After 11 years as a volunteer with Buddies of Ipoh, and easily being the one with the most clients to date (I have actually lost count of how many clients I have in total, but I do know I have the phone numbers of so many clients stored in my hand-phone), I can say I have dealt with various situations and dealt with various types of people.
While it gives me great satisfaction when the families we’ve helped changed their lives for the better, I have to admit this voluntary work can be frustrating at times, especially when the people you’ve helped ended up trying to take advantage of you and expect more from you, as though transferring the responsibility of taking care of their well-being over to you. Worse, when they think they can ask you for anything just because we’ve helped them before.
I’ve always told my volunteers to never ever start lending money to their clients. More likely than not, once you start lending them money, they’d come back to you… not to repay the loan, but to ask for more. It’s never enough.
Even when you don’t lend them money the first time they try, doesn’t mean they won’t try again later… like the K’s who never gave up trying to borrow money from me despite the fact that Mrs K thinks I’m somewhat ‘garang’. They’d come up with all sorts of sad stories as their reason for wanting to borrow money. And it’s always like “cukup bulan saya bayar”. Trust me, their cukup bulan never comes. And how can I forget, this was the very same family who, once they got their EPF money, installed Astro at home ahead of anything else… and ended up not fulfilling their promise to open up SSPN savings accounts for their children. Their reasoning? “Kesian budak-budak nak tengok astro.” Well, I couldn’t do much in this case, because the money was theirs.
Then there are some who don’t try to borrow money, but would try to ask for simply anything just because their children are covered by our Education Sponsorship program. Once I told Hana to list down the things required for her children’s schooling. She came back to me with a long list of items and their costs, and included in the long list was “Motosikal – RM2,000”. And another time, she also asked me to pay for her son’s circumcision.
Latest, there was this client who wanted to transfer her daughter to another school in KL (& stay with the girl’s older sister) and sought my help for some schooling expenses. That was okay, I guess, but within the same message, she also said her daughter would also NEED a hand-phone as well.
From what I noticed, these families who can’t set their priorities right (between their needs and their wants), aren’t doing too well. Their children don’t do well in school, and if something doesn’t turn out well, it’s always somebody else’s fault. Anybody can be blamed as long as it’s not themselves… can be their employers, can be their co-workers, or can even be their neighbours. Worse comes to worst, just blame their own health, even though I’ve seen clients in worse conditions continue working to support their family.
On the other hand, those who know how to set their priorities right, putting aside all their wants to concentrate on their needs, tend to do much better in their lives. They never ask for anything other than the necessary, and even then, as far as possible they’d avoid asking for anything at all until I ask them if they need anything, even during hard times. They use their trials & tribulations to remind their children about the importance of education and to not waste the help they get. And yes, their children tend to do better in their studies, we already have the sponsored children from these families who are already in universities and other higher learning institutions.
In fact, one case I’m very proud of is Lin (those who have been following my blog from the beginning may remember her as Mr Darling’s ex-wife). She really had to go through some tough times when all her 6 children were still studying. She was really happy when her 3 younger children received financial support for their schooling, she made full use of our help without even once taking advantage of us, and now her 3 older daughters are already working. In fact, one of them is a doctor. And I must add that her daughters are wonderful responsible beings.
These success stories are the ones that has kept me going with this voluntary work despite the occasional frustrations I’ve had to face.
Of course, from time to time I also want a break from all these. No, I don’t just want it. I need it.