When Sofie's case was first referred to me way back in 2009, her condition was really bad. The first time I went to visit, she was lying on the mattress, too weak to even sit down. Sofie was then staying at her sister's home, together with her 4 children and her sister's family. During that first visit, the sister was there and initially I thought Sofie and her children were doing okay at that house. I brought along some groceries during that visit to help lessen the burden of Sofie's sister. Assessing the situation, I noted that Sofie's children really needed help with their schooling needs. Sofie was too weak to work, while her children were all still schooling, the eldest boy only 15. Sofie's 7 year old daughter, being the only girl, didn't have any pass-it-down uniforms she could get from her older brothers. Sofie ended up buying a poor quality RM8 uniform at a pasar malam, and the girl wore the same pair of uniform every single day to school since she didn't have any extra pairs.
Initially I thought they were doing okay at the sister/aunt's house, but during my second visit, when Sofie had the chance to speak to me in private, I was told that she and her children weren't comfortable there because her sister's daughter made it obvious she didn't like having them there invading her space. Sometimes when her mother wasn't around, she'd even slap Sofie's younger children. Sofie told me she'd like to move to another house nearby. She was planning to get her 15 year old son to work part-time after school hours to help pay for the rental.
I wasn't about to let a 15 year old boy work to support his family. I told Sofie I'd try to get help. I did get tremendous response from friends and blog readers when I updated their story on my blog (I wasn't on FB yet then). There were people who committed to pay her house rental for the next 6 months, or at least until Sofie got better. And so yes, they did move to a place they could call home. The condition of the house may not be as good as the sister's house, but the moment I went to visit them at their new home, I could tell Sofie and her children felt comfortable. It was only then I found out that Sofie's 2 younger children were actually chatter-boxes! They had been quiet at their aunt's house because they were scared to speak up.
To cut a long story short, Sofie did get better after she started taking her HIV medication. Still weak, but at least she wasn't just lying on the mattress as she did during my first few visits. Not being the type to totally depend on others, the moment she felt just slightly better, she'd find ways and means to earn an income for herself, although in her condition, she should still be resting. She'd find jobs as assistant at food stalls, or she'd cook various types kuih and sell them at canteens etc. After a while, she'd fall sick again. And the cycle continued.
I tried my best to make sure the children continued with their basic education at least. When the second boy, Azman, didn't want to continue schooling after PMR, saying he wanted to work, I tried to find out what his interests were. He loved cooking and he planned to work at food stalls (which he had already been doing during weekends and school holidays). So, with Sofie's permission, I offered to send him to a culinary school. He wanted to cook as his career, so get the proper qualification for it!
But although he enjoyed being at the culinary school, he wasn't so disciplined when it came to spending money. Despite getting financial assistance from Tabung Kemahiran, he still asked for his mother's hard earned money. He started to become somewhat big-headed, thinking he'd turn out to be the most successful among his siblings.
Sofie's eldest son, Azlan, too wanted to work immediately after his SPM. He said he wanted to help his mother. While I knew he was weak academically, surely he had an interest in something. The moment I found out he was interested in anything automotive/mechanical, I suggested to him to apply for vocational training. Sofie did express her worries that she couldn't afford the expenses to send him for further studies, but I assured her that I'd try my very best to find financial help for him. Azlan finally agreed, but by then he was already working day and night to earn some income for the family, he simply didn't have the time to submit the necessary applications. So I got all the necessary documents from Sofie, and I personally did the online application for him.
But Sofie died before even finding out if Azlan was successful in his application. Having promised Sofie that I'd help, the moment Azlan was offered a place in IKM, I liaised with the children's aunt (the children's new guardian after Sofie died) to make sure Azlan went ahead to register for a 2 year course. Azlan loved the course so much, even during the first semester, he was already thinking of continuing up to diploma level.
Although the aunt was a responsible guardian, things didn't go too well for the children after Sofie's death. Azman became even more big-headed and egoistic. He didn't even bother to go back to his aunt's house to meet his siblings. Sofie's 3rd son, Saiful, then in form 3, starting playing truant in school. When the aunt found out, she scolded Saiful. As a result, Saiful ran away from home. The aunt and her husband had to take emergency leaves from time to time to try look for Saiful. They couldn't find Saiful and because of the many emergency leaves they took, they got fired by their employers.
In the end, the aunt and her husband moved back to their home state, taking along only Sofie's eldest and youngest with them. After a while I lost contact with them. That was the last I heard of any of them.
While I was updating the list of children under our Education Sponsorship Program recently, looking at the names of previous years' recipients, I started wondering whatever happened to Sofie's children. So this morning I simply tried searching for them on facebook. Lo and behold... I found Azman's FB page! One look at his profile picture and I knew I had the right person. And since he set his postings to public, I managed to read his status updates. Azman (the one who studied at the culinary school) now works as a cook at a cafe. From some of the updates and comments I read, I knew he was in touch with his younger siblings. Although apparently he has yet to go back to meet them, at least he calls them from time to time.
From Azman's friends list, I managed to track down his younger brother Saiful (the one who ran from home and who never even sat for his PMR) and the youngest girl, Ika. I also noticed that the aunt was also on his friends list. Which means they are all in touch with each other and at least they know of each other's developments.
Saiful is now doing skills training at Giat MARA (I don't know what course he's taking but I do know he had always been interested in anything automotive/mechanical, just like his eldest brother) while Ika is still in school. I couldn't find anything on the eldest brother though, but probably that's because he may not be using his real name on FB. I sure hope he did continue up to diploma level like he was planning to. Whatever it is, he should already be working by now. Hopefully he has a good job he enjoys doing.
I'm not going to request to be their friends on FB. I only did a little bit of investigating (albeit on FB) just to find out how they're doing. They seem to be doing fine and that's all I need to know. At the same time, I hope and I pray that one day soon, they will unite as a happy loving family, just like old times when their mother was still around.