With more and more children covered by our Education Sponsorship program or the Children Education Fund, this year I need to really plan for back-to-school-shopping (BTSS) in various towns for various families. Most of them will join the Ipoh and Taiping BTSS though, so for the 2, I need help from my fellow volunteers to help me out. So for those 2 towns, I purposely arranged for the BTSS to be held on a Saturday so that my volunteers can join me.
However, for the smaller towns where I only have a few clients, I decided to go alone on weekdays.
I started off yesterday in Kuala Kangsar. One of the families needed a pair of bicycles as well for the 2 children to ride to school, and since the bicycles are usually cheaper at the shop I usually go to in Ipoh, I decided to buy in Ipoh and carry them in my Kenari to be delivered to this family at their kampong before taking them to town to shop for their schooling needs. Meanwhile, since another client of mine whose children are also under sponsorship, stays further in Pengkalan Hulu, had agreed to meet up in Kuala Kangsar, I told her to meet me at the specified place at 10 am.
So there we were, myself, my 2 clients and 4 children (2 secondary and 2 primary) choosing uniforms, shoes, bags and stationeries for next year’s schooling. More expenses for the secondary school girls definitely, since they also needed scientific calculators and geometry sets. Paid a total of RM1,105 for all 4 of them.
This morning was round 2 of my BTSS. 3 more families were supposed to meet up with me at a specified shop in Slim River, but one client called me yesterday to inform me she wouldn’t be able to make it as she needed to be elsewhere. We agreed that she should just buy whatever necessities, send the receipts to me and I’d reimburse her the amount (subject to a specified maximum limit).
The particular shop was chosen based on the recommendation of one of my clients. I am not familiar with Slim River and so I wouldn’t know where would be the best one-stop shopping place for schooling needs. Since the shop is not listed in my GPS, I asked client for a nearby landmark. True enough, the landmark she mentioned was really near the shop and so it was easy for me to find the place.
One client came with her 3 children, 2 boys in secondary school and a girl still in primary school. Another client, who had to go to the hospital in town to get her supply of meds for the month, came slightly later with her 5 year old daughter. Her older children (from her first marriage) are no longer in school and so they don’t get any more education assistance from us. Since our CEF also covers assistance for pre-school, client brought her youngest daughter so we could buy shoes, bags, t-shirts and other basic necessities for the girl. It didn’t take too long to buy things for just this one girl, so before long they were done and left.
When the shop owner found out that I would be paying for both families, and I told her that it was my NGO project to assist with the educational needs of poor families (of course I didn’t go into further details as to how these cases were referred to us), she actually gave a discount for EVERY single item bought. One of the boys, who will be in form 5 next year, also needed a pair of Boy Scouts uniform. He had been wearing the same one for so many years, it is getting a bit too tight for him already. They sought my permission first of course, and I gave the go-ahead.
All in, I paid a total of RM873.50 for today’s shopping (including for the pre-school girl), thanks to the discounts given by the shop owner. It could have easily reached RM1K without the discounts.
By the time I paid up for everything and we were about to leave, client, who looked calm and was smiling when she first arrived, became somewhat emotional. Holding back tears in her eyes, she hugged and thanked me for helping her out. She wouldn’t have been able to fork out on her own, the amount paid for her children’s schooling needs.
To me it’s simple. As long as the children sees the importance of education, I am more than happy to help. I know of another client, Lin, who only went to school up to standard 6, because by the time she was supposed to go to form one, her parents couldn’t afford to buy her school uniforms and other schooling needs.
We don’t want these children to be deprived of education because of poverty, and end up inheriting their parent’s poverty. To change their future, education is the key.
And the success stories I see in some of these families, for example Lin’s family (her 3 older children completed their studies including one who became a doctor), motivates me to keep on helping the poor families, despite a few frustrating failure stories.
Round 3 of BTSS will be this Saturday in Ipoh. More families and more children expected this time around.