Wednesday 9th December – Off I went to Slim River to cover the back-to-school shopping for one more family. There were supposed to be 2 families involved, but the other client had to go elsewhere and could not join us. I ended up just banking in a small amount of cash into her account so she could buy some school stuff for her youngest daughter, her only school-going child.
So this round of BTSS was only for one family of 2 school-going children. Client has 3 children, but her eldest son just completed his SPM recently and so he did not join us to shop for schooling needs. It didn’t take too long to complete this round of shopping, so heading back to Ipoh, I decided to follow the old road instead of the highway. It had been quite a while since I last used the old road.
Thursday 10th December – 2nd round of shopping for the Ipoh group, which included one family from Cameron Highlands. I had to fetch 2 families. First up was Aini’s youngest son, Hafiz. Since Aini herself was too weak to come along, while Hafiz’s eldest sister Erin just started work within the same week, Hafiz alone came with me. From there I went straight to Fuzi’s house to fetch Fuzi and her 2 younger sons, the only ones still schooling. Her eldest is already in a university, the 2nd just completed her STPM, while the 3rd quit school last year when he was in form 4. The boy is currently working.
When we got to the hypermarket, 2 boys who were already at the “back-to-school” section, looked as though they wanted to say something to me, but seemed unsure of themselves. I was expecting to meet Helena and her children there, but it has been a year since I last saw them (Helena is one of the “now-you-see-her-now-you-don’t” kind of clients who tend to miss her hospital appointments), and without Helena herself being there, I wasn’t sure myself if the two boys were hers.
“Helena punya anak ka?” I asked. The boys nodded. “You punya emak mana?” I asked again. “Amma ada tunggu bawah,” they replied. I told them to get her to come up.
While waiting for Helena, the client from Cameron Highlands arrived with her 2 younger boys. They boys will be in form 3 and form 5 next year. Unlike some other children, although I don’t really meet this family as often as some of my other clients, the 2 boys are quite comfortable with me. They even called me their “ibu nombor 2”.
Anyway, when the 2 boys I met earlier finally brought Helena to see me, I almost did not recognise her. Not only was she on a wheelchair, she also lost a lot of weight. She looked really skinny and frail. Apparently, she had just been warded recently with all sorts of complications, mainly due to her non-adherence to her anti-retroviral treatment.
Helena has 4 school-going boys, but she could only afford to bring 2 of her boys. For the other two, they’d just have to pick the school items based on sizes without trying out. With Helena herself being too weak, it was all up to the 2 boys to pick and choose their schooling needs. Not much of a problem when it came to choosing their uniforms and shoes, but when it came to the stationery sections, it was quite difficult for me to control them. They simply picked stuff, not only more than necessary, but also without taking into consideration if the stuff were too expensive. When they saw me walking over to them, they’d push their trolley elsewhere, probably for fear of having me put back some of the items they had chosen. But when I had the chance, I did go through the items, and told them to put back whatever was not necessary.
Even at the cashier’s counter later, the boy initially waited there and wanted to hand over the items to the cashier personally, but I told him to wait outside so I could go through the items again before the cashier keyed in the codes of each item. True enough, while I wasn’t looking, the boys had put in more unnecessary stuff in the trolley. I simply put them aside. Even then, the total amount came up to RM20 over the specified budget. Imagine if I had not checked the items, wonder how much more over-budget it would be.
I didn’t have any problems with the other families though. The mothers were well in control of their children’s needs and were cautious enough not to overspend. As for Hafiz, who came on his own, he is mature enough to just pick things he really needed.
Friday 11th December – One final round of shopping, this time in Batu Gajah for 10 children from 5 families. All I had to do was remind the mothers that they shouldn’t go above the specified budget, failing which they’d have to pay everything themselves. I later noticed that each and every single one of them used the calculator function on their mobile phones to calculate the total amount to ensure they did not go over-budget.
With that, I completed my back-to-school shopping for this year. Spent over RM12K with another RM3.5K for miscel fees/workbooks to be disbursed before school reopens.