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)
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Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Yah... Yah...

I haven’t even started my daily morning kampong exercise routine when Yah called me up this morning. She said her hospital appointment was today and she wanted to meet up with me. I told her to call me once she’s done with her appointment and then wait at the usual place.

So at 1 pm this afternoon I went straight to the hospital to fetch her. She needs to go for her viral load test soon and since the test is to be done at a private hospital that she’s never heard of, she was hoping I could show her the way. Not a problem at all…

Right after showing her the place, we went straight for lunch. I managed to get some updates from her during lunch.

Remember in my earlier posting I mentioned that Yah had to fork out some money to repair her house which was damaged during a rainstorm? Well, the repairs were carried out because the landlord had earlier agreed that Yah’s family can stay there for as long as they promised to take care of the landlord’s orchard in the kampong without paying anything additional. So Yah proceeded with the repairs and paid out RM4,000 taken from her EPF withdrawal. The balance of the repairs was sponsored by the YB from whom Yah had sought help from earlier.

The repairs were completed right before Raya.

After Raya, the landlord came with his business-minded son telling Yah that if she wants to continue staying there, the rental will have to be increased. I bet the son had something to do with the change in the landlord’s decision. Yah asked if the landlord is willing to compensate her for the repairs she had done to the house if she moves out. The landlord simply told her that since the house was not his, he won’t pay a single sen. So Yah went to the same YB telling him of her problem. The YB agreed to help her apply for a PPRT house. Hopefully her application will be approved so nobody can chase the family out of their house again.

And I told Yah to make sure she tears down the house if she gets a PPRT house. I’m sure she can sell the wood, roof, etc for at least a minimal price. More importantly, so that the landlord will not get the house which he never built in the first place and then rent it out to somebody else! (Yeah, at times like this, I can become a batu api)

I was also informed by Yah that of late her kampong folks dare not come near her. Somehow they found out about her HIV through a nurse at the nearby Klinik Kesihatan. Even those who came to the house to visit Yah’s mother, would not dare drink anything prepared at her house. Sigh…

Anyway, Yah also told me over lunch about an incident that happened at the hospital earlier today. “Ada sorang lelaki tu ajak saya kawin kak,” Yah said. I almost choked. You see, while waiting for her supply of medication, one guy whom she saw at the HIV clinic (also a PLWHA) decided to open his mouth to have a chat with her. He told her how his wife left him after she found out he was positive. After finding out that Yah was a single mom, he asked Yah if she’d marry him. JUST LIKE THAT AND HE ASKED HER TO MARRY HIM???? He must be nuts!

He told Yah if they marry, when he dies, his pension will go to Yah. He even told Yah not to worry as he had never been involved in drugs. He got HIV because “dulu saya main perempuan” so he said.

NOT TO WORRY? More reason to worry I would say! I wonder if the wife left him because of his HIV or because she just found out about his promiscuous activities. As a matter of fact I think the reason he proposed to Yah without even knowing Yah’s full name is because he can’t live without a woman! He thought proposing to a fellow HIV positive person was the answer to his needs and desires!

Before she left, this guy gave her his phone number and asked for hers. And guess what? Yah actually gave hers!

Me: “Yah nak ke kawin dengan dia?”
Yah: “Ish! Tak nak saya kak. Cari beban buat apa?!”
Me: “Habis tu yang gi layan dia buat apa? Janganlah bagi nombor talipon! Entah apa jenis manusia pun kita tak tau lagi. Senang-senang aje sekali jumpa dah ajak orang kawin.”
Yah: “Dah dia mintak nombor talipon saya nak buat macam mana kak? Takkan saya nak tipu kata tak ada.”

Aduuuuh…. Why lah this woman so lurus bendul one?! Yah… Yah… she may be one tough lady but she sure doesn’t know how to wiggle her way out of this kind of situation…

Monday, 29 October 2007

Raya sakan!

I was in my office on Friday morning when Jah called me up. She was at the General Hospital to get her supply of medication for the month and she was hoping we could meet up for lunch. Hmmm… let me rephrase that… she was hoping I could buy her lunch! Too bad I was fasting… the last day of my puasa enam… so I had to turn her down.

However, since I had planned to go for my Raya rounds on Sunday, I told her I’d be visiting her at home on Sunday and asked her if she’d like to join me for my visits to a few other houses. As expected, she was excited about the idea.

Came Sunday morning, just as I was about to leave my house at 9.30am, Jah called. She said her mother had already cooked something for me and she wanted to make sure I was indeed coming. So off I went, and since Shila stays in a small town just along the way, I picked her up first at the town’s bus station which is just along the main road. Her daughter Laila tagged along. It was nice seeing them in a ‘boria’ blue baju kurung outfit. Laila woke up early on that day as she was excited about going jalan-jalan somewhere.

As we chatted on the way to Jah’s house, Shila told me how on the 6th day of Raya, she woke up to find Laila standing beside her, crying. The little girl suddenly missed her father who died 5 years ago and was asking her mother if they could go visit her late father’s grave. Shila did not promise anything as her late husband’s grave is in another state and traveling would need money…

When we reached Jah’s house, she was already waiting at the door. She was oh so excited when I brought down from my car a raya hamper for her. (But then again, Jah has always been easily excited!)

For the first time that day, I had the opportunity to meet Jah’s mother, who’s in her mid 50’s and works as a kindergarten teacher. Apparently when Jah came back from the hospital on Friday, before even getting into the house she was already excitedly telling her mother that I’d be coming on Sunday. So, in addition to the kuih raya they had, Jah’s mother took the trouble to cook some meehoon goreng for us. That was my second round of meehoon goreng for the day as I just had meehoon goreng for breakfast at home earlier.

Jah stays in the same town as Hana and I was thinking of bringing Jah, Shila and Laila along when I visit Hana. However when I called earlier, Hana said she’d be working morning shift on Sunday so she wouldn’t be at home. Nevertheless, since I was not familiar with Hana’s kampong, I asked Jah to show me the way to the kampong so that the next time I intend to go, I’d know how to get to the kampong.

A colleague of mine (who was assigned as Hana’s main buddy as she stays in the same town) had earlier told me that Hana was still in denial (about her husband’s death and about her HIV infection). The same colleague also expressed her concern that Hana’s daughters walk to school. Since I had not been to the place earlier, I couldn’t imagine how far it would be. So when I got to Hana’s kampong on Sunday, I was shocked. The kampong, which is also an orang asli settlement, is located at a hilly area (there’s even a waterfall nearby) and is quite far from town where the school is located. Even by bicycle it can be considered far, imagine the 13 & 8 year old girls WALKING to school every day! Oh dear, I must make the effort to get the necessary schooling assistance for the girls. Now that I know where the kampong is, I will definitely visit again when Hana is at home during the day.

We then headed back to Shila’s place. Shila is actually under the care of another Buddy, but whenever I get the opportunity, I’d still get them to meet the PLWHAs under my care. I had never been to Shila’s house either, but Shila was in the car to show the way so no problem getting to her house. Again, this was another kampong quite far from town and those without own transportation would find it a problem getting to town. Earlier in the morning Shila had sought her sister’s help to send her and Laila to the bus-station by motorbike.

This time little Laila was the one who got excited when I brought down the hamper for them. I got to meet Shila’s mom and sister. Like Jah, Shila’s family is also very supportive. The whole family is already familiar with quite a few of us buddies, and we are always welcomed at their home. That Sunday, upon knowing that I was coming, although they never met me (but have heard about me), Shila’s mom prepared laksa, nasi himpit and kelamai for me - all home cooked. Funny thing was, on the way to Shila’s house, there were people selling kelamai along the road and Jah was saying, “Kak, tengok dia orang jual lemang gantung kak!!” Actually, it was the kelamai, which is also cooked inside a bamboo like lemang, but the ingredients are different.

The next destination was Sha’s house. Jah, Shila and Laila tagged along. Sha had just moved to a new house during Ramadhan and so I had never been to her new place. I called her first to get directions. Her new home is not in a kampong and it shouldn’t be too hard to find. Or so I thought…

I never heard of her taman before and since I needed to get into a particular junction from the main road to get to her taman, it turned out to be quite a task. I tell you I wouldn’t want to have Sha as my co-pilot should I need to fly anywhere (not that I know how to fly anyway!). With the police station on my right, she said it was on my left… and when I was supposed to go right at the 4th traffic light she said it was the 2nd traffic light. Aduuuh…

She finally sent her younger sister to wait for me at the junction, telling me to look for a girl in a pink tudung on a motorbike. Thank God there was only one girl in a pink tudung there, and yes, she was on a motorbike. If there was a Puteri Umno meeting nearby, I would have trouble identifying Sha’s sister!!

So yes, we finally made it to Sha’s house. By then I really needed to pee I forgot to bring down the hamper from my car! :) I only remembered about it later while chatting with the ladies.

Sha had just finished cooking when we got to her house. Guess what she cooked for us? Hehehe… yep, meehoon goreng! My 3rd round of meehoon goreng for the day! I got to meet Sha’s baby boy only for the second time and held him in my arms for the first time. The last time I met him was when he was just a newly born. Now he’s already a chubby 10 month old boy! Well, Sha is one of the less problematic ones because she has a supporting husband who doesn’t have financial problems, so my contacts with Sha are mostly by telephone.

Anyway, Sha said she will invite me again to her house soon as she intends to hold a doa selamat at her new home.

By the time we left Sha’s house, it was almost 2 pm. I immediately sent Shila and Laila back, followed by Jah, and then headed straight home. I only reached home at 3 pm, with an overdose of meehoon goreng in my tummy… :)

Friday, 26 October 2007

How they got infected: Does it matter?

I was watching a documentary on TV yesterday about a woman who got discriminated by her neighbors because she had HIV. She married a guy without knowing he was previously an injecting drug user. She only found out later when her husband got ill and tests showed he was HIV positive. She went for testing too and was totally shocked when she too was found to be infected.

Although neighbors didn’t know for sure she was positive, they knew her husband died of HIV related illnesses. So they stayed away from the whole family. It didn’t matter whether the wife or the children were infected. As long as someone in the family had HIV, just stay away from them.

Anyway, watching that documentary prompted me to go through the list of HIV infected women whose cases were handed over to me for me to follow up on, OR those whose cases were handed over to other volunteers but whom I’ve had the opportunity to meet.

Out of 22 of them, 17 were infected by their husbands or ex-husbands, one was raped, 2 due to their promiscuous activities, one due to drugs and there was one 74 year old grandma whom I never had the opportunity to find out as neither I nor the staff at the HIV clinic were able to contact her ever since her last appointment. I guess due to her age she thought it was no longer necessary for her to go for follow ups. Maybe she had given up hope. Besides, the one time my colleagues spoke to her during the HIV clinic (I was not on duty then) they found out that her only son (who is already 54 years old) had not been informed of her HIV. Maybe she was too embarrassed to tell him, I don’t know. As I have not been able to talk to her, I don’t know for sure how she got infected. I don’t even know how she is doing right now. So, let’s just leave it at that and not assume anything.

18 of the 22 women were simply innocent victims. Yet, they still faced discrimination as though they had done something wrong. They are looked down upon as though they had sinned big time! I’ve even had a welfare officer branding HIV as “penyakit sendiri cari”. When we told him about the innocent wives infected by their husbands, he became lost for words. Surely he didn’t expect us (the volunteers) to agree with him on that point.

Due to the discrimination faced by PLWHAs, many of them prefer not to tell anyone about their HIV status. For some, not even to their own family. The PLWHAs are afraid people will shun them. They feel ashamed of themselves despite never being involved in any immoral activities.

Maria, for example, always feels as though she is being looked down upon by her present husband (she got HIV from her ex-husband and only knew about it when she got pregnant with her present husband). Whenever she talks to me about her problems, she keeps on saying, “Siapalah saya ni kak…”

Fuzi, whose whole neighborhood knows about her HIV status (due to a mulut murai nurse working at the Klinik Kesihatan near her place), only goes out of her house whenever necessary. She tried getting a job at a nearby flower nursery but the other workers there (who are also her neighbors) threatened their employer they’d all quit if he employed her.

Zainab, who doesn’t dare tell anyone about her HIV, whenever she needs to take her medication while she’s at work, tells her workmates she’s taking slimming pills whenever they ask her what medication she is taking. I told her to be careful with that line… some of her friends who want to slim down may ask her where to get the pills!

But despite having mentioned about the innocent victims, does it really matter how these women got infected? What about those who got infected due to their own past activities? Like Ifa who took drugs when she was a teenager? Does she deserve the “Biar dia mampus” statement which came from her own father?

I don’t know about you, but to me, it doesn’t matter how they got infected. Even if they got HIV out of their own doing, they all deserve a second chance. We must not shun them. We need to guide them back to the right path.

After all, are we indeed holier than them? Can we be sure we’re going to heaven before they do?

Ahhhh… we can never be sure about that, can we?

Thursday, 25 October 2007

ALERT: Another missing girl... please help find her! (UPDATED)

UPDATE 26/10/07: REKHA FOUND SAFE AND SOUND. A couple sent her home after finding her at the Kapitan Keling Mosque. Read more HERE and HERE.


Another girl went missing in Penang! 10 year old Rekha Abdullah failed to return home after going out to a pasar malam (sounds familiar?) to buy a VCD on Sunday night. More news here and here.

Parents showing photos of Rekha.

Please help find Rekha. Let's hope it won't take too long to find her. Any info, please contact Rakan COP hotline at 04-2691999.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Raya visit to Fuzi's house

After fulfilling Mrs. K’s raya invitation on Thursday last week, the next day I decided to pay Fuzi a visit for raya. Besides it was already time to deliver milk powder and diapers to her little Iwan.

First I went to shop for the things, then I called Fuzi just to be sure she was home. It was after all raya season and she may be off with her children to beraya elsewhere. When I called and asked Fuzi if she was home, her immediate answer was, “Ada kak, orang macam saya ni nak beraya ke mana?”

So off I went on the 7th day of raya. The main door was already open when I got there as she already knew I was on the way. Otherwise, the door is most of the time closed since it is just a makeshift door. I need to start asking around for a discounted rate for a proper door as the present door sometimes opens by itself whenever it is very windy. It seems very unsafe.

When I got inside I saw the children playing some board games. Fuzi’s baby, Iwan, who’s now about 16 months old, and can already walk, was rather cautious seeing me. He’s always afraid of strangers and although he does see me every month, it takes a few minutes for him to warm up to me – unlike Mrs. K’s 9 month baby who’d recognize me immediately whenever I went to visit them.

Fuzi said the children did get some duit raya from some neighbours and while her girls were the saving type, and the 2 younger boys’ duit raya was given to Fuzi, her 9 year old son finished all his duit raya buying firecrackers from a nearby shop. The shop owner even called Fuzi every time the boy went to buy firecrackers from him, telling Fuzi that her son was wasting his money buying firecrackers. (Dah tau budak tu wasting money, pergi jual kat dia buat apa?!)

When scolded by his mother, he answers back. Poor Fuzi has been having a tough time dealing with this boy. Tell him nicely, he doesn’t listen. Scold him, he answers back. Yeah, I’ve heard about how tough it is bringing up orphans, but in Fuzi’s case, the other kids do listen to her. As a matter of fact, the 2 older sisters are very responsible girls who help out their mother to look after the family. It’s just this boy giving her the headaches. I don’t know, maybe he needs a fatherly figure to talk to him for him to listen. I’ve tried talking to him… went in one ear and immediately out the other…

I asked Fuzi about the status of her marriage cert – whether it has been legalized. She said she had gone to the Pejabat Agama to be interviewed by an officer there and was asked to supply a few sets of supporting documents for them to submit to the relevant authorities. At least it shows progress. Hopefully things will be finalized soon although I am still not satisfied with the fact that she had to pay some suspiciously large amount of money to get things going.

* A fellow volunteer who had been helping Fuzi to get Bantuan Kanak-kanak had been relating this problem to a few officers at the Welfare Department. All they could tell my colleague was “Alaaah… biasalah tu, yang sanggup bayar lebih lagi pun ada.” 'Biasalah tu' was all they could come up with. I wonder if it is also a “biasa” practice amongst them too.*

Anyway, Fuzi’s children kept asking when the raya gathering will be (like the one I organized last year). I haven’t planned anything yet for this year so I couldn’t answer their question. Obviously they’re eager to attend the gathering so I’d better start thinking of organizing one.

I’d better bring this up in my NGO’s board meeting next week.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Raya visit to Mr. K's house

A few days before raya, Mr. K’s daughter had already sent me a text message on behalf of her parents inviting me to come to their house for raya. Yeah, this is our temporary “Orang Kaya Baru” family who got Mr. K’s EPF withdrawal about 2 weeks before raya. Those of you who had been following the stories in my blog may remember my posting about Mrs. K installing Astro at home using the EPF withdrawal after being pressured by her children.

Well, the children are always excited about having visitors to their home, so yeah, I obliged their invitation. Besides, it was my chance to see if they had bought anything else unnecessary at their home… like a new sofa set maybe… ;)

So off I went to their house last Thursday. I was supposed to pick another volunteer at 10.30 am to go along with me but the volunteer called me up at 10 am saying he had to pull out as he had some things to do at the hospital.

I went a bit late myself as Rina passed away on that day and I went to visit Rina’s family first. My earlier plan to visit Hana first has also been postponed as another volunteer who stays in the same town as Hana, had promised to check on Hana. I may visit Hana later - I have 2 other PLWHA clients staying within the same district so I may just visit them all together once I finish my puasa enam.

When I reached Mr. K’s house, their 5 year old daughter happily greeted me by blowing soap bubbles… :)

In I went, and yes, they were watching Astro. There was a new motorbike outside. OK, the motorbike was necessary as the old motorbike which they used earlier to bring Mr. K to the hospital actually belonged to Mrs. K’s brother. After Mrs. K got the motorbike repaired recently her brother asked for his bike back. Oh well...

Other than that, nothing fancy. No new sofa set, no new curtains etc. Thank goodness. But I forgot to ask if they opened up SSPN accounts for the children as they had promised. I must remember to ask them the next time I see them.

Anyway, Mrs. K cooked some laksa especially for me. The gravy was so hot my lips felt so thick! And oh, I had a chat with their 9 month old baby. No, nothing political… just some goo goo ga ga stuff. Hey, the little girl was talking baby language okay? I just played along…

I brought along the form for them to apply to rent a flat in Ipoh. They agreed they should move to Ipoh during the school holidays so that the children can start schooling in their new schools at the beginning of next year. My colleague has also got a job for Mrs. K with a higher pay than her present pay; and since the flats are near the hospital, it will also be easier for Mr. K to go for his appointments. And the flats are also quite near the Sekolah Teknik where we hope to enroll Shah (their eldest son) for Aliran Kemahiran which he failed to get into this year as the school nearer to their present house did not have enough applicants to start a class.

Hopefully things will go through as planned. I don’t intend to keep bringing groceries and other stuff to them every month. Not that I mind but my main intention is to help them become independent. Once this family becomes independent, I can concentrate on other families needing help.

As I was about to leave, Shah asked if he could tumpang me to Ipoh. He promised to join some friends to go to another friend’s open house in Ipoh. Not a problem for me. At least it showed that he felt comfortable enough with me.

So far things are beginning to look quite positive for this family at last. I sure hope it will continue to be positive.

The only negative thing I’m hoping for them is that other than Mr. K who is HIV positive, the rest will remain negative…

Thursday, 18 October 2007

And then came Rina's turn...

Yesterday was my planned “rest day”. I was planning to visit some PLWHA clients for Raya the next 2 or 3 days, so one rest day would be good for me to recharge my batteries after working overtime in the kitchen during the first few days of Raya when my family members got together. I was thinking maybe today I could visit Hana before proceeding to Mrs. K’s house to fulfill their Raya invitation.

But as early as 9 am yesterday, my hand phone rang with the James Bond ring tone. Yep, that’s my PLWHA assigned ring tone. Rina’s name appeared. It was her mother.

Remember Rina? If you missed her earlier story, you can read it here.

Apparently after more than a month being hospitalized, Rina was discharged from the hospital on the 9th day of Ramadhan. She was supposed to come back for her appointment on the 24th of October – that’s next week. But Rina’s mom said Rina was not able to get up and had also lost her appetite. She’s worried how she’s supposed to bring Rina to the hospital for her appointment next week. I told Rina’s mom I should be able to help her out and that I’d call her back to confirm.

Since Rina is staying in Ipoh, I thought maybe I’d visit her at home these next few days to see her condition. There was no sound of urgency when her mother called. She just wanted to avoid a last minute call for help as what happened the last time.

Later last night, around 10.30 pm, I received the following text message from Rina’s older brother:

“Sorry ganggu puan. Adik saya Rina baru sebentar tadi masuk ke Hospital Ipoh. Dia mengetap gigi. Mungkin pasal sejuk kipas. Dia rasa nak makan tapi terima sudu sahaja. Ribuan terima kasih kepada puan dan sahabat yang membantu hingga sekarang.”

I replied the message to ask which ward Rina was in. Since she’s already warded I might as well just visit her at the hospital.

The reply came from her brother only at 12.30 am as he was on night shift and only read my SMS later. Only thing was, the reply came with additional unpleasant news. Besides telling me which ward Rina was in, the message also read, “Doktor beritahu emak dan adik saya di hospital, Rina tiada harapan.”

OK I thought, I’d better visit Rina as soon as visiting hours start today.

Then later at about 3.50 am while I was fast asleep, my hand phone’s SMS tone woke me up. The message read, “Adik saya Rina telah kembali ke rahmatullah.”

Oh dear, I haven’t even visited Hana since Rashid died on Monday. Now Rina?

I did plan to visit Rina today, but I was hoping to see her alive and wish her Selamat Hari Raya. But we can only plan…

Just as I was getting ready to leave my house this morning, Rina’s younger brother called from the hospital mortuary to inform me of Rina’s demise. He didn’t know his older brother had already informed me earlier. Anyway, at that time I was told that once ready, they’d bring her body back home for prayers before her funeral.

When I got to Rina’s house, the doors were closed. Nobody seemed to be there. I was thinking that if her body was to be brought home, surely there’d be someone at home for the preparations. As far as I know that was her family home as Rina had been staying with her mother since she got separated from her husband.

I called Rina’s younger brother to find out. They were all still at the mortuary. So I headed straight to the mortuary.

There were many unfamiliar faces when I reached the mortuary. Finally I saw a familiar face… Rina’s mom. It was then that I learnt that there was a change of plan. Instead of bringing her body home, due to transportation problems, they’d bring her straight to the Muslim cemetery from the mortuary.

Anyway, I managed to have a chat with Rina’s mom. When her mom called me earlier, Rina was already bed-ridden but still conscious. She had lost her appetite but she was still talking. As I mentioned earlier, there was no urgency then. Apparently later at night around 9 pm, Rina was found to be clenching her teeth and soon after she became unconscious. Her younger brother who stayed together with them, immediately called for an ambulance to bring her to the hospital.

The rest was as per the story above.

I don’t know if Rina’s estranged husband was told about Rina’s death. I didn’t dare ask Rina’s mom. After all that he had done to Rina, I don’t think her mom would appreciate any mention of his name.

Rina’s mom will be taking care of Rina’s 8 year old son. But the family is not a well to do family and so I may just drop by for a visit some time to assess if they need any help for him.

2 of my PLWHA’s death within the first week of Raya. That was totally unexpected. I can only plan to sit back and relax, but if that was not what God had planned for me, then it was not meant to be.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Rashid's last Raya

My office closed for Raya holidays since Friday, one day before Raya. As usual, text messages via SMS kept coming in from friends and business clients with all sorts of Raya messages. I also received Raya messages from my PLWHA clients. Amongst them were from Mrs. K, Fuzi and Shila.

There was one text message however, which was not to wish me Selamat Hari Raya, but to tell me that Rashid would be transferred to Ipoh GH that day. The message came from Rashid’s wife, Hana.

On Hari Raya itself, Hana sent me another message. This time to wish me Selamat Hari Raya and to inform me that Rashid was already spending his Hari Raya at Ipoh GH. I replied to ask how he was doing but Hana said she has yet to visit him. It was Hari Raya and she has yet to visit him at the hospital? I don’t know what excuse she had but somehow it didn’t sound right to me. I thought she should have brought the kids to visit their father at the hospital especially on Hari Raya. But I didn’t know what her problem was so I shouldn’t be judging her.

Well, I didn’t visit Rashid either. This is the time of the year when my family members get together so it is the time when I take a break from my volunteer work. So while I still entertain calls and text messages, I don’t visit them during these few days.

On the 2nd day of Raya, I received another text message from Hana. She just got back from visiting Rashid at the hospital but was unable to talk to him as he was sleeping all the time. According to her, he was given some medication to enable him to sleep.

On the morning of the 3rd day of Raya, most of my family members were getting ready to go back so I didn’t check the messages on my phone until they left. By the time I checked my handphone, there were 2 messages from Hana.

The first message said:
“Kak, saya perlukan kakak kerana hati saya tak tahu nak buat apa, Rashid dah tenat.”

Then I read the next message which was sent 20 minutes later:
“Kak, Rashid dah meninggal.”

By the time I read the messages it was 30 minutes after the 2nd message was sent. I had already promised to go somewhere with my mother and so I thought I should just give Hana a call to find out how she was doing. I thought she was already making whatever necessary arrangements to bring back Rashid’s body to her hometown. To my surprise when I called she said she was still on the way to Ipoh.

Rashid was all alone at the hospital when he died. There were no family members around. Not even his wife. The nurses called his wife when his condition worsened and before his wife even left the house they called her again to tell her that he had already passed away.

Then later as I was driving (I was already out of Ipoh at that time), Hana called. Apparently she was hoping I could help her out as she didn’t know how to go about doing things to arrange to bring back Rashid’s body. She too was alone, no family members accompanying her.

I could only advice her on what to do. I told her to get the hospital staff to make all the necessary arrangements. Hana was actually afraid that the arrangements would cost her a bomb. I told her to just proceed and that I’d call her back later in the day when I get back to Ipoh.

By the time I got back to Ipoh, it was almost 3 pm. I called Hana to enquire if she was still having problems in arranging for Rashid’s funeral. Hana said they were already on their way to the Muslim Cemetery at her hometown. She had to pay RM350 for the funeral arrangements. Somehow she managed to fork out some money. Thank goodness. I was so tired by then but if Hana was still stuck at Ipoh GH I probably would have no choice but to help her out.

I am still on leave this week but since I am no longer busy at home, I do have time to visit my PLWHA clients. I probably will start by visiting Hana. I have never been to her house before so this could be just the right time for me to assess her situation and her children’s needs…

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Eid Mubarak!

I will be busy these next few days. So I might as well post this today.

I would like to take this opportunity to ask for your forgiveness if I had offended anyone in any of my postings or replies to comments.

To those of you driving to balik kampung, drive carefully and have a safe trip!

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri & Maaf Zahir Batin.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Rashid's hospital appointment and Zana's new job

Just when I thought there’d probably be no more contacts with my PLWHA clients this week after having sent all the cash donations and Raya goodies to them, yesterday morning just as I was about to leave for work, Rashid’s wife called.

Rashid needs to go for his hospital appointment tomorrow in Ipoh but he is too weak to even get up. The last appointment he went to, although he was quite weak, he could at least get up to walk to the taxi we arranged for him. This time he’s already bedridden and so someone would need to carry him down from his house to whatever transportation arranged for him. Other than their 3 small kids, only Rashid’s wife and her mom stay in that house. So, who’s going to help carry Rashid down from his house? (They stay in a kampong house.) Even if I were to go all the way to their house (not in Ipoh), I don’t think I’d be able to help carry him. Hospital ambulance? They'd only go for emergency cases. Appointments cannot be considered emergency.

Rashid’s wife didn’t know what else to do. She called the ID clinic to seek help (thinking maybe the nurse could arrange for an ambulance to come) but was told by the nurse to make her own arrangements to bring him for his appointment. Well… the nurse has many other things to do and so arranging the patients’ transportation is definitely not part of her job.

The problem is, when these patients miss their appointments, they always get scolded for not sticking to their appointments. It didn’t matter what excuses were given. They are always accused of being irresponsible and troublesome.

Well, yes I admit, there are irresponsible and troublesome patients who come as and when they like… non-compliant with their appointments and medication etc. But then there are also genuine cases like Rashid – too weak to walk and too poor to arrange for other transport -- who may miss his appointments not because he’s too lazy to come but because he’s bedridden and his wife doesn’t know who to seek help from (oh, with Rashid’s condition… forget neighbours!).

Their house is too far from Ipoh for me to go personally (not that I’d be able to help much even if I do) so I gave Rashid’s wife a few phone numbers to call to seek help from. So far she hasn’t called me again so I hope she has found a way to bring Rashid for his appointment.

On another note, Kak Hawa, the lady in charge of the shelter home where I sent Zana (her earlier stories here: part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4) sent me a text message telling me that Zana has started working as a security guard at a flat and she’s now renting a room nearby. And while she’s at work, the landlady takes care of her baby. Alhamdulillah, good news at last! I hope Zana will not bring any trouble to her new landlady. She’d better start thinking of her future and more importantly, her child’s future.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Oh dear, dear Boboy...

During my last visit to the home of the new guardians of Lily’s children, I was there to explain to them on how to fill up the form for PAF application, as the new guardians weren’t too sure how to go about.

I was informed by the aunt that everything was fine. The children were doing okay in school while Boboy who had problems with his kindergarten teacher (after the teacher found out Boboy was HIV positive) had stopped going to the old kindergarten. However the guardians were already contemplating enrolling Boboy to a new kindergarten nearer to their home.

After a few visits to the children’s new home, I was under the impression that the new guardians no longer have any worries about taking care of Boboy. (Read about the uncle’s earlier dilemma here.)

A few days ago I called the aunt to find out if she had any problems in filling up the PAF form. I was surprised by her answer.

The Aunt: “Eh, kami tak jadi hantar borang tu. Abang takde bagitau puan apa-apa ke?” (Abang here refers to her husband.)
Me: “Bagitau apa? Dia takde cakap apa-apa pun kat saya…”
The Aunt: “Kami dah hantar Boboy ke KL. Mak sedara dia yang kat KL tu suruh hantar dia pergi Rumah Pernim. Bukan apa puan, kat situ dia orang taulah macam mana nak jaga budak-budak yang sakit macam Boboy ni.”
Me: “Habis tu, kakak-kakaknya macam mana?”
The Aunt: “Budak bertiga tu masih tinggal dengan sayalah.”

Aarghh! I was heartbroken. I was worried initially when the uncle brought up the topic earlier, but eventually I was given the impression that they were abandoning the idea of sending Boboy elsewhere. As a matter of fact, they were already talking about enrolling Boboy to a nearby kindergarten… surely that meant they were already willing to take care of him!

My guess is that the turn of events took place when another aunt working in KL made all the arrangements and convinced them that the shelter home was the best place for Boboy, even if it meant he had to be separated from his sisters!

Sensing that I was taken by surprise, the aunt tried to convince me that they did it out of their love for Boboy. “Rumah Pernim tu tak jauh dari rumah mak sedara dia puan. Boboy pun nampak happy je kat sana dapat ramai kawan. Lagipun raya nanti dia balik. Kalau puan nak nombor telefon tempat tu saya boleh bagi.”

Oh I already have the phone numbers of shelter homes for HIV kids. I was just disappointed that the boy had to be separated from his sisters. First he lost his father, then his mother… and now this?

But I’m trying to be positive about this…

The family does intend to visit (I hope they meant it) from time to time and Boboy will also be coming back from time to time during holidays and special occasions. They are not sending him away for good. They’re just sort of sending him to a “boarding school” (but at a very tender age).

The other positive thing is that Boboy will have many new friends at the shelter home. I guess that’s why the aunt mentioned that Boboy looked happy at his new home.

One thing I do know for sure is that the lady running the shelter home is a very motherly, loving and caring person. Come to think of it, I think Boboy will have better spiritual upbringing at his new home. I hope Boboy will get better motherly care over at his new place. Click here to find out more about the home.

Yes, I am disappointed with the fact that Boboy is separated from his own siblings, but I’m still trying to think positive here (more to put my mind at ease actually!).

All the best to you my dear Boboy. May you find love and happiness at your new home…

Thursday, 4 October 2007

A special recipe for you

Today I'd like to share a special recipe with all of you... it's suitable not only for Hari Raya, but for any occasions, any days throughout the year. Even if you're not a good cook, I'm sure you can do this one if you try...


4 cups love
2 cups loyalty
3 cups forgiveness
1 cup friendship
1 large bunch of smiles
5 spoons hope
2 spoons tenderness
4 quarts faith
1 barrel laughter
3 pints consideration for others

Take love and loyalty,
mix thoroughly with faith
Blend with tenderness,
kindness, and understanding
Add hope, friendship, and
abundant laughter
Top freely with smiles and
consideration for others
Bake with bright sunshine
Serve daily in generous helpings.

[Bradley Tyler]

Now, you all don't forget to try it, okay?

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Ramadhan House Visit #3

When Zainab sent me a text message last week telling me that her daughter had been discharged from the hospital, I had wanted to visit them at home. But Zainab said she was going back to her husband’s hometown to fetch her younger daughter. Apparently when kakak was warded, she wouldn’t let her mom leave her at the hospital while adik wouldn’t go home unless her mom went home with her. So Zaki (Zainab’s hubby) sent adik to Zaki’s hometown to stay with the grandma. For 4 days adik stayed with the grandma and for 4 days she was spoilt rotten by the grandma! By the time Zainab went to fetch her, adik said she wanted to stay with her grandma.

Oh well, adik still followed Zainab back to Ipoh. I went to visit them the next day; bringing with me a whole load of groceries for the family. Zaki still isn’t working, while Zainab had to take a few days unpaid leave after kakak got warded; so they probably are getting less income this month. With Raya coming soon, some goodies would cheer the kids up.

Kakak looked a lot better than when I saw her earlier at the hospital. However, she is still on medication and will need to go for a couple of follow-ups.

On Saturday I went to visit Yah’s family up north. This time I brought along more things than what I’d usually bring during my house visits. Other than the normal groceries and baby’s needs, there were also some raya goodies and cookies for them.

I had problems parking my car when I got to Yah’s house. As mentioned in one of my earlier postings, the jalan kampong there is small – just nice for one car and pretty scary if you have to make way for another vehicle coming from the opposite direction… with the paddy field on one side and the water irrigation on the other! Usually when I reach Yah’s house I could just park my car at the path heading towards the house, but that day the path was full of sand, bricks and gravel. (Remember I said Yah’s house needed repairs because a huge papaya tree fell onto her kitchen? Well, those things were for the repair works.)

I couldn’t simply leave my car on the road as other vehicles wouldn’t be able to pass; and to park further up at the compound of another house would be a problem because there were so many things to be carried to Yah’s house. So there I was struggling – gohead gostan gohead gostan :) to get my car out of the way so as not to block any vehicles trying to pass through. Thank God mine was just a Kenari… even then the front tyres ended up parked on the heap of sand while the back tyres just a few inches from the heap of bricks!

Yah’s brother was doing the repairs for the kitchen with the help of a friend. They are not pros but Yah couldn’t afford to waste so much money to repair a house on a rented piece of land, so she had to resort to getting her brother to help out. The brother couldn’t afford in terms of money, so he offered his energy.

Anyway, Yah’s children helped to carry the goodies from my car to their house. Yah’s baby, who is now about 1 year 3 months old and already walking; seemed a bit cautious when she saw me. Yep, this was the same stranger her grandma kept telling her to call "mama". When she saw the milk powder and the diapers, she knew they were hers. She pulled the packs of milk powder and then she sat on the diapers! For the first time, when I took the little angel into my arms, she did not avoid me. Usually she’d just cling on to her mom or grandma. Needless to say, I was so happy this time around…

Abang Chik, who’s usually very naughty, was quite well behaved that day because his uncle was around. He’s quite scared of his uncle who threatened to cut off his ears if he’s naughty! (Of course it’s just a threat… but Abang Chik thought it was for real)

Kak Long and Kak Ngah, as usual, didn’t talk much. Yes, these are the sisters who gave me the present I mentioned in my earlier posting here. When I’m around they don’t usually talk much, they just sit down and watch me chat with their mother and grandmother. They were probably taught never to interrupt while the elders are talking (jangan menyampuk cakap orang tua!).

After about half an hour, I made a move. I needed to stop by Fuzi’s house to get photocopies of her children’s birth cert and her late husband’s death cert. My colleague who’s in charge of client’s welfare is trying to arrange for Fuzi to get Bantuan Kanak-kanak from the Welfare Department instead of the measly RM115 Bantuan Am she’s been getting.

Groceries and raya goodies for Shila's and Rashid’s family have been passed to them through another colleague of mine who happened to be heading towards the town they’re staying, so I don’t have to go there. And raya goodies for Aini have been passed to another colleague of mine who usually visits her.

As for Nuri and Ani, they are not keen on having me visit them at home. They both stay in the same kampong and they both complain about having “kay-poh” neighbors – so I didn’t deliver anything to them. Maybe the next time they come to Ipoh, I might just meet up with them and give some “duit raya” for their kids.

So I guess no more house visits until after Raya. I may need to organize another Raya gathering this year for the ladies and their kids (Fuzi's children are already looking forward to it!), but for the time being, I’d better concentrate on my own Raya preparations first. There’s the lawn that needs to be mowed (yes, I mow the lawn myself)… the house that needs to be cleaned… and my messy table that needs to be tidied… plus my own household necessities that need to be bought before the whole jingbangs get together for Raya.

I will just make a few phone calls to my other PLWHA clients whom I have not visited just to ask how they’re doing….