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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Saturday, 3 November 2007

A visit to Hana's house

When Pat, a colleague of mine who was assigned as Hana’s main buddy, told me that Hana was still in denial, a few things came to my mind. Hana didn’t look to me like the kind who wouldn’t accept fate. You see, before this when Hana’s late husband Rashid was still alive, I was the one Hana used to call to seek help from as they had to be in Ipoh quite often. Later when Rashid was transferred back to the hospital at the town they live in, we assigned Pat as Hana’s main buddy as she stays in the same town. And she has been doing a good job visiting Hana at home whenever she had the opportunity.

When Pat told me that Hana denied she was HIV positive, I was thinking that either there was somebody else listening to their conversation (like Hana’s mother or children); or Hana didn’t quite understand what was told to her by the doctor/nurse. She did seem to be quite slow in understanding whatever that was said to her.

So I thought I must visit Hana at home. Being a typical kampong girl that she is, maybe she’d feel more comfortable talking to a fellow Malay lady, I thought. I called her up on Wednesday just to be sure if she’s home today and yesterday I called SN at the HIV clinic to make sure of Hana’s HIV status before I talk to Hana today.

I promised Pat I’d give her a call when I reach the town. Besides visiting Hana and bringing her some groceries, I also brought along with me 2 other boxes of groceries to be given to 2 other PLWHAs who are Pat’s clients.

Pat was busy doing something at home this morning when I called her, but she offered to show me the way to Hana’s house anyway. Pat changed cars with her husband first as she was not confident driving the big car into Hana’s kampong. We went in 2 cars as Pat needed to go back early. Although I know how to get to Hana’s kampong, apparently finding her house in the kampong was not easy at all. Thank goodness Pat offered to show the way. Such a narrow road… turn left, turn right, turn left and a few more sharp turns here and there… we finally parked our cars under a tree. There was one house on our right, locked with a padlock. I thought that was Hana’s house… it didn’t look like anybody was home.

When I asked Pat if that was the house, she said, “No! We got to climb up there!”

Hana’s house is perched on a hilly area. So there I was, with a 10 kg bag of rice in one hand and a heavy bag of other goodies in the other, climbing up to Hana’s house which is not reachable by car, in fact not even by bicycle. If you go by bicycle, you’d either have to carry your bicycle up or leave your bicycle down. And I wasn’t about to carry my car up there… ;)

If Pat didn’t come along I would probably have to go down another trip to get the other things… other than rice, I brought along cooking oil (5kg bottle), milo, flour, sugar, biscuits, noodles, margarine, etc. Although Pat had to leave early, I was really thankful she came along. I would have had a tough time without her.

When we got there, Hana’s 13 year old daughter just showed her face for a while and then went upstairs. She seemed a bit shy. But Hana’s 8 year old girl was very very chatty… always trying to grab our attention by interrupting our conversation. Hana’s 3rd child, a 4 year old boy, woke up while we were chatting and immediately came down to play with a cat they call Taman.

“Taman?” I asked. That’s a weird name for a cat, I thought. “Jumpa dia kat taman jadi panggil dia Taman lah,” answered the 8 year old girl. Oh well…

Anyway can you imagine… this 8 year old girl has to walk to school everyday. And it takes about 20 minutes to walk to her school… using shortcuts. If Hana works day shift (7 am to 7 pm), she will walk the girl to school. But if Hana works night shift, the little girl walks to school ALONE. And using shortcuts only means that the path the girl follows is a quiet, lonely road. Anything can happen during her 20 minute walk. I was somehow immediately reminded of Nurin Jazlin. But despite all the publicity on children’s safety, we can’t blame Hana for exposing the girl to danger, can we? The only school van available at her area charges around RM50 to RM60 per month and Hana simply could not afford it. Definitely we need to consider her for some sort of education sponsorship.

Hana, who stays with her mother, does not earn enough to be able to afford to pay for her daughter’s school van fare. Hana’s mother, in her 50’s, has to work too to make ends meet. Worse still, her mother’s bloodsucking employer doesn’t even provide annual leave for his workers. And they work 7 days a week. He gave 2 days unpaid leave for Raya, but if the workers wish to take leave on other days, he’d cut off 2 days pay for each day of leave! You may wonder why he had not been reported to the labour office. Well, none of the workers dare do that for fear they may end up being out of job when they desperately need money. I guess the employer knows that too… that’s why he’s really taking full advantage of them. LEECH!!

We were also told that of late, since Rashid passed away, Hana’s little girl seemed a bit reluctant to go to school. I asked the girl why. She said some friends like to push her around and kept teasing her because she no longer has a father. Hmmm… either that, or, being the small town that it is, some people must have heard that her father had AIDS.

Back to Hana’s so called denial; I found out that my suspicion was true after all. Hana didn’t quite understand what the doctor told her. Actually she is confirmed positive, but her CD4 count is still OK and she does not have any symptoms of HIV related illnesses as yet. Hana thought OK meant she was negative. And when the doctor told her to go for another blood test just to be sure of her CD4 count, Hana thought the test was to be doubly sure if she was indeed negative. So, when Hana asked me about the results of the latest blood test, I just had to tell her the whole story in plain direct language to make sure she understood.

Hana seemed a bit distraught when I told her. Looking at her, I was quite sure by then she fully understood she was positive. She began to worry about her children’s future… she began to worry about who would take care of them… she began to worry about the side effects of the HIV medication (as she had seen on Rashid when he started taking the antiretroviral drugs)… she began to worry about “what if people found out”.

I told her she shouldn’t be worrying too much and that she has to be strong for the sake of her children. I gave her examples of the other PLWHAs like Jah and Shila. Easier said than done I know, but what else was I to tell her?! I know having a positive attitude helps a lot for these PLWHAs, but looking at the kind of poverty Hana lives in, even without HIV she already has a lot of things to worry about.

All I can do now is to make sure Hana gets enough assistance especially in her children’s education. She can always call me or Pat when she needs to talk, and hopefully in time, she will be able to live with HIV, positively.


pearly said...

poor gurl walk alone to skol like this , wat to do .. like you say no money.. wish the govm could do something to help them , wish I win this week lotty the £18,00000 I could give them help too .
Wish is not gud enough I guess I need to try more to win so I can help wat you say my dear ?

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

kehadapan kak Pi yg dikasihi,

eh seriously, i'm not trying to politicise things but where in the world is the ADUN of the area hana lives? i can imagine, to them rm60 for a transportation fare is alot. this is where the YB should get down to the field and play his part. makan gaji buta ke apa?

sometimes saya tgk diorang yg sempit kehidupan, makin sempit as time goes by. mcm dah jatuh ditimpa tangga camtu.

Pi Bani said...

I welcome any form of help I can get. As it is we (my NGO) are arranging for an Education Sponsorship programme where we hope to get individual sponsors for each individual child.

Pi Bani said...

InsyaAllah, we won't let Hana's life become makin sempit. I'm seeing to it that she gets all the support she can get. I don't know who the YB is for that area but we've already got Hana to go to the welfare office to apply for Bantuan Kanak-kanak. The officer dah pun datang ke rumah (tapi according to Hana dok kat luar je, tak masuk pun... dah kepenatan panjat tangga kot) but he did not promise anything. He did say sebab Hana kerja kilang mungkin susah sikit nak dapat. Agaknya dia ingat semua kilang bagi gaji banyak kot. Tak tau kata nak dapat gaji banyak kena overtime gila-gila... habis tu kalau overtime gila-gila, anak kat rumah siapa nak jaga kan?

Daphne Ling said...

Hi Kak Pi,

Haih...8 year old walking alone...Is there anything we can do to help her? Get her a pepper spray or something? I mean, it is far fetched (and sounds somewhat stupid from where I am typing), but I hate the thought of her with no 'weapon' at all...Or teach her to carry an umbrella?

Haih...But she's eight...How much power can an 8-year-old wield?

I hope she stays safe...

As for Taman, cats seem to get name very literal names...The guard in my hostel calls her Kuning (cos he's yellow lar)...

If striped, Belang...If black, Hitam lar...If got spots, Tompok lar...


We should promote more unique names...

Like 'Char Kuey Teow', 'Apom Balik' or 'Mee Rebus' or something...

Unique, and uniquely Malaysian ;)

PS: I tried naming my dog 'Chee Cheong Fun' (either that or 'Char Siew Pau', or 'Wantan Mee' or somethng along those lines), but mum said no =(

Daphne Ling said...

Sorry, that should read "The guard in my hostel calls her CAT Kuning (cos he's yellow lar)..."

Pi Bani said...

You can obviously see from children's schoolbags nowadays... so heavy maaa... how to ask the girl to carry anything extra? Anyway, it's almost school hols, and by next year I'm gonna make sure she doesn't have to walk to school!

As for names of cats, waaaaay back when I was still in school, there was one particular cat which used to hang around the dining hall... we called him JAWS. Why? Because gigi dia jongang lorr... (serious, gigi dia betul2 jongang!!)