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)

Thursday, 31 March 2011

A letter to the PM by a stateless child

I shall not comment any further. This letter says it all. I hope someone reading this will be able to help out little Zara and her tireless mum Tini.

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Dear Mr. Prime Minister

by Hartini Zainudin on Thursday, 31 March 2011 at 09:18

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

My mummy wanted to write this letter and use expletives and cite laws to fight on behalf of children like me in Malaysia, but I told her it would sound better if it came from me and you might listen? Mummy tends to yell a little too loud and she's such a drama queen sometimes!

So here goes...

Dear Prime Minister,

My name is Zara Hana Abdullah. I know this is my name because this is what Mummy says it is and everyone who knows me and loves me says this is my name. My Aunty Shireen named me Zara and my Aunty Sian named me Hana and told me what the 2 names mean- Zara is 'Princess' and Hana means Grace...so i'm actually Princess Grace, which makes my Oma very happy because she loves all those Grace Kelly movies.

But according to Malaysian law, I do not exist legally because I have no birth certificate. Every child is entitled to a birth certificate, so that we know they have a name and some information about them. Mummy says the reason why I don't have one is because in the application form for a birth certificate, there is a box that says," if you don't have proof of the child's birth, then there must be 2 witnesses who was there at the time of birth. I don't have 2 witnesses since Mummy found me at 2 and a half months old.So now, she cannot fill out the birth certificate. Welfare officers say they'll help Mummy fill out the application, but that was last year. I know the Welfare Department cannot do everything, so Mummy nags them once a week and now she tells me they run when they see her or do not pick up the phone. But I know Mummy will catch them and make them file the application for me.

I know I'm 3 years old because that it is what the Aunty told my mummy- the one who gave me to Mummy? I also know I'm 3 years old because Mummy took me to the doctor and the doctor said that's most probably how old I am. And Aunty said, I was born on the 18th of February so that's when I celebrate my birthday!

When I get my birth certificate, Mummy says that my name cannot be Zara Hana Abdullah because I'm Muslim and I don't know who my real daddy is so my name must be Zara Hana Binte Abdullah to show that I am the daughter (Binte) of Abdullah ( God- one of 99 names for Allah) which also means that I am a child 'born out of wedlock'

Because Mummy and I had to go to court, to finalize my adoption, my birth certificate will be exchanged for a certificate of adoption, which looks like a birth cert except for a clause that says I'm adopted. I'm okay with that as my legal paper. But there may be problems when I apply for a passport, open a bank statement , apply to university, try to get a visa abroad...is this true, Mr, Prime Minister?

Mummy says too that I am not Malaysian. That I have no citizenship- I am stateless, which means I don't belong to any country and Malaysia does not want me if Mummy doesn't fight for me or you don't pass the law to say it's okay for Mummy to give me her citizenship?

May I please belong to a country?

Without a country, I cannot go to school, I cannot get a passport, I cannot go to university, leave the country, travel , get married, or really know what i"ll be able to be when I grow up because I have no future! No future like my brother or my cousins?

Mummy says that under Muslim law, she is just my Guardian, not my adopted parent and it will be more difficult for her to apply for me to get citizenship. Is this true? if it's possible, can you please tell me how long it will take? In days please? I can't count months and years yet!

Mummy was very angry yesterday after her meeting because she said some grown up officer said that I am one of 'those' children- a foreigner that does not deserve the same rights and protection as a Malaysian. How does she know I'm not Malaysian and not a foreigner? If you're not sure, wouldn't you assume that I just am so I have a brighter future?

Another grown up said that I am a threat to national security because there are so many of us. I'm quite sure if someone gave me away and it's now been 3 years, no one is going to come back and claim me! So, I'm really no threat! Just give me PR status please, till you investigate more but let me go to school with my brother and cousins.

****

Okay, it's me now...took the laptop back from Zara, who's gone to kindergarten...someone was nice enough to let me send her to kindergarten with no papers because they know me and her brother!

The fact is that the Adoption law has been in existence since 1952 and we have different laws for Peninsula Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. There has been one revision made in 1984. There are different adoption laws and regulations for Muslim children and non Muslim children.

I apparantly, am Zaid's adopted mother but Zara's guardian till she's 18? I'm just absolutely confused by this difference and apparantly this affects the process for citizenship and her basic rights.

The process of adoption is apparantly subjective as is the criteria. There is no standardization, it's more difficult for poor people to adopt legally and the laws and responsibilities by the different agencies are so archaic and convoluted!

Immigration says, JKM, JKM says JPN and so on and so forth! AG's Chamber just says, " saya yang menurut perintah'

In the meantime, I'm pulling my hair out, running from one agency to another, trying to placate hysterical parents on how they can get travel passes for their children - it's Immigration again guys who issue travel passes and no, no JKM letter to help, Syariah law..who knows what, JKM looks at guardianship of children but JPN decides on adopted children?

I need to go back and study the law and find ways and volunteers to help me dissect all these different laws and ways to protect our children in the meantime.

We need to say that yes, 'Prime Minister, we understand you have a country to protect and laws to uphold, but get with the times and look at how these old laws are hurting children. Children who would love this country and serve this country well and be productive, committed citizens.

We do this- delay,review, take our time, we continue to ensure that the poor stay poor, that marginalized children stay marginalized and children stay invisible!And they don't exist!

I know my daughter exists! And she's 3 and her name is Zara Hana Abdullah and she deserves to be Malaysian! And she deserves a better life than what the laws, if they remain the same, will condemn her too!

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source: https://www.facebook.com/notes/hartini-zainudin/dear-mr-prime-minister/10150135557228015

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Boys in uniforms…

Having promised Saiful and Azman that I’d be fetching them after 2 pm yesterday to bring them to Ipoh to buy their cadet uniforms, I left my house right after my zohor prayer.

This time when I got to Sofie’s house, I didn’t go in. I just honked and waved to Saiful and Azman to get into the car. No need to waste any time, I’d only go in later when we come back.

It was very hot yesterday. Even with the aircond at full blast, I could feel the heat from outside. When we got to Ipoh city center, Azman commented about the traffic jam. Obviously he had never seen KL traffic.

Anyway, there is one particular shop which sells all the uniforms not only for the co-curriculum activities, but for all the uniformed bodies like the police and army. But having been there a few times, I was concerned there may not be any suitable size for Saiful, who is extra small. Even for his school uniform, we bought his shirt at the primary school department, while his green school trousers had to be specifically ordered to his size. He may be in form one, but his standard 3 sister looks bigger than him.

So first I brought them to another shop selling clothes including uniforms in bulk. I had passed by the place before and had seen them hanging cadet uniforms at their shop. Only problem was, the salesgirl there had to be told which one was the cadet uniforms we were looking for. When I went in and asked for the “uniform cadet remaja sekolah”, she showed me the scout’s uniform. I thought she misheard me, so I said again, “Bukan, saya mau uniform cadet remaja.” “Ya la, ini la!” she insisted. Duh! I ended up showing the cadet uniform hung in front of the shop.

Finding the right size for Azman wasn’t a problem. As a matter of fact, when he was trying out the trousers, I heard Azman calling for me, “Makcik, boleh mintak yang saiz besar sikit tak? Yang ni boleh masuk tapi tak boleh kancing.” Hehehe… perut boroi! As for Saiful, the salesgirl just took out the smallest size available. Not too bad for the shirt, although it was still big for Saiful, it just looked slightly big. Some people like their clothes a size or two bigger anyway. But the trousers had to be folded up at least 6 or 7 inches. I asked the salesgirl, “you ingat dia punya umur berapa?” And she answered, “6 tahun?” Adoi… kalau 6 tahun beli baju kadet remaja buat apa?!!! But that just shows how small Saiful is…

We still took the smallest uniform available for Saiful. Sofie can sew, so maybe she can just adjust the uniforms a bit so that it will not look too big on Saiful. The salesgirl then took out all the accessories… badges etc. They were short of one badge so the girl said she’d just walk over to their store just across the road. “Sekejap saja”, so she said.

We waited… and waited… and waited. And mind you, the weather was hot. After almost 20 minutes, the girl finally came back, saying they didn’t have the stock. Duh! So we just paid for whatever was available. We then moved on to the other shop where I usually bring “my children” to buy their co-curriculum uniforms, to buy the cadet boots, which were not available at the first shop we went to.

Ahh, at least this second shop was cooler with closed door and aircond! Bliss! Again, there was no problem getting a pair of boots for Azman, but Saiful had to settle for the smallest one available. Why lah did the teacher tell him to join the cadets in the first place?!

We got whatever else needed at this second shop. This time the salesgirl knew her stuff well, so not much explaining was needed.

Once we got back to their home, I told Saiful to try out his uniform. Had a good laugh seeing him putting on his uniform, but after he wore the complete set, it didn’t look too bad after all. Sofie just needed to adjust the trousers a bit. I told her not to cut anything… hopefully the uniform can last a few years to come even if he grows bigger.

Ika, their youngest sister, who had been watching all the while, then said to me, “Makcik, nanti saya ingat nak bagitau cikgu saya tak naklah masuk Puteri Islam. Saya nak masuk kadet polis.

Hehehe…. ada orang jealous tengok abang-abangnya dapat uniforms…

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Visit here, visit there…

It is almost the end of March. Noticing that my last house visit was in February, I planned for 2 house visits yesterday.

The first was another volunteer’s case. The client passed away some time beginning of the year, but the buddy highlighted to me that the client’s family may still need help. The late client’s father, who is asthmatic, works as a security guard at a nearby factory, while the mother is a fulltime housewife, who collects recyclable items to help get some additional income for the family. Both in their 50’s, still has a 13 year old daughter who may need schooling help. The buddy told me that the family was dirt poor.

To assess the family’s situation, I decided to go for a visit together with the buddy and another volunteer. Then we could decide whether the daughter should be considered for CEF or for sponsorship.

So yesterday morning, after my usual pasar tani routine and leaving my soup in the slow cooker, off I went, first to the center to get a box of groceries which I had kept aside for the family. Then to a fellow volunteer’s house to fetch her to come along with me. Then to the home of the buddy of the above-mentioned client. His house is quite near the client’s house. After a short discussion at his home, off we went in my car to the client’s home. Since the family we were visiting collects recyclable items, the buddy brought along some used cans he had collected to be given to them.

All three, the father, the mother & the 13 year old daughter were home. The father didn’t go to work as he was unwell. He gets a basic pay of RM700 per month. House rental is RM250 per month. He has another daughter who works at a factory who helps out with the house rental. The youngest daughter’s school fees had been partly paid, but there was still about RM60 which has yet to be paid. School bus fare is RM60 per month.

This is a poor family, but I’ve seen worse. At least he does get a fixed income. I think we can consider the daughter under our Children Education Fund. Those considered for our Sponsorship Program are usually worse off than this family. But we shall decide on that later, when we meet for our Board meeting this Tuesday night.

We then left, and after I sent the buddy back to his home, and then the other volunteer back to her home, off I went to our centre again. This time to collect the other box of groceries. I planned to visit Sofie’s family later in the afternoon, so I figured I might as well put the groceries in my car so I didn’t have to go to the centre again later.

After zohor, off I went to Sofie’s house. I had promised to bring her son Saiful to the optician to either get his glasses repaired, or to make a new pair.

You see, the specialist at Ipoh GH had suggested that the boy wears glasses with thinner lenses, although he also did say that it may be a bit more expensive. Sofie of course couldn’t afford to make Saiful a new pair of glasses. Then last month, when Sofie was hospitalised and Saiful accompanied her at the hospital for more than 2 weeks, Saiful accidentally dropped his glasses. Well, the lenses were okay, the metal frame still held the lenses in place, but the nose pads were gone and the arms which held the nose pads were broken. Replacing the nose pads was not an option. Saiful could still wear the glasses, but it would hurt his nose.

We had 2 options, either to use the old lenses and just replace the frame, or to make him a new pair of glasses. That was only to be decided when we got to the optician.

Only Saiful followed me. Sofie and Ika didn’t come along as Sofie was not feeling too well.

When we got to the optician, the guy did try to find frames which could fit Saiful’s old lenses. That was the only way we could get it done immediately. If the lenses were to be reshaped to fit into new frames, Saiful would be without glasses for a few days. With a power of 950 and 750 respectively for the right and left eyes, Saiful is not supposed to be without glasses except when he sleeps and when he bathes.

We couldn’t find a suitable frame for the old lenses. Since the specialist at the Ipoh GH had already suggested that Saiful wears glasses with thinner lenses, I asked the guy to make a new pair. At least while waiting for the new pair to be ready, Saiful could still wear the old pair.

At first the guy told me the new pair would cost RM400. Then I started talking about Saiful’s family background. Then he started discussing with his colleague (which I couldn’t understand because they were speaking Cantonese). You see, initially they thought I was Saiful’s mother. When they found out that Saiful came from a poor family, that his mother was unwell and his father’s whereabouts was not known, that I was just from an NGO helping this family, they finally decided to charge me RM299 instead of the original RM400. Woo hoo!

After paying the deposit and getting the receipt, I then sent Saiful back home. This time I could chat longer with Sofie. It was only then did I find out that Saiful actually needed to get a pair of cadet uniform which Sofie couldn’t afford. I asked Sofie why she didn’t inform me earlier.

Saya seganlah nak bagitau akak. Akak dah banyak sangat tolong kami.”

I had to explain to her yet again that all the financial help her family was getting didn’t come from me personally. I reminded her again to inform me of any needs related to the children’s schooling. I told her all her children are under our Sponsorship Program, each of them with a specific individual sponsor.

So yep, will be bringing Saiful out again to get his cadet uniform. Since he is getting a day off on Monday due to some big-do at the school on Sunday, I promised him I’d fetch him on Monday afternoon.

Later after I got home, Sofie called me. You see, Azman her second son who wasn’t home when I visited earlier, found out that I’d be bringing Saiful to buy his cadet uniform. It was only then did he inform his mother that he too was in the cadets and needed a uniform as well. He didn’t tell his mother earlier as he knew she couldn’t afford it. So this time Sofie called me and asked Azman to speak to me.

Since Azman too goes to the same school as Saiful, he too gets a day off from school on Monday. So I told him to come along with me on Sunday together with Saiful.

My only concern now is whether we can get a pair of cadet uniform for Saiful’s size. He’s too small for his age…

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Another term

We had our AGM last night. My main concerns were 2 things:

1. Whether we’d have enough attendees to make a quorum. Quorum is half of the full members. As at 31 December 2010, we had 16 full members, 4 associate members and 12 trainees on the list. Based on the number of full members, the quorum should be 8.

2. Whether we’d have enough attendees to be elected into the committee. We needed to elect 11 into the Board and one more as auditor.

To be safe, we got our part time staff to call all members to confirm who’d be coming. Based on the list she had, 14 full members confirmed they were coming. Give and take one or two who may not be able to make it at the very last minute, I figured it was quite safe.

Meeting was to start at 8 pm, but by the time I performed my Maghrib prayer, it was raining heavily. Eeeks… I was hoping that the rain would not deter members from coming. Thank goodness by the time I got to the Buddies center, quite a number of members were already there, including a few trainees. Well, they didn’t have any prayers to worry about, so they got there early.

Our Patron came not too long after I did. She had always been very supportive of our activities. A very simple and nice lady.

Anyway, we started off the meeting once we were sure we had enough people to be elected into the committee. :) Out of the 14 who confirmed they were coming, 13 turned up. Although we had a few trainees attending as well, they couldn’t be elected into the Board, neither did they have any voting rights.

As usual, first up were the reports, with the various coordinators giving brief explanations on their reports – the chairperson’s overall report, followed by Buddy Bears, Clients Welfare, HIV clinic, CEF/Sponsorship, Fellowship, Outreach and finally on Volunteer Development/Public Awareness. Not many questions were raised. The whole thing was accepted and adopted without any problem.

Then came the Financial Report and Audited Accounts. Again, nothing much raised. It was accepted and adopted in no time.

Next up, election of office bearers and auditor for the term 2011/2013.

Yep, as usual, we didn’t have to vote for a single post. For the main 5 office bearers (chair, vice-chair, secretary, assistant secretary and treasurer), it was more of I propose so and so… I second… I propose nominations closed… I second. Easy peasy!!

As for the 6 committee members, we just took a look at the remaining 8 full members who attended. Coaxed [read: forced] 6 from there, 1 more as auditor and finally only one managed to escape getting elected into the committee.

DONE! One of the trainees even commented, “Cepatnya AGM you all!” Hehehehe…

No need la lama-lama, most of the members hadn’t had dinner yet, so must finish the meeting quickly so they could eat! We had decided earlier on during last month’s Board meeting to just order pizza for AGM dinner. So that we did.

Anyway, based on the above accounts, surely you could clearly see that we didn’t have much choice in the election of office bearers. So yep, yours truly has to continue with her position as chairperson for another term.

Hopefully by the next term in 2 years time, we will have more choices…

Friday, 18 March 2011

Violence against women…

Having joined Buddies since 2004, I’ve been handling HIV cases, particularly the women. Their problems mainly would include stigma & discrimination (because of their HIV), financial, children’s wellbeing etc. If you refer to me cases involving pregnant PLHIVs, wed or unwed, basically I know what to do. If you refer to me cases of PLHIVs who are single mothers with school-going children needing financial help, I have the CEF or Sponsorship programme, of which I am the coordinator myself. If you have PLHIVs needing emotional support, I am ready to lend my ears to listen to them.

But when Shidah’s case was referred to me, her main problem wasn’t HIV, but domestic violence. Now THAT I have not personally handled before. I didn’t want to end up doing things without taking into consideration all the loopholes which may backfire. That’s where networking helps. Luckily I have good rapport with a friend from Perak Women for Women (PWW) who handles a lot of such cases.

When I highlighted this case in my FB status, one of my FB friends, a male, commented, “Just make an official police report, tell the truth and let the PDRM carry out their investigation from there onwards !. If the husband over react again, he will land himself in the jailhouse where he belongs. Bullies should be taught a hard lesson.”

Ahhh… he made it sound so simple. How I wish it was that easy.

While I did offer to accompany Shidah to lodge a police report earlier, when she herself didn’t dare do so, I did not push her further. I couldn’t guarantee her that she wouldn’t be sent home and end up being beaten even worse by the husband. At least if the PWW reps were around, they’d know what to do or say to make sure Shidah would be sent direct to a shelter home, pending further actions to be taken. No doubt after the report is made, should the husband beat her up again, the police can always reprimand him and he’d end up in jail. BUT Shidah may by then be handicapped, or even dead. I wouldn’t want that to happen.

There was a particular case when a woman, beaten up by her husband, ran away barefooted, at night, to the police station. While on the way, she managed to call a lady from PWW and so 2 PWW reps went to help her as well and accompanied her to the police station. They wanted to wait until the JKM people turned up to take her to a shelter home, but the police on duty told them to go off as they’d be handling the case from then on since a report had already been made.

Turned out, after taking all her statements, the police took her in their car and sent her HOME where her husband was. They then warned the husband not to beat her up again. Needless to say, as soon as the policemen were gone, the lady got beaten up even worse. She ended up climbing the fence later the same night, this time no longer to the police station, for fear she may be sent back home again.

Another lady went to lodge a police report, and one insensitive policeman made a joke out of it, saying out loud, “Awak tak bagi dia apa dia nak malam tadi, tu pasal dia pukul!

So yeah, I guess sometimes luck plays a role too. Police are humans too… there are good ones, there are bad ones. There are sensitive ones, there are insensitive ones. Hopefully the police on duty when they make that report would be someone more sensitive and has some sympathy and empathy.

There were also cases where the women themselves are at fault for “allowing” themselves to be beaten up by their husbands. Allowing themselves to be beaten? Well, you see, whenever they got beaten up, they’d seek help from PWW. Then when the husband coaxed them, appealing to them not to leave, sweet-talking them into believing that the husbands would change, the women would actually FALL for it!!

There was a case of a woman, who was actually tortured by her husband (her husband tied her hands and then beat her up, including her private parts), sought help from PWW. A PWW volunteer risked herself by fetching her and sent her to a safe place. Turned out the husband had some “underground” connection and the volunteers kept getting calls to tell them to keep off the case. Worse, after all the drama, the woman, the so-called victim, actually agreed to go back to her husband!! Duh! In the end it looked as though the volunteers were the ones who influenced her to run away from home.

Then there was another case, a lady, working and earning more than her husband. No worries about any financial problems should she choose to be divorced. And so she finally decided to file for divorce. She was advised to report the case to a tribunal, which she did, and then when she went home, she told the husband about it. Apa lagi… kena pukul la… kaw punya!

When she threatened to report the matter to the police, the husband went down on his knees, begging her not to report the matter, and then promised her he’d change. She finally decided not to report. She didn’t have to heart to see her husband suffer. YENNADEY!!!!

Which reminds me of Liza, Baby So’od’s mother. When her case was first referred to me, she was separated from her husband but not divorced yet. She was however, determined to file for divorce once she gave birth. She had already given her husband a second chance and so she was determined to lead her own life with her children without her husband. Or so she said.

When she was in the shelter home during her confinement, her husband called her and coaxed her to go back to him. He told her the shelter home was not a conducive place for the children to grow up. He promised her he’d change… for her sake… for the children’s sake.'

And guess what? SHE BELIEVED HIM!! And recently, her mother called me up asking if I could arrange for Liza to go to a shelter home as her husband had started beating her up again.

Aduh… I think STUPID is too mild a word to describe these women. I guess it’s their life… so it’s their choice. As long as they don’t bother me every time they get into trouble, that is…

So in Shidah’s case, I have been advised that to safeguard my own interest, should Shidah suddenly call seeking immediate help, asking to fetch her at home, I should report to the police first (and inform PWW so they could send somebody over to help as well) and then go with the police to her home. And should Shidah seek help only during her next hospital appointment, I have to make sure she herself agrees to make a police report. The decision should be hers, not mine. In Shidah’s case, what she really wants to do is to just run away and go back to her country without having to make any police reports. But she can’t do that as she doesn’t have her passport with her. Like it or not, she needs to make that police report.

While I am willing to go through the trouble of arranging for the necessary help, I am not willing to get into trouble for helping her. Besides, who knows, she may be another of those gullible women who’d fall for their kaki pukul husbands’ sweet promises…

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Abused & Afraid - 2

When I first met Shidah during my clinic duty some time in December last year, her case wasn’t referred to me by SN or the doctor because she had been a patient there for more than 2 years. Usually SN would only refer new cases, or, even if they were old cases, SN would only refer the ones she knew were problematic, especially single mothers with financial constraints.

In Shidah’s case, she didn’t have any children, and neither did she mention anything to SN about her problems at home.

It was only when she was given counselling by the pharmacist on her antiretroviral that she somehow mentioned about being beaten up by her husband at home. The pharmacist immediately told her to see me as we were sharing the same room.

During that meet, I gave her not only my number, but also the number of a friend of mine in Perak Women for Women (PWW). PWW handles quite a lot of these cases so they should know better what to do.

Shidah never called. And the one time that I called her, she said she was okay.

I did get missed calls from her once, but when I returned call, nobody answered. I figured maybe she didn’t dare answer because her husband was around when I returned call.

2 days ago Shidah called. She said she was beaten up again and she wanted to see me at the hospital on Wednesday (today).

I wasn’t on clinic duty today but since the only chance for me to meet Shidah is at the hospital, I decided to go. Coincidentally, a trainee volunteer who happened to be free, asked if I was on clinic duty as she’d like to join. Although we don’t usually handle domestic violence cases, I figured it would be good exposure for her, so yep, I told her to join me at the clinic to meet Shidah.

Shidah asked to meet up at 10 am, and so although I got to the hospital 15 minutes early, I didn’t dare call as I was afraid she may still be with her husband. I waited until about 10.10 am before I called. Shidah was already at the hospital, but was still waiting to get her blood test done. I told her I’d wait in the same room where we spoke the last time.

The moment she saw me, she held and kissed my hands. She didn’t look like someone who had been abused, which was probably why earlier on SN or the doctor at the HIV clinic never knew about her problems.

I asked her how bad she was beaten up this time. She showed me some marks below her knee. It seems Shidah couldn’t take it any longer and asked her husband to allow her to go back to her home country. That got the husband mad and he ended up hitting her again. However I think this time he used his hands to hit her, the marks didn’t look too bad. Shidah had shown me photos of her bruises when she was beaten up earlier. The husband must have used some hard objects to hit her with back then…

IMAG0203 IMAG0207

However, earlier on Shidah never went to get any medical report. She didn’t have anyone here she could depend on and she didn’t know who to talk to or where to go. Worse, her husband held her passport, and so she didn’t even dare lodge a police report although her own mother-in-law advised her to do so.

Apparently, of late, Shidah doesn’t even have access to her handphone. She only gets to hold the phone when she goes to the hospital. Her husband would send her to the hospital and she’d use the phone to call her husband to fetch her once she’s done.

So how did she manage to call me on Monday?

Saya curi talipon. Lepas tu saya delete nombor kakak.”

Oh dear. So now I can no longer call that number either as her husband may suspect something.

Anyway, I tried to get the friend from PWW to join me at the hospital to meet and talk to Shidah, but the friend already had an earlier appointment, to bring another lady in distress to the legal aid bureau. She however did advise me to tell Shidah to lodge a police report. However, she did also warn me that being a foreigner, Shidah may not be covered by the Domestic Violence Act.

I asked the doctor at the HIV clinic, she advised me to bring her to the pondok polis at the hospital, after which she should get a medical report from a doctor at the emergency department.

I then explained the situation to Shidah. However, for someone who had never handled such cases before, I couldn’t give a guarantee to Shidah she’d be safe from her husband. I ‘ve heard of a case where after lodging a report about her husband abusing her, a lady was sent back home and the husband was only “advised” not to beat up the wife any more. As a result, the situation turned worse.

Shidah was afraid her husband would beat her up even more if he finds out she went to lodge a police report. And being a foreigner who doesn’t have access to her own passport, it was worse still. If she had access to her passport, all I had to do was to get help to finance her ticket to go back home. Without her passport, she’d probably be detained. The only document Shidah has with her is her kad nikah, and so if she gets caught, the authorities will probably get hold of her husband and “return” her back to him.

We were ready to accompany her today if Shidah decided to lodge a police report but in the end Shidah decided against it. She wasn’t ready. We’d have to plan something before her next hospital appointment which is in 2 month time. I asked if she was willing to wait that long.

Terpaksalah, kak.”

But how was I supposed to contact her if her husband controls the phone?

Saya ada sorok talipon lain. Suami saya tak tau. Simcard saya simpan tempat lain.”

Great, at least there’s a way for me to contact her. She gave me the phone number and told me the best time to call. However, I told her to make sure the phone is only on when her husband is not around. And I also told her to immediately call me if things get worse, or if she finally decides to lodge the police report before the next hospital appointment.

Tomorrow I’ll be meeting up with the friend from PWW to discuss the best possible cause of action. Somebody advised me to get confirmation from the embassy about Shidah’s citizenship before proceeding with the police report.

Whatever it is, we need to use the right strategy to make sure Shidah doesn’t end up on the losing end. We don’t want the husband to twist and turn stories to his advantage…

Monday, 14 March 2011

The exhibition & the desperate housewife…

There was an exhibition in Sunway College Ipoh on Sunday 13th March, organised by Perak Women for Women (PWW) in conjunction with International Women’s Day, and in collaboration with Sunway College Open Day.

I was however unable to participate as I had family matters to attend to. My niece got married over the weekend.

The vice-chairman couldn’t make it as he is currently undergoing a second round of chemo treatment for his cancer.

Our honorary secretary couldn’t make it either as she’s overseas until the coming weekend.

So I had to depend on the other volunteers to take charge. During our last board meeting, nobody volunteered to take charge for the whole day so we had one person in charge of the morning session and another for the afternoon session. Luckily our part time staff, who took charge of the exhibition booth of another organisation, had her booth just next to ours, so she could monitor our booth as well. Apparently the volunteers who were able to be on duty for the day were the more reserved type who were rather shy to approach the public.

Well, there is another exhibition coming up on 26th March and this time, insyaAllah, I should be around. Hopefully I can get a few volunteers, especially the trainees, to help me out. At least they can get some exposure as well.

Anyway, remember Shidah, the lady who was abused by her husband? I had earlier told her to call me or directly call the number of PWW if she needed help. PWW had been handling a lot of cases where the wives got beaten up by their husbands, and so I figured they’d know better what to do.

But Shidah never did call and the one time that I called her, she told me she was okay. I did get missed calls from her after that but when I returned the calls, she never answered. My guess is when I returned the calls, her husband was around and so she didn’t dare answer.

However this afternoon I received a call from her…

Shidah: Hello, ini Kakak Afizah?

Afizah: Ya, saya. Siapa ni?

Shidah: Saya Shidah, kakak ingat saya?

*With her Malay in Thai dialect, I immediately figured out who she was.

Shidah: Saya kena pukul lagi kakak. Sekarang saya mau talifon pun susah, suami saya check talifon saya. Ini saya curi-curi talifon kakak.

Shidah needs to go to the hospital this Wednesday for her blood test, and despite the fact that her husband usually locks Shidah at home, he’d always send her to the hospital for her appointments/blood tests. So Shidah wants to take the opportunity to see me at the hospital. I agreed.

Right now I’m hoping to get someone from PWW to come along with me to the hospital to meet up with Shidah so we could discuss and plan what to do. Having her blood test done this week means her appointment with the doctor is coming up soon. If we can plan something this week, then maybe we can take the next course of action during her appointment with the doctor…

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

This week’s new cases

I was at home on Monday when SN called to ask if any of our volunteers could speak Mandarin as there was a Mandarin-speaking female PLHIV needing help. I couldn’t give my answer straight away because while we do have a few female Chinese volunteers, some of them don’t know Mandarin. Me? I only know Mandarin oranges…

So I texted a few of my Chinese volunteers and finally one of them reverted back to me saying that she’s able to help out. So I immediately gave her the name and phone number of the said PLHIV.

Actually this wasn’t a new case. She had been going for appointments at the Ipoh ID clinic since 2003, although maybe her case was never referred to us as her appointments were probably during the weeks when our volunteers weren’t around. Despite being diagnosed for more than 7 years now, according to SN, she still seemed depressed. Which was why the doctor suggested that SN got hold of us Buddies and find out if we have any Mandarin speaking volunteers to talk to her.

The volunteer said she’d call by this week, but I have yet to get any feedback.

Today I was on clinic duty. There was only 1 new case referred. Lai, a 20 year old girl, found out about her HIV after she donated blood during a blood donation drive near her place late last year. It was her first time donating blood. Staying with her family, Lai said none of her family members are aware of her HIV.

Me: Habis, you datang hospital ni family tak tanya ka pasal apa?

Lai: Tak, dia orang ingat saya keluar pergi pekan saja.

Me: Tak mau bagitau ka?

Lai: Tak payah lar. Saya dengan family tak ngam. Selalu kalau adik buat salah pun saya juga kena marah. Kalau tau saya ada ini sakit, nanti lagi bising lor.

Me: Habis, ada tak orang lain yang tau you ada HIV?

Lai: Saya punya kakak angkat. Boyfriend saya pun tau.

Me: Boyfriend sudah test?

Lai: Sudah, dia negatif.

Me: Dia okay tak? Bagi you support?

Lai: Dia okay. Sekarang apa2 pun saya cakap sama dia sajalah.

For the moment it looks as though she’ll never tell her family. It was our first meet but yet she openly admitted she doesn’t get along with her family at all. Although she still stays with them, she feels as though they don’t love her, always blaming her for anything. Which is why most of the time she prefers to go out.

Not wanting to be too dependent on her parents, she has got herself a job, as an assistant at a kindergarten. Frankly, I think it is a matter of time before she decides to move out and stay on her own, or with her boyfriend…

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

100th International Women’s Day

iwd_2011

Today is the 100th anniversary of the International Women’s Day

I’m reproducing one of my postings made during my early blogging days to dedicate this posting to all HIV-infected women.

Why?

Because most of the HIV-infected women I know are just victims who got HIV from their husbands.

Imagine… happily getting married and the joy felt when told they were pregnant.

Imagine… happily going to the clinic for their pregnancy tests… and after all the tests were done… they were told they were found to be HIV positive! The whole world seemed to have collapsed before them!

Imagine… the stigma and discrimination they faced when their families, friends and neighbours found out.

Imagine… having to be the sole bread-winner of the family when their husbands die or become too weak to work. Not an easy task with all the discrimination they have to face. And tougher still, if they had never worked before.

But these are strong-willed women. And when there’s a will, there’s a way! They were not about to destroy their whole lives because of HIV. Life must go on!

Despite all the setbacks, they went on to work, not so much for themselves, but for their children. Some had to work even harder than the rest of us non-infected people. They want to make sure their children have enough to eat. They want to ensure a better future for their children.

I have seen how many of them suffered – mentally and physically. But for the sake of their children, they survived!

That’s how strong these women are. For that, I salute them.

HIV women – this one’s for you!

Happy International Women’s Day!

Friday, 4 March 2011

4 years old TWIST…

I just realised that today, 4th March 2011, is the 4th anniversary of Pi’s TWIST!!

My first ever blog posting was on 4th March 2007, with arwah Kak Ruby Ahmad as the first person ever to comment on my blog, also on the same day.

I have blogged about many of my clients… I can’t even recall how many of them. The ones who have already left us like Rose, Lily, Rina, Azman & Rashid. The unwed pregnancies… Zana, Sharifah and Azimah. The babies born to mothers who are young enough to be my daughter… (surely my little Cek Mek and baby So’od stole the limelight), and not forgetting the other pregnancy cases I’ve been dealing with… Maria, Sha, Fuzi, Yah, Asiah, Ina…

I have blogged about the children… especially the ones taken care by single mothers. The ones whom I’ve brought out shopping for their schooling needs, the ones needing help for their schooling…

I have blogged about my home visits and deliveries of groceries and bicycles…

I have blogged about our Family Day outings… Lost World of Tambun in 2007, Taiping Zoo in 2008, National Stud Farm in 2009 and back to LWOT again in 2010.

I have blogged about my clinic duties in Ipoh and Taiping… the various types of people I see at the clinic.

I have blogged about the talks I gave and the exhibitions we participated in… to give awareness to the public on the subject of HIV/AIDS.

And oh, of course, from time to time I do also apply my 3M in this blog… merepek, merapu, meracau… :)

I am not too sure how long I will continue to blog, but I guess as long as I am still active in this line of voluntary work, I shall continue to bore you with my stories.

Hopefully after 4 years, you are not THAT bored yet with…

eyes

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Sending the homeless…

During my clinic duty last week, 2 cases of homeless PLHIV were referred to me: Lee and Kasim Teoh.

Lee was initially warded at Ipoh Hospital but later transferred to Batu Gajah hospital because he was supposed to have been discharged but he didn’t have a home to go back to. So they sent him to Batu Gajah instead. Kasim Teoh was still in Ipoh GH.

SN had already found 2 shelter homes for them including a Muslim home for Kasim, who became a Muslim about 5 years ago. However, since the 2 were supposed to be discharged, not transferred, use of hospital transportation was out of the question. So SN sought my help to arrange for transportation.

I managed to get someone to sponsor the transportation cost, even a taxi, but SN advised against letting them go on their own. I wouldn’t mind sending them, but these are guys… I’d need a male volunteer to help out as well. I finally got one of our young male volunteer to agree to come along.

I was hoping to meet up with the person in charge of the Muslim home as I didn’t know about the home until SN told me about it.

But just after I finalised plans with SN to send the 2 to KL on Thursday (today), SN called to inform me that Kasim had passed away the night before. So there was only Lee left to send. I sought SN’s help to make the necessary arrangements regarding the referral letters from the ID specialist and the discharge letters from the district hospital.

So this morning I left home at 8 am, went to the Buddies Centre to fetch my colleague, then off to Ipoh GH ID clinic to get the referral letter from SN. Thank goodness I had a colleague with me so I didn’t have to worry about parking the car. I waited in the car while my colleague went to get the letter, the phone number of the person in charge of the shelter home, and to get SN to call the district hospital to inform them that we were on our way.

From Ipoh GH, on to Batu Gajah Hospital. When we got to the ward, Lee was on his bed, still in hospital clothes. Duh! I thought SN had called them to inform them we were coming and to make sure he was ready?? Well, never mind, I thought, I just told him to get ready. He got up, tidied up the hospital clothes he was wearing and took out a small plastic bag from the drawer by his bedside.

You tak tukar baju ka?” I asked.

Baju tadak!” he replied.

Yikes, were we supposed to bring him with us in his hospital clothes?! Had I known earlier he didn’t have any clothes, I would have brought along some of the used clothes we still have at our center. But I wasn’t about to drive back all the way to Ipoh to get the clothes.

I then went to ask the nurse. She asked if we could arrange to return the hospital clothes to them later. Adoi… bila masa pulak nak hantar balik baju ni once we bring the guy to KL?

It was about 9.15 am then. Most of the shops in Batu Gajah were not opened yet. Thank goodness we managed to find one minimarket opened. So I passed some money to my colleague and got him to go down and buy 2 pairs of tee-shirts and trackbottoms. I wasn’t about to let Lee out in town in his hospital clothes, people may think we kidnapped him from the hospital! My colleague didn’t take too long. He got back into the car with a plastic bag of new tee-shirts and trackbottoms and passed me the receipt. On the receipt, printed in English was, “Goods sold are not returnable.” Then came the translation in Malay, “Seluar dalam tidak boleh ditukar.”  Errrrr…. helloo??? (we didn’t buy any seluar dalam for Lee though…)

Anyway, since we were still in Batu Gajah town, we decided to go back to the hospital so Lee could change his clothes and we could return the hospital clothes immediately instead of having to come back later. The moment he came out of the toilet with his new clothes, his friends in the ward all teased him, “Waaaa… banyak handsome laaa!!” They had never seen him in anything other than hospital clothes before!!

That done, we continued our journey to Sg Buluh Hospital. It was about 10 am then. The shelter home is in Batu Arang, but SN made arrangements with the people at the shelter home to come pick Lee up at Sg Buluh Hospital to make it easier for us. It would be nearer for us. Besides, they do go to the hospital almost every day as they have other PLHIVs at their home needing to go for their appointments.

We reached Sg Buluh Hospital at about 11.45 am. The moment we got in the entrance, I told my colleague to call the person in charge of the shelter home. We were then told to wait near the cafeteria. So I dropped off Lee and my colleague in front of the cafeteria and went to look for parking. Lucky me I managed to find a parking space within just a few minutes.

I then went to join Lee and my colleague who were waiting near the cafeteria. No sight of anyone from the shelter home yet. We didn’t know how this person looked like and he didn’t know how we looked like either. So I called the person and he said he was in a white van in front of the guards near the cafeteria. I then turned around and saw a guy in a white van, talking on the phone. Oh yes, he was talking to me!

We immediately told Lee to get into the van, and I passed all the necessary documents to the guy from the shelter home. I also told him that Lee doesn’t have any clothes except the ones he was wearing and the extra pair we had bought earlier today. The guy told me he’d take care of it.

So yes, job done - handed over the responsibility to the shelter home. I was hungry by then, and since we were already near the cafeteria, I figured we might as well have our lunch there, and then left immediately after lunch. Just made one more stop in Tapah for prayers and managed to reach Ipoh in time for me to attend a meeting at 3 pm…