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)

Monday, 31 January 2011

Pre-CNY run-around…

It’s the last day of the month, my monthly grocery delivery is due. And it’s nearing CNY so Ipoh is busier than usual.

This morning I decided to buy groceries to be delivered to Lin’s family. I figured the best time would be early morning before the queues at the cashiers get too long. After loading all the groceries into my car, I headed to the center and called Lin, to make sure she’s home in the afternoon as I intended to visit her then. She did mention how worried she was about her 2nd daughter, Zizi, who’s now studying medic in Egypt. Zizi did send a text message last week telling her mom that the phone coverage wasn’t too good lately. She told Lin not to worry too much if she doesn’t get any news from her for the next few days. Not wanting her mother to worry, Zizi didn’t mention anything about the happenings in Egypt. Lin replied that message but never got any replies from Zizi after that. And after seeing the news on TV of the happenings in Egypt right now, Lin worried even more.

I told Lin we’d talk further when I visit in the afternoon. I figured Lin may feel a bit better after talking it out to someone. I can understand her worries. Zizi had always been a good daughter. The scholarship that she gets to study in Egypt is not only used for herself. From time to time she helps out her 2 sisters studying in KL as the 2 are not getting any financial help other than PTPTN. Frankly, once Lin’s daughters start working, I don’t think I have to worry about Lin’s financial needs. The 3 older daughters are very responsible daughters. It’s tough now that none of them are working yet, but hopefully soon enough, the daughters can help out their mother.

After zohor today, I went over to Lin’s house, half an hour drive away. Only Lin and her son Rahim were home. Her youngest was at school. Rahim helped to carry the groceries from my car. Lin was sewing. Seems she’s beginning to get more and more customers. By the look of things, I think she can make tailoring her main source of income. Hopefully she’ll remain healthy to be able to do so.

Anyway, according to Lin, right after I called her in the morning, she received another call from a lady wanting to speak to Zizi’s mother. Lin felt the suspense. She was worried it may be bad news. The lady who called was the mother of Zizi’s friend in Egypt.

Berderau darah saya kak sementara nak tunggu apa cerita dia nak bagitau saya pasal Zizi,” said Lin when she was telling me about it during my visit this afternoon.

Apparently the lady just managed to speak to her daughter by phone. Text messages still wouldn’t go through but calls do get through. Zizi sought the lady’s help to call Lin and inform her that she’s okay. Malaysian students under Mara scholarship in the city where Zizi studies, have all been placed together and their needs are being taken care of by Mara officers.

I told Lin not to worry too much. The fact that Mara had taken the initiative to place all the students together shows that they are really taking care of the affairs of the Malaysian students there.

After visiting Lin, I headed straight home. I figured that was it for the day. No more going out, just stay home and avoid the pre-CNY busier-than-usual Ipoh traffic.

But after my asar prayer, as I was about to have a cup of drink, a call came in on my hand phone. A lady asked for Kak Afizah. She said she was from the hospital and that she was calling on behalf of Sofie whose phone ran out of credit. The lady told me that Sofie could already be discharged and had sought the nurse’s favour to call me.

I then called Sofie’s hand phone to find out if they had gotten all the discharge letters and whether they had taken Sofie’s medication from the pharmacy. If so, then I’d just pick them up downstairs instead of having to find a parking space. According to Sofie, the nurses were waiting for me to come before they remove all the tubes etc still attached to Sofie. Oh well, looked like I had to go to the ward first.

Once I got to the ward, I headed straight to the nurse’s counter to get all the necessary documents. The discharge letter, the medicine slip, the letter for Sofie’s next appointment, the letter for Saiful to present to his school teacher.

Off I went downstairs to settle whatever necessary while Saiful stayed in the ward to help his mother get ready. I made sure I brought along Sofie’s JKM card to arrange for her hospital bill to be waived.

First to settle the bill. Not much problem getting the bill waived but I was told to photostat a copy of Sofie’s JKM card. Off I went to the hospimart… had to wait a while as the person before me had over 20 copies of documents to be photostated. After photostating, I had to pay at the cashier, where there was already a long queue. So yep, queue up to pay 20 sen.

Then back to the payment counter to submit the photocopy of Sofie’s JKM card and immediately the lady stamped the word “PERCUMA” on Sofie’s discharge letter.

Next, off to the pharmacy. It was after 6 pm and so only 1 counter was open. Actually the wait wouldn’t have been too long but Sofie had 7 different medications on the slip. I was told I had to wait quite a while as 1 of the medicine listed they had to find from their store. Another one they had to get from somewhere else and so I asked if I could get that the next day instead of having to wait so long. It was nearing 7 pm by then and Saiful had already wheeled his mother down from the ward.

By the time I managed to send Sofie home, it was already 7.30 pm. I didn’t wait long. After passing her all her medication, I made a move. But I’d still need to visit her in one or two days time. I still need to get one more medication for Sofie, and I’d need to get the date of her next appointment at the ID clinic.

Hopefully I can settle that by tomorrow.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Visiting the children

It has been more than 2 weeks since Sofie was warded at Ipoh GH. I have visited her thrice at the hospital, and every time I did, I met Saiful as well since he’s the one who stays by his mother’s bedside at the hospital.

So what has been happening to Sofie’s other children? I knew Sofie’s sister (the reliable one who moved from up north to stay with Sofie, not the earlier sister who told the whole neighbourhood about Sofie’s HIV) stays with the children, but she has to go to work. What about the children’s schooling arrangements.

Today I decided to visit the children. It’s the end of the month anyway, I might as well send them some groceries as well.

So this morning when I went to the center to interview a new volunteer, I took the box of whatever groceries left (donated earlier this month). Then after zohor, I headed to a grocery shop to top-up the groceries with whatever other stuff needed, using donations I get from friends on monthly basis for the poor families under my care. I just added a few more items… totalling slightly over RM70. Even the taukeh at the grocery shop commented, “Barang sekarang sikit saja pun sudah lebih 70 ringgit!”

As I headed off to Sofie’s house, it did look like it was going to rain, but thank God it didn’t. As I got to their house, I could see the door was open, so I knew someone was home. Frankly I wasn’t sure if they’d be home… who knows, they may have gone to their grandma’s house in another town where they used to stay before.

When I parked my car right in front of their house, I saw Azman, 15, and Ika, 9. Azman was tidying up the house. Azman immediately came out to salam with me, and helped to carry the box of groceries from my car. Sofie’s sister was at work. I went in and soon Azlan, 17, walked in. He was somewhere behind the house earlier.

I had a chat with them, asking about their schooling etc. Since Azlan didn’t want to transfer to a new school when Sofie moved to this new rented house, he has to use the inter-town bus to go to school every day. He has to go out at 6.30 am. Azman cycles to school as his school is within the same town, as a matter of fact, the school is just along the main road. Saiful goes to the same school as Azman (although Saiful has skipped school for more than 2 weeks to take care of his mother at the hospital) and so he too cycles to school. Ika’s school (primary) is not that far from their school, but since Sofie wasn’t too confident in letting Ika cycle to school (the main road can be quite busy), Sofie has arranged for a school bus.

Azlan and Azman goes to school in the morning while Ika goes in the afternoon. So for the past 2 weeks since Sofie was warded, when the aunt goes to work, and Azlan & Azman goes to school in the mornings, Ika would be alone at home until about 12 noon or so. However, the landlord’s mother who stays nearby (the place where they stay is a row of houses all belonging to the same landlord who stays elsewhere) who sympathised, would keep an eye on Ika. In fact, she’s the one who’d come to the house when it’s nearing noon to make sure Ika is ready. No worries about when Ika comes back from school, because by then the 2 older brothers would be home.

As we were chatting, Azman and Ika went into the kitchen. Soon, Ika came out carrying a cup of drink for me. Apparently Azman had made the drink and Ika served. Aah… without their mother around, they took the liberty to serve drinks to their guests.

Azman, the more talkative one, told me that the school had already sent a warning letter to Saiful for being absent from school for so long. Sofie’s sister then wrote a letter to the school and since Azman studies in the same school, he went to see the teacher personally to deliver the letter and to explain why Saiful couldn’t come to school… why they couldn’t take turns to take care of their mother etc. The teacher told Azman that he actually didn’t want to issue the warning letter, but since Saiful’s absence from school was only told to him through Saiful’s classmate, and not by any adult family members, the headmaster instructed him to just issue the letter so that at least the family would take the initiative to write a formal letter to the school.

Well, no school next week. Hopefully by the time school reopens after CNY, Sofie would be discharged from the hospital so that Saiful can go back to school. I’ve already told Sofie and Saiful to get a letter from the hospital to be given to the school. Hopefully no further action will be taken by the school.

 

 

Friday, 28 January 2011

When 2 is less than 1

Knowing that Sofie needed to spend more time at the hospital, today I decided I’d visit her again. After settling some matters at the Buddies center and at the bank, I stopped at a fast food outlet to buy lunch for Saiful. He had been eating food from the hospital cafeteria for the past 2 weeks, I figured today I’d buy him fried chicken as I know he loves them.

By 11.30 am I was already at the hospital. By this time, quite a number of those who came for their appointments had gone back, so getting a parking space wasn’t too bad. I didn’t want to wait for visiting hours at 1pm, as there’d be a rush for the lifts. I wouldn’t mind going up the stairs if Sofie’s on the 3rd or 4th floor, but right up to the 8th? Emmm… I’d avoid it if I can.

Well, there weren’t many people rushing for the lifts, but it being after 11.30am, it was the time for the hospital staff to deliver lunch to the various wards. So, not many people could get into the lifts at the same time. But still, it wasn’t too bad. This special hospital pass definitely helps a lot.

Anyway, Sofie was still on drips and tubes attached to a machine (don’t ask me what machine lah…). She told me that if things go well, she may be discharged by Tuesday or Wednesday next week (after that, many of the doctors will be on leave anyway for CNY). Hopefully she’ll be stabilised by then, if not sooner. Dr Ker (the HIV specialist Sofie always see for her appointments)  was quite concerned on how Sofie would be going home. In her condition, going up and down a bus is not advisable. And the doc knows pretty well Sofie comes from a poor family. Sofie told the doctor that I had offered to send her back should she be discharged.

Sofie has already asked for a letter from the doctor for her son Saiful, to show to his teacher when he goes back to school after CNY. He needs the letter otherwise he may be in trouble for missing school for more than 2 weeks already.

So, had Saiful been sleeping on the chair besides his mother’s bed for the past 2 weeks? At first I thought it was that way, and I was thinking… oh you poor thing!

Saiful: Tak lah makcik, tidur sekali dengan mama atas katil lah!”

Sofie: “Ha’ah kak, dia tidur atas katil dengan saya. Katil ni pun besar sikit.”

Me: “Bukannya katil tu besar, korang yang kecik!”

I asked Sofie what her weight was. I knew she had lost weight when she ended up vomiting everything she ate at one time before she was hospitalised.

Hari tu sebelum masuk ward dah tinggal 29 kilo kak. Ni dah naiklah sikit, dah 33 kilo balik.”

Aiyo… so ringan one!! I then asked Saiful his weight. As I had mentioned before, Saiful is small-sized despite already being in form one. Even his 9 year old sister looks bigger than him.

Saya? 24,” came Saiful’s answer.

Hmmm… 33 + 24 = 57 kg.

Ya ampunnn… the weight of the 2 of them combined still can’t beat mine alone! No wonder they can sleep together on the hospital bed!

They sure need to put on a lot of weight… while I need to shed off a few. Ah well…

p/s

Remember my posting last Sunday about Aina calling me to say that her husband Ali’s condition had deteriorated? Well, when I met Dr Ker at the HIV clinic on Wednesday, the doc told me that Ali’s condition was bad and that his chances were slim. Last night, my Taiping volunteer texted me to inform me that Ali had passed on. Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi raji’uun. I will continue to monitor Aina and her 2 children to ensure they get the necessary help.

 

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Problems, problems…

I was supposed to be on clinic duty in Taiping yesterday, and today in Ipoh. But I couldn’t make it to Taiping yesterday as my uncle passed away on Monday and I had to rush to KL for his funeral. No problem about going for today’s Ipoh clinic though.

As usual, the moment I got to the specialist clinic, I headed straight to the doctor’s room to inform the nurse that I was already there and to ask if there were any new cases. The nurse told me there was one, and she told me that SN (the staff nurse we had been working with and had gone for a 6 months course during the second half of last year) was back. Immediately I went to the room next door and SN was there, talking to Wan, the orang asli lady whose son is under our sponsorship programme.

SN told me about an old client, Normi, who may need help. Normi had been referred to Buddies before (not during my duty though) but at that time the volunteers on duty didn’t assign her any buddy. My guess is there were 2 main problems back then – the volunteers on duty were non-Malays… and Normi speaks in Parit dialect, and in addition she has hearing problems as well.

So SN got Normi to see me at the counselling room. The counselling room by the way, had so many people today, definitely no privacy at all. Other than the usual pharmacists, there were also student pharmacists as well. It was noisier than usual, and with Normi’s hearing problems, I had to speak louder than usual, something I don’t usually do… at least not in the counselling room!

Normi is a single mother with 5 children. However only the youngest, a 14 year old girl, stays with her. The eldest is married, stays in another town. The other 3? They’re staying with their married eldest sister. I asked Normi if they’re working, but she herself was not sure if they were.  I asked how often they come back, and Normi said that only happens during Raya. With Normi herself not working, I asked if Normi had been getting any form of financial help from anyone. All she gets is Welfare Dept’s Bantuan Kanak-kanak of RM100 for her youngest daughter. She has to pay RM70 per month for her house rental. So what does she survive on? I asked if her children give her any money. Only when she asks them for money, she said.

When Normi’s husband was still alive, they used to get PPRT assistance. The house was under her name, while the land belonged to her father-in-law. According to her, after her husband and FIL died, her in-laws chased her out of the house. She claimed she “kena buat” and the numbness she feels on the left side of her body is also “buatan orang”.

Frankly, I don’t quite know what to think of this case. For someone who only gets RM100/month and has to pay RM70 for rental, she looked rather “bergaya”. There must be a reason all her children except for one prefer to stay elsewhere. She also said she came to the hospital with a “kawan”. I wonder what her children’s version of the story is like…

The next case referred to me was a prisoner’s case. He came handcuffed to a policeman, so whatever conversations I had with him, the policeman listened as well. There were no secrets though, I wasn’t discussing with him how to escape from prison… :), he is due to be released in March anyway. SN referred the case to me because this guy has 2 children, aged 11 and 7 who may need help. The children are now staying with their mother, his wife. The wife works as a cleaner, earning about RM400 – RM500 per month, and she has to pay RM170 for rental. Hmmm… I think I may need to pay a visit to assess this family’s needs. I’ve got the wife’s number, so I shall be calling her soon.

There were no further cases referred and it was still early. When I went to the doctor’s room to inform them that I was leaving, Dr Ker gave me the name and number of a new Taiping case. “You tak datang yesterday pun I ada case untuk you,” she said. I called the lady, and frankly I think she’d feel more comfortable speaking to a Chinese-speaking volunteer. I told her I’d get a Chinese volunteer to call her.

Since it was still early, I decided to visit Sofie at the ward. She had been warded since Thursday 2 weeks ago, and initially the doc thought it was  just due to dehydration as a result of ARV allergies (she’d vomit every time she tries to eat/drink anything). So rightfully she should have been discharged after 2 or 3 days. But after she fainted at the toilet in the ward, and the next day she had very high fever, they decided to do x-ray and scan.

When I got to Sofie’s bed, Saiful was there. Apparently he had not gone home ever since he started accompanying his mother at the hospital 2 weeks ago. Meaning he skipped school for the same length of time. I asked if he had informed his teacher.

Mintak tolong kawan aje bagitau cikgu. Tapi hari tu kawan kata cikgu dah marah.”

Well, I’m a bit concerned too. I know of a girl who skipped school for a month to take care of her mother and ended up being expelled from school. I don’t want Saiful to go through the same thing, although he himself didn’t seem too bothered. I told Sofie to get her sister to call the school to inform them of Saiful’s situation. At least getting the news from an adult, hopefully the school teacher would be more understanding.

At first I wanted to suggest that the boys take turns to take care of Sofie at the hospital. But it was a women’s ward, and males are not supposed to stay overnight at the women’s wards. It was different for Saiful, because although 13, he looks like a 9 year old! Initially he even had problems getting in because the guards didn’t believe he was 13. But now, after 2 weeks, all the guards know him already.

Noticing that it was too early for visiting hours, Saiful asked, “Macam mana makcik boleh masuk?” I showed him my pass. Definitely more “power” than his temporary pass… :)

As for Sofie, there were some equipments attached… drip… machine… I don’t know what the machine was for. Sofie herself was not able to tell me anything. She only said that further tests were done but results were not out yet.

After a while, I left Sofie, and told Saiful to come along with me downstairs so I could help top-up his mom’s phone credit. After 2 weeks in the hospital, they ran out of credit. They could top-up at the shop at the ground floor, but Saiful had to buy food at the hospital canteen and things aren’t cheap. After 2 weeks, they don’t have much cash in hand.

After paying to top-up their phone’s credit, I gave Saiful some extra cash for his lunch. Then I headed back to the HIV clinic to see the doctor, hoping to get more info regarding Sofie’s condition.

According to the doctor, the scan done showed “something” in Sofie’s brains, and so now they needed to do further tests to find out what exactly the “something” was. The doc did explain some things in medical terms which I can’t quite recall (I did badly for my science subjects in school!) but one thing she could confirm, Sofie may need to spend a lot more time at the hospital than anticipated.

Oh dear… I think I may need to visit the children at home without waiting for Sofie to be discharged.

I just hope that the “something” is not something dangerous…

 

Sunday, 23 January 2011

More of this and that…

It has been more than a week since Sofie was hospitalised. Although I did tell her to call me once she’s discharged, until today I did not get any calls from her. Initially she was hospitalised (on Thursday 13th Feb) so she could be put on drips to enable her to get her energy back after the allergies caused by her ARV caused her to vomit every time she ate anything. She was supposed to be warded at the most for 4 days only.

But on Sunday, she fainted at the toilet in the ward, so the doctors decided to keep her at the hospital for another day.

I waited for her call, it never came. In the meantime I was busy with other matters so I didn’t call her to ask. But’s it’s already Sunday again, and so today I decided to send her a text message to ask if she was already home. Who knows, maybe she didn’t want to trouble me and decided to go back on her own.

It turned out that Sofie is still at the hospital. Last Monday she started getting feverish. The doctors decided to do further tests on her. The results of the tests are still pending.

Thank goodness Sofie’s sister is at home looking after the kids. But I think if Sofie doesn’t get discharged anytime soon, I may just drop by their house to see how they are doing.

********************************

I was in KL yesterday, attending a cousin’s wedding. Quite a number of SMS came in, mostly my FB notifications. But one SMS came from Aina. Remember Aina and her husband Ali, the poor family I visited recently? Aina informed me that Ali had to be hospitalised at Taiping Hospital because “doktor suspek kuman masuk ke otak”. I told her I’ll be going to Taiping Hospital this coming Tuesday for my clinic duty.

This afternoon as I was about to have my lunch, a call came in from Aina. She was sobbing, telling me that Ali “dah nazak”. I wasn’t about to go all the way to Taiping Hospital to visit. Thank goodness we have a volunteer in Taiping Hospital and so after lunch I sent a message to the Taiping volunteer and asked her to check on Ali if she had the time.

The volunteer did go to see them and gave her number to Aina just in case. At least Aina knows who to contact in case she needed help or support.

********************************

I thought I had settled all the fees/workbooks for the children under our sponsorship programme. Apparently Fuzi herself  thought her children’s school payments had all been settled. I have to say I was quite impressed that her children’s fees seemed the lowest compared to all the other children under the sponsorship programme. Well, it turned out, the earlier payment was only for exercise books etc they needed to buy from the school co-op before school reopened. Now the fees are all known and the total needed to pay for her 4 children’s schooling comes out to more than RM400.

So their fees aren’t the lowest after all…

Monday, 17 January 2011

This and that…

Remember the Orang Asli lady staying in an ulu kampong whom I never had the chance to visit as her house is not accessible by car? I finally got to see her personally… by chance! I was at the ID clinic to get some info from the nurse, and at the very same time there was a patient who came in to ask for an MC. Her appointment to see the doctor would be in 2 weeks time, and so usually they are required to come about 2 weeks earlier for their blood tests so that by the time they come for their appointments, the blood test results would be ready in their medical files.

I heard the nurse saying, “Ambil darah aje mana boleh bagi MC, *Wan!”

When I heard the name Wan (not real name, of course), I immediately figured that must be the Orang Asli whom I’ve been talking to by phone just a few days before to ask about her son’s schooling needs. I introduced myself to her, and immediately she responded with, “Oh, ni yang telefon saya hari tu ya?” Hopefully with that chance meet in the doctor’s room, after this she’d feel more comfortable talking to me. True enough, after that she started sending me info via SMS even without me having to ask.

Anyway, I asked her why she didn’t simply take leave from work. “Tak boleh kak, majikan saya strict. Nanti kena buang kerja.”

Ah, another of those no-annual-leave employers, huh?

Wan promised she’d inform me about her son’s school fees, workbooks etc as soon as she gets the chance to go to her son’s school to get the details. Ever since Wan started working, she has been staying in town with a group of friends, while her son stays with Wan’s mother back in the Orang Asli kampong. She only goes back on weekends. I asked if her kampong house is accessible by car. “Boleh kak, tapi kereta yang tinggi lah.” (she meant 4-wheel drive)

OK, so going in my Kenari is out of the question.

--------------------------------------------------

Yesterday I went with a fellow volunteer to visit Nalini’s family. Remember Nalini, the 15 year old HIV positive orphan? When I suggested to the aunt earlier that since the girl has stopped schooling, then maybe she should go for a short course or something – at least to equip her with some skills which she may use for her future. Although Nalini now stays with her aunt, the aunt was the one who suggested that for the first visit, we should go to the grandma’s home so we could discuss the matter with the whole family. She promised she’d bring Nalini back to the grandma’s home for the meet.

Nalini’s assigned buddy then arranged for the meet to be held yesterday. Initially we were supposed to fetch Nalini and her aunt and then proceed to the grandma’s house. Later however, the aunt told my colleague that they’d be at the grandma’s house from morning, so there was no need for us to fetch her at her house.

So off we went, and when we reached the grandma’s kampong, we called Nalini’s aunt, as promised. Although the calls were initially not answered, the aunt finally returned our call. When told that we were already at the kampong, she said she’d call her brother to come and fetch us.

After a while, the brother. Nalini’s uncle, came on a motorbike. We followed him to the grandma’s home, expecting to whole family there, including Nalini and her aunt.

Greeting us at the door was the grandma. No sign of Nalini, no sign of the aunt. The uncle then called someone, I assume the aunt, shouting at the person. At first the conversation was in Tamil, I didn’t understand the details, but he was obviously angry as he was shouting. Later on he spoke a few words in Malay, I guess to make me understand, calling the other person on the line as “bodoh” and the likes. Apparently they didn’t know heads or tails what our visit was about. Nalini’s aunt just told them that there were people coming to discuss about the girl. Problem was, she should have been there as well, together with Nalini, but she didn’t do as she had promised. So both the grandma and uncle were upset and angry. Thank goodness they didn’t vent out their anger at us instead.

Although the grandma just sat there for a while and then went to the back and then out, the uncle did sit down to talk to us. We told him that our main purpose is to get their permission to arrange for something for Nalini so that she’d have a better future. The grandma did mention earlier (before she got up and left us) that she didn’t mind Nalini going for a course if it was nearby. The uncle told us to ask Nalini personally, and if she herself agrees, then they wouldn’t object.

Oh well, we didn’t expect the drama that took place, but at least basically we got their permission to arrange something for Nalini, provided Nalini herself agrees. So I told my colleague to meet up with Nalini, and if possible to talk to her alone, to be sure that whatever she says is not in any way influenced by anybody. No point arranging something for her but she ends up not taking advantage of the help given.

-------------------------------------------------

When I went to visit to Sofie on Friday, she did mention she’d probably be warded for 2 or 3 days. I told her to give me a call once she’s discharged so that she doesn’t have to go up and down the bus to get home.

This morning, I decided to call her around 11 am to check if she had been discharged. Saiful answered the call, “Belum keluar lagi makcik!”

He then passed the phone to Sofie. According to Sofie, on Sunday, the doctors did mention that there was a possibility she’d be discharged on Monday. However the same evening, she fainted when she was in the toilet. The nurses had to carry her back to her bed. So when the doctors did their rounds this morning, there was no mention about discharge.

Saiful missed another day of school today, and looks like he will miss at least another day tomorrow.

I sure hope Sofie will get better soon, so she can go home and Saiful will not need to miss another day of school.

 

Friday, 14 January 2011

Updates from the hospital…

I was relaxing at home yesterday when a text message came in on my hand phone. It came from Sofie’s number, but was actually sent by one of her children…

Ck fzh mama kne thn wat dkt hsptl ipoh..”

It was already 6.40 pm then, and so I decided to wait until today to visit her.

I do have the special pass from the hospital so I don’t have to wait until visiting hours to visit her. But I didn’t want to go too early in the morning as during those hours the doctors were probably doing their rounds or she may have been brought elsewhere for tests etc. I decided to settle some other businesses earlier in the morning, went to the bank, went to the center, then only 10.40 am I went to the hospital. Having my car parked nearer to the Specialist Clinic, I figured I might as well drop by the ID clinic first to see the nurse before visiting Sofie in the ward. At least to get a better picture of what was wrong with Sofie as Sofie’s stories can sometimes be unreliable… not because she likes to lie, but because she herself doesn’t understand. (well, the last time she had some brain infections, she said she “sakit otak”)

The nurse wasn’t busy when I got in, so I sat down and had a chat with her.

Sofie actually came for her appointment at the ID clinic yesterday. She was so weak, her eldest son, this year sitting for his SPM, had to miss school to accompany her to the hospital. Imagine having to go up and down the bus when she could hardly walk.

Sofie was warded due to allergies to the new ARV medications given to her. She didn’t seem to adjust to the first regime of ARV given to her, so the doctor started her on a different regime. Apparently this time the side effects were even worse. She was so weak she could hardly walk. The nurse got a shock when she saw Sofie on a wheelchair during her appointment yesterday morning. She didn’t expect to see Sofie’s condition that bad. She had lost a lot of weight too (and she never had much weight to start with!). After she started taking the new regime of ARV medication, she couldn’t even eat. Every time she ate something, she’d vomit. Thus the loss of weight. Although the doctor told her to call the ID clinic if she had any problems, Sofie just decided to continue with the ARV and wait until her appointment day.

The doctor decided to get her warded so she could be put on drips and so she can regain her energy. She’ll be off ARV for 2 weeks before the doctor decides to put her on another regime of ARV. Hopefully her body will be able to take the next regime of ARV.

It was almost 11.45 am by time I went up to the ward to visit Sofie. I knew which ward she was in but I didn’t know her bed number. The board outside the ward didn’t have the names of patients at each bed. I thought I would have to go bed by bed to find her but apparently that wasn’t necessary. She was on the first bed. Sleeping on the chair by the bedside was small-sized Saiful, who spent the night there accompanying his mother. Saiful told me he had problems coming back up to the ward after he went down to get some food from the canteen. The guards didn’t believe he was 13 and so they didn’t let him in. Saiful had left his IC in the ward so he couldn’t prove his age to them. However he appealed, saying that he was accompanying his mother in the ward, one of the guards whispered to him, teaching him to use the back way. That was how he managed to get back in.

Sofie looked a bit better today, but she may need to spend at least one or two more days at the hospital for observation.

Anyway, while I was with the nurse at the ID clinic earlier, the nurse told me about a new case. A 24 year old pregnant lady, got married in Thailand to a guy whom her parents dislike. Until now the parents are neither aware of her marriage nor her pregnancy. The last time she went to visit them was during the last Raya, so I guess her pregnancy was not obvious. Her marriage has yet to be registered in Malaysia. She knew of her pregnancy for quite some time already, but only went for proper check-up last week. Her husband brought her to a private clinic, but when blood tests indicated she was HIV+, the private clinic immediately referred her case to Ipoh GH. The doctor at the ID clinic immediately started her on ARV, while the O&G had fixed her operation (to deliver the baby) for early next week.

The husband didn’t come along with his wife during last week’s appointment. Neither had he come for his own blood to be tested. According to the nurse, the lady gave all sorts of excuses why the husband couldn’t come. The nurse ended up babbling to her, to the extent that even the doctor told the lady, “You tengok! Sekarang you punya makcik (pointing to the nurse) pun sudah marah sama you!”

Hmmm… something smells rather fishy. I have a feeling there may be some other facts she may be hiding… like why her parents dislike the guy… why her husband didn’t come along to the hospital… why they didn’t bother to register the marriage…

I have taken down her details from the nurse just now, but I think I will wait until next week when she gets warded at the maternity ward, and this time I probably should visit during visiting hours… with the hope of meeting the husband as well. If the husband doesn’t turn up at the hospital to visit his wife after the delivery, then there definitely is one big stinking fish!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

My first clinic duty for the year

Previously, we had volunteers on duty at the ID clinic on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month. However, since I went back to doing freelance work in July 2010, having more free time to do voluntary work, I decided to take up the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays so we could cover more cases. Otherwise, when there are new cases on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays, none of the volunteers would be there for the ID clinic to refer them to.

So yep, beginning this year, the duty roster has 2 teams covering the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays, while the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays will be covered by myself and any of the trainees. I’ve already told the trainees I’d be there every 2nd and 4th Wednesdays, so if they want to join, they can join me on those days. However, so far, none of them has taken up the offer. Ah well, if they are not taking up the opportunity to learn (you can learn a lot from the clinic sessions, really), then it’s their loss, not mine.

Yesterday being the 2nd Wednesday, off I went to the Ipoh GH, alone, for my clinic duty. Before that, I went over to the State Welfare Department first. You see, on my way back from the assessment visits on Tuesday, I received a call from a JKM officer, asking me to come over to their office to get our cheque. The grant for my NGO had been approved and the cheque was ready for collection. Alhamdulillah, a good start for the year. We got RM5K.

I wasn’t really in a hurry to go the hospital… usually cases, if any, would be referred quite late. This time, however, the moment I got to the ID clinic, headed over to the doctor’s room to see the nurse, I was told there were several new cases and one was already there. Ah, I didn’t have to wait long. So I went over immediately to the counselling room.

The first case referred was a young chap in his mid-20’s. Unlike many cases where they found out about their HIV when they get warded for any other illnesses, this guy found out after donating blood. He went to donate blood at the shopping complex during a campaign, and a few weeks after, he received a call from the blood center telling him about his HIV infection, and that they’d be sending him a letter soon. He waited, but no letter came. So he went for blood tests at a private clinic and the results came out the same… reactive. Still unable to accept the fact, he went to the blood bank personally and got the same results. Then only was his case referred to the ID clinic.

When I spoke to this guy, he admitted it was still quite difficult for him to accept the fact. However, he was rather calm. He stays with his parents and they don’t know of this latest development. If he shows an upset face, they will somehow sense that there was something wrong. I told him it would be good to talk it out to someone and he agreed to be assigned a buddy so that he can talk to someone outside his family/friends circle.

In most of our cases, the clients would usually feel more comfortable talking in their mother tongue. However, for this guy, an Indian, he specified if possible he didn’t want an Indian buddy in case that person turned out to be his relative. So I assigned him one of my male Malay volunteers.

Immediately after handing back this guy’s file to the nurse, I was given another case. This time a Malay guy, ex-IVDU. He claimed he had stopped taking drugs since 2004 when he came out of the Pusat Serenti, but somehow he still looked like he was still taking the stuff. Even the nurse commented that his guy looked rather “blur”. This guy found out about his HIV when he was warded for TB late last year.

The next case referred to us was an educated-looking Chinese guy in his 40’s. Divorced, no children. He was divorced since 2004, and when asked if there was a possibility that his ex-wife may have been infected, he was very confident she was not. He looked like he knew what he was talking about, so I guess he knew pretty well how he got infected – and that must have happened after his divorce.

One more case was referred to me after that. Another Chinese guy, tested HIV positive when he was warded for TB. He seemed rather confused, and in the process managed to confuse me as well… :) Apparently one of our volunteers had already spoken to him by phone before, when he was just “suspected” of having HIV. Now that he is confirmed HIV+, I decided to assign the same volunteer to follow up on the case.

Those were the 4 cases referred yesterday. All males. All single. 2 were assigned buddies, 2 were not. But I definitely didn’t assign myself to any of the cases, as they were more suitable for the guys.

Next clinic duty will be in 2 weeks time…

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Visiting the poor…

About a week ago, I received a text message from the nurse at the ID clinic, giving me the name and phone number of a patient, SK, whom she said needed help for his children. After I called SK and found out that one of his children hadn’t gone to school for over a year, I asked if it was okay for me to visit them at home. He agreed.

There’s also another couple, Ali and Aina, whom I met during my Taiping clinic duty, whom I needed to visit to assess their situation before I submit their application for financial assistance from the Paediatric Aids Fund. Although Ali and Aina stay further, I’d still need to pass the town where SK lives. So I decided to visit both families on the same day.

I had some communication problem with SK, so I decided to bring along a Chinese-speaking volunteer. We made a move about 8.40 am or so from the centre and headed straight to the town where SK lives, not to visit him first, but to fetch a trainee volunteer staying in that town. Just as I was about to reach the trainee volunteer’s house, a call came in on my hand phone. It was Mr Rajah, whose daughter has HIV and whose grandchildren last year had received help from our Children Education Fund. He asked if the children can still get help for this year. I told him I was driving and I’d be busy the whole day and that I’d call him back later.

Then after fetching the volunteer, another call came in. This time from Sharifah, Cek Mek’s mother. She’s supposed to come to Ipoh for her blood tests soon, but had misplaced her appointment card and the letters/forms given earlier by the ID clinic during her last appointment, and so she couldn’t remember the dates when she’s supposed to go for her blood tests. Since she’s not staying in Ipoh, she couldn’t simply go to the hospital to see the nurse at the ID clinic to get another letter. I told her to call the ID clinic direct to get advise on what she should do (I’m not going to pamper them and do all the asking for them!). But because she had lost the appointment card (which has the ID clinic’s phone number), she didn’t have the number to call. Thus, as always, the next option was to call ME! I was driving then, so I told her I’d SMS her the number later.

Thank goodness no further calls as we headed on to Ali’s & Aina’s place about one and half hours away. None of us familiar with the place, we had to stop to ask, and I also made a call to Aina, to get an idea of where I needed to go. Then when we reached her kampong, we needed to make another call. This time Aina told me to wait there, she’d come and meet us. She was there within just minutes, so the house couldn’t be far.

Indeed it wasn’t far. But when we reached the Dewan Serbaguna at her kampong, she stopped and signalled to us to park the car there. Apparently her house was just up the hill but due to the poor condition of the road, I was advised not to drive my car up there. She should know better and I figured I shouldn’t go against her advise. And so I parked my car at the Dewan Serbaguna. Only problem was, we brought along some groceries with us. Meaning we (errm, I mean my 2 fellow volunteers) had to carry the groceries on foot up the hill. Me? I had to carry my camera! Hehehe…

visit1

I only took over from my female colleague about three quarter way through… when I saw that she was about to give up and put the box down.

Then when we got to the house, we couldn’t simply bring the stuff up the stairs into the house. Going in using the stairs to the living room was out of the question…

visit3

We had to go in using the staircase to the kitchen which was thankfully lower…

visit2

Only Aina was around. The 2 children were in school, one in standard one and the other in kindergarten. Ali was at his mother’s home nearer to Taiping Hospital. His appointment is coming soon, and given his condition, and the fact that they’d have to take 5 buses to get to Taiping Hospital from their house, staying at his mother’s place was the best option. Aina on the other hand had to bring the children home since school reopened. So far tests showed that Aina had not been infected, let’s home she’ll stay that way.

The house actually belonged to Aina’s late grandmother’s house. The condition was pretty bad, with leaking zinc roofs. They had electricity and water supply. No refrigerator, and no TV. Well, there were 2 old TV sets in the house, both no longer usable.

After getting some info from Aina, and getting her to sign the form, we decided to make a move. It was nearing 12 noon by then and Aina had to go fetch her daughter from the kindergarten at 12.

Heading back to the town where I fetched the trainee volunteer, I told my Chinese colleague to call SK to tell him we were on our way. At least she could get better directions, speaking to him in Chinese. It was nearing 1.30 pm by the time we reached the police station where he promised he’d meet us, as he knew it wouldn’t be easy for us to find his house. True enough, we had to go through back lanes to get to his house.

The moment we got into the house, I saw pictures on the wall, Somehow I thought the faces all looked quite familiar. SK said he was staying there only with his 13 year old son, but there were pictures of him and his wife. SK said his wife had left him. I saw some marks on his son’s neck, according to SK that was due to whatever that was needed to be done by the doctors when the boy had TB recently. The boy had TB? I immediately suspected the boy was infected with HIV as well, and when I asked SK, he wasn’t hesitant at all to admit that the boy was infected since birth. The boy’s mother died, and the one whose picture was on the wall was his second wife, who left him about 2 years ago.

Then only one by one the facts started clicking. No wonder I thought the faces looked familiar! I had met them before! Even his estranged 2nd wife who had gone back to her home country up north. They came twice to our Family Day – once in Teluk Batik in 2006 and the other in LWOT in 2007.

SK has another son, 17, schooling in a private school – sponsored by somebody. Another daughter, whom I had also met during our Family Day, died when she drowned in a river near their house (when they were staying in another town).

My main concern now is the 13 year old boy. He hadn’t gone to school for more than a year now. If I thought the 15 year old HIV+ girl who didn’t sit for her PMR was bad enough, this boy didn’t even sit for his UPSR! I asked the boy if he was interested to go back to school if we could arrange for him to do so. He does want to go to school! Hopefully we can arrange for something… like getting him back to standard 6, albeit a year late.

I will need to ask around first, as I myself am not too familiar with all these…

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Home visits, hospital visits…

When I went to the hospital to meet up with Asiah on Wednesday, I took the opportunity to ask the nurse at the ID clinic if she knew when Ina, the pregnant Orang Asli lady, would be warded. The nurse only knew Ina would be warded within the same week, but wasn’t quite sure of the exact day.

Ina doesn’t have a phone. All the while if I needed to ask anything about her, I’d have to call her neighbour, who is also a good friend of hers. Since I couldn’t get an exact answer from the nurse at the ID clinic, I decided to call Ina’s neighbour. The neighbour told me that Ina would be warded the next day, which was a Thursday, but she wasn’t sure of the date of operation.

Hmmm… to be warded on a Thursday? I figured she’d be going to the OT on Friday to deliver. They don’t schedule operations on weekends, and it was very unlikely they’d ask her to be warded so early if the op is scheduled the next week.

I didn’t know what time the nurses from the klinik kesihatan near Ina’s place would bring her to Ipoh GH (Ina’s kampung is quite remote, so if she is not brought to the hospital in a jabatan kesihatan van, chances were she wouldn’t come for her appointments etc.), so I decided not to visit on Thursday. And even on Friday, I decided not to go too early, as Ina may still be in the delivery hall.

Thus I went to visit after 5 pm. True enough, Ina had delivered in the morning, and both mother and baby girl were sent back to the wards at noon. Ina was resting, while the baby was in another room, taken care by the nurses.

I had some time ago asked Ina to open up a BSN account, to enable me to submit her application for Paediatric Aid Funds (PAF) but never had to opportunity to get the copy of the bank book. So when I visited her on Friday, I asked if she had opened up the bank account. She had, and as a matter of fact, she brought along her bank book to the hospital. I helped to take out her bag from the drawer beside her bed, and she gave me her bank book… the necessary page not photostated yet. I sought her permission to bring her bank book back with me, get it photostated, and return the book to her the next day.

Anyway, when I took out her bag from the drawer, I noticed she didn’t have much stuff with her… and it looked like she wasn’t prepared with baby stuff either. I asked if her 7 year old child had started schooling… thank goodness she said yes. You see, Ina’s 3 older children, aged 14, 13 and 12, never went to school. So when I went to visit her last year, I begged her to make sure this 4th child of hers goes to school. I assured her we were willing to help out with the child’s education expenses.

After promising Ina I’d be back the next day (to return her bank book), I left to let Ina have a good rest.

Yesterday, after zohor, I headed off to visit Rosnah and Shila. They both stay in the same town, in fact they both knew each other as their children go to the same school. Of course, before this, they never knew that the other had HIV too… they only found out during our Family Day at LWOT last year.

First I went to visit Rosnah, as her place is nearer the highway exit. Settled all her child’s school fees etc, then off I went to Shila’s place. Shila isn’t my client, but since I was already in the same town, I might as well visit and get all the receipts etc for her child’s schooling needs.

Saw this little fella, alone, limping across the road. Wonder where the mother was…

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The last time I met Shila was during our Family Day last year. She no longer goes for her hospital appointments, so I don’t see her at the hospital anymore. Her daughter Laila, is already in standard 5 this year. How time flies!

By 4 pm, I left, headed back to Ipoh and went straight to a hypermarket to buy some baby’s stuff. By the time I got the things, paid for them, and got to the hospital, it was already 5 pm… already visiting hours. So there was no need for me to wear my hospital special pass.

As I had expected, Ina was moved to the end room, where they usually send the HIV cases. The bigger ward, nearer to the nurses counter, was only a temporary stopover for them after being sent back from the delivery hall.

Again, Ina was alone. Her baby, born 2.4 kgs was in another room, taken care by the nurses. Apparently, earlier in the afternoon, Ina’s aunt had brought her other children to visit. Her 4th child (the 7 year old), cried when they were about to leave. You see, the little boy had never been separated from his mother before.

But Ina said the boy’s okay in school and gets along well with his friends. That’s what I’ve been hoping for. With 3 older siblings not schooling, if he doesn’t enjoy school, he may just decide to join his brothers at home. What will become of their future without basic education?

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The first week…

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…

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The children, their schooling, and their fees…

With schools just reopened yesterday, many of “my” children just got their list of workbooks and all sorts of fees they needed to pay to their respective schools. I had wanted to settle all matters regarding the children’s back-to-school expenses before school reopened, but many of them didn’t get their list before the last school holidays. So I could only settle the purchase of uniforms, shoes, etc but had to delay disbursing the amount needed by them to pay to the respective schools.

If only there is a standardise rate for every school, it would be much easier for me to calculate and disburse the sponsorship money to the various families. But no, from what I’ve seen so far, the fees/workbooks vary from as little as RM24 to as high as over RM220 per child. Some schools charge very minimal amount, while some schools charge all sorts of fees to their students.

Since yesterday, one by one I started getting text messages from my clients whose children are under our sponsorship programme, or at least covered by our Children Education Fund for their back-to-school expenses only.

Fuzi’s children seemed to be charged a minimal amount (about RM24). I think probably because their teachers took into consideration the fact that Fuzi is a non-working single mother. They have probably been waived from paying certain categories of fees.

Aini’s children, schooling in Ipoh, seem to have to pay the most, with the one in primary school having to pay the highest ie RM225. I guess that’s because the boy will be sitting for his UPSR this year. Aini’s eldest daughter initially had to pay about RM190, but yesterday Aini informed me that her daughter, this year in form five, got a place at the school hostel and so she needed to pay an additional RM360 for hostel fee. That should be easily covered by the sponsorship amount… otherwise last year her bus fares were RM60 per month. Now that she’s staying at the hostel, we no longer need to cover for her bus fares.

Maya had earlier on gave me a round figure of RM360 for all her children. Lebihkurang, she said. At that time she hadn’t got the list from the schools yet. I told her I wanted details for each child, and not a round total figure for all 4 of them. So today her SMS came, with fees for each child varying from RM54 to RM120. The total definitely more than RM360.

Nuri, Wani, Shila and Hana had also texted me the amount needed for their children’s fees. I also received a text message Asiah, saying that she’d be in Ipoh for her hospital appointment tomorrow and so she wanted to pass me all the receipts for her children – not just for the fees, but also for their uniforms etc. So yep, off to the hospital again tomorrow to meet her.

Just yesterday, I prepared a cheque of RM2,267 for the children's schooling needs under our sponsorship programme. Within just a day, I have to prepare another cheque of RM2,962. And another one close to RM3,000 is to be claimed under the Children Education Fund.

On average, each of these single mothers with 3 or 4 children have to come up with over RM400 per family for their children’s fees/workbooks. Add to that the amount paid for their uniforms, shoes etc bought earlier, how on earth are they going to pay without any financial assistance?

Chances are, without assistance, they’d end up postponing and postponing their payment… then the class teachers (the insensitive ones lah, there are teachers who are understanding enough) would ask the children for the fees right in front of the other students in class… then the children becomes reluctant to go to school… then they’d be branded as students with disciplinary problems. I’ve seen quite a few of such cases.

Which reminds me, I called another client yesterday. This case was referred direct to me by the nurse at the ID clinic. She texted me the client’s details last week, saying that the children needed help. So I called, and found out that the younger child, now 13, has stopped schooling. When asked why, I was told that they hadn’t paid last year’s school fees. Hmmm… didn’t pay last year’s fees and therefore can’t go to school this year? Or didn’t pay last year’s fees and therefore ashamed to go to school this year? Well, I don’t know the details yet. That will have to wait until my assessment visit next week…

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Into my 8th year…

… as a volunteer with the Buddies of Ipoh.

2004:

I joined as a trainee volunteer just after Buddies Society of Ipoh was set up as a separate organisation on its own; after being a wing under the Perak Family Health Association since 1997. As a trainee, all I did was follow my “mummy” (the senior volunteer assigned to supervise the trainee) in her visits. Didn’t do many visits though… as my “mummy” didn’t have that many clients. However, since I had a flexi-hour job, I was able to join their clinic duty teams. I learnt a lot from those clinic duties.

2005:

I finally got confirmed as a buddy despite not having enough exposure in doing house visits. We were getting more and more Malay ladies as our clients, yet there wasn’t a single Malay female buddy available. The very day the Board agreed to confirm me as a buddy, immediately 4 clients were handed over to me. They were Ifa, Zainab, Cikgu Maznah and Nina. These were actually old cases earlier on assigned to other buddies. I did manage to get hold of Ifa and Zainab, and I am still in touch with them. However, I never managed to get hold of Cikgu Maznah. I was told her husband was a very bad tempered guy, not wanting his wife to speak to anyone without his knowledge. As for Nina, I did manage to speak to her once by phone, but she was rather reluctant to talk. So I let them be. I did send them Raya cards with my phone number written, in case they needed to talk, but they never did call me.

Zana’s case was also referred to me in 2005, but she made a disappearing act soon after (changed her phone number and missed her hospital appointments),

2006:

Quite a number of cases were referred to me in 2006. There was Rose, who I got to know during the last 2 1/2 months of her life. During that period, I really concentrated on her alone as she was really weak (she had cervical cancer as well). Rose died in May 2006.

Other clients referred to me in 2006 were Maria, Nuri (and HIV+ daughter Farah), Sha, Noni, Yah (& husband Azman who died the same year), Fuzi (and HIV+ son Ijam).

After her disappearing act in 2005, Zana contacted me in 2006. Of course she contacted me because she had a problem. I had to send her to a shelter home in KL because she was no longer accepted by her family due to her 2nd time unwed pregnancy.

I was also roped into the Board during the 2006 AGM.

2007:

More cases were referred in 2007. There was Lily (and HIV+ son Boboy), Jah & Asiah (2 old cases but passed to me by another buddy who moved to KL), Mr & Mrs K (yep, the ones who were always “tak ada duit” no matter how much they got), Hana & husband Rashid,  Rina, and also Ani.

Lily died during the year and her son was sent to a home for HIV kids. Rashid and Rina too died the same year, immediately after Raya.

One case of a 74 year old HIV+ lady, Makcik Minah, was also referred to me this year, but I never managed to get hold of her, and she never came for her hospital appointments after the first one. The last I heard, Makcik Minah died alone at her home.

During 2007 AGM, I was elected as the treasurer for Buddies.

2008:

Due to the many cases already assigned to me, as far as possible, my colleagues would avoid handing new cases to me in 2008. Furthermore in 2008, I was elected as the chairperson of Buddies and it was also in 2008 that we started our Education Sponsorship for Children Programme, which became my baby, taking up the bulk of my time.

There were only 2 new cases assigned to me during the year – Lin, who contacted me herself after getting my number from the Buddies brochure; and the husband/wife couple of Samsul/Suhaila.

Samsul & Suhaila are now no longer contactable, in fact they are also defaulting their hospital appointments. As for Lin, her children are under our sponsorship programme, and I do visit them on a monthly basis.

 2009:

Although my colleagues would try to avoid handing new cases to me, I’d still get assigned new cases from time to time… particularly the problematic cases. My so-called expertise? Hard-core poor single mothers, and pregnant ladies, wed or unwed.

4 cases were referred to me during the year – 2 were hard core poor families: Murni ( who remarried and had a toddler) and Sofie (one of the saddest cases I had seen); and 2 cases of unwed pregnancies: Sharifah (who gave birth to my little Cek Mek) and Anita, the ingrate who talked badly about Kak Ana after she sought shelter at Kak Ana’s home for some time.

Another case, Rosnah, a single mother, didn’t fall under hard-core poor or pregnant lady. However, she was the type who found it hard to open up, and once she felt comfortable with me, I couldn’t pass her to anybody (there was no point, she’d still be calling me anyway).

2010:

More cases referred to me despite the already long list of clients. One of our volunteers left during the year, and so her 2 cases were handed over to me as the clients, Aini and Aza, already knew me and as such were more comfortable with me. 5 other cases were all pregnancy cases: Azimah, Halimah, Liza (all 3 had already delivered) and Ina (the orang asli lady due to deliver anytime).

Another case, Razif, was actually somebody else’s case, but when Razif’s wife (who’s also +ve) got pregnant, Razif started calling me seeking advise and after a while even got his wife to see me so that I could speak to her myself.

Ramli’s case was also assigned to another volunteer, but Ramli’s daughter, Amy, kept on calling me every time she needed help or advise. However, now Ramli, who’s bedridden, had been sent to a shelter home while his schooling children (Amy’s half-brothers) are now in an orphanage, so I don’t foresee any more calls from Amy, not in the near future at least.

We also started our Taiping clinic duties in 2010, and a few cases had been referred. But thank goodness we now have a trainee volunteer who stays north of Perak, and so the northern cases like Aza’s and Maya’s can be passed to her under my supervision.

2011:

With already over 30 clients (after leaving out those who have died) and over 70 children of theirs, will there be any new cases referred to me in 2011?

Amongst my fellow volunteers, I have the most clients. Most of the other volunteers only have less than 5 clients each.

My guess is, if there are any hard-core poor or pregnant ladies referred to us, particularly the Malay ladies, chances are, they’d be assigned to me as well…