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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Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Where and when to draw the line...

When many of the comments to my previous posting on Yah and her Mr. Darling, suggested that I should just let them be, my first thought was… aiyah, easy for you people to say lah! You’re not the ones Yah will call every time she lands into trouble! But yeah, I would have probably suggested the same if I didn’t know Yah and more importantly, if I was not Yah’s buddy. When you’re the one she’d end up calling every time, you too would hope she’d think twice before she does anything.

While previously whenever Yah called it’s probably just to tell me about her children’s well-being or any other problems which I could help resolve, of late her calls were more to talk about her own personal feelings. For these ones, I’d probably just listen without offering any solutions. She’d have to decide on her own.

When Fuzi needed a Malaysian citizen’s name to claim the ownership of the land her late husband left behind, she wanted to use my name. She could use her step-daughter’s name, but she trusted me more. But oh, no way was I going to get involved that deep! I don’t mind helping her out with the documentation and all, but to use my name? Sorry!

So, where and when do we draw the line?

Well, my NGO’s main activity is to provide moral and emotional support to people living with HIV/AIDS – not berkorban apa saja for them. We support them so they can become independent. If we help them in every single thing, they will become dependent on us instead, will they not?

When we join the Buddies, one of the guidelines given to us was that we must never bring our PLWHA clients to our homes. Imagine if my clients knew where I live, they may just come to my house every time they have a problem. Maria once sent me a text message at 3 am asking if I knew of a place she could go to as she just had a big fight with her husband. What if she knew where I lived and decided to simply come to my house? And then there was Zana who sent me a text message asking me if I knew of any shelter homes she could live in as she had been chased out of her house because of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy. What if she knew where I lived and just appeared in front of my house expecting me to provide her temporary shelter?

Oh no, bahaya ohh

This is, after all, voluntary work. We have our lives to live, and we have our own priorities. Whatever it is, our own families come first. Our cari makan work comes next. I cannot simply leave my office to meet my PLWHA clients whenever any of them call to say they are in Ipoh and need to meet up with me. The least they can do is to inform me before hand so I can make the necessary arrangements.

Then there are those who tend to think we are paid to take care of the PLWHAs. Ifa’s mother, for example, used to tell Ifa to call me every time Ifa needed to go anywhere. Ifa’s mother didn’t really understand when she was told I was just a volunteer. Only when I told her bluntly that I’m not paid for this job did she stop pestering Ifa to call me every time. Oh yes, Ifa would still call me from time to time to seek help, but only when she really needs to.

A fellow volunteer once received a call from her client telling the volunteer to fetch the client at the bus-station. Like it was the volunteer’s job to do so! And worse, the volunteer was at work. She simply told off her client, “Sorry, I’m not your driver!” At least if the client had the courtesy to ask for help instead of simply telling the volunteer to go and fetch her, the volunteer could have been less blunt.

Oh don’t get me wrong, not all PLWHAs are like that. Most of them are okay. But because of the one or two irritating ones, we volunteers have to take the necessary precautions to make sure our clients don’t take advantage of us. We provide our support services to them for free, but we are not their servants!

I guess we just need to know where and when to draw the line. Oh, we’ll learn how to do that somehow…


winniethepooh said...

yup, i agree, ur own families safety should come first. Protecting them is ur first priority. Sometimes when people dont understand that ure just helping, then i guess, the only way out is to tell them bluntly NO.

indeed, life is always grey, never black or white isnt it Pi Bani :) they should appreciate what the NGOs do for them and not take u all for granted.

have a great week ahead Pi bani!

Mat Salo said...


That's why I know I can never do this sort of work... I would get too involved. It is in my nature to do so, nak sibuk-sibuk. All the more respect I have for you guys, with your presence of mind and discipline to know which is which. Yes life would be topsy-turvy if the knew where you lived and showing up at your doorstep unannounced.. So a line has to be drawn somewhere. But like winnie said, life is never black and white - mostly in shades of grey. So it takes hell of a strong charachter to deal with all these. Waaa, tabik laar.

You're right, re: Yah & Mr. Darling, yup, easy for us to say, Pi. It's not us Yah calls when touble's brewing... so I do stand corrected, eh?

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

aiseh, ya la. never really thought of that. but as much they know how to think for themselves, they should be able to foresee any consequences that may come. its think-before-you-act thing.

Unknown said...

Kak Pi,
I agree with you. Lending hand to do some good is not giving the hand for good. Juggling between family, responsibily and voluntary work must be tough enough for you and other volunteers. Perhaps, that is just how you like your life to be. I don't really have such experience. Kawin pon belom. Heheh. But I guess I can understand. Everyone have the right to say no right?
Good day(",).

Pi Bani said...

If life is always black and white, then it will be too predictable and so there's not much suspense and excitement. No thrill lah like that, kan? ;)

Mat Salo:
We learn from experience. Everytime a new volunteer joins us, he/she will be trained/guided by a senior volunteer so that he/she too will know how to face our clients and where to draw the line.

Pi Bani said...

You know, sometimes people tend to get tempted by something sampai lupa nak think twice before jumping into it. The temptation is too great for them, they don't think of the pros and cons, instead they just see yang indah-indah belaka. Bila dah jump, barulah nak terpikir, "Oh God! What have I got myself into?" Bila dah jatuh, barulah menyesal...

And I'm not only talking about PLWHAs. Kita-kita ni pun kadang-kadang lebihkurang je.

As I've said many times, I enjoy this voluntary work. I love the satisfaction of helping people, BUT only people who NEED help. And that doesn't mean I should do everything for them. That's spoiling, not helping. A big difference there.

Kerp (Ph.D) said...

betul la kak Pi. but sometimes the temptation is just too great too resist it's worth all the consequences.

hope that isnt the case with yah and mr romeo darling.

nyonyapenang said...

Hi Pi Bani,

It takes alot to do the work you do and I salute you for that.

Have a great day.

kina said...

Sama lu kita salut
Lu memang hero
Sama lu kita salut
Lu memang hebat

something like that la lagu Spider tu...

Pi Bani said...

Well yeah, some things are just too tempting to resist. Tapi nak kena think over jugak pros and cons... sebab dunia ni banyak COBAAAAAAN...

Nyonya Penang:
The trick is to enjoy the things that you do; then you won't feel so stressed out doing them.

You too have a great day, NP

Pi Bani said...


Lu memang serabut
Wa bukan hero
Lu memang serabut
Wa bukan hebat.

Hah, tu lagu labah-labah le pulak... ;)

Unknown said...

Hi Pi,

I understand what you are going through. Volunteerism is not easy! It can really eat one up especially with people who do not understand the word 'volunteer'! Lagi2 yang rude.

It even happens with the supposed literate and educated ones, Pi.

I was in one organisation but recently left it. It is rather elitist and makes my blood boil lah.

There are members, yang just got voted to a higher rank and guess what? That supposed new status got to her think that she's supposedly educated, but as my other colleague said she's not exposed (agak kampungan in mentality..cheh..ha ha).

Mahu nya, she scolded and berated another volunteer (older than her some more, so disrespectful indeed) just because that colleague she thought was lower rank than her. Imagine that? How low her understanding of volunteer work. We are all same level but carrying out different tasks. So not in the loop some people..memalukan kita saja.

Yes, I agree. Where do we draw the line? I left, cos I can do without low level irritations..ha ha! In fact I can do more on my own platform which I am continuing to do so now. No need with all these artificial man made red tapes in my previous organisation!

But in your case it is about the people outside the organisation yang buat hal, but still yeah..where does one draw the line?

Pi Bani said...

So far in this NGO, I don't have problems with my fellow volunteers. Our clients (some lah) are the ones yang sometimes naik lemak with the help they get and expect more help than what they should get. Tu kira dah over lah...

Where to draw the line? That one kena pikir sendiri and kena pakai logic lah jugak kot. And sometimes the line tu pun senget-benget. Got to be a bit flexible jugak kan?

J.T. said...

Volunteering is such a blessed way of life but not everyone is cut out for it. That is why, like some here, I take my hat off to you.

Trying to say that you have to cruel to be kind is not it yet I feel it is along that line.

If you give too much, you can be taken advantage of. Sometimes some people just don't get it that volunteering is giving of one self without compensation. Some think you owe them favours just because you have taken an interest in their lives. Then others, it is a case of "give some an inch, take a yard".

As you said it, "I guess we just need to know where and when to draw the line."

Salt N Turmeric said...

when someone asked for ur opinion, u shud give a truthful one rather than wht tht person wants to hear. the truth is indeed bitter. ;)

Pi, i cant help but find ur comment very funny. esp the pantun part. ada2 aje u ni. lol!

Pi Bani said...

JT: Well yeah, some people think this is my JOB. Quite a number of these clients or their families think I work at the hospital... especially the ones I met at the HIV clinic. When told I work elsewhere, they look at me with that weird look, probably thinking, "Then whaddaheck are you doing at the hospital?"

Give an INCH, take a YARD, eh? Then maybe must kick them by the FOOT! :)

Hmmm... I don't think that was a pantun lah. Kina gave me the lyrics of a song (which frankly I don't know of) by Spider so in turn I tukar to my own lyrics lah.

Ohh, tu you belum dengar lagi my pantun-pantun dua kerat... ;)

Unknown said...

Kak Pi...Now I understand why God gives you kekentalan and kekuatan untuk menangani tugasan sukarelawan... It's not in everyone akak, I tell you.

Like MS, i sure campurtangan giler if involved dlm kes2 mcm ni...alahai...payah gak nak draw the line, kak... byk yg blur. sometimes niat kita baik tapi hasilnya disalah erti jadi lain lak...kita gak yg tak tido mlm mcm kesal gitu...

Anyhow, I still salute you kak...

Pi Bani said...

Raden Galoh:
Tak boleh lah get too deeply involved. Nanti nak tolong orang punya pasal, kita pulak yang makan hati. No matter what we do, we must remember our priorities.

Nak tolong orang, kepala kita kena clear dulu. Kalau kepala otak sendiri dah berserabut, macam mana nak tolong orang lain kan?

Pak Zawi said...

My salute to you. Can only do my small bit.

Nightwing said...

Helo Kak Pi,

Ya, not easy in ur line of work. But u keep on doing what u r doing.

But do not forget to relax too. See u at Queen Mary 2...:)

Pi Bani said...

Every bit of contribution counts, no matter how small.

Haha! Yeah, see you on board Queen Mary 2 ;)