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)

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Needs vs Wants

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.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Chairperson’s report 2014

*Sharing my report in the Buddies Annual Report for 2014. Our AGM was held last night, and I finally managed to step down as the chairperson, although still serving in the committee, this time as the vice-chair. Hopefully this means I will have more time for my many clients, and hopefully too I can concentrate more on our Education Sponsorship and Children Education Fund.*

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2014: My 7th year as the chairperson. Activities went on as usual… the clinic duties in Ipoh and Taiping, the hospital visits, the home visits and the phone calls. While most of the cases referred to us came from either Ipoh or Taiping hospitals, we did get a few referrals from other sources as well.

So far we have never turned down any invitation to give talks on HIV, and in 2014 we were invited to give a talk to foreign workers in Kamaya Electric and I personally was invited as a guest speaker during KANITA USM International Women’s Day celebration in USM Penang, sharing my experience in carrying out my voluntary work with Buddies.

For a few consecutive years, we have also been joining the ID Clinic of Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun, Ipoh to put up an exhibition at the hospital in conjunction with World AIDS Day in December.

3 of our volunteers attended the National AIDS Conference in Kuantan, Pahang in October 2014. And to make sure the volunteers are updated with the latest developments, an ICAAP-sharing session was held earlier in the year where those who attended the International Congress on AIDS in Asia & the Pacific (ICAAP) in Bangkok in 2013, shared their experience and the knowledge they gained during the conference.

The Annual Family Day also went on as usual, this time at Bukit Merah Water Park. This is one event the regular attendees look forward to every year. I already have clients asking me where 2015 Family Day will be held.

Our year-end routine, the back-to-school-shopping for children of our clients, was bigger than previous years this time around. Over 100 children were brought (separately depending on which town they stay in) shopping for their schooling needs. The expenses were either covered by our Education Sponsorship program, or our Children Education Fund (CEF). We spent a record high RM38K under CEF and over RM41K under the Sponsorship program in 2014 alone.

Mainly due to high spending under CEF, for the second year running our accounts showed a deficit for the year. The amount was however covered by the surplus from previous years. We hope to be able to get more donations for the coming year to enable us to continue helping the families of our clients, especially involving the education of the children.

To all donors, thank you so much for your support all these years. I hope you will continue to support us, for without enough funding, we won’t be able to carry out our voluntary work as best as we’d like to.

To all volunteers, thank you for the time and energy you put in despite not getting any benefits out of it. And thank you for putting up with me for the past 7 years.

Of course, how can I not thank our beloved patron, Datin Yap Roh See, for always being so supportive.

After 7 years as the chairperson, it is about time I step down and pass the baton to someone else, someone who will hopefully bring some positive changes to the organisation. I will of course continue to offer my services as a volunteer, helping out whichever way I can.

THANK YOU ALL!

Monday, 9 March 2015

The Post-SPM Sponsored Children

It’s March. SPM results have been announced. I didn’t want to be such a kay-poh-chee to ask my clients for the results of their children’s SPM on the day the results were announced, but for those under our Sponsorship program, I didn’t have to ask. Their mothers felt obliged to inform me of their children’s SPM results, whether the results are good or bad.

Lin was the first to inform me, sending me a photo of her daughter’s results slip via whatsapp. The last of her children to sit for SPM, the girl didn’t do too bad getting credits for Maths and Science but just a pass for English. The girl is rather fickle-minded as to what course she wants to apply for, but I believe her 3 older sisters who have succeeded in their education (one with a degree and the other 2 with diplomas), I believe they should be able to advise her on the best course to take.

Another sponsored child who sat for SPM last year was Aini’s son. He was never good academically, concentrating more on games in school, so I wasn’t expecting good results from him. True enough, he got 2C 3D and failed all other subjects including maths. Aini did say however, that her son was interested in vocational training, so I helped out in searching online for vocational courses he could apply for using his results.

The best results was obtained by Maya’s daughter. The girl scored 6A 3B and 1C, the C for English. I am pretty proud of her results, considering the limited resources she had. She has applied for matriculation in addition to a few courses offered through UPU. Based on her results, I hope and I believe, she should be able to get an offer from any of the higher learning institutions.

I know there are 2 other children under sponsorship who also sat for SPM last year, but I have yet to obtain their results as their families are under another volunteer. I do hope all of them, no matter how good or bad their results were, will move forward and further their education. For those with poor academic results, at the very least, go for vocational/skill training.

I will follow up with these families again later, in case they need help with the initial expenses when they register for whatever courses they plan to pursue.