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

Friday, 31 October 2008

A double catch!

In my blog posting last Friday, I mentioned about a guy, Majid who called to seek our support service. I mentioned that Majid sounded like a young man, and that he didn't sound depressed. Since I was rather busy last week, I told him I'd call him this week so we could meet up.

Well, I called him on Wednesday asking if he'd be free yesterday afternoon. I intended to go to our center around 3.30 pm and I thought it would be a good idea for him to come to our center as another colleague of mine would also be at the center then. Majid agreed. He has flexi working hours and so it wasn't a problem for him to meet up during normal office hours.

So yesterday we met. Majid actually got to the center earlier than I did but my colleague was already there. No, I wasn't late - Majid was early. (tak nak kalah!)

I was right - Majid is a young chap in his twenties - young enough to call me makcik but he got rid of the 'mak' and called me 'cik' instead... (clever chap!) :) He wasn't depressed either, so yep, I was right again.

Of course, when he first found out about his HIV infection, he felt like dying. But he got over it fast enough, and soon, he was already leading a normal life.

Majid is actually a healthy young chap. He looks healthy, he feels healthy and nobody (not even himself) would ever guess that he has HIV. He was never involved with drugs. Yes, he did have unprotected sex a few times (two or three times he said) before this but those days are over. Even his CD4 count is still very high despite his HIV infection.

So, how did he find out about his HIV infection?

You see, early last year he went to the hospital to donate blood. After tests were done on his blood sample, the hospital authorities called him to inform him about the infection. Imagine how he felt at that time. He didn't want his family to know but he needed to talk to someone. I guess his first appointment at the HIV clinic did not coincide with our clinic duty and so SN did not refer him to us. He did get our brochure though, but wasn't sure how to go about contacting us. Yes, the contact number was there but I guess he simply didn't know how to take that first step.

He finally confided in his boss, who was understanding enough. Until now, his boss is the only one amongst his acquaintances who knows about his HIV status. His family, who stays in another state, is totally clueless. His house-mate (he's renting a house with another guy) doesn't know a thing either.

Well, he looks healthy, not yet on medication - so no reason for anyone to suspect anything. With his flexi working hours there's no need to tell anyone whenever he needed to go to the hospital for his appointments.

Majid is however still very much interested in our services. He wants to know more. He feels it is probably better for him if he gets involved in our activities.

After meeting up and talking to him yesterday, I felt he'd be better off as a volunteer rather than a client. All he wants anyway is activities to keep him busy. So I asked if he'd be interested to join us as a volunteer instead. And he agreed! Yayyyy!!!

So we got ourselves a double catch yesterday. We got a new volunteer - and a PLHIV at that!! Looks like our plan to start a peer support group is on track! I still need to present his application to the board for approval (just a formality really) but that shouldn't be a problem at all.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Rose's family

As mentioned in my previous posting, Jee called me while I was at the highway on my way to KL on Saturday. Somehow she has the tendency to call me while I'm driving. The last time she called some time back, I was on my way to Seremban.

Let me just give you some background about Jee and her family. Jee is Rose's younger sister. You may read about Rose here and here. From my earlier postings on Rose, you'd notice that Rose's family had not been too supportive of her. But towards the final weeks of her life, 2 of her sisters, Jee and Bibah did try to help her out as much as they could. Bibah, Rose's immediate older sister, was the one closest to Rose.

When Rose was informed by the doctors that her cancer had spread, Bibah was the one Rose confided in. Rose even gave my number to Bibah, telling her to call me should anything happen to her. During the final 2 weeks when I used to help Rose in and out of the hospital, I'd usually bring Rose to the homes of either Bibah or Jee, since they both stayed in Ipoh. Rose herself stayed in another town.

When Rose died, Bibah called me early morning to inform me about it. I went to their family home where Rose's body was brought to and stayed on until her body was brought to the Muslim cemetery. Noticing how close Rose was to me during her final weeks, Bibah and Jee always sought my opinion, particularly on the future of Rose's children. They were impressed that I knew almost A - Z about Rose, when I only knew her for less than 3 months. Little did they realise then that all Rose needed was a listening ear.

During the first few weeks after Rose's death, I was still actively in touch with Bibah and Jee to settle some matters. When the family, after asking the children themselves, informed me that the children's paternal family would be their new guardians, Bibah and Jee brought me to see the children's grandmother to enable me to assess the family, whether or not they needed financial assistance for the kids.

I was treated as a family friend after that. Either Bibah or Jee would call me from time to time to ask me how I was doing, and they would also invite me each time they had any kenduris or birthday parties. So I do still get updates about Rose's children even though Rose is no longer around.

What Rose never told me was that they had an older brother, Rosli, who was also HIV positive. No, Rose did not get HIV from her brother and neither did the brother get it from her. They were infected from totally different sources. Rose got the virus from her late husband (and only found out about it after his death) while Rosli was an IVDU.

When Rose died, she had quite a stack of HIV medication at home - my guess is she was not too compliant in taking her medication, especially after having to get treatment for her cancer (of the cervix). Rosli, who found out about his HIV infection while he was in a pusat serenti, was reluctant to go for proper check ups at hospitals. When he found out about the stack of HIV medication left untouched by Rose, he actually wanted to take the ARV medication for himself, whenever he felt unwell. He thought the medication could be shared just like any other medication for flu and cough maybe, and that they were only to be taken when he felt unwell. That's the trouble when you assume things instead of consulting the right person.

It was then that Bibah and Jee decided to consult me and tell me about their brother. I told them not to let their brother take Rose's medication without consulting the doctor. To be on the safe side, Bibah gave the whole stack of medication to me, so I could return them to the hospital.

After a while, the sisters managed to coax their brother to go for proper check up at the hospital. I helped to arrange for the referral letter and was even there when the sisters brought him to see SN for the first time before setting the date of his first appointment with the doctor. SN did advise him then that if he wanted to start taking medication, he should stop taking drugs (he was still on drugs then).

Rosli did go for the first appointment on his own. But you know how it is at general hospitals, you can't expect to wait for just half an hour before your name/number is called. It was quite a long wait at the hospital, and Rosli simply was a patient without enough patience. That was the one and only appointment he went for. There wasn't much the sisters could do for him when he didn't want to help himself.

Last Saturday, Jee called me seeking my advise. Rosli's condition had deteriorated or in Jee's own words... "Dia dah teruk." Jee asked if they should take him to the hospital. I told them that if they weren't sure of what else to do, just bring him to the hospital. He was too weak to refuse. Given his condition, there may not be much the doctors could do - it was already too late for that; but maybe they could help reduce his pain.

On Sunday, a call came in from Bibah's number. The moment I saw her number, I knew it had something to do with Rosli. True enough, Bibah called to inform me that Rosli had passed away - the second HIV-related death in the family although the HIV infection of the 2 siblings had nothing to do with each other.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

My program last Saturday...

I left home before 7 am on Saturday morning to head to KL. Oh OK, not KL. I was going to Mutiara Damansara.

As I approached Rawang, my phone rang. It was the general ring tone, which meant the caller’s number was not stored in my hand phone. When I answered the call, the voice at the other end didn’t sound too clear, somehow I was the one who spoke louder when by right I should have asked the caller to speak louder. It was me who couldn’t hear her well, not the other way round!

The caller was Jee, younger sister of Rose, whose story was the first of my clients’ I posted on my blog. 2 of Rose’s sisters, who became closer to her towards the final weeks of Rose’s life, eventually treated me as a family friend after Rose’s death.

Why did Jee call? I will save that story for my next posting.

For now let me just tell you why I went to Mutiara Damansara on Saturday. I was there to attend this…

It was the Unicef Malaysia Media Workshop on Children and AIDS.

Last week we received a fax from Unicef Malaysia – not to invite us to send participants for the workshop (it was meant for the media, particularly journalists/reporters), but to send a representative for a special session meant for reporters to meet with doctors and caregivers. I saw it as a good opportunity to introduce Buddies and what we do, and a good opportunity for networking as well. And so I went to represent Buddies.

Being on unfamiliar territory (Mutiara Damansara) I actually had to go 2 rounds to find Royale Bintang, the hotel where the event was held. I could find the Curve quite easily based on the map I printed out earlier, but where on earth was Royale Bintang? I had actually passed it the first round but couldn’t see the name of that hotel. I thought there’d be a different parking entrance for the hotel and the Curve! (Hello… ini orang bawak kereta plate A lah… Perak plate… so I had every excuse to be peghak ok?)

I still managed to get to the function on time. Other than myself representing Buddies, we had 2 doctors from the ID clinic of Sg Buloh Hospital and one representative from PT Foundation. The session was to enable us to network with the media and pitch stories regarding our work for children and families living with HIV.

It was a very informal session really – after a brief introduction of ourselves, it was more of a Q&A session for the reporters/journalists who attended the workshop. And then during the break, the reporters/journalists were given the opportunity to approach any one of us personally to ask more details.

It was a good session, really. I had to answer various questions from various reporters. I gave out quite a number of brochures and name cards, in exchange for their name cards – but by the time I got home and browsed through the name cards that I got, I couldn’t for the life of me match the cards to the many faces I saw during the session! But not to worry, if they do call me for follow up stories, all they have to do is introduce themselves…

There was another session after the break, and although I was invited to stay for lunch, I had already promised to meet up with someone at 12 pm – without having to drive elsewhere.

I promised to meet up with this guy…

That’s our Buddy Bear posing with my friend, Huggy Bear!

Yes, I had lunch with Kerp and Pinky (that’s Pinky’s hand in the picture – nice to have finally met you Pinky!).

No, I didn’t give the Buddy Bear to him – the handmade bears are only meant for HIV infected kids, remember? I just lent it to him to pose for a photo. (Hilang macho la bro!!!)

We lepak-ed for a while but I didn’t want to leave too late as I was anticipating heavy traffic heading north due to the long weekend.

OK, in my next posting I will tell why Jee called me in the morning. I got another call from her today with some updates, so stay tuned…

Friday, 24 October 2008

Busy busy busy

I have yet to visit any of my clients ever since my last visit during Ramadan. I can’t seem to find the time to do so - been busy doing I don’t know what! I think ever since my daily routine changed after my mother’s knee operation, I have yet to adjust myself to get back to my previous normal routine although my mother’s condition has improved a whole lot (dah keluar menebas dah… so what does that tell you?).

Yesterday Fuzi called me, just to ask me about the Paediatric Aids Fund (PAF) which she has yet to get for this month. I am only handling our Sponsorship Account for her children, so I wouldn’t be able to answer off hand about her PAF. The PAF is handled by Malaysian Aids Council.

I think Fuzi knew that, it’s just that she was finding an excuse to call me to wish me Selamat Hari Raya. She probably didn’t want to disturb me earlier because she knew I was busy.

Later yesterday a staff of the Perak Family Health Association (PFHA) called. A guy, infected with HIV, called up PFHA asking how to register with the Buddies as a client. You see, during our early stages, Buddies was a wing under the PFHA before we “grew up” and moved out to be on our own as an independent society registered with the Registrar of Societies.

The guy who called PFHA had been trying to call our center but since we don’t have any full time staff, nobody answered his call. (Usually we’d just give the hand phone number of one of our volunteers. We just recently got a new hotline number – a mobile number whereby the phone will be with any one of our Board members; but the number has not been widely distributed yet.)

I was driving when the PFHA staff called me, so I couldn’t take down the guy’s phone number. I just told her to get this guy to call me after half an hour.

Well, this guy gave me 45 minutes before he called. Majid sounded like a young guy (well, I have not met him but he does have a “young” voice!). He said he has been regularly going for appointments at the Ipoh HIV clinic for 2 years now but has never been referred to us during his appointments. Probably his earlier appointments never coincided with our clinic duties. He has heard about the Buddies, though, and was very much interested in getting our services.

Majid is not yet on medication, so I guess his CD4 count is still okay. From the tone of his voice, he didn’t sound depressed either. I guess he just wanted a friend he could easily talk to without fear of getting looked down upon.

I told him we’d usually want to meet up with our clients first before we assign any buddies to them, and he was agreeable to the idea of meeting up one of these days. I promised I’d call him back next week as I know I definitely won’t be able to find the time this week. This weekend is definitely out.

Whether Majid is really a young guy and whether he is really not depressed, I will only find out after I meet up with him…

Today while I was at a hypermarket (BUSY shopping!), SN called me from the HIV clinic. She needed a favour from me. Remember Zali whose wife left him and their 2 young kids? Well, he now needs to change to another regime for his ARV medication. Since the government only provides the first regime free, now that he is into his second regime, he will have to buy the ARV drugs on his own. Well, he hardly earns enough to buy food for himself and his kids (oh, let me rephrase that… he hardly earns anything at all!), how on earth is he supposed to buy those expensive ARV drugs?

SN had already called a particular association which does provide such assistance, but they would need Zali to go personally to their center together with the referral letter from the HIV clinic. But Zali doesn’t know where the place is even after given the address. So SN sought my help to assist Zali in this matter. No problemo, accompanying him to the association’s center is small matter. If I can’t go, I can always get a fellow volunteer to do so.

SN also told me about a few clients who have been missing their appointments. A few familiar names were given… ehem… either my clients or their husbands! And when SN called they wouldn’t answer the calls either – they probably recognized the number and wanted to avoid the anticipated babbling from SN! So SN is seeking my help to get hold of them.

Hmmm… does that mean it’s my turn to do the babbling?

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

How lah like this?

We finally managed to hold our Buddies group meeting last night. Unlike the Board meetings which are held on monthly basis to discuss more on administration and general matters, the group meetings are supposed to be held once every 2 months to specifically discuss matters pertaining to our PLHIV (People Living with HIV) clients. However for the past few months we have not had any group meetings as every time one is planned, there is always not enough volunteers able to attend due to other commitments. Ah, we are all busy working people, when this person is free, that person is not.

Each of us who attended the meeting last night had to report on our clients - but most of the other volunteers only had a short report to give. Somehow or rather I seem to get the more complicated (and dramatic!) cases so my reports tend to take a longer time.

The case I'd like to highlight this time is not a case I'm handling; but I've mentioned about Devi before as I met her during one of my clinic duties.

So, what's up with Devi?

In my earlier posting here, I mentioned that Devi was staying with a friend of hers. Well, the friend now wants her to move out as the friend's husband, who was earlier working outstation, would be coming back soon. Devi has been given until end of November to find herself a new home.

Devi had recently managed to get her EPF withdrawal of RM13K, but as of yesterday, she only had a balance of RM2K left in her account. Apparently she had been borrowing here and there, promising them she'd pay the money once she gets her EPF and so when the money came, the bulk of it was used to pay off her borrowings. I guess this is a case of dengar guruh di langit, air tempayan dicurahkan (or should it be dengar guruh di langit, kepala paip ditanggalkan? :)) - the money was not even in yet; but she was already spending them.

Never mind that. Now she has to find herself a new home. But she is not working, if we help her find a new place to stay in, how on earth is she going to pay for her rental? She'd be chased out in no time. The way I see her, I think she should be able to work - maybe as a cleaner or any other suitable jobs. But in her mind, she is too weak to work.

One of my fellow volunteers had actually managed to get a good offer for her. Someone who had recently opened an Old Folks Home had agreed to offer her a stay-in job at the home. He even allowed her to bring her 2 sons along to stay with her at the home. But Devi turned down the offer! Can you believe it? She wants a house nearer to her present place. I can understand that if she's working somewhere there, or if her children are schooling there but she's not working and her children aren't schooling! We offered to help the older boy to go back to school, but the boy doesn't want to go back to school. He said he helps out his grandmother from time to time "when he feels like it". Adoi, susahlah ini macam, we are thinking about their future but they don't seem bothered at all.

Just recently another volunteer had arranged for her employers to contribute some Deepavali goodies to poor families under our care. Devi was one of the recipients. When Devi came to our center to receive the goodies, the volunteer did ask her what else she needed. And Devi's answer to that was, "Boleh carikan saya rumah?" And my friend immediately responded with "HAAA?!" My friend then asked her, "Habis, kerja macam mana?" Devi just kept quiet. She wants a home, not a job.

We volunteers have to work to cari makan, and the people we are voluntarily helping actually expect necessities to bergolek their way? How lah like that?

People say beggars can't be choosy - but this one seem to think she can!

We decided to let things be first. Maybe when Devi becomes more desperate (when she runs out of money and when it's time to leave the present house) she would accept our suggestions.

On another note, here's an update on Yah - who is not only getting on my nerves, she seems to be getting on other people's nerves as well. Before this I've mentioned about her sleeping around with guys without telling them she's HIV positive. This time around, she got on Fuzi's nerves.

Apparently during our Family Day in August when Yah and Fuzi met, Fuzi must have told Yah about the friend who's helping her to settle her daughter's problem in getting her MyKad done. For whatever reasons, Yah asked for the friend's phone number and Fuzi actually gave her the number.

Yah did call up Fuzi's friend. That's quite okay I guess, otherwise what's the point of Fuzi giving her the number kan? But what was totally unnecessary was that Yah actually told Fuzi's friend that Fuzi has HIV! What on earth was she trying to do? Just because she lost her job when her own in-laws told her last employer about her HIV infection, Yah is now seeking revenge on other PLHIVs?! Is she getting to be a sicko?!

I'm losing my patience lah with this woman.

Sabar Pi, sabar...

Monday, 20 October 2008

Various updates

I was in my office last week when a call came from an unfamiliar number. I thought it was another one of those unwanted calls from unwelcome marketers but most of the time those unwanted calls are from KL/Selangor mobile numbers. This one came from a northern mobile number so I just answered the call and heard a familiar voice saying, “Kak, saya ni.”

Even if I could not recognize the voice, there was only one person I knew who would take for granted I’d know who “saya” was. It was none other than Yah, who has changed her number for the umpteenth time. No wonder she didn’t reply my Raya message. I bet she will change her number again in no time so I guess I will have to wait for her to call me each time instead of me calling her.

Yah: “Kak dah tak masuk dah ke duit yang Kak selalu masukkan tiap-tiap bulan tu?”
Me: “Duit apa? Mana ada saya masukkan duit tiap-tiap bulan?”
Yah: “Alaa… duit yang Kak masukkan dalam Giro saya tu…”

Haiya… ini orang… I told her many times before that the contribution was from an anonymous donor who’d bank in direct into her account – I don’t even know how much is banked in every month, and she’s asking ME if I had stopped banking in the money?

I guess since Yah had lost her job again (remember my earlier posting about her outlaw in-laws telling her employer about her HIV – causing her to lose her last job?) she’s depending on the monthly welfare aid and the contribution from the anonymous donor. I asked her when the last amount was banked in – thinking it must have been quite some time since the last one. She said the last one was in September. September?! October is not over yet and she’s asking if the contribution has stopped? Adoii… I told her that maybe it’s just a bit later than usual and told her to be a bit more patient.

Hmmm… or did she overspend for Raya?


Last night I received a call from Pat, a fellow volunteer who stays in the same town as Hana. She was at the hospital with Hana at that time. Hana had actually called Pat earlier on Saturday when Pat was on her way to KL; telling Pat that her 8 year old daughter was ill. Pat promised to visit her once she came back from KL – and so yesterday right after she came back she immediately went to visit. Hana’s daughter was actually down with tonsillitis. Pat brought them to the district hospital where the daughter was eventually warded.

Remember in my earlier posting I mentioned about Hana asking me if she could claim from Socso for the accident that happened right before Raya causing her to break her arm? When I asked her earlier, she said the accident occurred on her way back from work. Well, last night when I asked her (Pat passed the phone to her so I could ask Hana direct) she said the accident occurred at home – AFTER she got back from work.

What actually happened was she fell at home due to the poor condition of her house. Whenever I visited her at home, she’d always let me in through the kitchen door which is downstairs. She wouldn’t dare let visitors go upstairs due to the poor condition – but she and her children would still sleep upstairs. The penghulu and some other jawatankuasa kampong promised they’d help to fix her house before Raya but to date nothing has been done. Right before Raya, one of the wooden planks gave in and Hana fell. Hana told me she “patah tangan” but last night when I spoke to Pat, it’s her shoulders that was injured.

The accident occurred about 3 weeks ago and Hana has not been going to work since then. And so she has not been earning anything this month. In other words, this month she’s broke and needs help. That was why Pat called me – so I could find possible ways of getting help for her.

Well, her children are under sponsorship, so schooling needs are already covered. I guess I’d better make a plan to visit her soon and bring along some groceries and whatever other household necessities to lessen her burden.

I will be attending a function in KL this Saturday, so I can’t possibly visit her then. Hmmm… maybe during Deepavali then? Maybe, I can’t confirm just yet…

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Getting to know me?

“Getting to know you, getting to know all about you…
Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me…”

Remember this song? I’m not really the kind who remembers lyrics to any songs, but I do remember bits and pieces here and there, especially catchy songs like the ones in the movie Sound of Music.

So, what has this song got to do with my posting this time? Actually, I’ve been tagged. While I’m not the type who likes doing tags, how can I say no to Ahmad Kerpov, the bugger blogger who tagged me for this one.

Getting to know me it is… but getting to know ALL about me?? Naaah… I don’t think so!

Here are 15 things about me you may or may not already know…

#1. I’ve got taggophobia. Yep, I hate doing tags. Those who have been following this blog from the beginning would already know this by now. But not wanting to be a spoil sport, I still tend to oblige, albeit reluctantly. (Yo Kerpov, hang punya pasai aku buat jugak tau!)

#2. I don’t use lipstick. Lip balm yes, lip stick no. If you need a different colour for your lips, there’s something cheaper you can use. Use the lastik! The red/blue/purple/black colour on your lips will last longer I assure you. Not that I’ve used it before for my own lips… I prefer original colour.

#3. I’ve never been married (maybe men are put off by the lastik above…hehehe) but am not at all awkward with soalan-soalan cepumas like “anak berapa orang” and the likes. Of course when I was younger the soalan cepumas would be more of “Bila nak kawin?” and I’d usually just selamba-ly say, “Eh, dah hari tu. Tak dapat jemputan ke?” – causing the penyoal-penyoal cepumas to become speechless and thus, no further questions asked.

#4. Way back in primary school, I used to love to eat canned sardines. Every time I went to the nearby shop, the moment the guy saw me he’d ask, “Ikan sardin eh?” I assume that was how I managed to come up with my muka sardin and the ability to selamba-ly answer the soalan-soalan cepumas in #3 above.

#5. I am a serious joker. Seriously. With my muka sardin acquired from #4 above, I am able to make jokes looking so serious. Those who don’t know me well may not know whether I am joking or not. People who meet me for the first time may think I am such a serious and garang person.

#6. I was born in 1382. Serious. No joke. I swear!

#7. I have a “deadly stare” many people are scared of. This ability/disability was very handy in school particularly when I was in form 6 and became the headgirl. I didn’t really have to say anything whenever the students did anything wrong. I just stared at them and they got the message. There was once when a girl got ill and needed a prefect to bring her to the sickbay. Her dorm-mates came to my room (the only prefect’s room at that particular block) to look for a prefect and since my other room-mates were not around; I had to attend to this girl. The moment I got to the dorm, the dorm-mates went to the girl (who was lying weak in bed) and told her, “Jom! Kak Pi dah datang.” That very instant, the girl sat straight up and exclaimed, “KAK PI??!!!” See… she didn’t need any medicine. A serious-looking headgirl was enough to scare the germs out of her.

#8. Despite my muka sardin, I am lousy at acting. Am definitely not an insan seni I know. The only time my acting made an impact was in form three. That too because all I had to do was to be myself – it was a mock fairytale and my role was as the wicked witch.

#9. I was very active in sports during my school days. I was a school hockey player and a school runner (but I did not run away from school). Being active in sports was one way to get out of the school gates more often – having matches in other schools, jogging at the lake gardens for our training etc. Yep, in shorts and all but tak sexy langsung!

#10. I was also a school debater. That was another way to get out of the school gates often, only this time in more proper attire.

#11. People often think I’m either a teacher or an ustazah. Once at a petrol station, the pump attendant came over to my car and asked, “Nak isi berapa cikgu?” Another time I was at the market and the chicken seller asked, “Tak mengajar ke hari ni cikgu?” Then there was another time at the hospital, the nurse asked, “Ustazah ni cari siapa?” Of course, these people are not aware how separuh tiang I am.

#12. I must have been a fan of weightlifting events when I was small. I used to put both my hands behind by head and say “APECHI”! (that’s a budak pelat’s version of angkat besi, by the way…)

#13. After my STPM, I applied to do either law or mass communication. I was offered something else instead and that was how I ended up as a qualified company secretary. All is not lost though. They wouldn’t offer me law, I became a loyar buruk. They wouldn’t offer me mass communication; I am doing my own communication with the masses through this blog. I still achieved my ambition.

#14. I don’t easily give up but I do tend to easily give in. Heck! How did you think I ended up doing this tag?!

#15. I hate doing tags. Hmmm… have I mentioned that already? Of course I have. I am purposely ending this with the same fact just to remind readers of my taggophobia.

So, there you have them! As always, I am not tagging anybody else. But if any of you readers are interested to do this, please tag yourselves!

And ohh, before I forget, for #6 above, please refer the Hijri calendar, ok? I am not antique yet and I certainly don't belong to any museum.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

C4C (updated with photos)

I always seem to get emails from unknown people, either at my own personal email address or the Buddies email address. Most are just spam emails - promoting things like viagra and the likes. Sometimes I open a particular email and the first thing I get to read was "Enlarge your p***s." Sheeesh!!

There are also a lot of those emails telling me that I just won millions in UK pounds or US Dollars from lotteries I never even participated in. And then there are emails purportedly coming from bank managers or lawyers or beneficiaries of a deceased person (who died in a plane crash or something to that effect) needing my help to transfer the amount out of their country into my account; after which I'd get a certain percentage of the millions left behind.

If any of those were true, I'd be richer than Bill Gates by now.

Nowadays, most of the time I'd either just delete those emails or mark them as spam before even reading them - especially if the sender's name sounds "foreign". And if those emails come with subject lines like "Hello" or "Submit your claims" - chances are those emails are sure to be marked as spam. Some time back I almost deleted an email coming from a Dick Grayson with the subject line "Hello". Luckily I still clicked on the message and from the preview pane I saw "Hello Kak Pi" in the message! So I read that email and apparently it came from Nightwing, a fellow blogger!

Recently I received another email which I almost deleted. The sender was a Ben Kasozi. At first I thought it was another one of those emails seeking my help to transfer some funds out of their country into my bank account. But the subject line "Sponsorship" caught my eye and so I decided to read it.

Ben had actually read about our Education Sponsorship for Children programme and wanted to know if he could apply for the children under his care. Well, our sponsorship programme only covers children of our own clients and as such we couldn't cover the children he was talking about.

Ben Kasozi is actually a volunteer from Kenya who, together with a few other volunteers, started a project called C4C (Children for Children) early this year. They started by interacting with street children and slum dwellers in the kayole slum located in the eastern side of Nairobi city through music and dance. By playing guitar and singing, they managed to attract many children across the slum. They then decided to gather the children (many of whom were orphaned during the bloody ethnic war) and formed a children's choir. They composed songs to educate the masses about children's rights and other major social issues. The children's choir perform in concerts around the city. Through this project, they are currently assisting 17 children including 7 who are HIV positive.

The volunteers formed a pool of donation in June this year, where they'd go around to collect used clothes, shoes and other necessities for the needy children but they realized the children cannot depend only on handouts. So they came out with a child sponsorship programme (possibly something similar to the one Buddies is doing) BUT to date they have yet to receive any sponsorship for the children.

Well, I can't help them with sponsorship, but I am now in contact with a volunteer in Kenya. And we will try to arrange to send our Buddy Bears to the 7 HIV infected children mentioned by Ben.

I also have a photo given by Ben (of the whole group of children in the choir) but since I have not got Ben's permission to show it to the public, I shall not include the photo in this posting.

*Updated 15/10/08 - Ben has given me permission to publish the photos, so here comes photos of the C4C children.

It's always nice to see them smile, isn't it? Cute, aren't they?

Personally, I feel they are carrying out a very interesting project... gathering the children from the slum and forming a choir - singing songs about children's rights and other social issues. At least the children would feel useful and that's good for their self esteem.

Those reading this blog and wish to help or to find out more info, you can contact Ben Kasozi via email or telephone: +254 728697400.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Hari Raya Open Cave (updated with more photos)

So, did I really attend a Raya Open Cave?

Well, the truth is, the Raya function that I went to was held at the premises of Gua Tempurung, not inside.

Actually the company managing Gua Tempurung is a business client, so all my office staff got invited to the function, which was held at Dataran Gua Tempurung. But since I had never been inside the cave before, I took the opportunity to visit the cave. The only cave I ever entered before was Batu Caves, and that was many years ago. So together with 2 other office-mates of mine, we went a bit early so we could go inside the cave and get out before the Raya function started.

However, given the time constraint, we could only go for Tour 1, which is the shortest tour available, taking 40 minutes. And Tours 1 and 2 are dry tours, so we didn’t have to bring along change of clothing. A good enough start as introduction I guess. I do intend to go the full tour (wet tour) of 3 ½ hours when I can find the right time and the right gang to go with. Pergi full tour tak ada gang tak syok lah!

We arrived at Gua Tempurung at approximately 3 pm.

The staff were busy preparing the necessary at the tents put up for the Raya function. We went straight to the counter to buy the tickets for tour 1 - but when we got there and one of the staff there recognised us, they let us in - FREE OF CHARGE! Since we handle their secretarial and accounting work, they consider us as staff as well and thus, the free entrance. So I guess I can really call it a Hari Raya Open Cave after all! One of the tour guides then led us in together with another group of paying visitors.

My 2 office staff who tagged along had actually thought Gua Tempurung would be just like Gua Kelam - they didn't expect to be going up and down some steep stairs inside the cave (oh well, it would have been worse without the staircases!) Despite me being the oldest in the group that went in, the rest were the ones who were huffing and puffing up and down the stairs. Although we took the dry tour, we still managed to get our armpits wet! :)

So, how was it like inside the cave? Let the following pictures tell the story lah. Apologies though... pics taken by a very amateurish photographer - with some blurry pics here and there. It was dark and I was playing around with the different settings on my camera.

After the tour, we took a walk outside the caves before the Raya function started. There are quite a number of facilities available for visitors, unlike some years ago when the cave was not properly managed like now.

I really really am interested to go for the full tour… going through the complete journey till the end of the cave. For this one you need to bring along change of clothing (which you should leave in your car – if you bring it with you into the cave, it’s gonna get wet too!); and you will need to bring along a torchlight (for Tours 1 & 2, the tour guide's torchlight should suffice). And if you’re bringing along your camera, you’d better put it in a waterproof case. You see, you’ve got to wade through the underground river that reaches chest level at certain stretches, duck-walk and crawl through holes, climb walls and slide down slippery stones. But as I said earlier, got to find the right time (the last entry for the full tour is at 11 am as compared to Tour 1 which you can still enter by 4 pm) and the right gang.

Hmmm… maybe we can arrange for a “Bloggers Caving Trip”? Gua Tempurung is after all quite easily accessible via the PLUS highway… you can check out here for more info.

*Update: Here are some of the things you have to go through if you go for the Grand Tour (Tour 4). All 4 pics taken from Gua Tempurung website.

Going down the lower chamber.

Sliding down a boulder.

Crawling in underground river.

Crawling in the lower passage.

Anyone out there interested for some caving adventure?

JOM LAH! Teringin nak pergi ni…

Friday, 10 October 2008

Raya still...

With my puasa enam for this year over and done with, I thought maybe I could start my Raya visits to the homes of my PLWHA clients. But many of my business clients are organising their own Raya open houses so I don't really know when I will be able to visit my PLWHA clients.

For my coming visits, particularly to the homes of those whose children are under our sponsorship programme, I will need to get details of the children's progress in school. It is already October and I will need to prepare each child's progress reports to be sent out to the sponsors.

There are also a few new applications for the sponsorship programme, and as such, I will need to visit them too to assess their situation before presenting to the Board for approval. And then, to source for new sponsors.

Alamak... banyaknya kerja nak kena buat...

Well, definitely no house visits this coming weekend. Tomorrow I intend to attend a Raya Open Cave.

Huh? Open CAVE?! Well, not really... but close enough.

Heh, heh... will tell you about it later, with pictures and all (insyaAllah). No, I don't think the pictures will look anything like this... I don't intend to go to the Raya-do dressed like Captain Caveman or Captain Caveminah!



Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Dialogue with the Doc

After a whole month of not joining any activities at the Buddies Center, last night after buka puasa, I went to the Center to join a dialogue with our good doctor from the Ipoh GH ID clinic.

You see, we usually have our meetings on Tuesday nights, with the Board meeting being fixed on the last Tuesday of each month. But last month being Ramadhan, and I didn't want to miss my terawikh, I decided to be a bit selfish as I needed time for myself. There was the fellowship sub-committee meeting to discuss on our planned Deeparaya Night, but I told our Fellowship coordinator to proceed with the meeting without me. I'd follow whatever the majority decided.

As for the last Tuesday of last month, it was the night right before Raya. No more terawikh, but I was so busy at home to prepare for Raya. At first I thought maybe the Board could still proceed with the meeting with the Vice Chair taking charge, but apparently our Honorary Secretary too was not around during that time, and since we usually have just ngam-ngam quorum for Board meetings, with 2 regulars missing, chances were they may end up not having enough quorum to proceed with the meeting. So we decided to cancel last month's Board meeting.

Apparently, this month, the last Tuesday will be the day immediately after Deepavali. This time we've got to consider our members who celebrate Deepavali. So again, no meeting on the last Tuesday of this month. And since there was no meeting in September, we decided to hold this month's meeting in the middle of the month. For 3 consecutive Tuesday nights this month, we have activities at the Center. Last night was the dialogue with the doctor. Next Tuesday night will be our Board meeting and the next Tuesday night will be our Deeparaya gathering - held specifically for volunteers only.

Out of our over 20 volunteers, only 11 made it to the dialogue last night. The rest either had other commitments they had to attend to or something cropped up last minute. It was the Doc's second time at our center, the first time was more than a year ago. We made it an open dialogue so we could ask her whatever questions we had in mind. Most of the questions asked were more on the HIV medication especially on the latest developments and the side effects of the drugs. Also discussed were matters relating to CD4 count, viral load tests etc.

Actually we volunteers do need to equip ourselves with at least some basic knowledge because our clients sometimes tend to ask us the medical-related questions instead of asking the doctor or nurse direct during their appointments. We even have clients who, after doing the viral load test and with the results showing that the viral load was undetectable, happily telling us that they no longer have HIV. Haiya, how to explain the situation to them like that??

The dialogue enabled us to update ourselves with the latest developments, and a good refresher course on certain other matters.

Hmmm... I wonder if I can use the 2 hour dialogue session to top up my CPD hours required this year to renew my professional association membership for next year... am still short of a few more CPD hours and am too lazy to attend the "make-me-sleepy" seminars! YAWN...

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Raya over - get back to work!

Hi folks! I hope everybody had a wonderful time with their family for Raya. It has been quite a busy Raya for me – busy cooking!

The day before Raya I was busy cooking the rendangs – both chicken and beef. My mother was told to stay out of the kitchen to avoid the temptation of helping out. We told her to take a complete rest if she wanted to go for sembahyang Raya the next day. It has been quite a few years since she went to the Masjid due to her knee problem, and so this year, after the knee operation, she was really determined to go.

Anyway, while I do know the ingredients needed for the rendangs; the amount for each ingredient I simply hentam lah. Can’t really say “secukup rasa” either since I could not “rasa”. Then later at night, I was in the kitchen again, cooking the kuah lodeh.

On Hari Raya itself, although I didn’t have to cook for lunch, it’s back to the kitchen for dinner. I was spared for breakfast on the 2nd day of Raya as my brother-in-law went to buy roti canai for the whole gang but I had to cook for lunch. For someone who’s so used to cooking for 2 people, it’s quite a task suddenly having to cook for over 20 people in the house. Sedap tak sedap belakang kira – janji semua dapat makan!

By dinner time, the house was quiet. My siblings had either headed back to their homes or off to their in-law’s.

So I decided to start off my puasa enam on the 3rd day of Raya - which means over the weekend I didn’t go beraya anywhere.

My raya visits to my clients’ homes will have to wait until I finish my puasa enam; and if things go as planned, on Thursday, I will really, really RAYA!! 4 of my clients have already invited me to come over to their house… Mrs K, Shila, Sha and Lin.

Sha is one of the less problematic clients and so it has been quite some time since I last got in touch with her. But I do make sure I send raya greetings to all my clients – either by sending them raya cards or text messages. I wasn’t really sure if Sha was using the same number, so when she replied my message and invited me to come over to her house anytime during the raya month, at least I know she’s still using the same number.

As for Lin, I tried to call her before Raya to find out how she was doing (the last I met her was when I visited her at the hospital) but my calls simply couldn’t get through. So I decided to send her a Raya card instead. I finally got a text message from her on Raya itself, using a new number. Apparently she lost her phone when she was warded at the hospital earlier.

Other than the above, I also got Raya wishes from Jah, Asiah, Hana and Maria – all in the form of SMS. They couldn’t be sending me Raya cards as they don’t have my home address – we Buddies are not supposed to disclose to our clients where we stay, remember?

Hana called me on 2nd Raya when I was busy cooking for lunch. She actually got involved in an accident on the way back from work before Raya and ended up with a broken arm. She asked me if she could claim from Socso. I just told her to get in touch with her employer first.

Today I received a text message from Maria. She started taking HIV medication after Raya last year, so this year is the first time she had to miss her puasa. As such she needed to consult someone on the amount of fidyah that needs to be paid. Her question was not only on how many cupak for each day, but also on how to convert that into kilo. Maria said she didn’t want to ask her Ustaz direct as the Ustaz may ask her why she could not fast. Well yes, she could tell the Ustaz she was asking on behalf of a friend or family member who was too weak to fast; but Maria is not good at all at lying, not even white lies.

For someone who’s not so well versed with cupak and gantang either, I had to resort to the internet to convert that into kilo. Nasib baik ada internet

Ahh… what a week… I wonder how I am going to get back into “work” mode for tomorrow…