A client texted me yesterday, asking if Buddies could provide her with monthly financial assistance. Hmm... I always tell my clients that the only financial assistance Buddies may provide is for children’s education, and maybe on a case-to-case basis, for transportation when clients whose hospital appointments are quite far from their homes.
In the first place, financial assistance was not the objective when Buddies was initially set-up. Our main objective had always been (and still is) to provide moral and emotional support to people living with HIV, and their family members, if need be. The idea of the education fund came about only later, when Buddies came across poor clients whose children almost had to quit school because they couldn’t afford to pay for bus fares and other schooling needs.
Despite whatever I mentioned above, from time to time, when I do come across clients who need more, I do try to get help for them, depending on what they need. Those who remember the late Sofie, may remember that I did go out of the way to get more help for her. She was too weak to work. In fact when I was first introduced to her, she was bed-ridden. With 4 school-going children, and they had nothing to depend on, I felt obliged to help. We couldn’t use funds from Buddies’ bank accounts, so I sought for outside help, mainly from my friends. And since my friends were already aware of the voluntary work that I do, thankfully I always get good response from them whenever I mention about these cases. In Sofie’s case, I like helping her, because despite being unwell and weak, she did not want to be too dependent on outside help. Whenever she felt slightly better, she’d go out and try to earn some income of her own. When she mentioned about wanting to sell nasi lemak in the mornings, I had no problem getting donations from friends for the initial capital needed.
Sofie was not the only person who had help, although I must admit I loved helping her because of her attitude. Whenever any of my clients plan to start off a small business as their source of income, I’d try to get help for them, depending on their needs. Those who can sew, I’d get donations to buy sewing machines. Those who wanted to start a home-based baking business; I’d get donations to buy them ovens etc. As long as the donations are used as investments for a better future for these clients, I would help them.
However, for clients who are able-bodied but always using HIV to come out with all sorts of excuses why they can’t work, that’s where I draw the line. If they don’t make any attempts on their part to improve their lives, I don’t see why I should go out of my way to help them. It’s different if they are too weak and already bedridden, and don’t have any support from own family members.
As for the client who texted me yesterday, despite being infected with HIV, she is still able to work if she wants to. In addition to that, she’s staying with her parents who are supportive, and so no worries about having to pay for house rental and utilities. Her one and only daughter is in school, and she does get help from our education fund. Asking us to provide her with monthly financial assistance? No way! I have clients who are in a much worse situation than hers, yet they don’t ask for such assistance.
The main point of consideration whenever we help, is that we must help them to become independent, NOT dependent on us. That’s why we do help with the children’s education, because the best investment for a better future is in their education.