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)

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Our first meeting for the year

We had our first meeting of the year last night. So many things discussed, particularly our plans for the year. Among others…

1. Our AGM fixed for March. Coordinators to prepare all the necessary reports. This year there will also be committee elections. Hopefully we can get enough volunteers willing to be board members (rather than being bored members!).

2. With our Children Education Fund (CEF) depleting, we’ve decided to allocate the whole RM20K received from Yayasan Sultan Azlan Shah last year to CEF. At least we don’t have to worry about not having enough funds for the children’s bus fares etc in the middle of the year.

3. There will be 2 major conferences this year: The IAS Conference to be held in KL from 30th June to 3rd July and ICAAP in Bangkok from 18th to 22nd November. We had to discuss on the budget to be approved. We don’t usually bother to apply for scholarships as we know our chances to get them are almost zero.

4. Since July and August will be fasting/Raya months, we’ve decided to have our Family Day later than usual…. in early September, after Raya.

5. Our first exhibition for the year will be in March (unless before that somebody else offers us to set up an exhibition booth elsewhere.

6. We’re getting our volunteers to update all their clients’ particulars so we can keep them in our files. That way at least if a volunteer leaves us, the latest contact number and info of his/her clients would be readily available in the files.

I have begun to pass a few of my many clients to new volunteers. Hopefully that way I will be able to pay attention to the ones needing more help.

I think it’s going to be a busy year ahead…

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Our Children Education Fund

When I went to the Buddies Centre last week to get some admin matters sorted out, I saw a printout of the draft Buddies financial statement as at November 2012. At the the bottom of the page was a handwritten note by the treasurer, seeking my help to check the accounting file in the computer, as he was unable to get the accounts balanced.

Actually when I was the treasurer way back in 2007, I had already done a formatted excel file for the Buddies accounts whereby we’d only need to enter the transactions on the first sheet and the other reports on the other sheets would be automatically updated with the figures. If somehow the reports at the other sheets don’t balance, that would mean we must have made a wrong or insufficient entry somewhere on the first page.

So when my treasurer told me he couldn’t get the accounts to balance, I knew it would have something to do with his entries on the first sheet of the financial statement file. Indeed it was, it took me less than 10 minutes to fix the problem.

But what really caught my eye was the amount spent and the balance available under our Children Education Fund (CEF). As at November 2012, we had already spent over RM20K for the children’s schooling expenses and the fund is fast depleting.

Not surprising really. I noticed we’ve been getting more clients needing help for their children’s back-to-school expenses. As compared to previously when our CEF only covers for about 20 children at the most, for 2012 we covered the schooling expenses for more than 50 children.

And that is why I screen through all the schooling claims especially the clients who bought the stuff first and submit the receipts later to be reimbursed. I noticed that a few clients, knowing that they could get reimbursement on their children’s schooling expenses, bought items like slippers and included them in the receipts, or bought 2 separate bags – one as school bag, and the other as tuition bag, or there was another receipt I saw from a client who bought 2 dozens of pens (for only 2 schooling children) at a price of over RM30 (just for the pens!).

I know the price of things have generally gone up. But we are here to help them with BASIC schooling necessities, not pamper them by buying them everything.

That said, many of our clients do need financial assistance for their children’s education. And with more children being covered by our CEF of late, it’s not a surprise that the fund is fast depleting.

We will have to find ways and means to raise more funds for this purpose.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Update on Sofie’s children

When Sofie was still alive, I used to visit the family on weekdays without much problem. (I prefer to keep Sundays for myself. Hey, I need a break too.) Even during the time when she had started her nasi lemak stall, she’d usually be home by 11 am. So I’d usually go in the afternoon to visit her family.

But ever since Sofie died in Aprill 2012, the sister Sofie trusted most, Rozi, took over as the new guardian. Rozi works Mondays to Fridays and would usually only be home at night. Nope I don’t do house visits at night either.

From time to time I do go on weekdays to visit the kids when their aunt Rozi isn’t around, but whenever I need to discuss some matters with Rozi, I’d have to wait for Sundays to visit them.

So yep, last Sunday I went to visit. Rozi knew I was coming. When I got to their house, the gate was open, the front door was open, but there didn’t seem to be anybody around! As I got down from my car, Saiful, Sofie’s 3rd child saw me and said, “Eh, makcik dah sampai!” Apparently Rozi, Saiful, Ika and Rozi’s son were at the neighbour’s house, just finished their lunch.

They had actually been painting their house in the morning (the landlord paid for the paint and they agreed to paint the house themselves) and with the house in a mess and smelling of paint, Rozi did not cook. When the neighbour, the same one who had been giving free tuition to Saiful and Ika, invited them over for lunch, they simply couldn’t say no.

Anyway, I was told Azlan, Sofie’s eldest son, was home for the weekend, but had gone out with his cousin. Azlan had completed and passed his first semester exam in IKM and has turned out to be a very responsible boy now. He is in fact already planning to go on to diploma level after he completes his certificate course in another 3 semesters.

The same can’t be said about Sofie’s second son, Azman. Having wanted to quit school immediately after his PMR (as a matter of fact he did not go to school when he should have), I paved the way for him to join a culinary school, knowing that’s where his interest lies. Azman was happy when I arranged for him to join the culinary school. Initially he did okay, but somehow along the way, he became big-headed, he started spending as though he was rich, and he seldom went home. When Sofie died, he got even worse, going back only to the home of his other aunt who had once told the whole kampong about Sofie’s HIV. When Azlan, the older brother, tried to advise him, they almost ended up in a fist-fight!

Azman had stopped going to the culinary school, before even completing his one year course. What a waste! Now he’s doing odd jobs and no longer goes to see his siblings. He prefers to stay with the other aunt who doesn’t encourage him to continue his studies. I can just hope that Azman will come to his senses soon before he wastes his whole future.

The 3rd child, Saiful, is in form 3 this year. He too, like his brothers, are not too much into academics, but I could see his interest lies in the mechanical field. I think it’s probably best for him to join a vocational school next year, after PMR. Saiful himself is keen on the idea.

Ika, the youngest, seems to be doing better academically, although according to her aunt Rozi, she’d have to be reminded time and again to complete her homework every time.

I always remind them about the importance of education for their future. I hope they will work hard enough to get something more than just PMR or SPM. For the moment, Azman seems to be in a gone-case situation. But I hope Azlan, Saiful and ika, who I know are as disappointed with Azman as I am, will take their brother’s situation as a reminder for themselves NOT to do what he did. I know these 3 are at least happy staying with their aunt Rozi, just like Sofie would have wanted them to be.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

First week of 2013: 4 house visits

After rounds and rounds of back-to-school shopping in December 2012, I still could not settle all the children’s schooling needs. Why? Because for many of the children, they had to wait until school reopens before they can get the full list of payments needed.

So yep, although we’re still within the first week of 2013, I have already visited 3 poor families with schooling children at their homes., and another one later today.

First up was Lin. Her son had completed his SPM, so this year only her youngest daughter is under sponsorship. She’s in form 4 this year and next year will be the final year of sponsorship for this family.

 

I went to visit them on Thursday afternoon. Lin was sewing when I got to her house. Her 3rd daughter will be getting engaged some time mid-January, and so there were quite some things for her to prepare. And yes, this is the first of her children to get hitched, although the girl is her 3rd daughter.

This family is doing not too bad now that the 3rd daughter has a permanent job, while the eldest is still looking around for a permanent job with her nursing diploma. The second daughter is in her final year in a university abroad and should be able to obtain her medical degree before the end of this year.

Yesterday, Saturday 5th January, I decided to visit Laila. Remember Laila, the one and only daughter of the late Shila? Well, the girl is already in form one this year. I had wanted to visit during the school holidays, but she was at her paternal grandparent’s kampong in another state. She’s still the same shy girl though, only came out to salam, then she went back in to get the details of her school payments etc, and then she went back in again. While I was chatting with her grandma, I heard her aunt telling her, “Keluar ajelah, nak segan apa?” Apparently Laila made a drink for me but was too shy to come out to serve me. She ended up passing the mug of iced milo to her 5 year old cousin to be handed over to me.

Anyway, Laila had improved a whole lot academically.  She scored 3A 1B and 1C for her UPSR last year. For someone who had never got any A’s in her exams before this, that was quite an achievement. If Shila was still alive, she would have been very proud of her girl. I hope she will continue to strive to do better.

From Laila’s place, I headed over to the home of Jayanthi. This is not my client, but I had been to her house once with her originally assigned Buddy. The originally assigned volunteer is now no longer with Buddies, and my last call to Jayanthi’s number didn’t get thorough. But on Friday, Jayanthi herself called me up to ask if they could get assistance for her children’s education. And since on my way back from Laila’s place, I’d be passing her place, I figured I might as well visit her after visiting Laila.

The last time I went to visit, the volunteer who confidently told me finding Jayanthi’s house was easy, ended up confused, thus confusing as well. His excuse was that he usually went by motorbike and so when we went by car, he couldn’t remember which road to take. Huh?? What an excuse! The truth was, while he told me he used to visit this client every 2 months, in actual fact he had not been visiting them for almost 2 years.

Yesterday I went again, accompanied by Mrs G. That’s my GPS. Didn’t really give me accurate direction to Jayanthi’s house, asking me to u-turn when I didn’t have to, but good enough to bring me to the area which looked familiar enough and so I managed to get to Jayanthi’s house without getting lost. Her dog was barking away like mad when I got down from my car, and so I waited outside until Jayanthi’s son held the dog, telling it to keep quiet.

After calculating the fees etc that needed to be paid for Jayanthi’s 4 primary school sons, I handed over some cash to her.

Terima kasih banyak puan. Dulu anam taun sama itu **** (the former Buddy), dia janji macam-macam bantuan sama saya tapi satu sen pun saya tada dapat.”

I will now need to assign her a new Buddy to follow up on her family.

That’s 3 families covered. I am scheduled to visit Sofie’s children later today. Will update on that later.