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

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Weekend reflections: Then and now...

Oh, don't get fooled by the title of this posting, folks. Am just fooling around... as if I've got nothing better to do.

Then: Postal mail

Now: Email

Then: Cassettes

Now: CD

Then: Walkman

Now: MP3

Then: Long hair

Now: Longing for hair

Then: All-rounder

Now: All round

Any add-ons, folks?

*All images taken from

Thursday, 29 January 2009

When I start leter-ing

I am thankful for the chance given to me to get myself involved with my present voluntary work. The exposure had certainly opened up my eyes to a lot of things I never thought of before.

I am more thankful for all the things I have and all the things I don’t have.

I am thankful to be born into a loving and caring family.

I now appreciate all the setbacks in my life - for without these setbacks, I may not appreciate all the good things that came my way. These setbacks had made me a stronger person.

If I had things any easier than I did (compared to many others out there, I consider mine a rather easy life), I may end up as a spoilt brat for all I know.

Witnessing the miseries some others have to go through in life has taught me to be more thankful.

Witnessing the resilience of some people going against all odds for the betterment of their lives has taught me to be more patient (oh well, maybe the patience came in a package when we get older…it’s not so much patience, but more of “no longer bothered”)

So, when I offer to help the PLHIVs, my main intention is to help them become independent. I want to help them to be able to stand on their own, without relying too much on other people’s help. I don’t offer to do things for them; instead I offer to assist them. I don’t tell them, “Give me the documents, and let me do it for you.” Instead I’d offer to go with them and show them how to get things done.

No doubt for some of these poor and uneducated families, they may need extra help initially, but still, they must learn to do things themselves. I won’t be helping them all their lives. They need to know that to get something, they need to work for it. To change their lives, they need to do something about it, and not just wait for help to come their way.

“Verily never will God change the condition of people until they change it themselves.” ~ Ar-Ra’d (13:11)

That’s why I don’t like it when any of my PLHIV clients start to keep seeking my help for every single thing. And I don’t like it too when any of them starts complaining about getting this and that late, when previously they were actually in worse conditions. I don’t like it when they forget to be thankful for all the help they’ve been getting.

You know why? Because when they do that, that’s when I start lecturing (read: leter-ing) them, and when I start doing that, chances are I will also apply my “leter-writing” skills in this blog. Aduuuh…

Oh don’t get me wrong. Most of my PLHIV clients are doing okay. Nuri is doing well with her food stall after our initial help. Now she doesn’t even apply for our Children Education Fund. Ani too is coping well after we helped her out with her EPF withdrawal – she's putting the money to good use. Asiah is almost independent now. Lin, although had sought our help for her children’s education, is not just staying home doing nothing. She’s now looking around for a job and while waiting for one, she’s helping out at her brother’s food stall and gets paid a minimal amount. People like Zainab, Shila and Maria would call me to get advice on how to go about doing certain things, but they would do whatever themselves. They don’t expect me to do things for them.

It’s people like Mrs K, Yah and Fuzi who can drive me mad at times.

Mrs K? I have already mentioned that she doesn’t seem to learn from her past mistakes when it came to money. And after the last SMS I sent her, oh wait, not SMS… it was more of SLS (Short Leter Service), she doesn’t dare call me.

Yah? Ah, wild wild Yah! I had mentioned earlier that she seemed to be taking revenge on all the wrong people. Well, today my suspicion was confirmed. She told a colleague of mine that she wanted to take revenge on MEN – so that’s why she’s sleeping around with men, so she can pass the virus to them. I feel like strangling her… but I don’t want to end up in jail.

Fuzi? She’s the latest to get my SLS recently. She had actually been pestering me for some help (like call me every 2 or 3 days to ask if I had done anything) but I told her I’m pretty busy this month and so I gave her a number instead for her to call and seek help from. During the CNY break I sent her a text message asking if she had called the number. She didn’t answer.

But yesterday she called up my colleague to complain that she hasn’t been getting any of the monthly financial aid she’s supposed to get. So when my colleague told me today, I was like… “Eh? January’s sponsorship for her children already in whaaat?” Despite my busy schedule, I always make sure I disburse the sponsorship money to the recipients on time. The money is held in our trust and I take that responsibility seriously.

So my colleague called her back today to find out and Fuzi admitted she did get that money. The “not getting ANY of the financial aid” she meant was the monthly help from the Welfare Department and the Pediatric Aids Funds (PAF). We had already warned her that the aid from Welfare Department would usually be late at the beginning of the year. It’s like that every year, and while I don’t see why the department can’t make the payment on time, Fuzi should be used to it by now. She’s complaining because her budget is a bit tight this month. Any average parent with school going children would also have a tight budget this month! Looks like Fuzi has forgotten that once upon a time she had no source of income at all. And when we Buddies first came into her life, all she was getting then was a measly monthly aid of RM115 per month from the Welfare Department. Now with all the help that’s coming in, she’s complaining about late payments? Isn’t she thankful at all? Some people have to work hard day and night to get half of what she’s getting now and she’s not even working!!

Then my colleague passed the phone to me without Fuzi realizing it. And the first thing I heard was, “Saya dah tak tau kat siapa saya nak minta tolong dah.” I bet she was shocked when she heard my voice instead asking, “Nombor yang saya bagi hari tu dah talipon belum?”

No, she has yet to call that number despite her pestering me earlier. When asked why, she said because if she makes the calls herself people will not layan her. All the while despite my advice against it, she has been paying unreliable people money for jobs that finally never got done. Now I gave her the number of a reliable party which she doesn't even have to pay for and she didn’t even ATTEMPT to call?

So yep, she got that long leter from me today. I told her it’s not that I don’t want to help her, but she’s got to help herself first. She can’t depend on people her whole life. At least take the initiative to make that call, and after that if she still needs help, then she can call me for advice.

If my PLHIV clients want to hate me because of my leter, well, they can hate me all they want, I don’t care. All I want is for them to empower themselves with knowledge, skills and confidence.

As per the verse in Surah Ar-Ra’d I mentioned above, God will not change her situation if she doesn’t attempt to make any changes herself.

Besides, if I had any magic wand so I can simply go “WHOOOSH!!” to get things done, I’d already be using it for myself first…

Fuzi, Fuzi... kan dah kena leter...

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

I got the reports done!

Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! Paperwork at the office, paperwork at home (my NGO’s paperwork lah if at home…)

January being one of the peak periods in the office (the other being July), I’ve already told my PLHIV clients I’d be busy this month. That of course, didn’t stop a few of them from sending me text messages just to ask, “Kak tengah buat apa tu?” and expecting me to reply on the spot. I guess they must be bored not knowing what else to do… while here I am struggling to meet deadlines.

With the CNY holidays also this month, things are even more hectic at the office, especially if we’re dealing with companies whose auditors are firms with majority Chinese staff. The annual returns and audited accounts for companies with financial year end June 2008, must be submitted by end of January. And it doesn’t help when some of the business clients, when given our bills together with some documents to be signed and returned to us – would return the whole stack of documents to us, together with the bill meant for them, and without any payment! Tak faham or buat-buat tak faham I’m not sure…

As for my NGO, our AGM will be held in March. Still some time to go… but the various coordinators will need to submit their reports by early February for compiling. On my part, I’m supposed to write the chairperson’s report and another report on the Children Education Fund and our Sponsorship Programme. I tried to write the reports earlier, but every time I parked my butt in front of the computer, I simply didn’t know how to start – ilham tak mau mari! So I ended up bloghopping… and there goes my report-writing attempts… hehehe…

Well, guess what? I was determined to use the long CNY break to do those reports and that was exactly what I did… other than mowing the lawn lah which I had been postponing since last week (semua oso mau postpone! Lazy bum betul lah ini perempuan!).

Today is the last day of the CNY break and here’s my checklist:
- CEF/Sponsorship report… done!
- Chairperson’s report… done!
- Photos of activities… printed! (most taken using my camera so the photos are in my PC)

Oh, one more thing:
- Mow the lawn… DONE!

Yayyy!! Mission accomplished! Mental and physical exercise both done!

And my desk at home is just as messy as it was before the long break I took in December, so yeah, looks like things are returning to normal!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Gong Xi! Gong Xi!

To all my Chinese friends and blog readers...

Click on the cow!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

And now they're bickering...

I remember once I was organizing a particular event and there was this lady who had agreed to help out to coordinate one of the programmes for the day. With everything set to go, the evening before the event, the lady called me up to tell me she was not able to make it as her son was very ill and she didn't feel good leaving him at home in such condition. She apologised profusely to me. I told her, "It's okay, I understand." She then replied, "How can you understand? You will not understand until you have children of your own."

I thought (and I still think) that last statement was not necessary. Had I persuaded her to attend the function no matter what her circumstances were because it was such a last minute notice, I would understand her statement. But I was in no way persuading her... as a matter of fact, I was empathizing. As someone who believes that "family comes first", I too, if I were in her shoes, pull out of the event. And when I told her I understood, it came from my heart. I may not have felt what she felt, but that didn't mean I didn't understand. Just because I am not married and I don't have children, doesn't mean I don't have feelings. Or does it?

Well, in the voluntary work that I'm doing right now, I never tell my PLHIV clients that I know how they feel, because really, I don't. I do however, understand their fears and their worries. But I have learnt not to say to them I understand because I may get the same response as I did in the above situation. Still, when we try to motivate them to move on with life, some may still say, "Easy for you to say, you don't know what it feels like."

So, we try to get these PLHIVs connected with each other, so that they'd get to know others "in the same boat". They'd probably understand each other better. I organised the deeparaya-do for the ladies so that they can get to know each other and so they may exchange ideas as to what they can do to get on with life after HIV. I encouraged them to exchange phone numbers so they can get in touch with each other. I brought Jah along with me during my house visits.

Well, Jah and Shila have become very good friends. And Asiah too would contact Jah from time to time. The rest, oh well, they may not be contacting each other, but when they do see each other at the hospital, they would at least talk to one another.

Fuzi and Yah too got to know each other during the deeparaya do. They exchanged phone numbers, and they do contact each other from time to time. But things are not well between those two now. Those who have been following my postings in this blog may remember I mentioned about Yah asking for the phone number of Fuzi's friend, which Fuzi gave without question and without even getting the friend's permission. Well, Yah did call up that friend and ended up telling him about Fuzi's HIV status.

Now things are getting worse. While they no longer talk to each other on the phone, they have been sending text messages accusing each other of this and that. Fuzi's message to Yah was to tell her to stop spreading news about her to others. Yah, on the other hand, denied she was involved in spreading lies about Fuzi, and in return she accused Fuzi of reporting bad things about her to me (yes, ME) and as a result she is no longer getting most of the financial assistance she used to get. Even a colleague of mine told me that when he met Yah recently, she was telling him the same thing.

Whoa, wait a minute! I must be such a powerful person to actually decide who should get assistance and who should not, as and when I like! Terror jugak Pi Bani ni ek...

To badmouth Fuzi further, Yah told my colleague that she once met Fuzi at a particular hotel in Ipoh. My colleague and I both know that Fuzi seldom gets out of her house and it was very unlikely that Fuzi was there. So he asked Yah back, "You jumpa Fuzi kat hotel tu, apa you buat kat situ?" Muahaha! With no way to say she wasn't there, Yah just said, "Jumpa kawan." OK fine, so if Fuzi really was at the hotel, if Yah herself could meet a friend there, why not Fuzi huh?

I am sick and tired of listening to their bickering. All the while I was afraid about a "Yah vs Lin" confrontation over Mr Darling but Lin is so fed up of Mr D she couldn't be bothered whoever wanted to be his girlfriend. I never thought the confrontation would be between Yah and Fuzi instead.

Ah, so much for getting them connected. Oh well, at least it proves that PLHIVs are humans like the rest of us. Some get along very well and become best of friends. Some are rather anti-social and not bothered to get in touch with the others. Some, end up bickering like Fuzi and Yah.

Maybe the next event I need to organise for my PLHIV clients is a ladies wrestling competition.

Am now imagining Fuzi and Yah in the ring, twisting each other's arms, pulling each other's hair, scratching each other's face... uhhh... I wouldn't want to be the referee lah...

Monday, 19 January 2009

Is it possible?

During the Q&A session of the talk I gave last week, the boys were the ones who mostly stood up to ask questions, while the girls preferred to ask me privately – both before and after the talk.

One of the questions asked before the talk started while I was chatting with the organizing committee was whether it was possible for a baby not getting infected if the mother has HIV. You see, they had watched this one Malay drama on TV and in that drama, although the mother was diagnosed HIV+ during her pregnancy, the baby, when born, was spared from the virus. So, they were wondering if such a thing was logical.

Another girl was asking if it would be better for pregnant HIV infected women to opt for abortion.

Obviously many still think that pregnant HIV+ women are sure to give birth to HIV+ babies.

So I told them about the necessary precautions that need to be taken to minimize the chances of infection – the pregnant mothers are to be given AZT (a type of drug to help suppress the virus), delivery must be caesarian and not normal delivery, and the mothers must not breastfeed the babies. And I told them about the HIV positive ladies I personally know who ALL gave birth to HIV negative children. (There’s Zainab, Fuzi, Yah, Sha, Zana, Anita, Ani…)

Usually, cases where the babies get infected are when the mothers’ HIV infection is not known during pregnancy. Most of the cases of infected children that I know of are those older than 7 years of age. I’m not sure, but probably at that time, pregnant women were not tested for HIV. Nuri and Lily only knew about their HIV when their youngest born were already 5 or 6 years old. It was definitely heartbreaking for them to find out that their children became victims as well.

Or there may also be cases where the mothers don’t go for proper check-ups during their pregnancy and as such their HIV status are not known. Zana almost fell into this category – it was an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and she didn’t want people to know about her pregnancy. Even the doctors at the HIV clinic were unaware of her pregnancy as she wore loose clothing to hide her pregnancy. It was only when she was chased out of her house that she had to seek my help to find a shelter home for her, and upon my insistence that she’d better tell me the whole truth if she wanted me to help her, that she finally admitted she was pregnant. And it was right on time too. She gave birth just 2 months later – to twins! (and nobody noticed her pregnancy earlier!)

Of course there may also be unfortunate cases like Fuzi’s 4th child, Ijam. Although her youngest child Iwan was spared from the virus, Ijam was not as lucky. When Fuzi went through all the tests during her pregnancy with Ijam, her HIV test came out negative. How could that be? My unprofessional guess is, the tests were done during the window period and as such, the HIV antibodies were not detected then.

And while we’re into the topic of the possibilities of babies getting infected from their mothers, we must remember that while chances are high that the babies would be infected if the necessary precautions are not taken, there is still that small possibility that even without taking the said precautions, the child would be spared. And there are indeed lucky ones out there who are spared.

Rose, for example, found out about her HIV infection only after her husband died, and only after she gave birth to her youngest son through normal delivery. Worse still, Rose had been breastfeeding him for almost a month. But yes, the lucky boy was spared. He is 12 this year and is free from the virus.

So folks, just because a mother’s HIV positive, don’t assume the child would be positive too. Just because a husband’s HIV positive, don’t assume the wife would be positive too.

The important thing is to learn the facts – don’t assume.


The word doesn’t look so nice either… :)

Friday, 16 January 2009


...the talk... and the bikes... finally!

Yes, the talk to a group of UTP students who just registered this week. It's their Minggu Aluan Siswa, and the talk on HIV/AIDS was included in their programme, thanks to one of our volunteers who happen to be a staff of UTP.

When we were first informed about the programme, the talk was supposed to start at 9 am. So my initial plan was to go direct to UTP in the morning, and after the talk I'd drop by Lin's place on the way back to Ipoh to deliver the bicycles, and then go to my office as it is peak period in the office right now.

Then I was informed that our talk was rescheduled to 11 am. Alamak... kena tukar program. So I figured I might as well go to the office first, do some work first before heading to UTP, then on the way, I'd drop by Lin's place to drop off the bikes so when I go to UTP my car wouldn't look like a delivery van.

Suddenly yesterday evening, my colleague (the fellow volunteer who works in UTP) called me up and asked if it was okay with me if they changed the time to 10 am instead. Aduuuh... kena tukar program lagi! Thank goodness I do have flexi working hours, so okay, I agreed.

There were still some matters I needed to settle at the office, so I went to the office first and left the necessary instructions to the staff at the office. I left my office slightly before 9 am, although I knew it would take just slightly more than half an hour to reach UTP. I was afraid that if I had waited a bit longer, some business clients may drop by to see me, making it difficult for me to leave the office on time.

Just as I was leaving my office, I got a text message from my colleague, saying that the speakers who were supposed to give the talk before mine were running late, so I'd have to expect some delay. Whaddaheck I thought... I was about to leave my office anyway, I might as well just go ahead. Besides, I always prefer to be early when I have any appointments anywhere (unless I know for sure the person/s I have an appointment with are regulars at not being punctual!) so I'd have time for a breather before I start with whatever I'm supposed to do.

I didn't want to drop by Lin's place first as she did mention that usually in the mornings she'd help out her brother at his food stall. Besides, I had a tough time yesterday getting the bicycles into my car and arranging them so that I could close the back door! I didn't want to be struggling to get the bikes out of the car as fast as possible to rush to UTP, so might as well deliver them after the talk.

And so yes, I was early. While waiting for the 2nd talk (yes, mine was the 3rd talk for the day - why lah I always get to speak only when the students' brains are already filled with facts from too many talks... the last time that happened, the students (form 4 students) were sooo rowdy they didn't even bother to listen anymore!), I had a chat with my fellow volunteer and a few senior students who were in the Minggu Aluan Siswa organising committee. So I didn't really feel like I had to wait. To me it was just nice timing for me to relax first before the talk.

Then the time came for my talk, and as I entered the hall, I heard the emcee mention something like, "Announcing the arrival of ........" and then all the students stood up and they sat only after I sat on stage. Muahaha! Like VIP like that.... aiyo, we Buddies are soooo used to being so low profile and so casual, I must admit I did feel rather awkward. Luckily I was not wearing slippers... hehehe...

Despite that being the 3rd talk for the day and after a week of hectic activities for the newly registered students, and in addition to that, the students had to prepare for their freshie talent night this very night, I must commend the students for still paying attention when this makcik was up on stage presenting her facts. There were questions asked in relation to my presentation... which means they were indeed listening. It did amaze me though, when I asked them if anyone knew what vaginal microbiocides were, the girls were shaking their heads not knowing the answer but the "yes" answer came from the boys. Waaa... it's the female version of the condom and the boys knew better?? :)

During the Q&A, the questions came more from the boys. However, some of the questions were more medically/scientifically inclined, I definitely was not the right person to answer. I could only mention the findings of researches so far, no further then that. When finally one girl stood up to ask, she was given a round of applause. And she ended up as the only girl asking a question during the Q&A. The girls were shy I guess. I did tell them that they were welcomed to ask me questions personally outside the hall after the talk, and yes, a few of the girls did.

I didn't stay long after the talk. I did try to call a friend of mine who's also a UTP staff but her phone was off. So, I headed off for my next mission - to deliver the bicycles to Lin's house. It was about time I cleared the inside of my car which all the time while parked in UTP looked like this...

The inside of my Kenari... as seen from the back...

When I got to Lin's house, her 14 year old son, for whom one of the bikes was for, was outside. Great, I thought... there's someone to help me get the bikes out of my car!

When I told Lin earlier that I was going to deliver 2 bicycles, Lin was thinking I wouldn't be driving my Kenari. So when I got to her house and she saw my Kenari, she must have thought I brought only one bicycle. Then I opened the back door and she exclaimed, "Eh, MUAT??!"

Yes, the car may look rather compact, but I have been using this very same loyal old car to deliver lots of goodies, big and small, to the poor PLHIV families.

Of course, this morning when the bikes were in there, had I met with anyone who needed a ride, I wouldn't have been able to offer them the ride... not even at the front passenger seat.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

I Got The Bikes!

No, not motorbikes. I bought the school bikes for Lin's 2 younger children...


2 readers responded to my earlier posting on my visit to Lin's house, where I mentioned that I'd need to find sponsors to buy bicycles for Lin's 2 school-going children. Not only were they quick in pledging to sponsor the bicycles, they were also quick to bank in the money. By Sunday, I had RM350 in my bank account - for me to buy the bikes.

And so yesterday, I went to buy them... and the 2 bikes in the pic above cost RM340. Got extra RM10 some more... so I think I'll include that in the funds that I usually use to buy groceries for the poor families.

Thank you very much to the 2 donors.

My task is not over yet, though. The above bikes are now temporarily placed in my NGO center. I will need to deliver them to Lin's house.

Buddies were invited to give a talk to a group of university students this coming Friday. Initially, another volunteer was supposed to give the talk as this month I am pretty tied up with office work. But he has some family matters to attend to, or more specifically, his elderly parents need more attention. Family comes first, so he's out. Another of our speakers has to be in KL on that day, again for some family matters, so she's out too. No choice, I had to reschedule my time-table to include the talk. Luckily the materials (slides in powerpoint) are readily available, courtesy of Malaysian Aids Council, all stored in my thumb drive; so at least I don't really have to prepare anything. Of course, I still need to go through the slides again before this Friday to make sure the powerpoint presentation still works fine. Who knows, the file may have been infected with viruses (not HIV of course - this one only infects humans!).

Anyway, I'm thinking of delivering the bicycles on my way back after the talk. Which means I will need to stack both bicycles into my Kenari, bring them all the way to the university, leave them in my car during the talk, and then go over to Lin's house after the talk to deliver them to the rightful recipients. Why not deliver the bicycles on the way TO the university, before the talk? You see, the talk is rather early in the morning, and I don't want to be late...

Saturday, 10 January 2009

House Visits

After not having visited any of my PLHIV clients for more than a month, this week alone I managed to do 3 house visits. YAYYY!!

I’ve already posted the story on my visit to Lin’s place. Remember I mentioned in that posting that one of my tasks would be to look for donors to buy bicycles for Lin’s children? I posted the story on Wednesday – and by Thursday I’ve already got 2 people willing to sponsor the bicycles. By Friday one of them has already banked in the money while the other will do so soon. Thank you blog readers! I love you all!!

My next task will be to buy the bicycles – I hope to do so within next week. Will keep you all posted.

On Thursday I went to visit Zainab, whose house is quite nearby my office area. The door was wide open when I got there. Upon seeing me, Zainab immediately called out to the neighbour’s house, “Adiiik… balik! Makcik datang ni!” Her younger daughter, affectionately called Adik, was playing at the neighbour’s house, since her usual playmate, her older sister, affectionately called Kakak, was at school.

As mentioned in an earlier posting, Zainab who works at a factory, is affected by the global economy crisis as her working hours are now cut down and she gets to do much less overtime – which means she gets less income, when she actually needs more as Kakak starts schooling this year. Everything has to be bought as the girl has no older siblings or cousins to pass down old uniforms to her. I filled in the CEF (Children Education Fund) form for Kakak to lessen Zainab’s burden.

When I read the list/letter given by the school, I couldn’t help noticing in particular one sentence mentioning that they will be collecting another fee in April. They didn’t mention what fee or how much, they just mentioned it has to be paid in April. They have already collected all sorts of fee at the beginning of the year. What is this? I hear politicians talking about free education… yet this school will be collecting more fees come April. Free education my foot!!

Whatever it is, Zainab is still thankful she hasn’t lost her job. Although she had to spend quite a lot for Kakak’s schooling needs, she knows for a fact there are many people out there who are in a worse situation than hers.

Today, Saturday, I brought along 2 new volunteers to visit Fuzi and her children. Neither of the volunteers have done any house visits since they joined, so this was their first experience.

When we got to the house, I saw someone bathing naked outside the house. Woi… ni bukan x-rated posting lah. The one naked was Fuzi’s sweet looking 2 year old boy (he’ll be 3 this year) – playing at the tap right outside their back door which was by the side of the house so I could see him when I drove into the house compound. His hair has grown a bit longer now so he looks even sweeter than ever – my colleague at first thought he was a girl.

I had actually informed Fuzi earlier that I was coming today, and I told her to get ready all the necessary receipts and the results of her children’s exam results for last year, which I need in order to prepare the reports to be given to the individuals sponsoring her children under our Education Sponsorship for Children programme. I must say Fuzi was really organized this time around – everything was in order, all ready to be passed to me without me having to write down any details.

Fuzi however still has one big problem. Remember in one of my earlier postings I mentioned that her 2nd child faced no problem in getting her MyKad done because her Malaysian uncle came along when doing the necessary at the JPN office? The only problem earlier was that her first child had to resubmit her MyKad application as her earlier application was cancelled after more than a year.

Now it seems the 2nd child’s MyKad is ready, but when Fuzi resubmitted the 1st child’s application (again with the help of the uncle whom Fuzi had to pay to get him to go to JPN), JPN held back the 2nd child’s card. Now both of them are stuck and unable to get their MyKad. JPN still insists that Fuzi gets their citizenship status confirmed first at JPN Putrajaya. And the Putrajaya office on the other hand, wants Fuzi to legalize her marriage cert first at the Syariah Court.

And since her husband has died, the Syariah Court insists that Fuzi brings to court the 2 witnesses to the akad nikah in Narathiwat held more than 14 years ago. Otherwise, they wouldn’t legalize the cert. One of the witnesses is staying quite near but after consulting his family members, has refused to trouble himself to go to the Syariah Court to help Fuzi out. Not their problem, so they said. Subpoena? Can be done, but they warned Fuzi not to do that – otherwise they will make life difficult for her (as though life is not already difficult for Fuzi).

The other witness? He’s from another state near the border. This one we weren’t able to find. From the IC number written in the Narathiwat marriage cert, I can’t even be sure if this man is still alive – he’s even older than Fuzi’s late husband (who was elderly person himself!). And if he’s dead, forget the subpoena! (If he appears in court – the judge will run first!!)

So guess what? We’re back to square one!!

Oh dear…

Anyone out there has any suggestions on how to solve this matter? Anyone who knows who’s who in JPN Putrajaya? Fuzi doesn’t care anymore if her marriage cert doesn’t get legalized (her husband is dead anyway!) but she just wants her children to get their MyKad. For heaven’s sake, it is clearly stated in their birth cert that their father’s a Malaysian!!

Up till now, Fuzi has already paid quite a sum of money to people who claimed they would be able to help (despite me advising her against it). All she wanted was for her children to get their citizenship status confirmed. The money is long gone, but she is back where she started. It’s like playing snake and ladders but always sliding down the snake, never going up the ladder.

Please folks, is there any other option she can take?

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Help them please!

Can you imagine yourself in the following situation?

I wonder what were the final words from the mother to her child... sigh...

Oh the poor child!

Folks, they have nowhere to run to. They have nowhere to hide. They need help!

Mercy Malaysia is appealing for cash contributions to help them procure emergency surgical kits, medicines and hospital equipments to help the hospitals in Gaza. Every little bit counts... so yes, help them please!

Please read Elviza's for more info.

Pics taken from a forwarded email.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Divorced... and so the children are no longer your responsibility, huh?

I finally managed to do my first house visit for this year.

After going to my NGO center and stuffing some groceries into my car (the groceries were donated by some good Samaritans), off I headed to Lin’s place. I sent her a text message to inform her I was on my way; just to be sure she’d be home. It took about half an hour to get to her place from Ipoh town.

Only Lin and her youngest daughter were home when I got there. Her 3 older daughters are all furthering their studies elsewhere – all under scholarship, alhamdulillah. Her 4th child, who’s also her eldest son, currently waiting for his SPM results, is seldom home. The 5th, also a boy, was in school (afternoon session).

It was when I was chatting with Lin when her son (the one waiting for results) came in, and after a while, left again. I asked Lin what her son was doing while waiting for his results to come out.

“Macam itu lah,” said Lin. “Bila lapar dia balik rumah. Dah kenyang dia keluar balik.”

Unlike his 3 older sisters who back then were all busy doing temporary jobs to earn extra income for the family, this boy prefers to lepak-lepak with his friends before the exam results are announced.

Lin had called me earlier, wanting to apply for our Children Education Fund to help out with her 2 younger children’s back-to-school needs. I am also submitting her application for our Sponsorship program, but this one will take some time as the sponsorship committee will need to do a house visit for assessment purposes, and once approved, we will need to find individual sponsors first.

But the children’s father is still alive, and working! Yep, their father, our dear Mr Darling! Well, apparently he only gave them money as and when he felt like it. Lin had to resort to bringing the matter to the Pejabat Agama. She didn’t bother to do that earlier because she was working then and as she said, “Tak nak cari gaduh.” But ever since she had to quit her last job when she was hospitalized, she was no longer earning any income for her family. If Mr Darling didn’t give anything, then his own children will not have enough to eat. But he only gave when the children asked – and even then he didn’t give much.

When Lin brought the matter to Pejabat Agama, Mr D scolded her. He said she could have just asked from him for the money. Yeah right! Even when they were both in front of the Ustaz to settle the matter and Lin was asking for nafkah for their 3 younger children, Mr D had the cheek to ask if he still had to pay for the older son who had just finished his SPM. Duh! The Ustaz told him straight in the face that even after his SPM, the son is still his responsibility. Maybe Mr D thinks that as long as the children don’t stay with him, they are not his responsibility.

Ahh yes, Mr D got married recently, didn’t he? That’s why his budget is quite tight. He needs to spend more on his new wife. So much so that he had been suggesting to Lin to seek help from welfare bodies. “Perempuan senang sikit dapat bantuan”, so he said. “Mintaklah dengan Buddies. Boleh dapat RM600 sebulan”, he added.

Waaah, so clever one! He expects Buddies to take over his responsibilities as the father, huh? Hello Mr konon-konon soft spoken guy! You were the one who gave HIV to Lin… the reason for her to be hospitalized recently, and causing her to lose her job, and now you expect others to take over YOUR responsibility as the father to your children??! Kirim salaaammm!!!

In the first place, other than our Children Education Fund meant only for children’s schooling, we don’t give out financial aid to our clients. We assist them to ask for financial aid elsewhere, yes, but we ourselves don’t give money to them. And RM600 a month? I wonder where he got the figure from!

My guess is his ex-gilafriend… oops, I mean ex-girlfriend… (YAH lah, who else!) had told him about the monthly aid she had been receiving from a particular anonymous donor. I had told her time and again the money was from an anonymous donor, not from Buddies, but every time she’d still be asking me when the money was going to be banked in.

Adoii, dah ada orang tolong tu pergi cerita pulak kat orang lain berapa dia dapat! Dok je lah diam-diam! I myself don’t know how much the donor gives – Mr D seems to know better!

Well, maybe the donor has stopped giving the monthly donation – because Yah called me recently and asked if she could apply for our CEF for her son as she didn’t have enough money to buy her son’s schooling needs. Frankly, I think it is better for us to consider her children for CEF and/or sponsorship. Since we control the money, at least we can be sure the money is only used for her children’s education – not for her to go karaoke-ing away!

But that’s a different story.

Back to Lin and Mr D, it was decided that Mr D is to give RM100 for each child – meaning he has to give a nafkah of RM300 per month to Lin. It is officially in black and white. But RM300/month is barely enough to buy basic necessities for her children and to pay for her utility bills. There is definitely not enough to spare for her children’s back-to-school expenses. So Lin has to look for other options, including as she said, to “buat muka tak malu minta bantuan”.

At the moment, Lin sends/fetches her children to/from school. She is however, looking around for a job and if she gets one, she will need to look for other means of transportation for her children. It would be good if they can get a bicycle each so they can cycle to school, but Lin can’t afford to buy bicycles. So yes, one of my tasks right now is to look for donors to buy bicycles for her children.

One thing I noticed is that Lin’s children are doing quite well in their studies despite their family problems. To me it is definitely worth helping them out with their educational needs. Hopefully one fine day when they have succeeded, they will help out their mother and others like her.

Oh, I forgot one thing, didn't I? Who married Mr Darling?

No, not Yah. Not any of my other PLHIV clients either. He got married to a northerner - am not sure if she is a fellow PLHIV or not as I don't know who she is.

Anti-climax, huh? :)

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Effects of the global economy crisis

Wah! Heavy issue eh? Don't worry, am not writing a thesis or anything of that sort. If I am, I'd probably die before I can finish the thesis!

Maybe some of us don't feel the effects from the global economy crisis too much. Yes, we complain about prices of things going up, we complain we have to spend so much to buy this and that. We complain that we have to spend more now when our pay remains the same. We complain that despite the price of petrol going down, the prices of necessities have yet to follow suit. What goes up must come down? Naah... doesn't apply here!

Despite all our complaints, shopping complexes are still full of people, the queues at the cashiers at supermarkets are still long, parking lots at shopping complexes are still full on weekends. Yes, yes, like it or not, we still have to buy necessities.

Have we ever thought that for some people out there, in addition to the prices of daily needs increasing, worst still is the fact that they may get less earnings each month?

This posting is actually about my PLHIV clients - particularly the single mothers under my wing. I am not writing about hypothetical situations, I am writing about what I see with my own eyes and what I hear with my own ears.

For my clients who are not currently working, like Lin, Yah and Fuzi, it will even be tougher for them to find jobs to support their family. Lin used to work at a restaurant, but when she was hospitalised a few months back, she had to quit as her employer couldn't afford to give too long leave to employees. It was either you'd better come for work or out you go!

Yah used to work until her in-laws informed the employer about her HIV status, causing her to lose her job.

Fuzi? With her citizenship status, it will even be harder for her to find a job.

Then there's Zainab and Hana who work at factories. No, not any unknown factories belonging to simply any Ali or Ah Seng or Muthu but factories belonging to well known companies. Since the manufacturing sector is badly affected by the economy crisis, understandably they need to cut down on costs. Thankfully, Zainab and Hana are not retrenched, but their work shifts are reduced and they get to do less overtime. Zainab is on leave for the whole of this week while Hana gets called to work only when there are things that need to be done. For some it seems, the workers work 3 days a week. For those who work on "ada kerja ada gaji" basis like Zainab and Hana, this only means they now earn much less then they ever did, when they need to spend much more.

I graduated during the economy crisis of the 80's. Jobs were hard to come by and so I grabbed any job opportunities I could land myself on. And my first job was as a casual staff at an issuing house - earning RM10 a day (this was in 1987). I had to depend on overtime to earn more (sometimes I had to work from 8.30 am to 8.30 am the next day - particularly when public ballots were involved). But when there were no share issues, I'd be out of a job - earning zilch! So yes, although I didn't have any dependents to support, and I could depend on family support when I was out of a job, I can still understand the situation people like Zainab and Hana is facing right now.

This week I will start my house visits after the long break.

I shall start off today by visiting Lin.

LIN? Oooo... does that mean I will get the answer to the cliffhanger... Who Married Mr. Darling?

Stay tuned... :)

Monday, 5 January 2009

More Sponsors Needed

Hi folks! School reopens today, and it seems for whatever reason, most of the schools of the children under our Education Sponsorship for Children programme are only giving out the report cards when school reopens. As such, I will have to wait until I can gather all the info on the sponsored children before I can send out the reports on the children to the respective sponsors, and ask for this year's sponsorship money. I would prefer to send out the reports of the children before asking for this year's sponsorship so that the sponsors will at least know the developments of the child they are sponsoring. Which is really making life rather difficult for me, because I have to get the reports ready and at the same trying to settle the sponsored children's back-to-school needs before I can ask for the money! Lecehlah, if the various schools could give out the report cards before the last school holidays, I could have prepared the reports earlier and won't be so kelam-kabut when school reopens.

Now this sponsorship programme is becoming like a full time job for me... so much so that even though as the chairperson I am also in charge of my NGO's volunteer care, I am doing a LOUSY job at the latter because this sponsorship thingy is already taking up so much of my time. But I guess I will have to prioritize things... volunteer care is no doubt important to make sure all the volunteers are doing okay and are well motivated, but since the sponsorship involves handling other people's money entrusted in us for the education of needy children, I definitely have to give that top priority.

Anyway, we are looking for more sponsors this year as we have more children needing education sponsorship. We already have 3 children already approved for sponsorship, and there may be more coming. Of the 3, one is HIV infected. The sponsorship amount by the way is RM1,200/year for primary school and RM1,800/year for secondary school - payable either yearly or half yearly. The 3 newly approved children are all in primary school. The money will be used to pay for the child's basic schooling needs (including uniforms, shoes, stationeries, exercise books and workbooks), co-curricular activities (fees, uniforms etc), monthly pocket money, bus fares (if necessary), tuition (if necessary) and whatever other necessities as long as it is for the education of the children.

So, if any one of you readers are interested, or if you know of anyone who may be interested, you may contact us for further info.

Those who'd like to contribute but do not dare commit themselves to sponsor the children individually, you may still contribute one-off (any amount accepted, however small) to our Children Education Fund (CEF), which is a separate fund used to cover for the back-to-school expenses of the children who are not individually sponsored but still need help at the beginning of each schooling year.

You may either email Buddies or you may email me personally - I read them both!

Thanks folks!

Friday, 2 January 2009

What's Up?

It had been quite a long break for me (from blogging and even from my voluntary work), I'm finding it hard to get back to my normal mode. It has been quite a while since I last visited any of my PLHIV clients - I'd better start visiting them soon... especially those with children under our Education Sponsorship program. I need to finalise the reports for each sponsored child to be sent to the various sponsors but for the moment I am still waiting for the reports on a few more children. Everybody has been busy it seems... maybe we need to seriously consider having someone full time at our NGO center.

So, what have I been blogging about for the past year?

There's Fuzi with her problems in getting her marriage cert legalised... and problems in getting her daughter's MyKad done... and her son's disciplinary problem...

There's Ifa who was caught for khalwat and who admitted she skipped her medication during weekends when she'd be at discos and taking ecstasy pills.

Then there's Yah who seemed to be driving people (me included) up the wall... Mr and Mrs K who got back to square one after all the help we gave them because they simply didn't know how to manage their finances... Baby K who was diagnosed with a hole-in-heart... Hana who's always so blur... Anita who's 21 but has yet to get her IC done because of some technical problems with her nationality status... Razif who was scared to break the news of his HIV to his wife...

Well, chances are I'll be blogging about the same type of stories this year. Here's some brief updates on some happenings during my break.

1. Majid SMSed me after one particular MB made some comments about people with HIV. Majid felt as though he was looked down upon as a "sampah masyarakat" and so he wanted to know my opinion on the MB's comments. There he was trying to lead a better life and yet someone high up in position thinks he shouldn't be given chance to lead a normal life. I personally think the MB has been getting the wrong info from the wrong people. Sigh...

2. Mrs K called a colleague of mine to ask if there will be any financial assistance for her family. She didn't dare call me direct after I told her off the last time she tried to borrow money from me.

3. I am having problems finalising the  reports on the sponsored children as many of the schools involved will only give out the student's report card for last year's exams when school reopens. Some haven't even got their booklist out yet. Susahlah ini macam... I need to ask for the sponsorship money for this year lah people!!!

4. Lin asked if she can apply for financial help for her children's back-to-school needs. I told her we can consider her for our Children Education Fund. Her children have been nagging her for their schooling needs but she simply didn't have enough money. She stopped working when she was hospitalised a few months ago. Her ex-hubby only started paying nafkah for the children in late December after Lin brought the matter to Mahkamah Syariah - even then she's only getting RM300 per month which is obviously not enough for her children's needs especially when school reopens and so many things need to be paid. Anyway, Mr Darling is supposed to pay the nafkah by the 25th of each month but for last month he only paid on the 27th... giving the excuse that he didn't have enough money. And guess what? According to Lin, Mr Darling actually remarried recently (that's why he didn't have enough money I suppose??). Now, now... I wonder who's the victim...

Ahh... I bet you're curious to know too... :)