While I was in Jogja for my break recently, the Buddies part time staff sent me a text message to inform me that a Malay lady, Nora, called our hotline number, seeking help. I was also given the lady’s phone number so I could call her back.
I wasn’t about to make any calls pertaining to my voluntary work from overseas, especially during my break, so I just replied the message, asking my part time staff to get hold of another volunteer, staying nearer to Nora’s place. I did receive whatsapp messages from this volunteer after she called Nora, giving me details of what kind of help Nora needed, but then again, a holiday is a holiday, so I did not respond to those messages. It’s a different story if they didn’t know I was having a break, OR if the matter was so urgent it couldn’t wait. This is, after all, voluntary work.
Anyway, after I got back from Jogja, the volunteer updated me again with a bit more details, and that she felt someone needed to visit Nora at home to assess her situation. The volunteer however, despite staying nearer (compared to Ipoh) to where Nora stays, did not dare visit alone by herself as the road leading to Nora’s kampong is a small lonely road. Furthermore, it was unfamiliar territory.
Since this volunteer was free this weekend, I offered to go for the visit together with her and another volunteer. All female volunteers, and all unfamiliar with the kampong we’d be visiting. Since the kampong is not listed in my GPS or Waze or even Google maps, I got my fellow volunteer who had been handling the initial calls to ask Nora for landmarks and directions. Nora’s directions sounded easy enough, after you reach certain school (which so happens to be listed in my GPS… yay!), you see a t-junction, take a left there.
Well, when we reached the said school, we drove straight on trying to find the t-junction. We didn’t find any. We asked an elderly man by the roadside, and had a tough time initially as he seemed to have some hearing problems. But the man was kind enough to draw us a map leading to the kampong we were heading to. His directions looked simple enough too. But as I drove further, it didn’t look promising either, and so we stopped to ask another guy at a stall by the roadside. This guy said he was from that particular kampong, and so his instructions should be more reliable. We had to turn back, and after one or more turns, we reached Nora’s kampong.
Only problem was, we tried calling Nora but couldn’t get through. Her only other directions given were… there’s a gas depot about 2km before her kampong, and that there was an electric cable in front of her house. Not much help there. We didn’t see any gas depot (we saw a minimarket selling cooking gas) and we saw a few electric cables. Yikes!
But we did manage to find the kampong, and so once there, we decided to stop and ask one of the residents there. Thank goodness, the lady we asked knew Nora. In fact, Nora’s house could actually be seen from this lady’s house. Oh, finally!
Nora stays at a PPRT house together with her husband and 6 year old daughter. Nora is also pregnant (which was how she found out about her HIV) and is due to deliver in August. They both do odd jobs to make a living, in fact most of the time, they survive on fruits/vegetables outside their home. Now the husband is very ill and unable to work, and since Nora has to take care of him, she too is unable to work.
When asked if her family members (parents, siblings etc) knew of their HIV status, Nora said not only her family, but the whole kampong knew. She wasn’t sure how the whole kampong knew, but when I asked if anyone at the Klinik Kesihatan (where she goes for her check-ups) knew her personally, the answer’s a yes. Hmmm… I know of a few other cases where the whole community found out about my clients’ HIV status if someone from the same community works at the hospital/clinic where the clients go to.
Anyway, first thing’s first. When she first called seeking help, she was in desperate need of food for her family. So today we brought along some groceries. Secondly, while Nora and her child went for further blood tests as required by the medical staff at the Klinik Kesihatan, her husband did not go along as he was too weak to get up. We told her to make sure he goes for the second blood test so that he can get a referral letter to see a specialist at the general hospital. Based on his physical condition, I believe he may have been infected for quite some time and that he needs to start on medication immediately. I gave her a small amount of cash to be used as taxi fare to take her husband for the blood tests.
Next up, her 6 year old daughter. Nora was afraid she may not afford to send her daughter to school next year. We told her to register her child for next year’s schooling session, after which we’d help out with the girl’s schooling needs.
Once things were sorted out, we left, and on our way back, we found the t-junction that Nora had told us about earlier. You see, you’d find the t-junction if you’re coming from Nora’s house, NOT from where we were coming from. DUH!