Having asked a colleague (fellow volunteer) to visit Maznah (the pregnant girl on methadone I blogged about earlier), and after getting a report from the colleague about the girl’s background, I decided I needed to visit Maznah myself before advising my colleague on what next to do. With so many complicated details, I think she too got confused with all the facts she took down.
So today, after zohor, I drove over to the hospital at the town where my colleague works, and where Maznah was warded. Based on the earlier info we got, Maznah was supposed to be warded until she delivers so that the doctors/nurses could monitor her methadone & ARV intake. So I figured I would have to visit her at the hospital.
Upon reaching the hospital, I had to wait for my colleague to come so that we could get in easier since it wasn’t visiting hours, and she being a doctor there, would get easier access into the ward. Turned out she forgot to bring her tag/pass and we almost got stopped by the guard upon entering the O&G ward! I took out my HRPB Ipoh special pass (which is actually only valid at HRPB, but at least it helped in explaining why we needed to go in) and the guard finally took us to see the Sister to get permission. Luckily the Sister recognised my colleague. So we were allowed in, only to find out that Maznah had been discharged a week earlier! My colleague couldn’t figure out where she placed the note book where she had earlier on jotted down all the details about Maznah, and so she didn’t have Maznah’s address. Thank God we could dig that out from the hospital records.
After getting some directions on how to get to the address given, off we went to visit Maznah at her mother’s house. First to get to a particular hotel… which I was told, known amongst the locals as a hotspot for prostitutes. Parked the car there, and asked someone at a nearby warong how to find Maznah’s house. The young lady we asked seemed reluctant to tell where the house was. She asked who we were looking for, and when told we wanted to visit Maznah, she asked why. Only when she was told that Maznah had already met my colleague earlier at the hospital, she told a small boy sitting in front of her to show us the way. Apparently the small boy was Maznah’s younger brother! And yes, without him showing the way, we probably would be walking in circles trying to find the house despite having the address.
It was a slum area, and we had to walk through small alleys between the houses to get to Maznah’s house.
As we got there, an elderly looking lady wearing t-shirt and shorts, holding a cigarette in her hand, met us first. She told us she was Maznah’s mother. Later I found out she was only 44. Younger than me. Seriously I thought she was much older. 2 little boys were playing inside a water tub. The house looked like it was built from discarded materials. Frankly speaking, it’s not fit to be called a house.
After a while Maznah came out, with a box of cigarettes in her hand. She recognised my colleague immediately. There was no living room for her to invite us in to, so we had a chat while just standing there – just at the entrance.
I was shocked to find out that 11 of them stayed there, including Maznah’s cousins and their children as well. The young lady we met earlier at the warong, was one of them. Another cousin, 18 years of age, is also pregnant. Apparently, in this family, getting pregnant out of wedlock, is nothing out of the ordinary. It was too sensitive a question to ask, but I believe, by the looks of it, that Maznah’s mother works as a prostitute to support the family.
Maznah’s 13 year old younger brother has stopped schooling as they could no longer afford to send him to school. He now works at a burger stall. Maznah’s 9 year old brother, the one who showed us the way to the house, is also not schooling. According to his mother, the boy doesn’t want to go to school. Maznah also has a 6 year old sister. These 3 younger siblings of Maznah’s, were all born out of wedlock. Maznah herself already has 2 children from earlier pregnancies. One given away to another family, while the other one, a boy, is now 6 years old, same age as Maznah’s youngest sister.
I asked Maznah if she wants to send her child to school. She said she does, but she may not be able to afford it. Likewise I asked her 6 year old sister if she wanted to go to school, the girl just smiled and nodded. I told Maznah we should be able to help out with the children’s schooling expenses, but she must promise to register them for standard one next year. Maznah seemed to appreciate the offered assistance, even though I only offered schooling assistance and nothing else.
With the kind of background they were brought up in, it’s difficult to change their lifestyle. Telling them what should and should not be done will not work. While we see their family as a problematic family, to their family, probably their only problem is financial, and nothing else. For the moment I just told my colleague to be a good friend to Maznah. Let her feel comfortable with us first. Things need to be done in a slow and steady manner.
My target now is so that the 2 younger children goes to school next year. Hopefully that will open them up to a totally different environment. Maznah and her mother both agreed that the 2 should go to school next year. To me that’s a good enough start…