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)

Friday, 30 December 2011

2011 in pictures

2011 had been quite an eventful year for me – in my voluntary work, in my personal life and also in activities with my school alumni friends.

In my voluntary work with Buddies, after re-elected as the chairperson in March, it was activities after activities other than the regular clinic duties and visits to my clients’ homes.

There were the exhibitions…

Men Against Violence campaign in Chenderong in April

buddy april

Talk & exhibition in Royal College of Medicine Perak, also in April

buddy april2

At Kg Ulu Geroh (Orang Asli village) in October

buddy oct

And in Taman Meru also in October

buddy oct3

Then there was the charity run in May where I ended up injuring my knee, but still managed to personally collect a total of RM4,700.

buddy may

We had our Family Day in July at The Roots, Tg Rambutan

7-2

I attended the National AIDS Conference in Penang in October

buddy oct2

and then we had a briefing for my fellow volunteers in November on the latest in the world of HIV

buddy nov

And finally, our annual dinner in December at Assam House Restaurant, Medan Gopeng.

dinner

On the personal side, involving family matters, there were a few downside, like the “atap terbang” incident at home during a storm in March (thank God nobody got hurt)

P storm march

And in May the shocking news of my cousin’s 11 year old son who perished in the landslide at the orphanage in Hulu Langat.

P ulu langat may

Of course, there were happy moments as well, like my niece’s wedding in March

p wedding march

and my nephew’s engagement in June.

p engagement june

Not forgetting, my RM0 airfare trip to Ho Chi Minh City in February with my sister and my niece.

p vietnam feb

And of course, there were activities involving my school alumni members, whether official activities, or just unofficial activities with friends.

Playing hockey with the under-50 team against the school under-15 team… :-)

hockey may

Chairing the committee elections during the OGA AGM in July

oga agm july

And the unofficial Jalan-jalan Cari Penat activities with felllow adventure loving friends…

Spelunking in Gua Tempurung in July

gua tempurung july

Enjoying outdoor adventures in Belum-Temenggor in September…

the boat rides

oga belum2 sept

trekking up the lookout tower 4,011 feet above sea level

oga belum3 sept

trekking to the Rafflesia site

oga belum4 sept

enjoying the cool waterfall

oga belum1 sept

visiting an Orang Asli village

oga belum5 sept

kayakking around the island

oga belum6 sept

Then later in November, we went for the canopy walk at FRIM…

frim2 nov

frim1 nov

Many more activities lined up for 2012 insyaAllah, involving Buddies, family and school friends…

 

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The children…

Done with my back-to-school shopping, I had to update the sponsorship account and prepare the individual statements for all the sponsored children. After that I needed to send the statements to the various sponsors so I could ask them to remit, if they agree to, the sponsorship amount for 2012. However, there were a few sponsors who didn’t bother to wait for me to send the statements, they simply banked in the amount into our bank account.

With 4 of the 32 sponsored children completing their SPM/SPVM in 2011, there should be 28 left to continue under the sponsorship programme. Another one, a 14 year old HIV+ girl, orphaned since baby and had been staying with her maternal grandma all the while, had ran off to stay with her paternal grandparents. So we have to discontinue sponsorship for her as we are not in touch with her paternal grandparents. That leaves 27.

Azman, Sofie’s son decided to stop schooling after his PMR so he could work, but seeing that his interest lies in cooking, I managed to coax him to join a culinary school. So he’s out of the sponsorship programme as well, leaving 26.

The 26 almost became 25 as I was not able to get in touch with an Orang Asli client of mine. My calls didn’t get through, and my text messages were never replied either. Visit her at home? I’d need a 4WD to be able to reach her house.

However, during my clinic duty today, as I was about to go over to the doctor’s room, I heard someone shouting, “Kak Ros! Kak Ros!” Definitely not calling me, or so I thought, but I turned anyway to see who it was because the lady’s voice sounded so familiar. Indeed it was. The lady who was calling for Kak Ros was Wan, the Orang Asli lady whose son is under our sponsorship programme. And the person she called Kak Ros was…. ME!!! Erk? I certainly wasn’t aware of any attempts to change my name to Kak Ros…

Akak! Lama tak cakap dengan akak, rindu! Nombor saya dah tukar kak! Nah Kak Ros ambil nombor baru saya.”

Nama akak bukan Ros lah, nama akak Afizah.”

Oh ye ke? Hihihihi…”

She had never called me by name before, usually she just calls me akak. Probably all the while she thought my name was Ros although I can’t for the life of me figure out where she got that name from. Like someone mentioned on my FB wall, maybe she had been watching too much of Upin & Ipin (there’s a garang Kak Ros in that story). Wan’s son got 4B and 1C for his recent UPSR and will be going to a secondary school for Orang Asli children.

Other than the sponsored children, many other children of our clients are covered under our Children Education Fund (CEF). For CEF, we only cover for their back-to-school expenses and if needed, their monthly bus fares. We don’t cover for pocket money and tuition. Thank goodness we managed to get more funds for CEF this year, since many more children from poor families needed schooling help.

While I’m done with the children’s back-to-school shopping, my next task now is to list down the children needing bus fares, and also the sponsored children’s monthly pocket money and other expenses. It will be much easier if the money is transferred via monthly standing instructions to the various clients’ bank accounts so that I don’t have to worry about doing it manually every month. That way, I don’t have to worry about being late either.

Once I settle all these, I should be able to go back to my normal routine…

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Of shopping & home visit…

After 5 rounds of back-to-school shopping covering 32 children, yesterday I brought 2 more children from 2 families – Rosnah’s daughter and Zainab’s 2 girls… hopefully that would be the last for this year. A few other families agreed to buy first and I’d reimburse them later. The only one family I’m not too sure yet if I need to bring them shopping is Hasnah’s. She did mention earlier that she may be coming to Ipoh at the end of the month and I told her to bring her children along so we could go buy their schooling needs. So far she hasn’t called me yet to confirm if indeed she’s coming. Otherwise I may need to call her within the next few days.

On my way home after yesterday’s shopping spree, I decided to call Sofie to find out if she had managed to get the school leaving cert for her son Azman. Since Azman is applying for a course at a culinary school, and he is only going to turn 16 next year, the school leaving cert is required to enable him to apply for the Tabung Pendidikan Kemahiran. I was told that we needed to settle things soon if we wanted to make sure Azman gets a place at the school since places are limited. According to Sofie, the teacher told her to come and get the proper leaving cert on 4th Jan when school reopens, but for the moment she has a copy of the notification indicating that she had already submitted the letter regarding the matter.

I figured I’d better just get a copy of that letter to be submitted to the culinary school, hopefully they will accept that for the time being before getting the proper school leaving cert later. I was told to pay the registration fee as soon as possible to guarantee Azman of a place.

So this afternoon, off I went to visit Sofie. And since it is almost the end of the month, I stopped by a grocery shop first to get supplies of groceries for Sofie’s family using the funds that I’ve been getting regularly from friends meant for the poor families under my care. When I got to their home, Azman, excited about getting into the culinary school, was the first to come out and greet me… and helped to unload the groceries from my car. I took the opportunity to remind him again not to waste the opportunity given to him. For the moment I don’t see any problems with Azman, despite being a bit cheeky, he is quite a responsible boy and respects people, especially elders.

Sofie’s problem now is her eldest son, Azlan who had completed his SPM. He now works part time at a small factory but what Sofie can’t stand is the fact that Azlan always goes out at night with girls and comes home very late, after midnight. I have to admit, Azlan is quite good looking, and so although he doesn’t have much money, girls do like him. The particular girl who he has been going out with, according to Sofie, has money and so she’s the one paying whenever they go out anywhere at night.

Sofie has been nagging to him, to no avail. Azlan doesn’t listen to his mother. Sofie was hoping I could talk to Azlan, but every time I visit, he’s never around. According to Sofie, Azlan seems to become more and more like his father, who was known as quite a cassanova during his prime. I do hope Azlan will come to his senses soon. Hopefully after his SPM results are out, we’d be able to arrange for him to take up an automotive course somewhere (other than girls, his interest lies in automotive stuff, that we know) and hopefully he’d be kept busy when pursuing the course.

There was an additional character in Sofie’s house today. I didn’t realise there was somebody else at home until Sofie told me about the boy. Nizam, now 18, has skin disease all over his body, according to him since young. His parents didn’t really care about him and couldn’t be bothered to bring him to get regular treatments. Nizam only went to school up to form 2 – always getting teased and bullied because of the condition of his skin. A month ago, due to whatever problems at home, his mother ran away, taking whatever documents with her, including Nizam’s identity card. Nizam’s other family members are not bothered at all about Nizam’s wellbeing.

He had been trying to get a job which doesn’t require academic qualification to support himself, but to no avail. Azman, who can easily get jobs working at food stalls etc, tried to recommend Nizam, but the moment the potential employers saw his skin condition, nobody wanted to take him in.

So guess what? Sofie took pity on him and allowed him to stay at her rented house, together with her 4 children.

Saya nak tanggung bagi dia duit, saya tak mampu kak, tapi sekadar nak kongsi makan apa yang kami makan, takde masalah,”  Sofie said to me.

Sofie asked if I could find a way to help Nizam, especially in getting him an appointment with a skin specialist. Apparently a few months back, Azman took him to a clinic, and the doctor at the clinic gave him a referral letter for him to go to Ipoh GH to see a specialist. But Nizam has no money to go to Ipoh, and Sofie couldn’t afford to help him out either.

All the while when Sofie told me Nizam’s story, Nizam just stayed in the room, too shy to come out. Sofie then called him and asked him to come out and meet me. It took quite a while before Nizam finally came out, wearing a long sleeved t-shirt to cover his arms. Well, I could still see the skin problems on his hands and his face.

I told him to get his identity card done first. Since his IC was with his mother and nobody seemed to know where his mother is now, I told him to report his IC as lost and to go make a new one. I’d try to help out with the fine involved, as I know he won’t be able to pay. Sofie doesn’t mind paying if it’s only RM10, but not if it’s more than that.

With the referral letter to take him to the hospital already available, I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to get an appointment for him. But surely they’d need him to produce his IC when I bring him to the hospital. So yes, might as well get his IC problem settled first. At least a temporary IC.

Whatever it is, I am proud of Sofie. Despite not really getting enough to make ends meet each month, she was still willing to feed another mouth at her home…

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Back-to-school shopping : Round 5 (3 in 1)

Done with back-to-school shopping for 21 kids, yesterday I decided to get 3 families from northern Perak to gather at a supermarket in Taiping – 11 children altogether from the 3 families… Ashraf’s 3 children, Rahimi’s 4 children and Maya’s 4 children. Interestingly, out of the 11 children, there was only one boy, Ashraf’s youngest 10 year old (who looked more like a 7 or 8 year old child because of his size). Ashraf & Rahimi themselves didn’t come, Ashraf had to work while Rahimi, when I called last week, was hospitalised. So their wives came with the children. I had never met them before though, so I just told them to meet me near the escalator at the main entrance of the shopping complex and I made sure I had their numbers saved in my handphone.

Immediately after my zuhr prayer, off I headed to Taiping. Managed to get to the shopping complex within an hour, and just as I got to the main entrance I saw Maya and her 4 girls. We still had to wait for the other 2 families. I then decided to call Samsiah, Rahimi’s wife. She said she was on the way. Next, Ashraf’s wife, Siti. Just as I was looking for her phone number, she called! “Akak yang pakai baju warna kelabu tu ye? Saya kat atas ni!” I looked up to the first floor and saw a lady waving. Okay, so 2 families already there. I just sent a text message to Samsiah, telling her that I’d be waiting at the first floor near the trolleys.

Samsiah finally got there 10 minutes late. I thought she came by bus, but apparently she and her children came by car, a relative of hers helped to send them there. It was only then I found out that Rahimi had passed away the week before, 2 days after I called to arrange for the children’s back-to-school shopping.

Anyway, we started shopping at 3.10 pm. I just told the mothers what they were entitled to and then I just let them choose the schooling stuff for their children. Siti only had to help out her son with the uniforms etc. Her 2 older girls were big enough to choose on their own without their mother’s help. Maya’s children didn’t have to choose any uniforms as their mother had already sewn their uniforms herself. She only claimed the amount she paid for the materials.

A few of the children were quite choosy, complaining about the materials… kasar sangatlicin sangat… etc. According to Siti, usually she’d have to bring them to a few different places to get the stuff that they really wanted. And in addition to that, they couldn’t afford to buy everything at one go, so usually they’d buy their schooling stuff in stages.

But yesterday, they didn’t have the chance to go elsewhere to choose their stuff, just pick whatever was available there. Not if they wanted me to pay anyway. Siti got worried when each bill came up to over RM500, except Maya’s because she didn’t have to buy uniforms. She was afraid that her children may have spent over the budget. I told her not to worry as it was still within the budget of RM200 – RM250 per child.

With the mothers using the “cepat sikit pilih, kesian makcik tunggu lama” excuse, we managed to complete yesterday’s shopping spree at 4.35 pm – that’s less than 2 hours. I had enough time to get back to Ipoh for my asar prayer!

3 more girls for another round of back-to-school shopping this Friday!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Back-to-school shopping : Round 4 (5 in 1)

As mentioned in my previous posting, I had arranged for 12 children from 5 families staying within the same district to meet up with me at a particular supermarket at 10 am today to shop for the children’s schooling needs. So after withdrawing some cash this morning, off I headed to the supermarket. I got there 10 minutes before 10 am… didn’t see any familiar faces at that time so I remained in the car for a few minutes.

Closing in to 10 am, I got out of my car and waited outside the main entrance. The first 2 families to come were Rin’s and Mrs K’s… they came together – Rin with 2 primary school children (1 boy & 1 girl) and Mrs K’s 3 girls – one going to be in form 5, one standard 4 and the youngest going to kindergarten. Seeing that I was already there, and thinking she was late, Rin immediately hugged me… “Orang dah buat salah ni, kena mintak ampun siap-siap.” Actually she was punctual, I was the one who was early.

Immediately after that I saw Nuri and her 2 girls – forms 5 and 2. However the younger girl, who is also HIV+, despite already going into form 2, is so small you could easily mistake her for a primary school girl. Like last year, her secondary school sarong couldn’t be bought at the supermarket. Her mother would have to sew for her.

Seeing that Lin and Imran weren’t there yet, I told the 3 ladies to grab their own trolleys, go in first and choose the schooling needs for their children; and get back to me if they had anything to ask or if they were ready to check out. I then sent text messages to Lin and Imran telling them I was already at the supermarket, then I went in to join the 3 ladies.

Lin got there a few minutes later. After 20 minutes, seeing that Imran was not there yet, I gave Imran a call. After a few rings, he answered… he just walked in the main entrance to the supermarket, together with his wife and 3 children. Finally I got to meet his wife. I did say I’d visit them at home but simply couldn’t find the time to visit them yet.

So yeah, I just let the mothers help out the children in picking their schooling needs. Not much problem, except Mrs K’s little girl (yes, Baby K’s already going to kindergarten next year) who was sulking because she didn’t get to choose anything for herself yet (she only needed shoes and bag but during the earlier part of the shopping Mrs K was concentrating on getting the uniforms for her 2 other girls). And when the time came to buy her a pair of school shoes, she insisted on putting the shoe box that she had grabbed into the trolley without even trying out the size first. Of course Mrs K used the usual scare-the-kids tactic of “Nanti makcik fizah marah mak tak tau…”

Anyway, the first family ready to check out was Nuri’s. Even after I finished paying for her children at the counter, the other families weren’t ready yet. I then accompanied Nuri to my car. I had some reference books for SPM, PMR and UPSR which I managed to collect from friends late last month when I went for the Canopy Walk at FRIM. Nuri’s form 5 daughter gladly chose the SPM reference books for herself. She had wanted to ask her mother to buy some reference books, not knowing that I had brought along some with me.

Done with that, I went back in. The other families didn’t know that I went out to pass some books to Nuri’s daughter… I wonder what they’d do if they found the tukang bayar missing… hehehe…

The other 4 families got all their stuff almost immediately after one another. So there at the cashier for the back-to-school section, were 4 trolleys full of stuff queuing up, separate receipts for each trolley, but with the same person paying for everything. The cashier must be wondering who this Makcik Kaya was… taking out cash from her bag each time paying between RM320 to RM500 for each family. First in the queue was Mrs K, followed by Rin, then Imran and finally Lin. It was Lin’s daughter who told me that once everything was paid, just bring the receipt to the free gift counter to collect some free gifts. There were free gifts for purchases of minimum RM50 in a single receipt. All the receipts were definitely more than that!

So yep, after paying for all of them, we went to the free gift counter, got a 2012 calendar for each receipt (total 5 calendars) and depending on how much was spent on school shoes for each receipt, there were also water containers as free gift. Since Nuri had gone back by then, I took the calendar for her receipt while the 2 water containers from that receipt were handed over to Imran’s wife for her children.

I then told them about the books in my car. Lin’s daughter took the PMR books while the UPSR books went to Ali’s daughter.

As I was leaving the place, I took a look at my watch… it was 12.02 pm. Hmmmm…. not bad… I managed to complete today’s mission in 2 hours.

A few more families to cover. To be continued next week…

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Cerita-ceriti sana-sini…

Lin sent me a text message on Sunday asking if her children would still be getting any assistance for their schooling needs. Last 2 years I took her 2 younger children out shopping but I had been quite busy this year with so many additions to the list of children needing schooling assistance, it had been some time since I last contacted Lin.

Knowing that I may not have the time to bring all the families out separately as I usually did in previous years, I figured this year I’d try something I had never done before – get a few families to shop together at the same place at the same time, especially those from out of Ipoh.

So I decided on a supermarket in a town easily accessible to a few families within the same district and sent out text messages to Nuri, Rin, Mrs K and Lin. They all agreed to bring their children and meet me at the supermarket on Thursday at 10 am.

Then last night, I received a text message from Imran, asking me how to get help for his children’s schooling. I’ve met Imran before at the hospital but I’ve already assigned him to another volunteer. He had already bought his children’s uniforms using the RM100 per child received from the government, but there were so many things they still needed and his small business had not been doing too well of late, mainly because of his poor health. In fact, he had not been paying his rental for the past 3 months.

Since Imran stays in the same district as the other clients I’m taking for their back-to-school shopping on Thursday, I told Imran to bring his children to the same place at the same time.

So yep, on Thursday I’ll be doing some back-to-school shopping for 12 children from 5 families. God help me please…

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On Monday I received a call from an unfamiliar number. It was actually from a public phone. And the caller was Jah’s husband (yeah, the same guy I mentioned in my blog posting on 5th December). He told me Jah had delivered their baby, not in Ipoh but in Teluk Intan. I was quite surprised really, I didn’t even know until last week that Jah was pregnant, and suddenly this week she had already delivered. And in Teluk Intan? Jah usually comes for her appointments in Ipoh (she stays in another town, neither Ipoh nor Teluk Intan) and so I was wondering why they sent her to this other hospital. “Yang jumpa doctor untuk sakit satu lagi tu pun dah tukar Teluk Intan ke?” I asked. I assumed the husband would know about her appointments in Ipoh. “Sakit satu lagi? Apa benda?” he asked. Alamak, I didn’t dare say anything further. The line got cut off anyway as Jah’s hubby ran out of coins for the public phone. But later at night he sent me a text message to say that Jah had delivered a baby boy.

I was on clinic duty this morning and so I decided to ask SN about Jah. SN knew Jah was pregnant but was surprised herself when I told her that Jah had already delivered in Teluk Intan. According to SN, when Jah went for her pregnancy test at the district hospital in the town where she stays, they referred her to Teluk Intan instead of Ipoh. But she still comes to Ipoh for her appointment at the ID clinic. It would have been much easier for the departments (O&G and ID clinic) to liaise with each other if Jah went to the same hospital instead of 2 different hospitals.

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Reading the status updates of a few friends on FB about their children getting offers to fully residential schools, I decided to check on Maya’s daughter. Maya told me that they had received the SMS from MOE informing her that her daughter got a place in a residential school in Perak but they’d have to go online to accept the offer first. They don’t have internet access at home, so getting online meant having to go to a cyber cafe or a friend’s house with internet access. Since I was already online when I called Maya, I offered to do so for them and asked her to SMS me her daughter’s UPSR index number which is required when we check the offer status online.

Maya immediately sent me her daughter’s index number and IC number as well. I guess she wasn’t too confident when I told her I only needed the index number. I immediately went to the MOE website and accepted the offer on their behalf. Now they’d need to wait for the official letter from the ministry.

Am so happy that finally one of “my children” gets offered to go to a fully residential school. I hope the new school will provide a better environment for her to excel in her studies. All the best to you girl! Don’t you worry about your schooling expenses… you’re still under our education sponsorship programme.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Back-to-school shopping : Round 3

When I called Aini last week to ask her when I could take her children for their back-school-shopping, I was told the boys followed their uncle to KL and would only be back over the weekend. And since her appointment at the hospital was on Tuesday, I told her I’d fetch her and her kids on Wednesday afternoon.

Today after my lunch and prayer, off I went to fetch them. This time, only 2 out of Aini’s 3 kids came along. Her eldest daughter was home when I went to fetch them today, but this time she didn’t follow us as she has one more SPVM paper to sit for tomorrow.

So it was just me, Aini and her 2 boys. The boys, going into forms 1 and 3 respectively, were rather shy. Unlike the other kids who’d grab the opportunity to get themselves everything new, these 2 boys would only take the things they felt they really needed. From the 3 families I’ve taken shopping so far, these 2 took the least stationeries. As a matter of fact, according to Aini, the older boy asked her earlier, “Apasal makcik Afizah pulak yang tolong belikan barang sekolah? Seganlah mak…” Aini just told him that we’re an NGO helping out single mothers.

NGO for single mothers? You see, none of Aini’s family members know that Aini and her late husband were HIV+. Her children knows she has health problems, but since Aini has various ailments including kidney problems, they never question her. And since I know the children aren’t aware of their mother’s HIV status, I never mention the word when they are around. Aini would still tell me about her appointments at the hospital etc, but without ever mentioning HIV or AIDS.

The family now survives on welfare aid of RM300 a month. Previously, Aini used to babysit a neighbour’s child and got paid RM200 per month, but according to her, the child’s mother had quit her job and no longer sends the child to Aini. So, RM200 less income for Aini now. She still needs all the help she can get.

Her eldest daughter plans to get a temporary job after her SPVM. I asked Aini if her daughter had any courses in particular she’s interested to pursue once results are out. I was told she’s very much interested in tourism management.

So I got home and surfed the net to find out more about the available courses and colleges. Hmmm…. there’s one in Ipoh which offers the course as well. I just hope she will at least get the minimum required results to take up the course.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Jangan over la brader…

Remember Jah? Despite what she had to go through in her life before (she lost her 1st husband and son within just months – and to add to that after her husband’s death she also found out she had HIV), Jah had always been the happy-go-lucky type of person; always the live-wire in any of our activities, particularly our annual Family Day.

That was until she remarried. Jah did talk to me about her boyfriend then (who was free from HIV) and my question to her had always been whether the boyfriend knew she was HIV positive. Apparently he knew, yet he still wanted to marry her. Jah was of course excited.

Ok then, it was their choice, nobody could stop them. So yes, they got married. And ever since then, I had never been able to contact Jah by phone. She no longer lived with her mother, whose house I used to visit, but went to stay with her husband at her mother-in-law’s house. We were no longer able to call her to join us for our Family Day. The only time I got to speak to her was when I’d bump into her at the hospital during her appointments which coincidentally happened to be on the same day as my clinic duty.

The last time I saw Jah was some time in April this year. She was waiting for her turn to see the doctor. I did ask for her latest phone number, but she told me she didn’t have any. So I informed her about all our planned activities and gave her my number so that she could call me if she was interested to join any of the activities. She seemed very interested but told me she’d need to go home and seek her husband’s permission first. Jah also asked for Shila’s phone number. Shila used to be her best friend before Jah remarried. But even Shila complained about Jah no longer keeping in touch with her. Shila in fact, didn’t even know Jah got married until I told her about it.

Despite taking down our phone numbers, Jah never did call me or Shila.

When I met Shila after this year’s Family Day in The Roots, Tg Rambutan, she did mention to me about Jah’s husband who kept sending her text messages, wanting to befriend her, telling her he wanted to marry her etc. Urggh, this guy must be sick! Whenever I met Jah after her marriage, the only person she’d be complaining about would be her mother-in-law who didn’t seem to like her, but Jah always had praises for her husband whom to her was “a very loving husband”. Of course, she didn’t know that the loving husband she had, had been trying to tackle her own best friend.

According to Shila, she did tell him off, but from time to time, he’d still try to contact her. I’m not too sure if he knew about Shila’s death just before Ramadhan this year; I had never been able to inform Jah about it as I didn’t know how to. Maybe her husband did find out – who knows, maybe he did send his SMS to Shila’s phone number which is now held by her mother/sister. Maybe the mother/sister replied the message telling him that Shila had passed on. I don’t know for sure.

Anyway, today out of the blue a text message came in on my handphone from an unfamiliar number:

"Askm akak Afizah sy nak betaya ni masa sy nati nk buat sorat beranak anak sy nak macm mana cara ya n ape dokte mita n berape bayaran kus buat sorat beranak n berape kus pebayaran kuluar dari hopita iteri sy nati n akak sy tak pernah melalui macm ni lg akak tolong lg bg tahu"

I had to reread the message to comprehend what the sender was trying to say. Whoever sent that message was actually asking me how to register for his child’s birth cert when the time comes, what would the doctor be asking for, how much would be the cost to get the birth cert, and what would be the costs when the wife gets discharged from the hospital.

The first thing I was trying to figure out was… who the hell was the sender of the message? A husband of someone who’d soon be giving birth… but I simply couldn’t recall any of clients being pregnant. So I replied the message to ask, “Siapa ni?”

It was only after that did he explain he was Jah’s husband. Well, I did reply his earlier queries. Then came his reply, thanking me for the info and asking “boleh ke sy nak mejadi adik akad akak itu pun kut akak sudi” (based on the spellings he had been using in his messages, he probably meant adik angkat, but the irony of it… adik AKAD??)

Allo brader! Jangan la over!!

I decided not to reply his last message. I remembered Shila telling him off and it didn’t stop him from contacting her. For the moment I think I’ll just use the “no response” tactic first. If he sends me another message, even to seek help for his wife, I’ll tell him to get his wife to contact me direct. After all, I’m his wife’s buddy, not his!

But right now what I need to do is to check with SN about Jah. I never heard about her being pregnant. SN or the other nurses at the HIV clinic never mentioned anything about it to me either. If Jah really is pregnant, those at the HIV clinic need to know so they can take necessary precautions to avoid transmission of HIV to the child…

Friday, 2 December 2011

Back-to-school shopping : Round 2

Done shopping with Sofie’s children on Wednesday, yesterday I went to fetch Fuzi and her children. I promised to fetch them at home around 2.30 pm. Got there right on time, and as always, they were ready waiting in front of their house, doors already locked, all set to go. Iwan, the youngest, got to sit in front with his mom, while his other 4 siblings had to squeeze themselves at the back in my Kenari.

This time Iwan was more excited than usual. Usually the only excitement he got during the back-to-school shopping was the ride in the car, the running around he got to do at the hypermarket, and the makan-makan I’d treat them to after shopping. This time, he’d get to choose some schooling stuff for himself as he’d be going to a kindergarten next year.

When we got to the hypermarket, I immediately brought them direct to the back-to-school promotion section. Found myself a bench and sat there while Fuzi & her kids chose whatever needed. Her 2 older girls were able to choose for themselves but her boys needed assistance. Fuzi wasn’t able to cope with all 3 boys depending on her to choose the right sizes and all, so finally I decided to get up and help as well.

It wasn’t too bad when choosing the uniforms, and not that bad either when it came to shoes as well, but when it came to choosing school bags, Iwan the little boy kept choosing the hyper-expensive ones, even the ones over RM100! And he’s only going to a kindergarten!! Had to give him a firm no and I finally ended up choosing a much cheaper school bag for him, with his siblings helping me out by saying how good he looked with the bag I chose… ;)

With all the things chucked into the trolley, passers-by kept looking at our full to the brim trolley. This pic here was taken BEFORE we finished shopping…

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When we reached the cashier, one of the staff asked if I’d like to pay half first, so they could give us the back-to-school vouchers, then I could use the vouchers to get a little price cut for the other half. Told her that was not necessary as I could still use the vouchers when I bring some other kids shopping for their schooling needs.

Oh, anak yatim ya?” she asked. “Kalau macam tu takpelah. Saya ingat sekali ni aje, rugi la kalau tak guna voucher tu nanti.”

Anyway, I told the girls to help with the packing at the cashier. They simply chucked the things into the plastic bags. Fuzi told them to pack properly, but Wina replied, “Ala, nanti makcik hantar sampai depan rumah kan?” I told her I’d only be sending them to the bus stop. She just smiled, knowing pretty well I was only kidding.

By the time the cashier finished keying in the codes for all the stuff, the receipt came up to 33.7 inches long (yes, I got home and actually measured!). And the total amount spent? RM1,284.90. I had to swipe my card…

The good news is, Fuzi is the only client with 5 schooling children. The rest have 4 or less, so the receipts shouldn’t be that long in my other shopping sprees…

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Back-to-school shopping : Round 1

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Yes, it’s that time of the year again! When I went to a hypermarket last week to buy some groceries for my own household needs, I noticed they had just started their back-to-school promotion. Immediately I thought I’d better start off with my yearly shopping for the schooling needs of the children from various families covered either by our Education Sponsorship programme or our Children Education Fund.

Since I needed to visit Sofie this week anyway to deliver some groceries and to get the supporting documents needed to register her son Azman for the culinary school in Ipoh, I figured I might as well start off with her family first. She stays out of Ipoh and I didn’t want to end up having to visit her separately for each purpose.

Fuzi had mentioned to me before that last year because we went quite late nearing the end of the school holidays, there weren’t much choice left for her children. I decided to put her family second on the list for my back-to-school shopping for this year.

On Monday I sent text messages to both Sofie & Fuzi – to inform Sofie that I’d be coming on Wednesday and to inform Fuzi that I’d be coming on Thursday. No questions whatsoever from Sofie but Fuzi called me this morning to ask again when I’d be taking them shopping, although it was clearly stated in the SMS I sent. “Tak awal sangat ke kak?” Duh! She was the one who complained that last year I brought them a wee bit late, now she’s saying it’s too early? I told her the back-to-school sales had already begun and I wanted to settle things early.

Today, after zuhr, I went off to Sofie’s house. I did arrive earlier than promised, and so none of them were ready when I got there. Ika and Saiful were watching TV while Azman was outside somewhere. While the 2 younger kids got ready, I checked all the documents to be submitted to the culinary school for Azman. Thank goodness I checked, he hadn’t even signed the form! Initially Azman wanted to just follow us shopping but just as his siblings got ready, he decided to just stay home. For the moment, while waiting for his PMR results, he works as a helper at a food stall to earn some income.

Only Sofie, Ika & Saiful came with me to a supermarket in town to buy their schooling needs. On the way, Sofie showed me where she usually sets up her stall selling nasi lemak and kuih. Oh yes, she has already started her small business after getting some help under the Welfare Department’s e-Kasih programme. She starts selling at 7am and closes up by 11 or 11.30 am, and gets about RM30 – RM40 a day. Alhamdulillah. That’s a good enough start for someone who 2 years ago was bed-ridden and looked like she was already dying.

Anyway, this time, having to buy schooling needs for only 2 of her children, the bill still came up to almost RM500. Wow, things sure are expensive, aren’t they. I didn’t want to end up buying different stuff in different shops, so everything were bought at the same supermarket, regardless of whether I could get some of the stuff cheaper elsewhere. I didn’t have time for all that. According to Sofie, if she had to buy the things on her own, she’d probably buy poor quality materials at much cheaper prices, although they don’t usually last long. And usually she’d buy one thing at a time – depending on how much she has in her hands.

Tomorrow I will be fetching Fuzi and her children for their back-to-school shopping. This time around, Iwan, her youngest, will get some stuff for himself as well since he will finally be going to a kindergarten next year. Usually he’d just watch his siblings choose their schooling needs, this time he’d get to choose at least a pair of shoes and a school bag for himself. I bet right now he must be really excited…

 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Down, but not out…

3 cases were referred to me during yesterday’s clinic duty. However, one particular case really stood out, to me, at least. Why? Because based on this lady’s condition, I was expecting someone who’d be feeling really sorry for herself and who’d expect to live totally on other people’s help.

When SN came into the room, pushing a lady on a wheelchair, at first I didn’t realise the lady didn’t have one leg. She was wearing a batik sarong and I was looking at her face instead of the whole body. I knew this had to be an exceptional case because since SN now has 2 assistants, usually either one of the assistants would be accompanying the patients to the counselling room. This time SN herself came to explain the case to me as this lady really needed all the help she could get.

Sarojini had her left leg recently amputated – right up to her thighs. She’s still married, but her husband, who works as a lorry driver felt that since he was not able to take care of her, decided to send her temporarily to a welfare home. Their 4 children have been sent to another shelter home for children in another town.

Imagine having had her left leg amputated, and finding out at the same time that she had HIV – wow! I wouldn’t be surprised if she gave up on life.

But nope, Sarojini has the strength and determination which I truly admire. No doubt she’s worried – not so much about herself, but about the future of her children. Apparently her husband was not the type whom she could depend on to take care of their children.

Dia tada suka balik rumah la akka. Dia mau keluar enjoy sama kawan-kawan saja.”

Oh dear, no wonder she was sent to a welfare home. It’s not so much that he could not take care of her at home, I don’t think he was even willing to go through all the trouble. He comes home only as and when he likes and not even bothered to visit the children at the shelter home.

Sarojini, of course, in her condition, had not been able to visit her children either. But she makes it a point to call them every week without fail to speak to each and every single one of them.

Now, without one leg, Sarojini is determined to get out of the welfare home as soon as possible and get her children to stay with her again. She is determined to live on and earn a living for the sake of her children. She may have lost a leg, but as she said, “Saya punya tangan masih boleh jahit la akka. Kalau saya tada kerja, saya punya anak mau makan apa? Mau sekolah macam mana?”

Wow! I truly admire her determination. I know of people without any physical handicap who’d go round asking for financial assistance – giving all sorts of excuses why they can’t work.

Of course, at this very moment Sarojini needs help. First thing is to help her apply for all the available sources of income like welfare aid and socso. Once she can get a fixed monthly income, then only can she move out of the welfare home, and get her kids out of the shelter home to stay with her again. Then we’d need to ensure her children gets all the necessary schooling assistance. And since she mentioned she can sew and plans to do tailoring work to earn her own income, hopefully after a while she’d be able to earn enough to feed her family. Meanwhile, we will try to source for monthly groceries to be delivered to her.

I could see tears in Sarojini’s eyes when I assured her that we’d be helping her out especially pertaining to her children’s education.

Terima kasih banyak akka. Sekarang saya tada susah hati, ada orang mau tolong saya punya anak. Kalau saya mati pun dia orang mesti mau terus sekolah.”

Hang in there lady. We are more than willing to help those who are willing to take the effort to improve their lives despite all the trials and tribulations. You may be down right now, but definitely not out yet…

 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Updates here & there…

While I was visiting Nasya at her home last Friday, a call came in from a number not registered in my handphone. From the number, I figured it could be from one of the government agencies. True enough, the call from an officer of the Welfare Department.

He asked me to confirm if Buddies would be sending anyone for the welfare grant cheque presentation in Batu Gajah the next day. Huh? He thought I would have at least heard about it. I had no clue whatsoever since we didn’t get any letter. Anyway, he asked if we could send 2 reps, but since it was such short notice I could only confirm that I’d be representing Buddies.

And so yes, on Saturday I went over for the function officiated by the deputy minister for Kementerian Pembangunan Wanita, Keluarga & Masyarakat; and alhamdulillah additional funds for Buddies. The year 2011 had definitely been a good year for Buddies in terms of fundings.

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On Sunday, a text message came in from an unfamiliar number -

Salam. Anak saya dpt 5A. Klu dpt masuk asrama penuh camne?”

No names mentioned in the message and I didn’t have a clue who it was from. I wasn’t about to answer the question without even knowing who I was responding to, and so I had to ask first who that person was. Apparently the message was from Maya but the number was not listed in my handphone because she was using her husband’s phone. Remember Maya? The lady who, after her iddah was over, married her late husband’s younger brother, knowing pretty well she was HIV positive. Her late husband’s family thought it was their responsibility to take care of Maya’s well being since it was their family member who infected Maya with HIV. And since the younger brother was single and willing, he agreed to marry Maya.

Good to know that her daughter did well for her UPSR. Maya was worried that if the daughter gets offered to go to a residential school, they may not be able to fork out the expenses involved. The girl is under our sponsorship programme, so I told Maya not to worry about it. I personally really love to help out in cases involving children’s education, especially when I see the children themselves showing an interest in their education.

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On Monday morning, after my usual gardening routine, I realised there was another text message on my handphone, from another unfamiliar number. It started off with “Buat kehadapan mama fizah yg diingati…”

Huh?? Mama Fizah?? Couldn’t recall anyone ever calling me mama! I read on and finally I figured out that the sender of the message was Anita. As far as I could recall she used to call me Kak. It was the lady at the temporary shelter home that she called mama. Of course, age-wise she’s young enough to be my daughter but she never did call me mama before.

Anita now stays with her sister. Am not sure if she has already managed to get an identity card for herself or a birth cert for her son. We tried to help her before but she always came out with all sorts of excuses when we asked her to get her sisters to help get some supporting documents. She’s back with her own sisters now, I do hope they will do something (if they haven’t already) about her IC and her son’s birth cert.

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Last night Mrs K sent a text message asking if her children will be getting any help for next year’s schooling. I told her that we still help out when it comes to children education. As always, Mrs K would always come up with even more questions – will they get bus fares, can she send the 2nd daughter for this, can she send the youngest daughter for that. This time I didn’t bother to reply. If I replied, she’d probably think of something else to ask and may even ask for additional help which has nothing to do with her children’s education. I will get to her when her turn comes.

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Tomorrow I will be on clinic duty again. This time I won’t be alone. A new trainee volunteer, a PLHIV himself, has agreed to join me for tomorrow’s clinic…

Friday, 18 November 2011

Another child…

When our sole volunteer in Taiping alerted me about a girl whose parents died of HIV related illnesses, and who herself had been suffering from various ailments, the volunteer wasn’t sure when I asked if the girl was HIV+ or if she had ever been tested for HIV. The volunteer herself got the news from somebody else. I told her to try get more details, and if possible, to visit the girl.

So she went to visit and amongst the details she got was that the girl had indeed been tested HIV+ and was already regularly going for treatment at the paed’s clinic. Since it was a paed’s case, it was never referred to us as cases in Taiping referred to us were only from the adults clinic. Was told that the girl’s HIV status was known to all and sundry in the kampong as her case was highlighted in a tabloid paper. Guess the reporter was trying to highlight the girl’s sad story and to add more impact to the story, even the girl’s HIV status was disclosed.

What bothered me most was the fact that the girl was no longer schooling. My colleague wasn’t able to give me a clear answer as to why the girl stopped going to school… was it because her HIV status had been known to all… or was it because of her illness? How can we help the girl?

I needed to know more. So I told my colleague to arrange for another visit – this time I myself wanted to join the visit.

Since it was my colleague’s off day from work today, we decided to pay the girl a visit. There was another couple sitting outside chatting with the girl’s grandma when we got there, but since the girl’s status was known to all, I wasn’t too worried about confidentiality. I found out that the couple were relatives anyway, and the grandma even invited us to sit together with the couple. The girl, Nasya, 13, did come out to salam with us. At one glance she looked okay.

I started chatting with the grandma and was told that since the girl seemed to be doing a whole lot better now, they were thinking of sending her back to school beginning next year. Apparently the girl went to school only up to standard 6, sat for her UPSR but after that she had to be hospitalised for whatever ailments and they never even went to get her UPSR results from school. Until now, they don’t know her results.

According to the grandma, Nasya stopped going to school when she was hospitalised and even after she was discharged, she had difficulty walking. She had to go to the hospital quite regularly and at one time even had to be referred to Ipoh GH when her condition worsened. I couldn’t really tell what her ailments were based on my conversation with the grandma, but it probably was somewhat related to some kind of brain infection, which I have seen quite often amongst the HIV cases referred.

The doctor had to change her to a new line of ARV which seemed to work better for her. She seemed a lot better now although not fully recovered. Although at one glance she looked okay, when we observed her walk, she wasn’t really back to normal. And according to the grandma, Nasya tends to forget certain things. And when we asked her to write, she was slow. even when writing her own name. When we asked her to write her address as well, she forgot. And she even had problems reading.

I don’t think it would be a good idea sending her to a normal school. She won’t be able to cope.  And she’d probably end up not learning anything. We figured it would probably be better if she goes to Sekolah Pendidikan Khas. The grandma did agree with me but said that since Nasya’s aunt was the one who had been arranging this and that for Nasya, she’d have to discuss the matter with the aunt first. I told the grandma that if they needed help in the registration etc, we are willing to help out.

I understand Nasya will have to be registered as an OKU before she can be accepted into such schools. Maybe we’d also need to discuss the matter with the doctor handling her case before taking the next step.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Another problem not settled yet

Fuzi sent me a text message last week, asking if it was okay for her to buy reference books for her eldest daughter, Wina, who will be sitting for her SPM next year. Amongst all the children of the PLHIV families under my care, Wina is the one who takes her schooling very seriously. She’s the one who asks for tuition, and she’s the one who wants those reference books.

I told Fuzi to wait for me to visit them so I could get more details on the subjects Wina is taking. I can probably get used reference books from my friends whose children have sat for their SPM and who no longer have anyone to hand down the books to.

So today, after getting supplies of groceries at a hypermarket, I immediately headed to Fuzi’s house. The moment I got to her house & honked, it was her youngest son Iwan who opened the door, smiling as sweetly as ever. He then came out together with his mother to help unload the groceries from my car.

Fuzi’s eldest daughter, Wina, 16, and eldest son, Hafiz, 13 were also home. The other 2 children including Ijam, the HIV+ boy, were in school. I brought along with me a bag of scarves given by SN. SN was no longer using those type of scarves and so she gave them to me so I could distribute them to the poor HIV families. Fuzi and Wina were happy to choose a few from the plastic bag.

Anyway, I told Wina I’d try to get the SPM reference books for her. I noted down the subjects she’s taking. Although Wina is under our sponsorship programme, no point buying reference books if we can get some for free. Might as well utilise the sponsorship money to cover for her tuition fees.

Fuzi’s problem now is that she’s still unable to apply for PR status for herself. Earlier on she was told that foreigners married to Malaysians can apply for PR status after 5 years. Fuzi had been staying in Malaysia since she got married 17 years ago. But when she went recently, she was told the rule doesn’t apply to widows. She couldn’t apply for PR back then when her husband was still alive because he never bothered to register their marriage here (they were married in Narathiwat).

After her husband’s death, Fuzi had all sorts of problems trying to get Malaysian identity cards for her children, but that matter finally got settled when someone helped to get her marriage cert finally accepted by the court here. So now the problem of her first 4 children are settled. They have no problem getting their MyKad done.

However, her youngest boy, Iwan, was born out of a rape case, after the death of Fuzi’s husband. With Fuzi’s status still as a non citizen, and father’s details unknown, Iwan was classified as non-citizen. Fuzi was hoping that if she could get herself the PR status, then maybe she could apply to get Iwan as a Malaysian citizen. She was hopeful earlier, but with the latest development, she’s back to square one.

Iwan is 5 years old. Next year he will be going to a nearby kindergarten. The problem will arise when he needs to start schooling in 2013. If he still remains as a non-citizen, he may have problems getting into a government school. I was told he will need to apply to the state education dept and pay some additional fees as a foreign student.

There’s still another year to go. I hope something can be done before 2013 comes…

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

It’s all up to her now…

During Aidil Adha on Sunday, I did get a text message from Shidah, wishing me Selamat Hari Raya. I was quite busy when the SMS came in and so I thought I’d reply later, but ended up forgetting all about it. Then yesterday another SMS came in, again from Shidah, but this time it was a blank SMS. I began to wonder if she was in some kind of trouble.

Remember Shidah, the foreign lady married to a Malaysian? The one who got beaten up by her husband and whose passport was locked up by him? You can read her earlier stories here and here.

Amongst all my clients, Shidah is the only one whom I wouldn’t call unless and until she calls me first. Although I do have her handphone number, there was a time when her husband would hold the phone and only passed it to her when she needed to go to the hospital so that it’d be easier for her to call him once she was done with her hospital matters. Calling her when the phone is in her husband’s hands may result in her husband being suspicious of who I was, why I contacted his wife etc. And she may end up being beaten up again as the husband is the type who’d get angry even with the slightest reason.

Anyway, yesterday I just decided to respond to the blank SMS. Didn’t dare ask much though. I just asked “Apa khabar?” Shidah immediately called back. In her Pattani dialect, she told me she was having some problems.

Shidah: “Saya ada masalah sikit kakak.”

Me: “Kenapa? Kena pukul lagi ke?”

Shidah: “Bukan kena pukul. Dia sudah ada perempuan lain. Esok kakak ada pergi hospital ka? Esok saya pergi ambil ubat.”

Me: “Ada. Cari saya esok tempat biasa.”

So yes, this morning I made sure I got to the hospital a wee bit early in case Shidah came early. She was only there to get her monthly supply of ARV, not to see the doctor, so it shouldn’t take too long. If I went late and Shidah had to wait for me, her husband may suspect something if she takes too long before calling him to come and fetch her.

Indeed, it wasn’t long after I got to the counselling room when Shidah walked in, salam & kissed my hands as had always been her practise, and immediately sat beside me.

Physically, she looked fine. I asked her when was the last time she was beaten up by her husband and according to her, it was right before our last meet in May. He still gets angry, and from time to time purposely abuse her emotionally, but at least for the past 5 months, he had not beaten her. In fact lately, he had been a wee bit nicer to her – particularly after he found out that Shidah had began suspecting that he has an affair with another woman. Shidah had in fact saw the woman’s pic in her husband’s handphone but before she could double check – all pics and phone numbers had been deleted from his phone.

Typical! He’s probably trying his utmost best to be as nice as possible so that his involvement in the affair wouldn’t be suspected by the wife. In this particular case, it became even more suspicious when he suddenly became nicer because it is not normal for him to be nice to his wife!

According to Shidah she needed to get her visa renewed recently and since then, her passport had been in her hands. So, passport is no longer a problem if she wanted to go back to her home country to be back with her daughter. When she married her present husband and followed him here, her daughter was only 3 years old then. The girl is being taken care by Shidah’s mother. Her brother too helps to support the daughter financially.

Shidah has not seen her daughter since then. It has been 5 years. She does get to speak to her daughter by phone from time to time, and her daughter had been asking her when she’d be coming back. Shidah too, needless to say, missed her daughter so much. But every time she asked her husband if she could go back to see her daughter, the husband would say he didn’t have enough money. Frankly, I don’t think money is the problem. Shidah’s brother had offered her before to pay for the transport so she could go back and see her daughter, but the husband would still come up with all sorts of excuses. Shidah had asked her husband before for her to go back for good, but that got her husband real mad and she ended up being beaten up.

But back then, she couldn’t run away & go back to her family because the problem was she didn’t have her passport with her and she didn’t have any money. I could try get help to finance her transport cost to go back by bus, but her passport was another story. I did advise her to seek help from her embassy but she was too afraid to leave the house.

Now that passport is no longer the problem, there’s no more stopping her right? As it is, even though they are still husband & wife and staying in the same house, they no longer sleep together anymore. He goes in and out as and when he likes, whereas she only gets to go out when he brings her out. He never gives her any money, any household needs he will pay himself instead of giving cash to his wife for her to buy the necessities. He helps to top up her phone so she could from time to time call her family back home. She does all the housework including cooking for him.

She doesn’t sound like a wife does she? Sounds more like a maid.

So, how come she still seems reluctant to leave him? Is she afraid? She doesn’t want to be “isteri nusyuz” by leaving him? She still loves him despite all that he had done to her?

I told her of the choices she has:

1. To talk things out with her husband and tell him that she wants to be with her daughter who is growing up now. Try to go separate ways in the most amicable manner, if she thinks it is possible.

2. If she thinks her husband will only end up beating her up if she asks for divorce, then another option is to make her move during one of her hospital visits. Easier for her to escape.

3. She can choose to remain in the relationship which doesn’t seem to give her any future.

By this time, I could already see her tears flowing. She still seemed unsure what to do. I told her I wasn’t going to tell her what course of action she should take – the decision has to be hers. I just told her to go back and think things over – think of the good IF she decides to remain in the present situation & think of the good IF she decides to go back to her home country. Then weigh them and see which one brings more benefit (to me the answer is obvious). I told her to think of her own future and not let the feeling of guilt to play any part in her decision.

I also reminded her that she still has Allah to turn to. Do the istikharah. Ask for His guidance.

The decision is now in her hands. All I can do is to lend her my support.

Monday, 31 October 2011

A new beginning?

The last time I went to visit Sofie at her home, I was told about her problem with her son Azman, who was caught by the police for riding a motorbike without road tax, and without license.

Before anybody assumes that Azman is a wild, naughty boy, I can vouch that he is actually quite a polite and obedient boy. It’s just that he doesn’t seem to be interested in school anymore, and ended up befriending the wrong group of friends. Sofie told me that Azman planned to stop schooling after his PMR and look for a job that suits his interest. And his interest? Oh, he loves cooking. Even when Sofie told him about a canteen operator looking for an assistant to help wash the dishes, Azman said he wanted to help out with the cooking so he could learn.

I figured rather than forcing him to go to school for the next 2 years just for the sake of sitting for his SPM, when we know his interest is elsewhere, might as well direct him for vocational training.

Coincidentally recently I was requested to do the cashflow for a newly opened private centre offering a course in Kitchen Practice. Those who completes the course will be given the Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia by Jabatan Pembangunan Kemahiran and so I asked one of the directors about the minimum requirements. Azman seemed to meet the minimum requirements. So I told Sofie to ask Azman if he really was serious about doing a course related to cooking. If he takes this up seriously, the prospects for him are quite good. He can either be a chef, serve in hotels/restaurants or runs his own catering/cafeteria business.

Sofie called me back yesterday saying that Azman was actually excited about the idea and kept on asking her, “Betul ke makcik Afizah boleh dapatkan tempat ni?”

So yes, this morning I called the person in charge at the Centre to ask about the coming intake and how to go about. I was told application for December’s intake is already opened and so I went over to the Centre to get the necessary forms and more detailed info. Just a simple form that needs to be filled to apply for a place, and another form to apply for the Tabung Pendidikan Kemahiran. The students (limited to 25 students per intake) are given an allowance of RM300 per month, and if they need hostel accommodation, RM150 will be deducted from their allowance to cover for the hostel fees.

Later in the afternoon, after buying supplies of groceries for the family, off I went to visit Sofie’s family. I had told Sofie earlier I’d be coming and to be sure Azman would be home as I wanted to speak to him personally to be really sure this was what he wanted.

And yes, Azman was home when I got there. In fact he was eagerly waiting for me to come. I could see he was really excited about taking up this course. Even last week when his mother was sponsored to attend a 5 day course under the e-kasih programme, Azman asked his mother to teach him whatever she learnt. There was no doubt where his interest lies.

But I still gave him a piece of my mind when I met him today. I wanted him to make sure he doesn’t waste this opportunity. Hopefully this will be the start of a better future for him…

Come on boy! I’ve done the ground work to open up the opportunity for you, get in there and prove your worth. Show us what you’re made of!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Activities for the past 2 days

I spent the whole day Monday at the Dewan Komuniti Taman Meru for the Kempen Kesedaran Pencegahan Penderaan Kanak-kanak & Keganasan Rumahtangga organised by the State Health Department. Other than inviting us to set up a booth, the organisers also sent us a letter asking us to send a few participants to the seminar. I told them that since it was a working day, it was either the booth or the seminar participants for us, not both. Most of our volunteers work in the private sector, so in order for them to attend, they’d need to take leave.

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So yes, we opted for the booth. The booth was after all, inside the hall, and so while manning the booth, I could listen to the talks by the various speakers as well.

Another volunteer promised to join me early morning to help me set up the booth. She didn’t turn up, so I was all alone setting up the Buddies booth. The volunteer only turned up at 12.30 pm, long after the guest-of-honour left. Another volunteer who promised to help out later during the day, never turned up at all. Sigh! Oh well, you get that sometimes when you do voluntary work.

Since I was all alone at the booth when the guest-of-honour, Dato Dr Mah Hang Soon, went round, I sought the help of one of the volunteers at the neighbouring booth to help snap a few pics when the YB stopped at the Buddies booth.

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With 9 speakers talking on various topics – this brain of mine had to absorb so much the whole day. Luckily we had good speakers, so it wasn’t too bad. The downside however was that it was rather… ermm no, it was VERY warm in the hall. This time I was not willing to wear the Buddies vest, except for a short while when Dato Dr Mah went round the booths.

Today being the last Tuesday of October, I was on clinic duty in Taiping. Earlier on Sunday, Sofie called me seeking my help. She said someone from KPW’s e-kasih programme called her up asking her to attend a course at a hotel in Ipoh starting Tuesday (today) but she didn’t know where the hotel was. She asked if I could help send her. I told her I needed to go to Taiping, but when I found out that she had to report before 9 am while I usually only make a move to Taiping at about the same time, I agreed to help her out provided she arrived in Ipoh a bit early. The only problem was, she didn’t get the letter from the organisers, just a phone call, and so the name of the hotel was based on what she heard, or what she thought she heard. She told me it would be at “Hell City”.

Huh? Hell city?! Where the hell is that?!! After a while I managed to figure it out. She must have meant Hillcity Hotel. Duh!

So yes, this morning I went to fetch her at the bus station and sent her to Hillcity Hotel. The moment we got to the hotel I saw a large banner welcoming participants to a Kursus Kemahiran organised by the KPW so I immediately knew I brought Sofie to the right place.

After sending Sofie to the hotel, I stopped by our center for a while to unload the exhibition materials from my car. We finished quite late of Monday and I wanted to rush home for my asar prayer and so when I went home all the materials were still in my car. I didn’t want to bring them all the way to Taiping, and since I was still rather early, there was ample time for me to leave all the stuff at the center before making a move to Taiping for my clinic duty.

My colleague in Taiping was already waiting in the praying room aka our makeshift counselling room when I got there. She had to report for duty at 10 am and was only there to report to me on the status of a 13 year old HIV+ girl who was referred to her by somebody else due to the family’s poor condition. The girl goes to the Taiping paed’s clinic and so the case was never referred to us earlier. The girl’s parents both died of HIV related illnesses and so she and her younger sibling now stay with their grandma. The younger sibling however had been spared from the virus. My guess is when the mother was pregnant with the second child, her HIV was detected and so precautions were taken to avoid transmission to the child.

Anyway, apparently everyone in the neighbourhood and in her school seem to know about this girl’s HIV status, thanks to a newspaper, under the pretext of highlighting her sad story, even published the fact that the girl’s HIV+. The girl has stopped going to school for the past few months. I asked my colleague to arrange for a suitable day for us to go and visit the girl at home. I think I need to speak to the girl myself before I can decide what kind of help we can give her.

My colleague had already gone off by the time the nurse came in to refer one case to us. A young lady then walked in. Unlike in Ipoh hospital where the nurse would usually give me a brief background of the case before referring the patient to us, in Taiping the nurse simply got the patients to go see me in the room without even giving any details except for the name.

This young lady, Nor, found out about her HIV during her pregnancy test. I asked where her husband was; she smiled sheepishly and said, “Tak ada.” I immediately knew this was another unwed pregnancy case. But unlike the other unwed pregnancy cases that I’ve handled so far, this one seems to have the least problem. I don’t have to worry about finding a shelter home for her as her parents do accept her at home despite knowing of her unwed pregnancy and HIV. I asked if her parents did attempt to get her “partner-in-crime” to marry her, but according to Nor, her parents dislike the guy. And when asked if the guy had gone for testing, Nor said she did call him to ask him to go for testing, but he refused. In fact he got mad when the hospital people called him up (number given by Nor) to ask him to go for testing. Ah well…

The next case referred to me was a guy. Not a new case actually, but he was still referred to me as he needed financial help, particularly for his schooling children. He is working but now that he is already on his second line of HAART, he needs to buy one of the antiretroviral drugs. Although the cost is subsidised, he still needs to fork out RM200 a month to pay for it. I told him we can’t help him out with the cost of the drugs, but we can help out with his children’s education.

One more case was referred to me after that. A new case referred to Taiping Hospital, but not someone newly diagnosed. He had been diagnosed HIV+ a few years ago in another state where he was working, but after going for appointments a few times, he gave up. In fact, he admitted that at one time he almost wanted to just end his life, but according to him, somehow, “Saya ingat Tuhan tolong sama saya la.” He moved back to his hometown to stay with this mother, and now no longer has the urge to end his life.

All cases were referred to me quite early this time, so by the time I finished seeing the 3rd case, it wasn’t even 12 pm yet. I even had enough time to get home in time for lunch!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The week that was…

While attending the launch of the Karnival Usahawan Wanita & S.H.E. Expo at Stadium Indera Mulia in Ipoh last Friday, I finally decided to confirm with a friend from another NGO, Perak Women for Women, to attend a talk they were organising the next day. It was rather short notice, I only got to know about the talk via SMS in the morning, and I had initially planned to use the weekend to have a good rest at home, but I figured the topic of the talk could be useful to me in carrying out my own voluntary work. The topic was “Parenting Teens on Sex : When to Start & What to Say”.

I may not be a parent myself, but I do deal with so many teenagers who are children of my clients. In addition, I have been assigned to handle a few unwed pregnancy cases as well. So yes, the topic was somewhat relevant.

And so on Saturday I did attend the talk. The turnout wasn’t too impressive initially, but slowly participants started trickling in. The speaker was Puan Jamilah Samian, (author of the book “Cool Moms, Super Dads”) and she was backed up by her husband, Encik Ahmad Fakhri. And yes, I probably could use some of the tips in my own approach to the teenagers I have to deal with even though they aren’t my own kids.

Monday morning… off I went to the hospital. No, I wasn’t on clinic duty; our clinic duties at Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun are on Wednesdays. I had been invited to give a talk introducing Buddies to some staff of Health Clinics in Kinta district on Tuesday 18/10, and the letter for me was sent to the HIV clinic at HRPB. So I went to get the letter to find out the full details of the “Kursus Pengurusan HIV” organised by the State Health Department. At the same time, I was hoping to meet up with Hasnah, a client from outstation who was supposed to come for her appointment on Monday. I wanted to help her apply for some financial assistance and there were some forms that needed to be signed.

But by the time I got to the HIV clinic, it was already 10.30 am, yet according to the nurse, Hasnah was nowhere to be seen. I tried calling, there was no answer. I sent a text message, there was no reply. At that moment, I thought she may have defaulted her appointment again, as she did once before.

Not wanting to waste time waiting for nothing, I decided to go home. At least I could get some work done on my computer. It was already 11.45 am when Hasnah finally called back to inform me that she had just reached the hospital. Apparently she couldn’t call me back earlier as her phone ran out of credit.

Off I headed to the hospital again, met up with Hasnah at the HIV clinic and got her to sign the necessary. She had not photostated the necessary documents yet though, thinking of getting them done at the hospital. But I needed a copy of her husband’s IC as well and he wasn’t around, so Hasnah promised to post the supporting documents to me later.

After lunch & zohor at home, off I went again… this time heading to Taman Meru, Jelapang. There is supposed to be an awareness programme there next week and Buddies will be setting up a booth, and the organisers, the State Health Department, called for a final meeting at the event venue. The event is actually a seminar on Kesedaran Pencegahan Penderaan Kanak-kanak & Keganasan Rumahtangga. Our booths will be in the hall where the seminar will be held, so yep, while manning the booth, I’d get to listen to the seminar as well.

The meeting ended at almost 4.30 pm. The next day I was to be one of the speakers for  the other event organised by the State Health Department (different unit though), but since my slot was supposed to be from 12.45 – 1.15 pm, I only went after 11 am. Well, the talks before mine ran late due to a longer than anticipated opening ceremony, and so by the time I got to talk, it was already 1 pm. That too because they decided to postpone the slot for the speaker before me to after lunch. I was the only non-MOH staff amongst the lot and they decided to let me speak first so as not to waste my time.

Anyway, all I had to do was introduce Buddies to them. Knowing the participants were probably already hungry and noting the fact that during one of the forums during the National Aids Conference in Penang recently, each speaker at that forum were only given 10 minutes each to talk about their organisations, I only took about 15 minutes to complete my talk. So lunch was still on schedule.

Got home by about 2.15, and after a short rest, I had to prepare my notes for our board meeting later at 7.45 pm. Our board meetings are usually held on the last Tuesday of each month, but since this time the last Tuesday falls on Deepavali eve, we decided to have the meeting a week earlier.

Amongst others, the Board approved the purchase of exhibition display boards so at least we’d have a proper display for our posters during exhibitions especially when the organisers do not provide display boards. I had earlier enquired from a supplier in KL and was told that they’d charge an additional RM80 for delivery to Ipoh. Still cheaper than the one I checked out in Ipoh, so might as well order from this KL supplier. But after I confirmed the order, the invoice came… and it was mentioned in the invoice that delivery is FOC for community service. Yayyy!!

Another good news is we have also been chosen as a recipient of a project called the Little Christmas Hat Project where a certain amount of the proceeds from the sales of the hats will be channelled to our Education Fund. And we don’t even have to help out with the sales of those hats.

I think this year so far had been quite a good year for Buddies…