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, 30 July 2008

Aduhai Ifa...

No, that's not a title of another song to compete with Mawi's "Aduh Saleha". That's actually the best I can come up with to summarize how I feel about Ifa right now.

As mentioned in my previous posting, I was going to meet up with Ifa aka Baby yesterday. I told her I would be free after 2.30pm and asked her to specify the place and time. She was the one who fixed it to be at 3.00pm at a particular place.

I got to the specified place 2 minutes before 3.00pm. I figured since Ifa was the one who wanted to see me so much, she should be there early. But I waited and waited, after 10 minutes Ifa was nowhere to be seen. Now, those who know me well would know how particular I am about punctuality. OK lah, give and take 5 to 10 minutes still acceptable. More than that, you'd better have a good excuse.

At 3.10pm I decided to call Ifa. Maybe she got stuck somewhere or something cropped up last minute and she hadn't had the opportunity to inform me. When she answered my call and I asked her where she was, her answer was, "Ifa kat rumah ni, tengah makan. Akak tunggu lah kejap ya?"

Waaa... banyak cantik lu punya muka!

I decided to go off elsewhere nearby to run some errands. I drove back 15 minutes later and she just arrived!

"Kenapa lambat sangat?" I asked.

"Tadi Ifa tengah makan."

"Ye lah, dah janji nak jumpa pukul 3 janganlah pukul 3 baru nak makan!"

(hehehe... nasiblah kena lecture dengan head prefect...)

Yesterday being a weekday, I figured either she took leave from work or she was no longer working.

Me: Cuti ke atau dah berhenti kerja?

Ifa: Dah berhenti.

Me: Kenapa?

Ifa: Ada masalah sikit.

Me: Masalah apa pulak?

Ifa: Hari tu Ifa kena tangkap khalwat.

Oh okay, so she got caught for khalwat.

HA?? Khal-WHAT??!!

Ifa was then staying at a rented house alone in the town where she used to work. She then wanted to move to Ipoh and needed to pack her things. So she got her boyfriend to help her out with the packing. After all the hard work done, she offered him to spend the night there. And that very same night, a few pegawai pencegah maksiat came over. The house she was staying in was a Malay neighborhood, so I suppose someone must have skodeng them. I bet that wasn't the first time Ifa's boyfriend spent the night at her house.

Anyway, after being called to the Pejabat Agama a few days later, they were told to get married by hook or by crook. Which is not really a problem since both of them are agreeable to it. The boyfriend had all along knew about Ifa's HIV but he still accepted Ifa. His family had no problems about him marrying Ifa (they don't know that Ifa is HIV infected). Ifa's mother and sisters had no problems about Ifa marrying this guy either.

So what's the problem? The problem is Ifa needs her father, as the wali, to sign the form. And while her father did not mengamuk upon hearing about Ifa being caught for khalwat, he refused to sign the required form to allow Ifa to marry this guy. Nobody could coax him - not Ifa's mom, not Ifa's siblings, not Ifa's uncle. To him, if he says something is white, that means it's white even though in reality it's actually yellow. If he says something is black, that means it's black even though in reality it's actually blue.

Besides the need to get her father to sign the form, Ifa also needs to get 2 male witnesses as well. Better if the witnesses are family members, or at least some friends will do. Just get those who know Ifa to become the witness. Ifa couldn't get anyone willing to become the witness either. Well, not that Ifa didn't have any male relatives or male friends; and it's not that they didn't want to help Ifa out. It's just that they didn't dare become the witness because they're scared of Ifa's father. Wow! This must be one fierce man!

Ifa has informed the kadi about her predicament. The kadi said Ifa and her boyfriend still need to get married before their khalwat case is heard in the syariah court. The pejabat kadi will write a letter to Ifa's father to get his consent, if he doesn't reply then the officers will go to meet him at his house, and if he still refuses, they will arrange for Ifa to get married through a wali hakim.

Both Ifa and her boyfriend also had to do a blood test of course. Although they both already know about Ifa's HIV status, the pejabat agama people don't. Oh I bet when they do get the result, Ifa and her boyfriend will both be called for a long counseling (read: lecture) session. So far her boyfriend's test results are negative, but he will have to do another test after 3 months since it is still within window period.

One good thing I noticed is that Ifa is no longer the crying and whining type like she used to be when I first knew her. But the thing that's bothering me now is what she does to release tension. Her friends coaxed her to join them at the disco. I think she's getting quite hooked to it already. No, not the disco, but the ecstasy pills she takes when at the disco!

Yes, Ifa admitted to me that she took ecstasy. Another thing about Ifa is that when she opens up to me, she tells all. No info held back - unlike some of my clients who'd only tell certain details when cornered.

I asked her if it occurred to her she may get caught in another raid - this time at the disco. Her answer? "Takde, disco ni kawasan Cina."

Woi girl! I was not talking about Jabatan Agama raid lah, I was talking about police raid! Ecstasy pills, remember?? First, she got caught for khalwat and now she's putting herself in danger of getting caught for taking ecstasy pills.

She hasn't even settled one problem yet, she's putting herself in another vulnerable situation. How I wish I can whack her head off to get some sense back into her. But really, is it her fault entirely?

Remember she had already at one time stopped taking drugs? She stayed at her parents' home but never got family support. She needed care and love but she was not getting any. So when she moved out to work in another town, and her boyfriend offered her love, without hesitation she accepted his love.

Then after this khalwat problem, her father still became a stumbling block. She got all stressed again. So she resorted to friends who brought her to the disco and gave her ecstasy pills. She felt better. All her problems out of her mind at least temporarily.

Aduhai Ifa...

Monday, 28 July 2008

New clients, old clients...

During my last clinic duty, after our new client Devi left the counseling room, the three of us (the volunteers) were discussing who would be the best person to be assigned as Devi’s buddy. Somehow one of the volunteers suggested me.

I have lost count of the number of clients I now have while there are a few other buddies who only have one or two clients, yet he still suggested that I become Devi’s buddy?? When I asked him why, he said it’s because Devi’s case is quite complicated with lots of problems attached.

Waaa… banyak cantik… any complicated cases pass to me eh?

We finally decided to pass the client to another female buddy who has been assigned only one client so far. She can always consult me or any other fellow volunteers if need be. If she is not assigned any problematic cases then how on earth is she going to be exposed to this kind of cases?

On the same day, SN gave me the number of a HIV+ couple. The couple’s appointment at the hospital never coincided with our clinic duty and so they have never been referred to us. But SN felt they needed help and so she asked me to call them. Apparently their families (both sides) have disowned them. I did call a few days back and managed to speak to the wife. She seemed receptive enough. I told her to call me the next time she comes to Ipoh so I can talk to them face to face and discuss whatever problems. She said her next appointment in Ipoh will be in early September.

Later the same day, the husband called. I suppose he was not home when I called earlier and when his wife told him about my offer to help them, he decided to call me himself. He asked if I knew what kind of disease he and his wife are infected with. After confirming that I indeed knew, he asked if they could meet me earlier, say some time in mid-August. I told him to call before-hand whenever they decide to come. Even if I am not around in Ipoh I can always get another volunteer to meet up with them.

More about the couple after I get to meet them…

This morning while I was in my office I got a text message from Ifa.

“Kak, Ifa nak minta tolong sikit boleh tak. Ifa nak jumpa akak pasal ada hal penting yang nak baby katakan.”

I had to reread the message. I lost focus when I saw the word baby. What? Baby?! Is she having a baby? Alamak, she’s still single! Is this going to be another Zana??

Then suddenly I remembered vaguely that her family calls her Baby. Oh okay, she's the baby then… :)

But still… this is the first time she uses the name Baby when communicating with me. Since when did she become so manja?

Never mind, I will be meeting my overgrown baby tomorrow to listen to her problems. Nothing too serious I hope.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Family Day preparations

Yah finally called me a few days ago. She didn’t quite understand what my colleague told her on the details for the coming Family Day and so she finally decided to call me. Thank goodness she did. Otherwise on that day she’d be waiting elsewhere while we’d be waiting for her in Ipoh.

From what my colleague told me earlier, Yah would be going from Ipoh together with the rest of us. Yah on the other hand, was under the impression that she’d have to go to Taiping and we’d be picking her up there. I suppose the communication breakdown was due to wrong assumptions. My colleague, assuming that Yah was still working in Ipoh, told her to wait near a particular private hospital in Ipoh. Yah thought the hospital is in Taiping.

The confusion is all cleared now. Yah is no longer working in Ipoh as her mother has been bedridden and as such is no longer capable to take care of Yah’s 2 younger kids. So Yah had to go back to her hometown further up north, not only to take care of her kids, but also her mother. Her 2 older daughters, who are staying at an orphanage won’t be joining the Family Day trip. Oh by the way, despite complaining about certain things at their orphanage (biasalah, budak dok asrama mesti ada complain punya!), in their recent exams, they both got 1st in class. Way to go girls!

Anyway, since Yah is already up north, she might as well go straight to the zoo and wait for us there.

I told Fuzi that although her house is slightly north of Ipoh, our chartered bus from Ipoh will be taking the highway and as such will not pass her place. I told her to figure out the best option for her and the kids. She is one of my earlier clients and has been getting a lot of assistance since she became our client, and so this time I thought I’d let her solve the problem herself. Cannot manja-manja her too much. After all, it’s not too complicated a problem. Well, she has already made arrangements to come to Ipoh on the 3rd of August so we don’t have to worry about having someone going in a separate car using the old road just to fetch her.

Hana and Jah who stays in a town south of Ipoh, also Shila & Laila, Pushpa & her grandma plus Valli’s kids will be coming to Ipoh by bus early in the morning and we will have our volunteers waiting for them at the bus station. Valli has not confirmed if she herself can join the trip but her 2 boys aged 14 and 12 are definitely coming. They will be under our care for that day.

Actually I was more concerned about Lin. This is her first time joining and none of the other volunteers know her and neither does she know any of the volunteers except myself. If anyone had to wait for her at the bus station, it will have to be me. But when I called her to confirm, she said she and her kids will go straight to our meet-up point. I like this woman – very independent. And it is good to note that even her grown up children (aged 17, 19 and 22) are joining us. I look forward to meeting them all.

For the moment, it looks as though I will be joining this year’s Family Day after all. But in the event I have to give it a miss, I don’t have to worry about the logistics for my clients anymore.

I do hope I will be able to join though. It has been a long time since I last went to visit my “friends” at the zoo… :) I hope to be taking lots of photos this time.

I was told they can make special arrangements if we want to take pictures with the python. Taking pictures OF the python is not a problem for me, but WITH the python?? Hmmm… would I be daring enough to do that? Sounds like a FEAR FACTOR episode to me…

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Macam orang nak pergi ke bulan...

An elderly couple (who also happen to be relatives) came over to my house a few days ago to visit my mother. They thought my mother had already undergone her knee operation and so they thought they’d come by to see how she was doing.

Anyway, we got to chat from one topic to another. Somehow the topic of handling dead bodies of the HIV infected came into the picture. I can’t quite recall how the topic came about in our conversation, but this man is a former imam and used to be the person people would call to help bathe the bodies of male Muslims, although he had never handled any HIV infected bodies before (well, at least not that he knew of lah…).

He mentioned how a friend of his had to “pakai macam orang nak pergi ke bulan” when bathing the body of an HIV infected person. (I am imagining this Pak Imam wearing something like what Sheikh Muszaphar wore… I bet he can hardly move!) When I told him there was no such need, he said, “Eh idak… ni yang ada AIDS. AIDS dengan HIV tu berbeza.”

Obviously he thought this “budak berhingus yang baru dua tiga kali mandikan jenazah” didn’t even know the difference between AIDS and HIV. Well, I don’t go around telling people that I'm involved in HIV/AIDS voluntary work (except maybe in this blog) so he probably thought I’m just as ignorant as so many other people.

I did try to tell him what I knew, but nope, he didn’t buy it. Can’t really blame him, he would rather believe the friend who actually bathed the body of an HIV infected person before. He even said, “Lepas tu nanti masa kebumi tu, kena tabur dulu klorin dalam kubur tu!”

No point telling him about how HIV actually spreads, about it not being air borne, etc. I guess for awareness programmes, we’d have to concentrate on the younger generation. For people like this Pak Imam, all the misconceptions about HIV/AIDS are already etched in their minds.

So I thought today I’d just write about a few basic things in the handling of HIV infected bodies, particularly Muslims, based on the guidelines from the health aspect provided by Cawangan AIDS/STD, Kementerian Kesihatan Malaysia, with the cooperation of JAKIM.

Latex gloves need to be worn whether you are handling a normal or an HIV infected body. No difference there. Masks, plastic apron and rubber boots is not a must but encouraged for BOTH normal and infected bodies. The only difference is that a little bit of bleach (like Clorox) is to be added to the first round of water poured over the body. The purpose? When bleach (which contains Sodium Hypochloride) is added to water, chlorine is produced and this would kill the virus. This is actually just a precaution, particularly for bodies with skin diseases – HIV doesn’t live outside of the human body anyway.

As for precautions to be taken after handling the bodies (like cleaning up yourself etc after everything's done), basically the same precautions need to be taken after handling both infected and non-infected bodies. Besides, how can we be so sure the body we’re handling is not infected? Maybe the person him/herself never knew he/she was infected, right?

So no, you don’t have to wear something “macam orang nak pergi ke bulan”! (I kinda like the phrase though…)

As for the need of pouring chlorine inside the grave, the answer is a clear no. So the guy who actually poured chlorine inside the grave was probably just paranoid.

Maybe the requirements are different if we’re dealing with air borne infectious diseases like SARS and the likes. Probably for these cases, they don't even allow to bring the body back home. But since I don’t know much about the other infectious diseases, I shall not go into that…

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Have faith, sis... we're all praying for you


In her posting on her blog last Friday, Dalilah aka Raden Galoh had already anticipated bad news coming after getting that call from the Onco Clinic of HKL. But the news delivered to her yesterday was still, to me at least, devastating.

It was her birthday yesterday. Knowing she'd be at the hospital, I didn't want to bother her in the morning. But at about 11.30 am, a text message came in from her...

"Inna lillahi wainna ilaihi rojiun. The cancer spread to 4 areas, d rib, liver, left collarbone nodes, and d nodes at d right jaw."

I became speechless. Words failed me. I forgot all about wishing her happy birthday.

Dalilah dear, I know you are a very strong and courageous woman. Your inner strength is truly remarkable.

Happy belated birthday, dear. I join Elviza, Kata Tak Nak, Sinaganaga and the rest of your friends praying for you. May Allah bless you with greater faith, strength and courage to face whatever's coming your way.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Family Day Showdown?

2 weeks to go to the Buddies Annual Family Day. While I am not sure if I’d be able to join this year’s fun in Taiping Zoo due to uncertainties on the date of my mother’s knee operation, as much as possible, I still get involved (read: menyibuk) in the preparations. Besides, most of the PLWHA clients and their families joining the trip are MY clients. Fuzi plus 5 children and Lin plus 5 children already make a dozen!! Also joining are Jah, Zainab (plus husband and 2 kids), Yah (and son) and not forgetting Hana (with her 3 children and her mother as well).

Ahah… notice both Lin’s and Yah’s names up there?

One is Mr. Darling’s ex-wife and the other is Mr. Darling’s stalker!! Yep, if things go as planned, Lin and Yah will finally meet each other.

Initially I thought neither of them was going to make it. Lin, as I had explained here, has to work on Sundays and taking leave means earning less. But I guess after discussing with her children and thinking things over, she probably figured that this is a good opportunity for her to bring her children makan angin.

As for Yah, I couldn’t seem to contact her of late. Neither could my colleague. But coincidentally, last week Yah called up my colleague to ask about something and so my colleague took the opportunity to inform her about the family day. A few days later she called to confirm that she’d be coming along with her son.

And why haven’t I been able to contact Yah lately? Apparently, she got herself a new number. I’m not sure if she had lost her old phone or whatever, but when she called my colleague recently (she got my colleague’s number from Mr. Darling), she did ask for my phone number. However, to date, she has yet to call me.

So, do you think the unthinkable will happen when they meet up? Frankly I don’t think so. Even if I’m able to join, I will only introduce them as fellow PLWHAs. I don’t intend to mention anything about their relationship with the romeo. It would be an awkward situation of course if Mr. Darling himself also attends. I wonder how he’d react seeing both Yah and Lin there at the same time! But Mr. D didn’t want to be assigned a buddy, and so he is not our client. As such, he is not invited to join.

The only way for both Lin and Yah to find out about each other is if Yah asks Lin the right questions… like “Tinggal di mana?” and when Lin mentions the town; Yah may say “Oh, saya ada kawan tinggal kat sana. Kat kampong xxx.” Then Lin, upon hearing the name of the kampong, which so happens to be the kampong she used to stay in when she was still married to Mr. D, may ask for the name as she knows quite a number of people in the kampong. And then Yah will mention Mr. D’s name… and TADAA!! There you go!

That, of course, is just part of my imagination. We will not know the actual script until D-day comes. Even if I’m not able to join the Family Day, I will make sure I get updates from my colleagues! I am after all, my NGO’s kay-poh-Chair!!

Friday, 18 July 2008


In my previous posting under the topic “When we help those in need…”, I mentioned that Hana had improved a lot in terms of independence and that she no longer needs to confide in me with all sorts of problems like she did when I first got to know her.

I guess I spoke a tad too soon. Maybe she had just been keeping things to herself. Maybe she thought Buddies would be able to help her out for every single problem that she has. Maybe she simply didn’t have any new problems… yet…

Last night, Pat, the fellow volunteer who stays in the same town as Hana, called me up. She just spoke to Hana and that woman was crying and crying, Pat didn’t know what to do.

Apparently Hana did a mistake at work (according to her just a small mistake, but that’s her version of the story; we don’t know for sure the real version at her workplace) and as a result her supervisor penalized her – not allowing her to do overtime for the next 3 months! That means she will be getting less income for the next 3 months. She had been depending on overtime all these while to earn more for the family.

Hana had always been rather “slow” in understanding what people tell her. Even when she was first diagnosed HIV positive, she didn’t really get it at first. I suppose the doctor and the nurse didn’t want to be too direct when breaking the news to her, so instead of going straight to the point saying “You got HIV”, they sort of delivered the news subtly. That’s what they always do so they should know better how to deliver the news.

But when Pat went to visit her initially, Hana was saying that the doctor told her she was NOT infected. Pat got confused, the fact that she was assigned as Hana’s main buddy was reason enough to believe that Hana was indeed infected. But Pat didn’t dare say otherwise to Hana. So she called me, and I called SN just to be sure what they had told Hana. SN said loud and clear that Hana was indeed positive and that she was told so. Either Hana was confused and didn’t understand or she was in denial.

So when Pat and I went to visit Hana the next time, I had no choice but to tell Hana straight in the face that she was confirmed positive. She cried.

There were also other things that Hana didn’t understand. When we told her we’d try to help her out with her children’s education and told her to fill in the form for each of her schooling children, she even filled in the form for her youngest son who is not even in kindergarten yet.

Now her 2 daughters are under the Education Sponsorship for Children program. I told her to list down her monthly expenses needed in relation to her children’s schooling needs. She wanted to give me the list when she came to Ipoh for her blood test last week, but since I couldn’t take time off to meet her at the hospital, I told her to pass the list to Pat.

Last night Pat got the list. It was quite an extensive list Pat couldn’t believe her eyes especially when she saw one particular item on the list. Other than the list of tuition fees, bus fares, uniforms and shoes for co curricular activities; also included in the list of needs was “Motosikal – RM2,500”.

Aiyo!! What was this woman thinking? I clearly stated to her to list down her children’s schooling needs, but a motorbike? Whoa… don’t go overboard lah woman!!

Funny thing was I remembered that her late husband, Rashid had a motorbike. And I remembered clearly asking her why she didn’t use the motorbike to go to work. Her answer was that she didn’t know how to ride a bike and so the bike was taken by her brother who stays elsewhere. Why would she want a motorbike now? Just got herself a license?

I guess it was just another case of Hana being blur. She probably thought just because we’re helping her out, we would spoil her rotten by giving her anything she’d ask for. Never mind, I guess I will just have to resort to another “direct to the point” talk the next time I meet her, not that Pat or myself have been using twists and turns all these while, but I just have to be more direct than direct – whatever that means!

What worried Pat even more was something else Hana told her. According to Hana, a few people purportedly from a bank came to visit her at home, saying that they will arrange to repair her house. They asked for her particulars such as her IC number etc, all of which she gave without question. When Pat asked her for details of who’d be paying for the repairs, who directed the bank officers to go to her house etc, all Hana said was, “Saya tak tahu.” Of course she didn’t know, she didn’t even ask. Even if she did ask, I doubt she’d understand. Blur and blank all the time!

We don’t know for sure yet what the visit was all about. Hopefully those people genuinely wanted to help her. But just to be sure, Pat told Hana to call her the next time those people come to visit so that Pat could go over and ask them herself. They may indeed repair the house but we sure don’t want Hana to get duped into signing an IOU letter instead! If that happens, Hana will call either Pat or myself and end up crying and crying again.

There is something else that’s bothering me about Hana. From the list of monthly expenses that she gave, most of the expenses were for her eldest daughter. And she also asked for milk for her 4 year old son despite me asking for the list of schooling needs for the other 2. There wasn’t much listed for her 9 year old daughter who has to walk to school. (We are still unable to find any bus/van drivers willing to take her although we already have sponsors). Hana didn’t seem to worry too much about that. She’s more concerned about the expenses needed by the older daughter.

This made me think… does Hana treat her 2nd child differently than the rest? I may not be a mother myself, but I have seen mothers who give preferential treatment to some of their children. Maybe she doesn’t like her 2nd child? She does have a motive. (Ah, does Pi sound like a P.I. now?) You see, her first child’s name comes with binti *her first husband*, her 3rd child’s name comes with bin *her 2nd husband*, while her 2nd child doesn’t even have a binti at all! (In other words, all her children don’t share the same father!) Even worse, the 2nd child’s birth cert was only done when the child was about to go to school.

I don’t really know the history behind the 2nd child’s birth, but I do suspect something amiss here. But it’s hard to get the facts from Hana and as such I don’t know for sure what’s going on in her mind.

Susahlah ini macam… Hana also blur... myself also blur already...

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

The boy who dropped out of school

It has been quite a while since I was last on clinic duty. The last time I was supposed to be on duty, something cropped up at the office and as such I had to give my voluntary duty a miss.

Today I was on duty again. With my business partner back from umrah, I didn’t have to worry about things at the office and so off I went to Ipoh GH.

As usual I had to encounter another nightmare (in bright daylight…) finding a parking spot at the hospital, I ended up parking my car quite far from the HIV clinic. Had to walk quite a bit but I suppose it was good exercise for me.

The room we usually use for counseling had to be used for some other matters today so we were given another room further at the back. It was a more spacious room, and even though we had the hospital staff walking in and out of that room, at least we had some privacy at one little corner in the room.

However there weren’t many new cases referred to us today. SN only referred one case to us today, but this one case is one that really deserves attention. When the file was given to me and I saw the name, at first I thought I’d wait for another Tamil-speaking volunteer to arrive. You see, some of the poor from amongst the non-Malays can’t really speak Malay nor English well enough, so I didn’t want to risk having any miscommunication during the counseling session.

But when I saw her age and her address, I figured she should be able to speak Malay well enough. So I proceeded to call her into the room without waiting for my other colleague.

Devi is a 32 year old lady. Her husband had been in prison since about 2 months ago and is expected to remain there for a few months more at least. Devi had been unwell for quite some time, having chest pains and breathing difficulties but never really went for proper check up. That was until about 2 months ago when she was admitted to the hospital and tests revealed that she had HIV.

Ever since her husband was jailed, Devi had been staying with a friend of hers. This friend is married and has a kid, but the friend’s husband didn’t mind having Devi stay with them as he himself is outstation quite often. With Devi staying with them, whenever he’s outstation, his wife would at least have company at home. The problem now is that this friend doesn’t know yet that Devi has HIV. I’m not sure if the couple would still let her stay there if they find out. Such being the case, if we Buddies intend to meet up with her, it is best if we don’t visit her at home. The meeting place will have to be elsewhere.

But I don’t know how long Devi can keep this a secret from her friend. With a CD4 count as low as 6, Devi should be on medication immediately and her friend may be curious and ask her all sorts of questions as to her ailment.

Devi has 2 children – 1 boy aged 14 and a girl aged 4. Both are not staying with her. The boy stays with his grandmother (Devi’s mom-in-law). Apparently Devi and her MIL are not in talking terms. Oh dear. Devi would usually meet her son outside instead of going to her MIL’s house. (Devi’s own parents have both passed away.)

The younger girl now stays with another couple which has no family-ties with Devi. When Devi was healthier, she used to send the daughter to this couple while she was at work. Now she’s no longer working due to health problems, and because of that she can’t afford to bring up the child herself so the couple has sort of adopted the girl. The girl is in good hands no doubt. They send her to kindergarten and the best thing about this couple is that they do bring the girl to see Devi quite often. Devi herself doesn’t have any transport to go to the couple’s house and so they bring the little girl to see Devi at the house where Devi now stays.

My main concern now is Devi’s 14 year old son. Due to poverty he has stopped schooling since more than a year ago. He follows a friend around doing odd jobs to earn a living.

Gosh! He’s only 14. He’s supposed to be going to school, not working! I asked Devi about her son’s performance in school previously. She said he was an average student. That means if given the opportunity and under better circumstances this boy could have probably performed better.

Worse still, Devi’s son has not even had his identity card done. Thank God at least he has a birth cert!

Oh the poor boy! In all the cases I’ve handled so far, I’ve come across poor families having problems paying for the school necessities but they still at least go to school! Yes of course I’ve heard about children who dropped out of school due to poverty, but this is the first time I actually come across one personally.

First thing first – we will now need to arrange for financial assistance for this family. Once we get all the necessary forms ready, we will have to meet up with Devi again to get her to sign the forms and to pass to us the necessary supporting documents. We told Devi to bring along her son the next time we meet so we can coax him to go back to school – we’d of course have to arrange for him to be sponsored under our Education Sponsorship for Children program. We will also need to arrange to get his MyKad done as soon as possible.

The boy has the right to receive basic education at the very least, and basic education to me means at least up to form five! Without basic education, his future looks very bleak.

His family already lives in poverty; if he doesn’t go to school then he is going to inherit his family’s poverty. That’s not the kind of inheritance we would want him to get, would we?

Sunday, 13 July 2008

When we help those in need...

… do they become independent or do they become even more dependent?

I guess that all depends on the attitude of the people we help and the extent to which we help them.

While I was at the Buddies center last Thursday, I suddenly remembered I had not informed Ifa about our Family Day trip to Taiping Zoo next month (ehmm… the trip is not to visit any family members in the zoo, ya…). I had to personally seek permission from her father to get Ifa to join our 2006 Family Day in Teluk Batik. Last year for the outing at Lost World of Tambun, I couldn’t get hold of her as she was always not home whenever I called. Since Ifa is already working this year and stays on her own and has her own hand phone, I assume it is easier to get hold of her this year. Not wanting to disturb her during her working hours, I just sent her a text message to invite her to join our Family Day. She replied saying that she’s interested to join but will have to confirm later as she has some problems to settle first.

Hmmm… problems? And she’s trying to solve the problems herself?

Now, that, I must say, is a great improvement for Ifa. When I first got to know her, she had almost given up living. She wished she could just die and not bother anyone anymore. Her non-supportive family didn’t help either. Frankly, I thought I never had any chance of seeing Ifa’s spirits up. I am so glad I was wrong. Ifa is more confident now, and in the process, she has become a more independent person.

I have always stressed that whenever we help these PLWHAs, we must help them to become independent. We don’t want to have them end up clinging on to us for any kind of help, financially or emotionally.

While Ifa has become a more independent and confident woman, Mrs. K’s family is the total opposite. Whenever they have problems, they always take the short cut, and end up having even more problems. And just because we helped them out once, they think we’d always be there for them. They never learn! I always have to be firm with them – even if that means I need to let them suffer a bit.

Fuzi has definitely become more independent, although there had been times when she’d try her luck to get even more help – and end up being “lectured” by me about some other families who had to work hard day and night and yet they earn much lesser than the financial assistance she got. Now she doesn’t bother me much anymore and would only inform me if any of her children who are under our Education Sponsorship program have any additional expenses at school.

Hana too has improved a lot in terms of independence. She’s thankful her children are sponsored under the same sponsorship program and to her that’s a whole load of burden off her shoulders already. She no longer needs to confide in me with all sorts of problems like she did when I first got to know her.

But one person I really admire is Lin. Although she had a tough time initially after her divorce, she didn’t try to get people’s sympathy. Despite never having any work experience before, she still managed to get herself a job. When she decided to call me for support, she didn’t ask for financial support, she just needed someone to talk to. And after letting things out, she feels much better. Now if she contacts me it is only to ask how I’m doing. Just like buddies! I am after all, her buddy, right?

I am not too sure about Yah though. Initially I knew her as a very strong and determined woman. After her angau episode she changed totally. But after putting the onus (no Kerp, not anus) back on her, telling her that she has to be responsible for her own family, she did get herself a job… which is good… but of late I haven’t even been able to call her and neither has she been contacting me. Maybe she has become TOO independent that she doesn’t even bother to answer my calls or reply my text messages?

There were also a few clients who didn’t need any financial support but more of emotional support. Maria for example, has a husband who supports her financially, but this very same man simply did not/could not/would not support her emotionally. Maria would usually try to keep things to herself, not wanting to bother anyone else about her problems, but when she feels like “exploding”, she’d call me to let things out. I’ve tried introducing Maria to other PLWHAs, but she didn’t seem to respond well. She prefers to stick to just one person to confide in whenever the need arises. That’s me.

Basically, I do see improvements in the lives of the PLWHAs I have been dealing with. Of course there are bound to be some “failures” like the K family, but I can’t win them all, can I? Besides, I am not abandoning them… I’m just trying to make them learn… albeit the hard way…

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Murah! Murah! Malay girl banyak murah!

Malay girl 180 only meh? Whoa... I thought Jamal Abdillah has been telling us "Siapa kata gadis Melayu tak menawan... tak menarik hati... tiada memikaaat..."

Picture above stolen from Elizabeth Pisani's Wisdom of Whores. Read her article "What's wrong with Malay girls?"

Any comments, people?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Ahh... another hectic week...

Although I don’t have to travel much like I did last week (for last week alone I spent over RM200 for petrol and another RM100 + for toll – and I only use a Kenari which doesn’t really consume as much petrol as the bigger cars!), this is still a hectic week for me.

You see, I didn’t come to the office for the whole of last week, and my partner is off for umrah from 2nd to 14th July, so there are lots of things to settle at the office. Although my office staffs know their jobs, there are certain things they cannot do – like signing the statutory documents. And somehow it is when both of us are not around, THAT is when our business clients ask for certified copies of whatever forms they need!

So, while a few of my PLWHA clients asked if they could see me this week, either I couldn’t oblige or I dared not commit.

Last week when Mrs. K called me, I told her I’d get back to her this week. Yesterday I sent her a text message, telling her that I am not able to do any house visits this month. I also told her about applying for help for baby K in IJN, and that I cannot help her about Mr. K’s personal problems.

But last night, Mrs. K’s daughter called, from a public phone, asking when I’d be visiting them as her mother needed to talk to me about her father’s problems. That meant they didn’t get my text message – and my guess is that their hand phone is going through the same process again... (as per my posting here). I suppose that was to be expected as Mrs. K did mention a bit about her husband’s problem when she called me last week.

When I told the daughter that I won’t be able to visit this month, she said her mother together with baby K will be coming to Ipoh GH on Thursday, so she asked if her mother can meet me then. I dared not promise anything, so I told her to get her mom to call me first when they are in Ipoh. If I’m free then, I’d try to meet them.

This morning after finishing my morning routine at home and as I was about to leave for work, I saw a text message on my hand phone. It was from Hana. She asked if I’d be going to the hospital today. If I was, she wanted to pass me the list of monthly expenses for her children, who are under sponsorship. I simply can’t afford to go this morning, as I am expecting someone at the office, so I told her to pass the list to Pat, a fellow volunteer who stays in the same town as Hana.

Back to Mrs. K, what seems to be Mr. K’s problem?

From the little bit told over the phone to me by Mrs. K last week, Mr. K seemed to have some problem with his previous employer. He used to work at a factory (as a jaga) and when there were some things missing, he was purportedly accused of stealing them. And so it seemed, the employer threatened to report him to the police if he did not pay up RM1,000. Scared he might end up in jail, he borrowed RM1,000 from a money lender to pay up. And the interest? RM200 a month!!

Well, at least that was what Mr. K CLAIMED had happened. Mrs. K believed him, but I am rather skeptical about the whole story.

Even if he was telling the truth, they had gone through the process of borrowing from an unauthorized money-lender before and so they should know how it’s like! All I can say is… TAK SERIK-SERIK!!! If he was not guilty, he shouldn’t have been afraid about being reported to the police. Report lah! Got proof or not?! Or did the employer make a statutory declaration based on hearsay?? (Hehehe…)

The last time they borrowed from the money-lender, we Buddies helped them with Mr. K’s EPF withdrawal, so they managed to settle the loan. The balance of the EPF withdrawal… I reminded them to spend on necessities, but did they listen? No, no, no!! They spent like they had loads of money. Now they are back to square one, they expect me to help them out? Sorry lah… Everybody makes mistakes I know, but when they don’t learn from their mistakes, we can’t be helping them out every time!

I will only help out if it has anything to do with the children’s schooling and baby K’s medical needs. If it is a problem Mr. K got himself into, then he himself will need to learn to face the consequences.

And so, if I do get to meet Mrs. K tomorrow, that is what I am going to tell her. I would have told her so last night if Mrs. K herself had called me, but since it was her daughter who called; I couldn’t lecture the 13 year old girl about her parents, could I?


Ahhh!! I am not going to crack my head thinking about their problems. My priority now is my own mother – that will not change!

Monday, 7 July 2008

What I've been up to...

Friday, 27th June 2008 –
Off to my brother’s house in Damansara Jaya.

Saturday, 28th June 2008 –
Went to Malacca together with the whole jing bangs for my nephew’s engagement. The hosts prepared lots of delicious food, mostly yum yum kampong cooking.

Sunday, 29th June 2008 –
Nothing much to do today, so just went to the bank to settle a few things which I couldn’t settle earlier in Ipoh. Thank God for ATMs and Cash Deposit machines so banking could be done outside banking hours.

Monday, 30th June 2008 –
Off to Putrajaya Hospital for my mother’s ECHO and ultrasound tests. She’s due for knee operation on Saturday, 5th July and so she was admitted for all the pre-med requirements. Initially the 2-bedded rooms were not available and so she was sent to a 4-bedded room. An elderly lady who had her knee operation earlier asked where we were from. When we mentioned Ipoh, her reaction was, “Ipoh jugeee…”

Apparently she was from Kuala Kangsar and another lady beside her bed who just got admitted was from Ipoh too!

After a while the Sister came in and told us one of the 2-bedded rooms will be available soon as the patient’s knee operation due this week had to be cancelled as he had heart problems. So my mother was transferred to the 2-bedded room together with another lady who was due to undergo surgery on Wednesday. It was my sister’s turn to be the “penunggu” (hehehe…) so she stayed back at the hospital while I headed back to my brother’s house.

Tuesday, 1st July 2008 –
It was my turn to be the penunggu at the hospital, but since my mother’s medical reports came out okay (her heart, the doctor said, was in tip-top condition. She does have some problems with her kidneys but that would not affect the knee operation) we were told that she could go back first and get readmitted on Friday before the operation on Saturday. So after lunch, we took her back to my brother’s house in DJ.

Wednesday, 2nd July 2008 –
Since there was nothing much to do today, I agreed to meet up with K. Ruby at KLCC at 3 pm. My sister and 3 of my nieces came along so they could ronda-ronda KLCC while I gossiped with K.Ruby. We didn’t want to get caught in the after office traffic, so we decided to drive to Kelana Jaya LRT station and took the LRT to KLCC. That, mind you, was my first time ever using the LRT. So next time if I need to use the LRT, I won’t be looking so much like a rusa masuk kampong (in my case, it was more like a orang kampong masuk bandar!).

Despite taking a break from my voluntary work, it didn’t stop my PLWHA clients from calling me. “Opah” (Hamid’s mother) called me to say that Hamid who was admitted at Ipoh GH would be discharged today and that his condition had actually worsened but the doctors told her she could take him home. I told her I was in KL and as such I couldn’t help her with whatever arrangements.

Thursday, 3rd July 2008 –
Since there was not much to do, I just went out for a while to get some supplies for myself for my hospital duty (I had yet to become the penunggu so the next day was my turn). Spent most of the day relaxing at my brother’s house and feeling “mati kutu” not knowing what to do.

Friday, 4th July –
Went to Putrajaya Hospital again to get my mother readmitted. It was my turn to stay back with her at the hospital so I brought along my own supplies as well. We had to wait a while for the admission as the hospital’s computer system was down and as such things had to be done manually.

My mother got the same bed in the same room that she got earlier on Monday. And oh, same room-mate… only by this time her room-mate already had her operation. It was good to note that she looked fine, so it was good for my mother to see her that way.

Mrs. K called while I was at the hospital room waiting for my mother. She called from the canteen at her workplace, which was noisy and she couldn't hear me clearly; while I had to speak softly as I was at the hospital room. She mentioned that she needed to talk to me as her husband was having some problems at work, involving money. Actually I’m not going to get myself involved in the family’s personal problems but I didn’t want to prolong the conversation at the hospital so I just told her I’d get back to her next week when I expect to be back in Ipoh. I do need to pass some info to her about help for Baby K but that’s about it.

Anyway, a few doctors from the various departments came to see my mother at her bed to prepare for the operation scheduled for the next morning. My mother was all psyched up for the operation.

But just as I was trying to find some comfortable positions on the chairs for me to sleep later at night, one doctor came looking as though she was getting ready to get bombarded. You see, apparently, the hospital’s computer system which was down since the night before was still not up yet and so there was a directive from the hospital management that all operations scheduled for the next day had to be cancelled! They were very much dependant on the system to get whatever test results online, so with the system down, things had to be done manually and may take much longer. Rather than answering on things going haywire, it was safer to answer on cancellations.

Oh, what a frustration! But we could only plan, at the end of the day, we still have to accept God’s will. So we will just have to wait for them to fix another date for the operation.

Although it was already almost 7 pm when the doctor handed us the news, we were allowed to go home. And so, again, I didn’t get the chance to be the penunggu

Saturday, 5th July –
The supposedly scheduled date for the operation, but since it was cancelled, and we were told that the next date would very likely be on the 3rd or 4th week of July (still uncertain) we headed home to Ipoh. While we were approaching Tanjung Malim, my cousin called. Her husband works at Putrajaya Hospital and he told her to get us to contact him ASAP. So I did, and was told that the head of orthopedic department wanted to do the operation on Monday if the system was up running by Saturday. I told him we didn’t mind going back to KL the next day (Sunday) but would only do so if indeed the system was up. He promised to call me if the system was up by Saturday evening.

Well, he didn’t call. Which meant that the system was still down.

Monday, 7th July 2008 -
Today is already Monday, and as of last night, I was told the system was still not up yet.

I guess these things are to be expected when we become too dependant on computers. Having a computerized system does indeed help in getting things done efficiently, but once the system is down, things do get upside down.

And so there was an anti-climax ending to my supposedly short break from office and voluntary work last week.

I am now back in Ipoh, but am also on standby as they may call us anytime for the new date of my mother’s knee operation. And when that happens, I may need to go for another break.

Friday, 4 July 2008

You know you are getting marvellously mature when...

1. You and your teeth don't sleep together.

2. You try to straighten out the wrinkles in your socks and discover you aren't wearing any.

3. At the breakfast table you hear snap, crackle, pop and you're not eating cereal.

4. When you wake up looking like your driver's license picture.

5. It takes two tries to get up from the couch.

6. When your idea of a night out is sitting on the patio.

7. When happy hour is a nap.

8. When you're on vacation and your energy runs out before your money does..

9. When you say something to your kids that your mother said to you and you always hated it.

10. When all you want for your birthday is to not be reminded of your age.

11. When you step off a curb and look down one more time to make sure the street is still there.

12. Your idea of weight lifting is standing up.

13. It takes longer to rest than it did to get tired.

14. Your memory is shorter and your complaining lasts longer.

15. Your address book has mostly names that start with Dr.

16. You sit in a rocking chair and can't get it going.

17. The pharmacist has become your new best friend.

18. Getting "lucky" means you found your car in the parking lot.

19. The twinkle in your eye is merely a reflection from the sun on your bifocals.

20. It takes twice as long - to look half as good.

21. Everything hurts, and what doesn't hurt - doesn't work.

22. You look for your glasses for half an hour and they were on your head the whole time.

23. You sink your teeth into a steak - and they stay there.

24. You give up all your bad habits and still don't feel good.

25. You have more patience, but it is actually that you just don't care anymore.

26. You finally get your head together and your body starts falling apart.

27. You wonder how you could be over the hill when you don't even remember being on top of it.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The history of medicine

2000 B.C. - Here, eat this root.

1000 A.D. - That root is heathen. Here, say this prayer.

1850 A.D. - That prayer is superstition. Here, drink this potion.

1940 A.D. - That potion is snake oil. Here, swallow this pill.

1985 A.D. - That pill is ineffective. Here, take this antibiotic.

2000 A.D. - That antibiotic doesn't work anymore. Here, eat this root.