With 150 pax in attendance for our recent Family Day, and half of them being families of my clients, it wasn’t an easy task for me to speak to each and every one of my clients. It was especially harder when you’re the organiser trying to ensure everything runs smoothly.
All in all, 19 of my clients joined the event with their family members. I personally went to fetch Laila, who came with her grandma, her aunt and 2 little cousins. Laila, an orphan, is not HIV+, but her mother, Shila, was. Since Shila died in 2011, Laila had been staying with her grandma and her aunt at the same house Shila used to stay in. Laila is in form 3 this year, and will be sitting for her PT3 exams after the coming one week school break.
Ija, another client who I had lost contact with (she changed her phone number without informing me) until just recently, came with her 9 year old son. Although Ija was excited to join, she did feel somewhat intimidated. So when she reached the parking lot of LWOT where they were all told to assemble, she texted me first, telling me that she was already there and asked if she was at the right place. Later towards the end of the whole event, I managed to find some time to speak to her, and she told me that after having made many new friends, she no longer feels intimidated. Good to know her confidence level has been boosted.
I did go around to at least say hi to all my clients, especially the first timers at the event, to make sure they felt welcomed.
As for the old timers, many of them already knew some of my other volunteers, so it wasn’t a problem for them to feel comfortable.
Ida and Iza, 2 good friends, had more than enough confidence mixing around with the other clients. They had already met people like Nora and Mrs K before this, and so to them it was just like meeting up with old friends.
The group from northern Perak already had ample time to get to know each other during the one hour bus ride from Taiping. Among those in that group were Dahlia’s family, the family I still visit on a regular basis due to their situation. Dahlia’s daughter Dilla, was the girl who was raped last year when she was still in form 3 and now Dilla, only 16, already has an 8 month old daughter. All 6 of Dahlia’s children, and her grand-daughter, had a splashing time at the park. I joined them in the kiddies pool for a while to snap some photos, and Dilla took really good care of not only her daughter, but also her other siblings. With her 14 year old brother responsibly helping out, the younger kids were in good hands. Even my other volunteers commented that Dilla seemed very mature for a 16 year old.
Dahlia herself did not join her children in the pool as she didn’t bring any change of clothes. So after I was done taking pictures of the children in the kiddies pool, and with the kids in good hands, I invited Dahlia to join me for a walk around the park.
After lunch break, I went around our reserved huts to chat with some other clients. Kak Mimi, who came together with Rubi (they stay in the same town and have been good friends), told me of the recent flash floods. I did visit both Kak Mimi and Rubi during the month of Ramadhan recently, and frankly I was quite concerned seeing Kak Mimi’s house being quite near a river. True enough, just last week, during heavy rain, water came up to waist level, and many of her household items were destroyed.
I was also shocked to learn that Rubi’s house too was affected. Her house is perched on a hill, and so while she wasn’t affected by water from the river, her house was filled with mud which came from higher up the hill.
Unlike a few other clients (like Sulaiman, who stays in the same town as Kak Mimi and Rubi) who’d ask for help even for non-essentials, Kak Mimi and Rubi went on with their lives despite the recent disaster. To them, they weren’t the only ones affected, and so if help comes along, they’re grateful. If not, they should just go on with life, making do with what they have. I truly salute these tough ladies!
I also had the chance to have a short chat with Zainab, who told me that she and her family plan to move back to her kampong by the end of the year. Zainab, who now works at a factory in Ipoh, says she can no longer take the long hours (for the record, her husband doesn’t work and every time he gets a job, he’d somehow find an excuse to quit after just a few weeks). At least at her kampong, Zainab has other family members to depend on whenever she’s desperate. Zainab asked if her children would still be eligible under our Children Education Fund after they move back to her kampong, which is in another state. I had to say no, because our guidelines clearly indicate that the educational assistance is only for children of our clients in Perak only. The only place outside Perak with exception is Cameron Highlands, because HIV cases in CH are usually referred to HRPB Ipoh, and thus referred to Buddies for social support.
My other clients who came seemed to be doing just fine. Or maybe because they saw I was busy they didn’t want to bother me. But I do know for a fact that the majority of them are grateful for the opportunity given to them by Buddies.
We are not going to let the few ungrateful ones stop us from continuing what we love to do.