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)
Malaysia Flag Pictures, Images and Photos

Monday, 30 June 2008

Be Thankful

Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire.If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don't know something, for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations, because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge, because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you're tired and weary, because it means you've made a difference.

It's easy to be thankful for the good things. A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks.Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive. Find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings.

~Author Unknown~

Friday, 27 June 2008

Taking a short break

Folks, I need to take a short break probably for the whole of next week. Although I may still have access to the internet, I doubt I'd have enough time to come up with new postings for this blog. But before I go off, I will try to prepare some scheduled posts for next week - nothing original, but just some things for us to ponder, or just jokes to make us smile.

For a start, here are some great predictions by so called experts of yesteryears...

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 15 tons."
--Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
--Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."
--The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

"But what ... is it good for?"
--Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
--Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
--Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
--David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible."
--A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"
--Harry M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.

Aaaah, great predictions indeed, weren't they? :)

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

When taking leave means earning less

Whenever we have to attend to any non work related matters on a working day, we’d usually have to take leave from work. But at the end of each month, we’d still get full pay. Unless of course, we run out of annual leave and have to resort to unpaid leave instead. On gazetted public holidays, we can take a break, and if our employers still want us to work on a public holiday, they’d have to pay us extra.

Our worries are more about our annual leave – whether we have enough to spare or not. We don’t really worry about having our pay deducted. That’s because the Employment Act requires employers to give at least one paid rest day per week, 10 gazetted public holidays in a year, and a minimum of 8 days paid annual leave for every twelve months of continuous service for the same employer (for those employed for less than 2 years).

But I’ve seen my HIV clients worry every time they have to take leave because that would mean they’d get less income at the end of the month.

When I asked Lin if she’d like to join us for this year’s Family Day and bring her kids along, she said she’s very keen to join. But as I had expected, she’s still unsure if she should because her off days are Wednesdays, which means she works on Sundays. They don’t have annual leave. From past experiences of the other employees at her workplace, it’s difficult to get even unpaid leave from her employer. One lady wanted to take a few days unpaid leave as her son was getting married, the employer told her that if she doesn’t come to work during those days, she need not come in at all after that.

As an incentive, now the employer pays an allowance of RM100 to those with full attendance during the month. While Lin need not pay anything to join us for our Family Day trip, by taking that one day off, she still stands to lose out RM100. When every single sen counts, RM100 is a whole lot of money. She simply cannot rely on her ex-husband (Mr Darling lah, who else!) to give nafkah for the children as he only gives as and when he pleases.

It’s a tough decision for Lin. She needs the money, but at the same time, she never brought her children out for leisure and fun anywhere, and the Family Day trip would be a great opportunity for her to do so. I told Lin to think it over first, and then tell me her decision in a few days time.

Then if you remember my earlier posting about Mrs. K, she too had to take unpaid leave whenever she needed to bring her daughter to the hospital. She doesn’t earn much even if she doesn’t take any leave. In fact she’d have to work overtime if she wants to earn more.

Then there’s Hana. Hana works in a factory and works in shifts. Hopefully she can arrange for her shift not to be on that particular Sunday when we plan to have our Family Day as Hana too is interested to join. But while Hana’s employer abides by the Employment Act, Hana’s mother, who also works to earn more income for the family, doesn’t seem to get any benefits other than the pay at the end of the month. She works for a small business – helping to cut chicken into small parts. She and the other employees have to work EVERY day, not a single rest day in a week. No annual leave – and those who wanted to take unpaid leave would get 2 days pay-cut for each day they go on leave. The only off-days they get, albeit unpaid (with one day pay-cut instead of two), is on Hari Raya every year.

Chet! Gila punya employer! If reported to the authorities, this employer SURE KENA!

But none of the employees want to report. You see, to them if they report, their employer will get into trouble, the business may close down and they may end up without a job. They desperately need the job to be able to survive.

Yep, these are the kind of desperate employees some heartless employers tend to take advantage of.


Monday, 23 June 2008

It's calling calling time!

Yep, it’s that time of the year again when I’d start calling all my clients asking them if they’d like to join our Family Day trip. We have fixed our Family Day to be on the first Sunday of August each year, which means this year’s will be on the 3rd of August. We may however have to reschedule the date in 2 or 3 years time when it coincides with fasting month.

Last year it was a day at the Lost World of Tambun, the year before was Teluk Batik beach. This year we’re going to Taiping Zoo.

“Let’s go to the zoo… there’re lots of things to do…”

This is the time when I wish I didn’t have so many clients. You see, I can’t be calling them all at the same time. So what happened was one of the clients who had already been told about the Family Day, so happened to meet another client who had NOT been told (they met at the HIV clinic), and the one who already knew about it asked the other one if she’s going when this other lady didn’t know heads or tails. Then she started thinking that I did not invite her along when in actual fact I had not invited her yet. Aiyah, leceh lah like this

Anyway, that lady was Nuri who had never joined any of our activities anyway, so that was probably why she thought I didn’t bother to invite her. As a matter of fact she told the other client, Shila, that she wouldn’t want to join even if I asked her because if she did everyone would know she’s HIV positive! Yeah, some of them still think that way. We never discuss anything about HIV during our Family Day and people who didn’t know would just think that ours was just like any other Family Day functions which has no relations whatsoever to any illnesses. But what can I say, while Nuri doesn’t mind having a buddy, she still doesn’t want us to visit her at home for fear that neighbors would be asking who we were and they’d end up knowing about her HIV status. The only time I went to visit her at her hometown, we had to meet outside. Most of the time I’d just meet her when she comes to Ipoh for her hospital appointments.

So far Jah, Shila, Fuzi and Zainab have said yes to the Family Day trip this year. I still need to call Ani, Hana, Sha, Lin and Maria, although in Maria’s case, chances are her husband wouldn’t give the go-ahead. Maria had wanted so much to join us in Lost World of Tambun last year but her husband said no.

As for Lin, it will be rather difficult for her too as she works on Sundays and it will not be easy getting leave from her employer. I’ve tried calling Yah but my calls didn’t seem to get through. After one ring, the calls get cut off. Either she has changed her number or she had not paid her phone’s access fee. I guess I have no choice but to send her a text message and hope she gets to read it. Yah did join last year’s trip together with her kids.

Speaking of which, Yah has not been calling me for quite some time now I wonder if she’s still having an affair with Mr. Darling. You see, recently, Mr. D did call a male colleague of mine. He said he got my colleague’s number from Yah, so I guess Yah is still in touch with him. Funny thing was, Mr. D asked my colleague (for the 2nd time mind you!) if he could arrange to introduce him to other HIV positive ladies! Haiyah, this romeo, he's still keeping in touch with Yah, but at the same time looking for other HIV positive ladies. He doesn’t want to be assigned a buddy, but calling one of us to be his match-maker instead!

It would be interesting if both Lin and Yah can join this year’s Family Day. Mr. Darling? Well, unless he joins as our client within the next month, he will not be invited – so there will be no Close Encounters of Yah, Lin, Dah-ling all at the same time. :)

I’d better start calling those whom I have not called yet. I may need to take a break in July so I need to settle everything by this week…

Thursday, 19 June 2008

A chat with the doctor...

Some people ask how we Buddies get to know of people living with HIV, to whom we offer our support service. Do we wait for the PLWHAs to contact us through the pamphlets that we distribute? No, we don’t get many clients if we were just to wait for the PLWHAs to contact us.

Most of the clients we have were referred to us by the ID clinic of Ipoh GH. You would have read my postings about our clinic duties. So, we need to have a good rapport with the ID clinic staff – both doctors and nurses. I even have SN’s personal hand phone number stored in my hand phone, and she, mine.

Other than the ID clinic staff, we must also have good contact with the doctor is charge at the paediatric unit. You see, HIV infected children go to the paediatric clinic, not the ID clinic. Previously we had very good relationship with the doctor in charge, Dr. J. Whenever he felt any of the children needed any help, he’d call us personally to refer the case to us. And he didn’t mind either that sometimes we’d call him outside office hours to consult him on certain matters. But Dr. J got a promotion and was transferred to another state.

So, another doctor, Dr. C, took over his place. This lady doctor was briefed about us and a list of phone numbers were given to her by the previous doctor. However, she had not been personally introduced to us.

About 2 weeks ago, Dr. C tried to call us wanting to meet anyone of us. First she tried our center number. We don’t have anyone manning the center full time as all our volunteers have other jobs to do. So her calls went unanswered of course. Why have the phone when there’s no one there you may ask? Well, the fax machine is on all the time so we can receive faxes anytime (except when the machine runs out of paper of course).

Then she tried the number of one of my colleagues whose number appears on all the pamphlets. Oh the doctor did manage to get hold of her, but wrong timing. My colleague was then holidaying in China! So my colleague gave Dr. C the number of another senior volunteer whose number was the only one she memorized in her head, although the volunteer is no longer in the Board. This volunteer did agree to fix an appointment with Dr. C, but since he’s no longer in the Board, he thought it would be better if I myself could meet up with the doctor.

And the appointment was yesterday at 11.30 am. Knowing how difficult it was to get a parking space at the hospital, I went quite early. To my surprise, without even having to go one whole round around the hospital, I got myself a nice parking spot right beside the specialist clinic. Woohoo! Lucky me! Or so I thought…

Due to the ease of getting a parking space, I was 10 minutes early for the appointment. I went to the paediatric clinic, asked for the doctor and waited for a while. Then the nurse came out, and told me that although Dr. C did come earlier in the morning, she had gone home as she was not well and was on MC. Hearing that she was on MC, I didn’t bother to wait any longer.

So off I went. I was just about to stop by a pharmacy to buy something for my cough when my colleague (who had earlier arranged for the appointment) called me up and told me that the doctor just called him. Apparently, right after I left, the doctor was back at the clinic. Although she was on MC, she went back to the clinic because of the appointment. Since I was not that far off from the hospital, I decided to go back. This time however I was not so lucky to get a parking space so near to the clinic. But it was not too bad because it was nearing 12 noon and some of those who came for their appointments had already left and so finding a parking space was not so much of a nightmare.

Finally I managed to meet Dr. C. She had actually wanted to know more of what we do and what kind of cases she could refer to us… what sort of help we could offer… etc.

It was a good chat. I took the opportunity to ask about the infected children she sees at her clinic. There are 14 or 15 infected children who regularly go for their appointments at the paediatric clinic. There are a few others who sometimes skip their appointments (their parents doing of course, what would the kids know!) and a few who never turned up after the first one despite being confirmed HIV positive.

We have tried visiting some of the infected families at home to coax them to bring their children for check ups at the hospital but they’d always come up with all sorts of excuses. Or they’d say okay when we see them but when the time came they still didn’t bother to bring their children for appointments. I sometimes get quite mad with these people… if they are not bothered about their own health, it’s their business – but at least give their children a chance! Just because of the parent’s denial syndrome, the kids have to suffer? It’s not fair, is it?

Or is it just us who are not doing a good job at convincing the parents to get out of their denial? Sigh…

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

A busy weekend...

I had wanted to visit baby K again over the weekend but there were oh so many things to do. Other than sending my car for servicing on Saturday morning, later at 3 pm we had our gotong-royong to tidy up our NGO center. Yes, we do have our cleaner coming in every Saturday to clean up the place but all she does is to clean the place… not tidy up the mess we created in our store room.

So we figured it was time to clear up the place – tidy up the things we need and throw away the things that we don’t. Otherwise even the useful things we won’t be able to use because by the time we need to use them, we won’t be able to find them!

7 volunteers turned up and one of the volunteers brought along his wife to help out (very clever, when it came to hard work, he brought his wife!!).

Before - everything simply chucked one thing on top of another...

The main thing causing the piling up of things in the store room was actually our Buddy Bears – its production has been greater than demand. With the bears in plastic bags and chucked into the store room, all the things that were placed in the store room earlier were simply lost from our sight! So we took things out from the room, placed the bears in boxes and marked the number of bears on each box.

During - an even bigger mess created...

Then we had to rearrange everything back into the room. Buddy Bears at one corner… Family Day things at one corner… groceries for our poor clients at one corner… at least we won’t get “drowned” in the mess when we try to look for things next time.

After - the bears already in boxes and stacked up at one corner

I couldn’t visit baby K on Sunday either as I had to go to KL for some personal matters. But Mrs. K did call me on Sunday evening, telling me that her little girl would probably be discharged on Monday and that the doctors had arranged for her IJN appointment in August. I know she’s worried about the traveling costs. I will have to think of something to help her out. Even if they still have their EPF money, they still need help.

Fuzi too called me. I had told her earlier to inform me if any of her children need to pay anything extra for their schooling needs as they are under sponsorship. So yes, her eldest daughter Wina was chosen as a prefect and needed to pay for her prefect’s uniform. In addition she also had to pay an additional fee of RM20 asked by her class teacher. Whatever the fee was for I don’t know, I will have to see the receipt first. Talk about free education….

And oh, Fuzi also mentioned that the children’s bus fares have increased from RM30 to RM40 a month. Which reminds me, with the price of petrol/diesel up; surely the other children too may have to pay extra for their bus fares. I’d better ask around, sometimes they are too shy to tell us if we don’t ask. I just came back from KL myself (my first trip to KL since petrol price shot up) and somehow my petrol tank seemed to have expanded….

And I’ve got quite a number of trips to KL in the next few weeks and maybe months... alamaaak…

Friday, 13 June 2008

Dear little Baby K

When Mr. K was first diagnosed as HIV positive, Mrs. K was pregnant. Their main concern then was that Mrs. K may have been infected too, and as such, precautions must be taken to minimise the chances of infection to the baby.

The first blood test on Mrs. K showed negative results. The doctor at the HIV clinic was not satisfied (she had to be doubly sure as a baby’s life was involved) and had another blood test done on her. The second test too showed negative results. Thank goodness. That meant Mrs. K could deliver the baby the normal procedure.

But even after due date Mrs. K had still not delivered and so finally the doctors decided a c-sect had to be done. The baby came out normal though, and since Mrs. K was confirmed free from HIV, the baby need not take any ARV medication and Mrs. K could breastfeed the baby (but somehow she didn’t have enough milk to feed the baby, and as such they needed supplies of milk powder just as much as those who couldn’t breastfeed their babies).

Little Baby K is nearly 1 ½ years old now. She didn’t have much problem, health wise. But recently she was down with fever and couldn’t sleep and eat well. She’d end up with diarrhea every time they fed her milk. Mrs. K brought her to the clinic and was given the usual medication. But Baby K didn’t get well. Early one morning, about 4 am, she was crying and crying and getting blue, and so her parents took her to the district hospital where the little girl was warded.

After a few days, she was discharged. But just 2 days after she got home, the same thing occurred. She was turning blue again. And again, she was brought to the district hospital and was warded yet again. It was then that the doctor asked if anyone in the family had any blood problems. Mrs. K didn’t want to tell about Mr. K’s HIV status as she said usually once they knew he was positive, the whole family would get a one kind of treatment from the hospital staff. A blood test was done on Baby K and Mrs. K started to worry if the baby had indeed been infected with HIV. I assured her that the baby would only be infected if Mrs. K herself was infected. But Mrs. K just had a blood test done a few weeks earlier and although she had not got the results, usually if it’s positive, SN would have called her by now.

Anyway, the doctor didn’t say anything about Baby K’s blood test. He just suggested to the family to change the little girl’s milk powder to something more expensive. The girl was discharged and Mr. & Mrs. K followed the doctor’s advice and bought the expensive milk powder. They didn’t have enough money, they borrowed.

Baby K still didn’t get well. This time, they decided to take her direct to Ipoh GH. That was 2 days ago. The girl was immediately warded and all sorts of tests were done – blood, x-ray, etc. And it was confirmed that… little Baby K has a hole-in-the-heart. Sigh…

Anyway, yesterday there was a royal visit to the Ipoh GH. The Sultan and Raja Permaisuri of Perak were there to officially rename the Ipoh GH to Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun. The royalties went around visiting a few wards as well, and naturally, the pediatric ward was top on the list. And you know what that meant? Yep, little Baby K had royal visitors and received a hamper and a teddy bear from the Raja Permaisuri herself! Woohoo! Her siblings would be jealous! They weren’t there when the royalties visited.

I went to visit Baby K yesterday. No-lah, not at the same time as the royal visit. I went later during visiting hours – the royalties were there in the morning.

The little girl was so happy and active yesterday. Those who saw her kept asking, “Dia sakit apa? Nampak sihat je?” When I got there she was so comot after eating choc biscuits from the hamper. She was so happy when I took her out of her bed and brought her around the ward. She was even happier when Mrs. K put on her shoes for her and we let her roam free. We ended up having a tough time chasing her around the ward! At home the little girl never had such a big space to move around – this time she had the whole hospital ward!

Well, Baby K will have to stay in the ward for a few more days at least for observation. At the same time, the doctors are arranging for appointments at IJN for her. That means, from now on, the Ks will also have to travel to KL for Baby K’s hospital appointments in addition to Mr. K’s appointments in Ipoh.

More money needed for sure. And with Mrs. K having to take leave from work more often, there will be less income.

Oh dear, here we go again…

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Back to square one

During the early stages after I was confirmed as a Buddy, many of the clients I was assigned to were poor people whom I could not even imagine how they survived with the kind of income they got each month.

Yah and her late husband, Azman, received a Bantuan Am of RM115 a month from the Welfare Dept to feed their 4 kids. With his condition, Azman could not work while Yah too could not work to take care of Azman and her kids, especially the baby.

Fuzi, a single mom with 5 children, also received a Bantuan Am of RM115 a month. She too could not work as there was nobody to help take care of her baby at home. And since the whole neighborhood knew of her HIV, she couldn’t even get odd jobs within the neighborhood.

Mr. and Mrs. K, with 4 kids, “looked” better in terms of the condition of their house, as they stay in a small town and their house is a rumah batu instead of a rumah papan, albeit just a terrace house. But they had to pay rent as it was not their house or their family’s house. With Mr. K not working, and Mrs. K earning just slightly over RM300 a month, minus RM180 a month for rental, they had only a balance of RM120 a month to spend. Worse still, earlier before Mrs. K found a job and Mr. K seldom came home due to his drug addictions back then, Mrs. K resorted to borrowing from an unlicensed money lender to support her kids. With a loan of RM1,500 at a rate of 10% per month, and the money lender holding her ATM card, once her salary was banked into her account, the money lender would withdraw RM150 for the interest. Oops, that meant they had a negative balance to spend?? Well, they ended up not paying for their house rental and at one time were almost chased out of the house.

Although the main objective of my NGO is to provide moral and emotional support, sometimes their emotional problems are because of their financial problems! So, while we don’t give them money outright, we do try and help source for financial assistance for them – welfare aid, MAC’s Pediatric Aids Fund (PAF), SOCSO, EPF, individual donors, etc.

As a result, Yah’s Bantuan Am of RM115 per month was changed to Bantuan Kanak-kanak of RM100 per child per month; and there’s also an anonymous donor banking in a fixed amount each month into her account. She’s also getting PAF for her children and in addition, we also helped with her EPF drawings. Yah has stopped asking for financial help from me.

Fuzi’s Bantuan Am too was changed to Bantuan Kanak-kanak so she gets RM400 a month (the youngest is not considered a Malaysian citizen so does not qualify). Fuzi too gets a fixed monthly donation from the same anonymous donor and also from PAF. Since she’s so used to getting much less, it seems to me that now Fuzi is able to manage her monthly financial needs. For someone who has never worked before, she seemed to know how to budget.

But Mr. and Mrs. K’s family is a different story altogether! I managed to get a donor to pay for their monthly rental (banked in direct into landlord's account) until the end of last year so they were not chased out; for the whole of last year, I sent groceries and baby’s necessities on a monthly basis; I helped to get someone to lend some money (without interest) to settle off the loan from the money lender so that Mrs. K could get back her ATM card; helped Mr. K with his EPF drawings (from which I made sure he settled the interest-free loan first) and they are also getting help from PAF.

The problem with this family is that they don’t seem to know how to manage their finances. The more cash they can get hold of in their hands, the more they’d spend, even on unnecessary things. Despite me reminding them many times before Mr K’s EPF withdrawal was approved, to put aside some of the drawings for their future needs, and them nodding in agreement every time, somehow the moment they got the money, they got tempted with so many things. It didn’t help that the EPF drawings came right before Raya last year. Needless to say, last year they did RAYA SAKAN! They knew the help for the rental would only be until end of the year, after which they’d have to start paying on their own, yet they went ahead to subscribe to Astro simply because they didn’t know how to turn down their daughter’s request, and also to buy some new furniture for their house. The only thing I didn’t mind them buying was a new motorcycle as it would make it easier for them to commute to Ipoh for their hospital appointments.

When their EPF money came in, to them it looked like it was a whole lot of money which could last them for years. It hasn’t even been a year. The money is all gone – they had spent every single cent.

So now they are back to square one. Always short of money. Always borrowing money from others to pay off the money they borrowed from someone else. Gali one lubang to cover another.

I don’t want to start giving them money every time they are short of cash. If I do that, they’d want to borrow from me every time. But I can’t just watch the baby live without milk and the other kids live without nutritional food and without proper schooling needs. The children are not at fault. So it’s also back to square one for me – use the money from donors to buy the necessities and send to them on a monthly basis.

Hmmm… maybe I need to send them for a financial management course. Ahh… but they have already run out of money to manage… so what’s the point?

Or maybe we can get the politicians who have been telling us to “change our lifestyle” to teach the family how to cut down on costs – yep, the politicians who probably spend more in a day than what this family earns in a month!

Anyway, Mr. and Mrs. K are in Ipoh today to bring their little girl to the hospital. The girl was warded twice at the district hospital where they live, but the girl’s fever kept coming back every time after she was discharged. So they decided to bring her direct to Ipoh GH.

You know what that means? That means Mr. and Mrs. K have to take leave from work (which means potong gaji), more money needs to be spent (to travel to Ipoh), and one of the older children has to ponteng sekolah today to take care of their 6 year old sister at home.

Yep, they are back to square one alright…

Monday, 9 June 2008

Recruiting new volunteers...

I had wanted to update my blog earlier today but I had been purging and vomiting since afternoon – the day when my story was featured in Malay Mail’s BlogSpot column. Hmmm… I guess I may be allergic to the MSM. (Just kidding, Sheila, just kidding…)

Am feeling a lot better now, although not fully recovered yet. Hopefully by tomorrow morning, I’d be back to normal. I promised to meet up a potential volunteer tomorrow afternoon.

When we did our exhibition last month during International AIDS Memorial Day, we had a list of people who submitted their names to become volunteers in our organization. But we don’t simply accept anyone who wants to volunteer. We’ve got to assess first if they are suitable for the line of voluntary work that we do. Some people may not fully understand the nature of things that we need to do. Some people may not understand the confidentiality issue. So we’ve got to interview them first, albeit an informal one. Then if we feel they may be suitable, we take them in as trainee volunteers, whereby they will be assigned a senior volunteer to take them around during our house visits or during clinic duties. After they are given enough exposure and if the senior volunteer is satisfied that he/she is capable, then only he/she will be confirmed as a full-fledge volunteer. I had to go through the same process when I joined in 2004.

Since we are all busy people, during the last Board Meeting we decided we should divide the list amongst a few of us so we could call the potential volunteers to arrange for the interview. I took down the phone numbers of 3 people. And last week I started calling.

The first one told me her off days are Mondays and Tuesdays, so our meet is tomorrow afternoon.

The second one, who does part time business (I’m not sure if it’s insurance or direct-selling), asked what the meet is all about and if we could just speak over the phone without having to meet up. Hmmm…. bad start. Come to think of it, I wonder if she knew what she was volunteering for. She did say she knew where our center was, but she mentioned the center of the Perak Family Health Association, not Buddies. Maybe she wanted to volunteer for the PFHA? Oh well, she said she’d call me this week when she’s free, so I’ll just wait and see if she’ll really call me back.

The third one, didn’t even answer my calls. I was thinking maybe she didn’t want to answer calls from unfamiliar numbers, so I sent her a text message explaining who I was and why I called earlier. I didn’t get any replies either.

So yeah, from the three names, I guess I will just have to be contented with one who still sounds interested.

Hopefully my stomach won’t be giving me any problems tomorrow. I wouldn’t want to make a scene in public…

Friday, 6 June 2008

Friends In Need - Our news in Ipoh Echo

Remember my earlier posting about the talk we gave to the Perak Women for Women society, introducing Buddies to them?

Well, news about it came out in the latest issue (June 1 - 15, 2008) of Ipoh Echo, an independent community newspaper published by Perakians for Perakians. The newspaper is distributed free of charge. Their costs are defrayed by advertisements placed by businesses and private individuals within the state.

Those who never knew my full name, it's there in the article...

*Click on image for larger view.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Worrying about problems...

After coming back from KL on Monday, I got a text message from Shila - this time to tell me that she was warded at Ipoh GH. Then Mrs. K’s daughter sent me a text message telling me about her little sister being warded at the district hospital and asking if I was going to visit (that usually means she wants me to visit). I just paid them a visit last week before the girl got warded and with so many things to do I really can’t slot in the time to visit again that soon. Earlier on Monday when Maria SMS-ed me about her problem, I told her I’d call her when I’m back in Ipoh.

But by the time I got home on Monday, I was rather tired so I decided to get myself a good rest before I started calling/visiting.

Tuesday came, and having taken Monday off, there was additional work at the office. I still needed to follow up on my clients, but with a few of them waiting for me to contact them, I had better prioritize. Shila is actually under another buddy, not me. So, although she likes to “mengadu hal” to me (or whoever else she could get hold of), I shall let her own buddy follow up on her. I have my own problematic clients to follow up with.

I contacted Mrs. K to find out more on her little girl’s condition. Apparently when Mr. K got his pay on Friday, he went to get back their hand phone from the kedai pajak gadai, so this time I could contact them. I was informed by Mrs. K that since her daughter’s condition did not improve, the doctor arranged for a blood test on the little girl. The doctor did ask Mrs. K if anyone in the family had any problems with their blood. Not wanting anyone in the district hospital knowing about her husband’s HIV status, she just said no. Then she started worrying if her daughter had been infected.

I told her that her baby girl would only get infected if Mrs. K herself was infected. But since Mrs. K’s latest blood test showed negative results, I told her that it must be some other problems. The results of the girl’s blood tests are not out yet. I am sure Mrs. K will get back to me once the results are out.

Yesterday morning I also called Maria. Maria usually would only contact me when she really has problems; so when she did contact me on Monday telling me about how depressed she was, I knew it was serious. I didn’t want to call after office hours, as by then her husband would be home and as such Maria would be reluctant to talk. So I had to call during office hours. True enough, only Maria and her 2 year old son were at home. Her other children were at their grandparents’ home during the school holidays.

It seems of late Maria had been feeling really depressed. She tends to get worried over nothing, and with her mother’s passing recently, she seemed to be getting worse. It is school holidays and she doesn’t have to go to work (she’s helping to teach at a nearby kindergarten) and as such, sitting around with nothing much to do, all sorts of worries seem to come to her mind. Having had to go through a problematic family background didn’t help. She said she tried zikir and all, but somehow her mind tends to wander off again. She even asked if she could get some pills from the hospital to help calm her down.

Personally I feel Maria doesn’t talk enough. She’s already the quiet type, and with her HIV, she has even less people to talk to. Amongst her family members, only her husband knows of her HIV status. But her husband is not a good listener. Every time Maria wants to talk things over with him, particularly about her HIV, he’d avoid by telling her to just forget about it and just act as though nothing happened.

The thing is, even when I introduced her to other HIV positive women, she never talked much either. Even Jah complained that talking to Maria was like a one-way communication. I guess she finds it hard to open up to simply anyone – even those in the same boat.

I think Maria’s main problem is that she’s been keeping too much inside her. When she can’t stand it, she’d call/SMS me. Talking to me may solve the problem for the short term. Then after some time, those feelings keep bothering her again.

Anyway, I told Maria to try and keep herself busy with other things so she wouldn’t be worrying too much about her problems. Sometimes the problem doesn’t even exist – it’s her who keeps thinking of all the “what if” questions…

I’m thinking of visiting her one of these days, and probably I’d get the ever so-jovial-Jah to tag along.

I also need to start calling all my clients to ask if they’d like to join this year’s Family Day. We had our Fellowship committee meeting last night to start discussions about this year’s Family Day in August – and the destination this year is the Taiping Zoo. We need to start planning ahead – the plan, logistics, prizes etc.

Last year we had some of my blog readers contributing toys to be given to the children. So, if any of you have got any stuff to be given away to the children… hey, kecil tapak tangan, lori kontena saya tadahkan

Monday, 2 June 2008

Never Give Up Never Forget

Saturday, 31st May 2008 - I had initially contemplated attending MAC's AGM in KL in the morning... but there seemed to be too many things to do in Ipoh that day I finally decided the AGM was a no go. After all the bus tickets for my PLWHA clients to go to KL for the IAMD were with me and as such I needed to be at the Ipoh bus terminal to pass the tickets to them together with some money.

I told my clients I'd be at the bus terminal at 9.30 am as their bus was expected to depart at 10 am. But as early as 8.20 am while I was still at the pasar tani, Jah called me to inform me that she was already at the bus terminal. I told her I'd meet her as soon as I finished my weekly pasar tani routine.

Shila had told me the night before that she and her daughter couldn't join the trip as she was not feeling well. So there were 2 extra tickets. When Fuzi arrived with her children she wanted to buy one more ticket as she had her son's friend tagging along. But since I had extra tickets with me she didn't have to buy any.

After briefing them and leaving them some money (MAC was to reimburse them for their bus fares and per diem, but most of my clients being the ‘pokai’ type, I had to advance my money first and later claim the whole amount from MAC.), I went off to run some other errands before attending a wedding invitation in the afternoon. It was almost 2 pm when we (my mom, my sis and I) made a move to go to KL.

When we got to the Ipoh toll, there was massive jam on the other side of the divider - yep, for the traffic heading north, the queue to the Ipoh toll was as far as to the Simpang Pulai exit! That’s about 6 kms! If any of them were going for a kenduri, they'd be really hungry by the time they reach their destination. Worse, if there was a groom amongst those stuck in the jam...

Thank goodness I was heading the opposite direction so I reached my brother's house within 2 hours as usual.

About 7.30 pm I left my brother's house to go to One Utama where MAC's International AIDS Memorial Day was held. I got there within 10 minutes. AND THEN it took me another half an hour just to get a parking space! I was almost on the verge of giving up and instead of following the 'more parking' sign, I followed the 'exit' sign. It was then that I finally found myself a space good enough to park my car although it wasn't a proper parking lot. I wouldn't have done that under normal circumstances as I'm the 'by the book' kind of person. However that night as long as my car did not block the paths of any other cars in any way, it was good enough.

Obviously by the time I got myself to the main entrance of One Utama (new wing), the events for the IAMD with the theme "Never Give Up Never Forget" had already started. For the first time, the event was opened to the public. There were already so many people around I had trouble looking for familiar faces. Then I saw someone waving to me - it was Jah, and right beside her was Fuzi. The kids were busy being entertained by the balloon man.

Anyway, first thing's first. I had earlier requested from MAC some slides on HIV/AIDS for us Buddies to use during our talks. So I had better look for the particular guy first. As I had never met him before, I had to ask around. Apparently he was the co-emcee.

After getting the requested CD, then only did I start walking around looking for more familiar faces. I did see the MAC president, who was my classmate way back in school, but she of course was with the guest-of-honour ie the Deputy Health minister and so I didn't want to disturb her then.

Before the speeches began, there was a showcase by a group of people living with HIV.

*Sorry pic not clear.

This was followed by the speech by the MAC president and then, the deputy health minister. Then came the candle lighting ceremony. After the lighting of the candles and the guests walked back to their seats, I had the chance to get hold of the MAC president. Her first reaction when she saw me was, 'Eh, where were you this morning during the AGM? We wanted to vote you in as exco member!' And my immediate response to that was 'Tu pasal I tak attend...'

Speech by MAC president

Speech by Deputy Health Minister

Anyway, kids being kids, the showcase and speeches did not interest Fuzi's children. They were hungry, but being totally unfamiliar with the place, Fuzi and Jah didn't dare go anywhere to buy food. So I accompanied them to look for food for them to buy, although I wasn't familiar with the place either.

After they got some food, I accompanied them back to where the event was to ensure they didn't get lost at the shopping complex. Then I left them there. MAC had arranged for transportation to send them back to the hotel where they were staying. I figured I'd better make a move soon in case I forgot where I parked my car and needed some time to look for it… but naaah… going back was a breeze…

But just like last year’s IAMD, somehow many of my clients tend to contact me during IAMD. Mrs. K’s daughter sent me a text message on Saturday to inform me that her baby sister was discharged from the hospital. Yesterday Shila contacted me to say she had not taken her medication for 3 days because every time she swallowed something, she’d vomit. Then this morning while I was still in KL, Maria sent me a text message telling how depressed she was and that she needed to talk to someone. And as soon as I got home this afternoon, I got a text message from Mrs. K to say that her baby girl had to be hospitalized again.

I haven’t called any of them yet. I need to get some rest myself first… tired lah...