It’s Thursday. It’s almost the end of the first week of school for the year. I am not done yet disbursing all the necessary amount needed to be paid for the children under our sponsorship programme or those covered by our CEF.
I personally took 24 children from 8 families shopping for their schooling needs in December, and another colleague took 2 other families. In their case, all I needed when school reopened was their list of fees and workbooks. I still haven’t got everybody’s list yet, so chances are I’d still be calculating and disbursing the money next week.
For some other families, especially those who stay quite far, or those who are able to buy first and reimbursed later, I’d need to get the receipts of purchases from them. I don’t give them advances… to avoid them using the money for other purposes. So yeah, sometimes what they’d do is they’d just buy one pair of uniform first, then when they get reimbursed, they may buy another pair.
In the case of Asiah, since she stays quite far from Ipoh, usually she’d buy her children’s schooling necessities first (sometimes she borrows), and then pass all the receipts to me when she comes to Ipoh. Her children are not under sponsorship, but she has to struggle at the beginning of each schooling year as that is when a lump sum of money is needed. With 3 children from her first marriage still schooling, and her present husband an elderly man who doesn’t get any pension of any sort (used to do kerja kampong), her children’s back-to-school expenses are covered by our CEF.
Yesterday was Asiah’s apppointment at the Ipoh ID clinic. So she sent me an SMS asking if she could meet up with me in the afternoon after her appointment. Since I was already somewhere near the hospital when she sent me the SMS, I told her I’d just drop by and see her at the ID clinic while she waits for her turn to see the doctor.
It was nearing 11 am then, and alhamdulillah, I managed to get a parking space within the hospital compounds. So it wasn’t too long a walk. As I reached the ID clinic, looking around for Asiah, I saw another familiar face. It was Mila, Razif’s wife. The one who, when she found out she was pregnant, panicked for fear of the baby getting infected, and they (both Mila and Razif) opted for abortion. But their method didn’t seem to work and they went to a private clinic to scan, the doctor said the foetus was well and fine. After a personal talk to both of them, they finally agreed to continue with the pregnancy and arranged for an earlier appointment with the doctor.
Yesterday when I saw her, Mila did look a bit chubbier. Although I was actually looking for Asiah, the moment I saw Mila, I sat right beside her. Apparently Asiah saw me, and so she too came over and sat beside me. Luckily there weren’t many patients yesterday, so there were empty seats and we could talk without worrying about people around us listening to our conversations.
I introduced Mila to Asiah. I told Mila that her situation now is just like Asiah’s situation slightly more than a year ago. Asiah too had panicked when she found out she was pregnant, and her husband, just like Mila and Razif, was also thinking of abortion. The difference was, after talking to me, Asiah immediately arranged for an earlier appointment to see the doctor, and so there were no abortion attempts at all. On the other hand, Mila and Razif weren’t quite convinced when I told them the baby could be saved from infection, and so they did their own attempts at abortion, which obviously didn’t work.
But Mila looked a whole lot better now. At least she was smiling when I saw her. No more of that worried look she had on her face when she came to see me last year to discuss the matter.
Anyway, after getting the receipts from Asiah (for her children’s schooling necessities), off I went. I wasn’t on duty yesterday. 2 other volunteers were on duty but as at the time I left, not a single case had been referred to them yet.
However, when the nurse saw me, she told me that there was a new case referred by the O&G clinic. A lady, 3 months pregnant, just diagnosed HIV+. The nurse (at the ID clinic) herself had not seen the patient yet but according to her, the doctor insisted to see the patient as soon as possible so that the necessary precautionary measures can be taken. Well, if the lady did turn up yesterday, very likely my 2 colleagues who were on duty would have met her.
Today I decided to visit Zainab and her 3 kids. I called yesterday to find out if she’s on day or night shift at her workplace. If she’s on night shift, then I can visit during the day. I called at the right time – Zainab’s on night shift this week, so I told her I’d go visit her this morning.
This morning, after getting some groceries at our center (we had RM600 worth of groceries at the center, donated by another organisation), immediately I drove over to Zainab’s house. The door was closed and locked, the windows shut. It looked as though nobody was home. Aik? I thought she said she’d be home? I then decided to call…
Me: Kat mana ni?
Zainab: Ada kat rumah la kak, tak ke mana.
Me: Saya ada kat luar rumah ni. Macam takde orang je kat rumah?
Zainab: Saya dah pindah rumah la kak, lupa nak bagitau akak! Jalan yang sama, tapi sebelum rumah yang tu.
Duh! We just spoke yesterday, and when I mentioned I was coming to visit, she didn’t mention anything about moving to another house!!
I told Zainab to wait by the roadside and then I drove my car slowly heading out the same road I got in earlier. Then I saw Zainab’s younger daughter, fondly called Adik, waiting for me. There was one bigger house in front, and behind that house were a row of small kampong terrace houses. The bigger house? That’s the landlord. The smaller houses at the back (I think there were 5 doors), for the tenants.
Zainab’s house was right at the end. I small hall, 2 small bedrooms, and 1 small kitchen. The rental? RM170. The bathroom and toilet are outside – shared with the other tenants from 2 of the other houses. Only 2 of the houses for rent had attached bathrooms.
As I got in and sat down, I heard Kakak’s voice, “Ibuuu…. Kakak nak berak!” “Pergi ajelah,” said Zainab,”kan ada baldi kecik kat luar tu? Angkut air, masuklah sendiri. Bukan kakak tak tau.”
I then heard Kakak shouting loudly outside the toilet, “HELLO!! Ada orang kat dalam tak? Saya kat luar ni!”
I am imagining them queuing up to have their baths in the morning… just like in one of P.Ramlee’s old movies…
Zainab’s husband, Zaki, wasn’t at home when I visited. Both Kakak and Adik’s school sessions were in the afternoon, so they were both at home. Even though Adik is just in kindergarten, they were lucky that Tabika Perpaduan had both morning and afternoon sessions, and so they asked for afternoon session. Otherwise, it would be difficult for them to arrange to send the girls to school when Zainab has to work day shifts. According to Zainab, if Adik goes for the morning session, then chances are that Zaki would have to quit his job.
Hmmm… Zaki has a job now? That’s good to hear.
“Dia kerja kat mana pulak?” I asked, still feeling sceptical as I’ve known Zaki to quit one job after another, giving all sorts of excuses.
“Kerja potong ayam. Kerja sebelah pagi ajelah. Tengahari boleh la dia hantar anak pi sekolah.”
Well, I hope he will stick to the job and only quit if and when he finds a better paying job. It has been too long for the family to be totally dependent on Zainab as the sole breadwinner…