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)

Sunday, 13 December 2015

BTSS 2015: Mission Accomplished

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.

Monday, 7 December 2015

BTSS & getting updates on the children

After taking a family of 4 children shopping last Wednesday, and another 7 children from 4 families on Saturday, today I continued with Rounds 3 and 4 of my back-to-school-shopping.

3 AND 4? 2 rounds in a day? Well yes, this morning I was in Kuala Kangsar, taking care of the schooling needs of 6 children from 3 families. From Kuala Kangsar, I proceeded straight to Taiping, to take care of 7 other children from 2 families. Since the Kuala Kangsar group finished early, I decided to use the old trunk road from Kuala Kangsar to Taiping. I can’t even remember the last time I used that road.

Anyway, I usually use the BTSS to get updates from my clients on how their children are doing, particularly in their studies. For those under sponsorship, I also need to report to the respective sponsors. So today, other than updates on the children, I also took photos of the children who are under sponsorship. Some sponsors have only seen photos of their sponsored children when they first agreed to sponsor… mostly when the kids were still in primary school. Well, they have grown! So it’s about time I send their latest pictures to the respective sponsors!

This morning, of the 3 families, 4 children of 2 families are under sponsorship. The other family’s schooling needs are covered by our Children Education Fund. All 4 children, 2 in secondary and the other 2 in primary school, are doing quite well in school. They may not be the top students in their school, but hey, getting top 10 in class is still something, especially taking into consideration the hardship they face. Taking photos of these 4 children wasn’t a problem at all. I just told them I needed to take pics of them to be forwarded to their sponsors, and they readily posed.

It was a different story in Taiping though. Of the 2 families, the one with 3 children is under sponsorship. The 3 girls, aged 16, 14 and 12, were really shy. At least it wasn’t so bad because I took a photo of all 3 of them together instead of individual photos of each one. The girls are doing well in school. The older 2 are studying at a fully residential school (both of them at the same school). The older girl who scored 10A 1B in her PT3 last year, got 2nd in class and 5th in the whole form for her recent school exams. The younger girl, got 2nd in class and 30th in the whole form. The youngest, who sat for her UPSR just this year, scored 4A 1B.

The other family from Taiping today was Yah’s. Those who had been following my blog from the start may remember the character “Yah-Ah-Ngau”. I sure had headaches with her character back then. Her children’s back-to-school needs are covered by our Children Education Fund. I did not consider her for sponsorship because once upon a time she seemed to have drifted too far… went heads over heels over Mr Darling even when the guy was trying to steer clear off her…. karaoke-ing when all she depended on was welfare aid… her 2 older girls requested to be sent to orphanages… ohh… those were the days.

Well, Yah is a changed woman now. The children are all staying together with Yah now, and today I could see the love among them. The eldest girl, who entered a vocational college after PMR, is doing quite well, scoring A’s in most of her subjects. Yah’s only son, the ADHD boy, is doing a whole lot better now after he was identified as an ADHD child and is classified as an OKU. He gets to join a special class for special-needs children.

I’ve got 3 more rounds of BTSS to do. One in Slim River, one in Batu Gajah and another round in Ipoh. Planning to finish them all within this week…

Friday, 4 December 2015

A busy first half of December

1st December 2015 – World AIDS Day. As had been the practice for the past few years, the ID Clinic of Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun would organise a public awareness event at the hospital, and Buddies were always invited to participate because the team felt that other than creating awareness among the public about HIV/AIDS, it was just as important for the public to know the existence of a support group, in case someone infected/affected with HIV/AIDS needed help.

So far I had never missed any of the WAD events held in HRPB. However this year I had to make an exception. Weeks before the ID clinic invited us for the event, one of the organising committee of the state level event had called to invite me to become a panellist for a forum they plan to organise in conjunction with the state level event on the very same day.

Since the event was held on a working day, we were short of volunteers. The exhibition at the HRPB would certainly need more volunteers to help out, so the few volunteers we could gather were to help out at HRPB. The state level event, on the other hand, needed only one rep to be in the forum, so I had to go alone.

Usually for whatever events we attend, I would end up being the photographer, to take photos to be included in our reports. However, being one of the panellists in the forum, it wasn’t possible for me to carry out the same task. And since the other volunteers available had to help out in Ipoh, there was nobody to tag along with me.

Then I remembered that Aini’s daughter, Erin, who had just completed her diploma studies, had indicated her interest to become a volunteer. She was still looking around for a job anyway, and so she was still free. She was so happy when I asked if she would like to tag along with me. When we got to the event venue, I passed her my camera, and I must say she’s got quite a good eye for photography. And on our way home, based on the topics she brought up, it was evident that she was really focussed on the forum discussion.

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2nd December 2015 – Back-to-school-shopping for 2015 began. I headed off to Taiping to pick-up Dahlia and her school-going children, including 2 who will be going to a kindergarten next year. With 2 kids aged 5 and 4 joining the shopping trip, I purposely took them out separately by themselves instead of combining them with other families. It would be much easier to control their actions (and their wants!), rather than losing sight of them in a bigger crowd.

After all the other school necessities were bought, we even went to a bicycle shop to buy a bicycle for Dahlia’s 14 year old boy. The moment I explained to the shop-owner that I was representing an NGO buying school necessities (including the bicycle) for poor families, I immediately got a huge discount. What a wonderful gesture by the shop-owner.

Tomorrow 5th December will be BTSS round 2, this time for the first Ipoh group. Next week, my schedule is almost full. Monday: Kuala Kangsar. Wednesday: Slim River. Thursday: Ipoh 2nd group. Friday: Batu Gajah.

After that I need to immediately submit my claims, and also start distributing to the various families the amount needed for the various fees, workbooks and other payments to the respective schools.

This had been my December routine for the past 8 or 9 years…