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

Friday, 25 May 2012

Visiting Jayanthi

When I went to the doctor’s room to inform the nurses that I was leaving after my clinic duty on Wednesday, the doctor, who was talking on the phone then, signalled to me to wait a while. She wanted to speak to me about Jayanthi. This wasn’t a new case, she had been a client of Buddies for a few years already, assigned under a Tamil-speaking volunteer.

The doctor wanted me to re-assess her case as her children needed help and the doc knows we do give financial assistance for the children’s education. Jayanthi’s condition had worsened, and it was her mother, now the breadwinner for the family, who sought assistance for her grandchildren. She did tell the doctor that the children do get some sort of assistance from the school, but the doc wasn’t too sure what kind of help they were getting.

Jayanthi had been one of those non-compliant cases – always defaulting her appointments. She was first diagnosed positive after she gave birth to her youngest son 6 years ago. Her son too, apparently was tested positive, but Jayanthi never brought him for further tests or check-ups. The paediatrician handling the case had even sent his team to look for them at home, but she was never home.

That was until recently when Jayanthi’s condition worsened. Like it or not, she was in and out of the hospital so often for various illnesses. So now she’s back on ARV medication. She’s still too weak to work, and now stays with her mother at her mother’s house.

I immediately informed the volunteer handling the case to follow up on Jayanthi and find out what kind of assistance they need. I was more concerned about the children’s educational needs.

Yesterday, a call came in on my phone from an unfamiliar number. The lady who called said she got my number from the doctor and told me that her family needed help. Luckily the doctor had already informed me about this case and so it didn’t take me too long to figure out who called. The lady who called was Jayanthi’s mother. When I mentioned the name of the volunteer in charge, she said it had been more than a year since he called or visited. When I said I’d remind the volunteer to visit and assess the family’s situation, the lady kept on telling me about her worries… she’s getting old, her daughter’s unwell… what would happen to her grandchildren…

Finally when I said I’d visit her myself, she sounded happier and kept on saying thank you. Since I was free the next day (that’s today, Friday), I immediately arranged with the assigned volunteer to visit together.

So this afternoon, I went to our center to fetch the assigned volunteer. When asked if he remembered how to get to the house, he confidently said the house was easy to find, not far off from the main road, so he said.

The moment we got into the housing area, he began to get confused, thus confusing me as well. Suddenly the excuse was that he usually came by motorbike and so he got confused. Duh! By car or motorbike, we had to go through the same route! And then when we finally found the right street, and he said it was house number 2. So I stopped at house number 2, asked him if that was the house, and he confidently said yes. Then the occupant came out, and when we asked, didn’t even know who Jayanthi was. Wrong house!

Then I called Jayanthi’s mother, asking for the address. The line wasn’t clear, and so “dua puluh enam” sounded more like “nombor 6”. So we went to house number 6 and I asked the assigned volunteer if that was the house. Again, he confidently said yes. “Sure?” I asked. “Yes, very sure,” he said. Out came the occupant…. wrong house again. Whoa! I think my late grandma was better at this… even though she may not know the way to a house that she had been to, at least once we got to the house, she’d know for certain whether or not it’s the right house!

When I asked if he couldn’t even remember if the house looked familiar, he said all the houses looked the same. We finally called Jayanthi’s mother again, and finally we got Jayanthi’s house. The house looked TOTALLY different than the 2 wrong houses we got earlier! And he claimed he used to visit once every 2 months. Sigh…

Anyway, Jayanthi’s mother was not back from work yet but Jayanthi and all her 4 sons were home. Just as we were to get inside the gate, the dog was barking furiously. The dog was tied, but still, Jayanthi got one of her sons to hold on to the dog. The dog calmed down as soon as we got into the house and out of his sight.

Jayanthi has 4 kids, all boys, age ranging from 6 to 11. The 3 older ones go to a Chinese school. The school it seems, does help out quite a lot. They help to pay for the children’s fees and workbooks. The only educational needs they had to pay on their own were their uniforms and transport to go to school. We should be able to cover for their uniforms and transportation to school.

When we asked for her bank account number, she told us her bank book and ATM card are being held by a money-lender. Apparently when her husband died, she got desperate and borrowed some money from a money-lender. She had to let the money lender hold her bank book and ATM card as guarantee.

Jayanthi had been getting welfare aid for her children for a few years already. The money goes into the bank account – the same one held by the money lender. So the money lender would withdraw the money, takes half and hands over the other half only after he had taken his share. Am not sure if the amount taken was part payment for the loan, or just for the interest.

So nope, giving her the financial assistance for the children’s transportation to school through the same bank account is out of the question. I was initially thinking of giving the monthly assistance through her mother’s bank account when she suddenly mentioned she does have an account in another bank. Initially she thought we would require an account in a particular bank, but when I mentioned it didn’t matter which bank, she finally gave me the number of her other bank account.

We then asked about her HIV+ son and was surprised when she told us that the positive child was actually the 11 year old boy, the eldest. Previously the older boys were never tested. They finally got tested 2 years ago and that was when the eldest boy was found to be positive. When we asked about the youngest son, Jayanthi said the boy “no longer has HIV”. It’s the eldest son who now needs to take ARV, not the youngest.

Huh? Well, I think we’d need to check with the doctor handling the child’s case….

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