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, 10 June 2015

All in a week’s (voluntary) work

While I was at the highway heading to Kedah last Thursday for the humanitarian mission for Rohingya refugees, a fellow volunteer sent me a message, asking for my opinion on who to assign as the buddy for a new case. He forwarded a copy of the particulars for the new case, but it was rather difficult for me to read all the details in the car, on my handphone, although I wasn’t the one driving. So I told my colleague I’d get back to him the next day.

Then while I was at the immigration depot, a call came in from a nurse at Taiping Hospital, asking if I could assist with another case. It wasn’t convenient to talk at that time, so I just told her to send me the guy’s details via sms, so I could follow up on the case later.

On Friday, I managed to get a good look at the first contact details forwarded to me by my fellow volunteer, and seeing that the lady stays in a town where I already have a few clients, I figured I might as well take up the case.

On Monday I was on clinic duty. For the past few clinic duties I attended, there were no new cases referred to me. I figured even if there were to be no new cases that day, I’d still need to go to the hospital because an old client of mine had texted me earlier, asking to meet up as she said she needed to have a chat with me.

The client, Imah, came with her 5 year old son. “Apa cerita?”, I asked. “Tak ada apa, saja dah lama tak sembang dengan akak,” came the reply. I knew it had to be more than just to have a chat, and true enough, I was right. She had been having some problems with her husband lately and all she wanted was someone to talk it out to. You see, the present husband is confirmed hiv negative. Imah was infected by her first husband. When Imah married her present husband, both of them already had grown-up children of their own. But her husband’s children didn’t know of her HIV status. Her husband told her that there was no need for him to tell his children.

After a while, the husband did end up telling his children about Imah’s HIV status. Since then, his children started to say all sorts of bad things about Imah, causing the pair to argue a lot. It came to a point when Imah thought their marriage was about to end, that was when she contacted me asking if we could meet up.

However, by the time Imah came to see me on Monday, the pair was already back on good terms with each other. But after all that she went through, this time Imah wanted to be more prepared. She wants to be more financially independent, and so she sought my advice on how to do just that.

Anyway, back to my clinic duty, I was told there were 2 new cases to be referred to me that day, so while waiting for the cases, I decided to call the guy who was referred to me by the nurse from Taiping Hospital, just to get some basic info about his problems. Single, not working, stays with younger brother who’s also not working. Hmmm… he can’t expect us to give him cash, especially since the younger brother is healthy and able to work (he claims he himself is too weak to work any longer). I decided to pass the case to a male volunteer so he could maybe arrange to meet up with the guy and assess the case.

As for the 2 new cases, both involved pregnant ladies. For the first case, a young couple came in together with their 2 young kids. The lady is already in her final trimester of her pregnancy, but somehow was not detected HIV+ during earlier blood tests. Recently, when her husband was hospitalised and was found to be HIV+, another blood test was done on the lady, and only then it was found that she too was infected. I decided to pass the case to another volunteer who stays in the same town as the couple.

Then came in the second case. After being involved in this voluntary work for over 10 years now, I thought I had seen them all. But my jaw dropped when I was told the details of this case. A 28 year old female, never married, 6 children from 6 earlier pregnancies, and now pregnant with her 7th. Wow!!! 5 of her children had been given up for adoption. She’s only taking care of her 4th child, who is 6 years old this year. Which means she gave birth to her 4th child at the age of 22, and so her 3 older children were born when she was even younger. Her own family, staying in another state, do not know about all her unwed pregnancies except one… the one child that she’s taking care of now. She now stays with someone she calls her mak angkat who is aware of her unwed pregnancies but doesn’t know about her HIV status.

Wow, this lady sure knows how to keep secrets, doesn’t she? Anyway, she plans to keep the baby she’s due to deliver in a few week’s time and was seeking my advice on how to make a living while taking care of the 2 children at the same time. She can’t be too dependent on her mak angkat she said. Told her to concentrate on the soon-to-be-born baby first, then we’ll think of something later.

Yesterday, I tried to call the new client assigned to me (the one my colleague texted me about while I was on my way to Kedah last week). She didn’t answer the call. I then sent her a message, explaining to her who I was, and that I’d wait for her reply before I proceed further. There was no reply either. I figured either she wasn’t too keen on having a buddy, or she wasn’t ready. I decided to just let it be and give her some space.

While I was out shopping for some necessities yesterday, a call came in from a lady, seeking help for her 20 year old HIV+ sis-in-law (infected since birth). She had already called me much earlier to seek advice, and she said she’d call me back soon. But she never called back, and so I thought she managed to settle the concerns she had with her SIL. Yesterday she called asking if we could meet up and discuss the matter. “I ingat I boleh handle tapi tak boleh la!”

We decided to meet up today. She brought along her SIL’s first child (unwed pregnancy) whom she has officially adopted. There wasn’t much she could do about the SIL’s second unwed pregnancy as none of the family members were even aware about it. They only knew about it a few weeks ago, months after the baby was given up for adoption to total strangers. Anyway, I salute this lady for not giving up on her SIL. She wants her to be empowered, but for the moment she’s worried that her SIL doesn’t seem to care about her future… going out every night with a new boyfriend and coming back late at night. She tried to get the SIL involved in a new business (the lady runs her own business) but to no avail. The SIL goes to work just to get the income, so she had money to spend when she goes out at night. To her, being HIV+, she wants to enjoy life while she can. But having been taking HAART all her life, her CD4 is high and viral load undetectable. God willing, she still has a long life ahead of her.

There’s not really much I can do if the girl herself isn’t too keen to change for her own good. But I told the lady to find out what her SIL’s true interests are. We need to get her to do something she’s passionate about. Unless and until we can get her to do so, it will be difficult to get her to change. So our next mission is to try and find out where her true interests lie.

Oh, remember the new client who didn’t answer my call and didn’t reply my message yesterday? She finally replied my message today and agreed to meet up this Friday.

And so another outstation trip is scheduled this Friday. Will also be sending some groceries to this single mother of 2 young children. While there, I might as well send some groceries to another client as well.

A busy week it has been, and a busy week ahead is foreseen.

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