of the month? Sheesh. Again, I just McDonno… I didn’t even bother to reply. Am getting tired of advising them… am getting tired of lecturing them. To think that Mrs K thinks I’m “garang” yet she has not given up trying to borrow money from me, I wonder how it would be if she thinks I’m so lemah-lembut and angelic… (dah, siapa pulak yang bunyi macam nak termuntah tu? ;-))

And oh, guess who called me last week? One of the most colourful characters in my 2008 postings but a bit quiet in 2009. Yep, none other than Yah. And as always, she called from a new number. Anyway, all she wanted when she called me was to ask if “pejabat BaitulMal kat sebelah kiri ke sebelah kanan?Aduh, ini perempuan! In the first place, how on earth was I to know where she was standing/facing, for me to know if the office was on the left or on the right? And secondly, she could have easily asked anyone around the area! Maybe it was just her way to tell me that she’s still alive and kicking. Well, I was quite busy that day. A female neighbor who’s also a relative passed away and I had to guide her daughters with the pengurusan jenazah, therefore I had to cut the conversation short. So, sorry, but despite that call from Yah, no updates of whatever she’s been up to of late.

I will need to make quite a number of calls this coming week. We’re organising a gathering at the end of the month for the PLHIVs – separate gatherings for the male and female PLHIVs, to enable them to get to know one another and to open up to each other. For the female gathering, we allow them to bring their children as well. Otherwise it’ll be difficult to get them to join.

I hope I can get enough positive responses to get this thing going…

Friday, 8 January 2010

They deserve help, but…

I went to visit Sofie today. It has been a whole month since I last went to visit them – that was when I took the children shopping for their uniforms etc.

Sofie’s eldest son, Azlan, who sat for his PMR last year, got 1A,2B’s, 2C’s and 3D’s. The subject he scored A was for Kemahiran Teknikal. His school teacher and headmaster recommended that he applies for Sekolah Teknik boarding school and while he is reluctant to go (reason being there’d be nobody to take care of his mother at home in case she falls sick again), we are all encouraging him to go if he does indeed get the offer.

Azman, the second child, who had been staying at his school hostel at a nearby semi-residential school since last year, was home for the weekend when I went to visit today. He brought along a letter from the school asking for various fees, including for food. All in all, the total was RM240. Had I not visited them today, Sofie wouldn’t have highlighted the matter to me. To her I have been helping them a lot already and so she was not going to ask for more. Whatever fixed monthly amount that she had been getting she used to pay for workbooks etc. I told her we have a separate fund specifically for schooling needs, so the amount should be covered by this fund, not the monthly pocket money for the children that had been banked in to her account.

Saiful’s and Ika’s fees are not as much as their 2 older brothers’ fees. But these will still be covered by either our Sponsorship or Children Education Fund.

Other than that, Sofie has started looking around for a job. She has improved a whole lot health-wise (those who had been following her story may remember my description of how weak she was when I first met her) and although she still looks fragile, she is at least already capable of not only taking care of herself, but also cooking for her children.

I like her attitude. Unlike some people (I think you know who) who expects help to come in anytime they need it, Sofie on the other hand said, “Takkan sampai bila-bila saya nak tunggu bantuan Kak Afizah je!” OK, actually the bantuan doesn’t come from me, but delivered THROUGH me, but what to do… as the saying goes… “Lembu punya susu, si Pi dapat nama”. Hehehe…

The only problem now is that since the community there are all aware of Sofie’s health history, they are reluctant to give her a job. No, not because she has HIV, but because at one time Sofie’s condition was so bad, they are afraid she may end up like that again. All of them kept asking her, “Larat ke engkau nak kerja? Nanti kalau sakit balik macam mana?” With Sofie still looking rather fragile, so far no luck!

But guess what? Sofie did not give up just like that. She managed to get a “work-at-home” kinda job, inserting wires. For every 500 pieces, she’d be paid RM8. She just brought home the first batch of 500 today and she’s supposed to send them back tomorrow to earn her first RM8. If she feels she can cope, tomorrow she’ll ask to bring home more so she can earn more. With her children helping her out at home, I think she may be able to do more than just 500 a day.

See what I mean when I said I like her attitude? She TRIES to be as independent as she can be! Mrs K and Fuzi could learn a thing or two from her!

Sofie has applied for financial assistance from both Welfare and Baitulmal. Application submitted before Raya last year. So far, nobody has visited her at home to assess her situation. Thank goodness a few of my blog readers are helping the family out while the children's educational needs are covered by either our CEF or Sponsorship Fund. Otherwise by now, Sofie would have already asked her still schooling eldest son to work (she had that in mind when I visited her initially).

On another note, when I visited Sofie today, her sis-in-law (her ex-husband’s younger sister) and children were also there, visiting. Sofie selamba-ly introduced her to me, “Ni adik bekas suami saya. Dia tau lah perangai abang dia macam mana. Akak nak tau, akak tanyalah dia!”

Oh no thank you, I wasn’t there to gossip about her ex-husband. I was there to help them for their future.

Anyway, Sofie’s sis-in-law, Fiza, is also a single mother. Her late husband died 2 years ago, leaving her to fend for her 4 kids. Last year, due to health problems (Fiza has heart problems), she was unable to work, and needed her daughter, then in form 2, to take care of her at home. So the girl missed school for about 2 to 3 months. Her mistake was, she never informed her school. The school sent a show cause letter to Fiza at home, but due to her health problems, she did not respond. The girl didn’t bother to respond either. She just wanted to take care of her mother. Those lazy buggers at her school should have at least attempted to visit her at home to find out what her problem was. But no, they did not. When the show cause letter was not replied, they expelled the girl from school.

When she got a bit better, Fiza went to the school to explain matters and to get her daughter back into school. She asked the teacher in charge to visit them at home to find out for sure about their hardship. She begged the teacher to reconsider her daughter’s case. She told the teacher about her problems, yet all the teacher said was, “Itu masalah awak, bukan masalah saya!” I suppose since Fiza’s daughter isn’t so bright (she can’t even remember her own IC number without looking at her MyKad), maybe the teacher figured the school was better off without her. And maybe too, Fiza, who doesn’t earn much as a rubber tapper, had not been paying her children’s school fees.

So Fiza went to the Pejabat Pendidikan early this week to appeal her daughter’s case. She was told, “Tengoklah puan, kalau ada rezeki anak puan, bolehlah dia sekolah balik. Kalau tidak, taklah.” Like that oso can ah??

The school may have the right to take disciplinary action against errant students (AFTER they investigate the case thoroughly), but that doesn’t mean the children should be deprived of their basic rights to education.

The girl is supposed to be sitting for her PMR this year. I am not sure how long she has to wait to find out the result of her appeal (Fiza was told it may take at least a month), but the girl should be in school NOW.

With her income of about RM200 per month, Fiza’s application for Welfare Aid had been approved (after a few months applying). She’s using the monthly aid to pay for her house rental and utility bills. But I guess nothing much has changed, the monthly welfare aid can be very inconsistent. Fiza had also applied for Baitulmal help but was told that she didn’t qualify because she could still work. Well, she IS working, as a rubber tapper, despite her heart problem, but she doesn’t earn enough lah!

I already have my hands quite tied with all my HIV cases. But I don’t have the heart to buat donno with Fiza’s case. Telling her I can’t help her because she doesn’t have HIV would make me no different than the various agencies with their standard “ini bukan di bawah bidang kuasa kami” line. Hopefully I can help source some kind of help for her.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Update on Yati & her kids

I finally got to meet Yati yesterday. I wasn't around when her husband passed away on Christmas day, and after that I had some other things to settle so I never got to visit her. Besides, I wasn't sure if she was back in Ipoh. Her late husband's body was brought back to his family's kampong and I wasn't sure when she'd be back.

Yati sent me a text message on Monday asking if her kids were still entitled to our Children Education Fund (CEF) now that AJ is no longer around. Although their schooling needs like uniforms, shoes, etc had already been covered when I brought them shopping last month, there were still a lot of other things they need to pay now that school has reopened. Fees, workbooks, etc would come up to RM100 each.

I told her that since her children has already been approved for CEF for this year, we'd still cover for the fees.

Anyway, when I met Yati yesterday morning, she told me while the children are coping quite well without their father, the younger one is beginning to miss him. Rules for visiting patients at Ipoh GH is stricter than before - not only have the visiting hours been shortened, only 2 are allowed to visit a patient at the same time and children are not allowed at all. So, ever since AJ was warded since early December, the children had not been able to see him. And AJ was never discharged until his last breath, so all the children got to see was only his body, complete in kain kafan and all. Sad...

When I saw Yati yesterday, I asked if she had started off her small business of selling drinks. Earlier on she was too occupied taking care of her husband, she couldn't really start anything. Now that her husband is no longer around, she should be able to start something. She's actually just waiting to settle her children's schooling needs before starting off her business.

Just then, an offer came from a friend for a job as a cook at a nearby boarding school. Now Yati's unsure again. Should she proceed with her small business or should she accept the job as a cook? if she's looking for something safe, then maybe the job as the cook would be great. There is at least a fixed income every month, and Yati will also be entitled to EPF and SOCSO. She's seriously considering this second option now although she has not made a final decision.

Her only problem now is to settle her children's transportation to school. For the moment she sends and fetches them to/from school. If she can settle that part, chances are she'll accept the job as the cook.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Depa buat dah…

I got the following SMS from Mrs K on the last day of 2009…

“Salam..maaf mgangu kzah mula2 pdh terasa susah sbb harapkan gji abg duit deposit umh 500 nak byr abg dpt gji 10hb itupun gaji x sampai 5rts lori 2trip 140 shah bru kja gji ckt nk byr buat pasport saya x tau mcmana nk cri duit nk pjm kt siapa mula nk pndh”

First and foremost, I always need a bit more time than usual to comprehend text messages such as this. No comma, no fullstop… although this time I understood the SMS terms better.

Basically she was telling me her sad story about being short of cash. What she was trying to do was to borrow money from me.

I have told her before that I wouldn’t be entertaining any requests from her to borrow money. We (Buddies) are already helping her with her children’s educational needs; when Baby K had to do a heart surgery in IJN, we helped out with some pocket money during their stay in KL using our Welfare Fund. They can’t expect us to be their financial provider for every single thing. Certain things they would have to find the solutions themselves. When will they ever learn? We’re here to help them become independent, not dependent! It’s not like they are totally helpless. Mr K is already able to work. Their eldest son has also recently started to work although I had recommended that he joined Giat Mara to enhance his skills.

What I advise them to do, for their own future, they never listen. Now they want to borrow money? NO WAY!

But no, this time I changed my tactic. I did not go into my leter mode. Instead, I went into my McDonno mode. ;-)

Well, I did tell her before that I wouldn’t entertain any requests from her family to borrow money. So that was what I did. I didn’t entertain her. I didn’t even bother to reply her SMS. Make donno je lah…

Guess what? Maybe my tactic worked this time. Without even me having to say anything, yesterday another text message came from Mrs K…

“Kzah, minta maap anta msj aritu…”

I guess she could sense that I was getting pissed off. Of course I was pissed off. Yes, they don’t earn much I agree, but I know many other people who earn much less and yet never tried to borrow money from anyone. People who are worse off, like Sofie for example, would just cope with whatever that she had.

Again, I didn’t respond to this second message from Mrs K. From my past experience with this family, whenever I don’t respond to their call for help, somehow they’d still manage.

What I regret is that they still don’t seem to learn from past mistakes. The moment they get their hands on some cash, they’d spend like there’s no tomorrow. They knew way in advance that they’d have to move out of their house by year end, yet they never made any plans for it, hoping that when the time comes, someone would somehow help them out. Yes, I do believe in tawakkal, but where’s their ikhtiar which should come before that?

My hope right now is that their children will benefit from our Children Education Fund. With the schooling help that we’re giving, I hope the children will strive to do well in their studies so that a better future awaits them. I don’t want the younger children to end up like Shah, their eldest brother who not only failed miserably for his SPM, he’s also passing the opportunity to study in Pusat Giat Mara to enhance his skills and knowledge in the automotive field. He wants to work NOW so he could start earning an income as soon as possible.

Shah has followed his friend to work in another state down south. And since he and his friend intend to work in the neighboring country down south, he’s trying to save money to enable himself to pay for a passport.

Frankly, I doubt Shah’s decision to work in another state would help the family in any way. He needs to pay for his own house rental and other living expenses. And mind you, without much to offer in qualification and experience, he’s not earning much. Maybe all he wanted was to get out of the house and stay on his own.

Which is sad, really. I could see that Shah had the interest in the automotive field. When he was staying with his parents, sometimes his friends would come over to get him to repair their motorbikes. If only he’d spend just 6 months to attend Giat Mara’s training (the family didn’t need to pay for fees whatsoever… in fact the trainees would be getting a monthly allowance of RM200), he’d probably be able to earn more when he finishes his training, maybe even start his own bengkel motor.

But no, they never seem to think long term.

I do hope I’m wrong though. I still hope Shah will succeed and will be able to help his family out.

Friday, 1 January 2010

My first house visit of the year

It’s the first day of the year, and I decided to start the year off with a house visit. No, I wasn’t visiting any HIV families, although the visit was to give support to someone in need, and to assess the family’s situation. My visit this time was to the home of a young TKCian, who should be going to form 5 this year.

You see, 2 days ago I was informed by a senior that a TKCian had been warded in Ipoh GH for brain tumor. This senior didn’t have full details though, and so I had to ask around. After getting a bit more info, I decided to visit the girl, Izaty, at the hospital on New Year’s Day.

Luckily I remembered to invite along another TKCian in Ipoh, Yati, who just completed her SPM recently (I had been in touch with her since last year when she sought my help for something). Yati agreed to tag along with Aunty Pi. Good thing she called Izaty’s mom first and was told that Izaty was to be discharged from the hospital yesterday and would only be readmitted again next week. I told Yati to get Izaty’s home address so we could visit her at home instead.

I initially thought Izaty’s house was in Ipoh, but when Yati got the address, I found out that Izaty stays in Malim Nawar. The kampong? I’ve never heard of the kampong. Searched in my GPS – the kampong’s name doesn’t exist. Googled… again doesn’t exist. Search through a paper map of Perak, found a few kampongs in Malim Nawar, but not Izaty’s kampong.

Since Malim Nawar is just about 35 km from Ipoh, and I knew how to get to Malim Nawar at least, I figured… ah well, belasah je lah! Sampai sana nanti, ada mulut, tanya!

And that was what we did. Before we reached Malim Nawar town, we stopped at a petrol station to ask where this kampong was. Good move I must say, for the simpang to the kampong was before reaching Malim Nawar town. Got into the simpang as instructed, it was a kampong road alright, but the signboard showed a different kampong name. We then decided to ask a kampong folk by the roadside, and was told that the kampong we were looking for was further in. Waaah… got to go through one kampong to get to another kampong!

After driving further in (which we thought was far enough already), we decided to ask again. And again, we were told it was further in. And it took us one more stop asking for direction before we finally saw a signboard showing the name of the kampong we were looking for.

Easy from then on? Nope, not that easy either. Apparently it was quite a big kampong with lots of small simpangs here and there. The address given was house no. 50, but when we looked around, we were nowhere close to such a number. After asking 2 more people, we got to a dead end. That was when I told Yati to call Izaty’s mom. And that was when we found out that Izaty and her parents weren’t home. But there were people at home (Izaty’s siblings and grandma) and Izaty’s mom said they should be home in 2 hours time. So we decided to just find the house first, then go out for lunch before we came back again.

The direction Izaty’s mom gave to Yati was to “jalan teruuuus aje, jangan belok-belok”. At that point I couldn’t help singing Bujang Lapok’s line of “jalan lurus, jangan bengkok-bengkok, lalalalalala…” :-)

So yes, we went luruuuus… and got to another dead end. Haha! But by then we had already been told by Izaty’s mom to look for the surau and then ask for “rumah makcik Noni”, so at least our search was easier. And so yes, after asking one more person to ask where the surau was, then upon finding the surau, we asked another person for “rumah makcik Noni”, we finally found Izaty’s house! Yayyy!! After asking 8 people (not including the call to Izaty’s mom), we finally found the house. It felt as though the house was sooooooo far in from the main road.

Anyway, after chatting with Izaty’s Opah for a while, we decided to go out to town first to have lunch. Izaty’s Opah did invite us to have lunch at her home, she’d cook she said, but we were there to visit orang sakit, takkanlah nak menyusahkan tuanrumah pulak kan?

After lunch, we went back to Izaty’s house, this time without much problem. And by this time I found out that from the main road to Izaty’s house was just about 2.5 km. The first time we went in, it felt as though we had driven about 10 km!

Izaty and her parents were not back yet. So we decided to solat zohor first. I did apologise to Izaty’s Opah, dah lah datang tak bagitau, menyusahkan pulak lagi tumpang solat apa bagai. But no, it was obvious that her Opah was so berbesar hati with our visit.

Izaty and her parents finally got home about 2.40 pm. She had to be helped by her father from the car into the house. Despite her weak condition, she stopped to salam us first. Sweet young girl.

Izaty had actually been having headaches but she and everybody else thought they were just normal headaches. Telan panadol, settle! Although in Izaty’s case, most of the time, telan panadol tak lut. During the recent school holidays, her mother decided maybe it’s best if they brought Izaty to get her eyes tested. Who knows, maybe she got the headaches because she needed glasses. But the optometrist said Izaty’s eyes were okay and suggested that she be brought to Ipoh GH for other tests.

At the GH, as always, without a referral letter, you’d only be seeing the MO. And she was passed from one dept to another, and finally one MO suggested that she goes for eye check-up (which was the first thing that she did before she went to GH). Pi mai, pi mai, the family decided to bring Izaty see a specialist at a private hospital. Got to pay a bit more, but at least, they got to the bottom of things. With the referral letter from the private hospital, they finally got to see the specialist at Ipoh GH, did the MRI and whatever tests, and before long, a surgery was conducted to remove the tumor. But the tumor is an aggressive tumor with the initial site being in the mid brain, the doctors couldn’t remove the whole thing. The surgery itself was successful, but they only  managed to take out 94% of the tumor.

Izaty will have to be readmitted to Ipoh GH by Tuesday next week, and by Wednesday she’ll be brought to GHKL for further tests and for radiotherapy. Frankly, I don’t know if she’d be able to sit for her SPM this year, given her condition. Her parents too are still unsure. The important thing right now is to help her get the necessary treatments to get better.

But she seemed like a tough girl. Right before her surgery, she was the one who called her Opah at home to say, “Opah jangan risau ya, Opah kena kuatkan semangat.” Emotionally she seemed stable, although right now she may seem a bit “slow” in getting her brains to “compute”. When her parents brought her out today, she asked, “Nak balik TKC ke ni?”

However, it was really heartening to see her smile. In fact I also saw her laugh. With that kind of spirit, I am hopeful that she’d be able to come out of this.

I know her parents are going through a tough time. Izaty is the eldest of 5 siblings, all schooling. Her mother isn’t working, and her father’s a lorry driver whose pay depends on how many trips he makes. Ever since Izaty was diagnosed with brain tumor, her father had to spend more time with her at the hospital. So they definitely didn’t earn much for the past month. With school reopening soon, it’s going to be tough for them. But when I saw them today, they certainly didn’t show any signs of helplessness. When the going gets tough, the tough gets going!

When we wanted to leave, both Izaty’s mom and grandma really hugged us. They really appreciated our visit although we didn’t give them any form of material help. Our presence alone was good enough to make them feel the support.

So yes, go people! Go visit that someone who may need your moral support! You don’t lose anything by visiting them.