THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)
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Thursday, 29 October 2009

Kapla ku pusing...

Some days I don't get any calls regarding my NGO work, some days the calls come in one after another.

Well, for the past 2 days, it seems most of the calls are regarding "my babies".

In my previous posting I mentioned about Baby K going for her heart op soon. Before she goes for her heart op, she was to undergo a minor dental surgery in Ipoh. Apparently it was done on Tuesday and the little girl was warded but Mrs K didn't call to inform me. My colleague was the one who informed me about it. When my colleague asked Mrs K why she didn't inform me about it, guess what she said?

"Tak beranilah kacau dia. Kak Zah tu garang." (in case you're wondering, no, nobody else calls me Kak Zah)


Well, let it remain that way... I mean let her have that perception about me. With her history of trying to borrow money here and there, it's best if she thinks I'm garang. I think my earlier "lecture" to her about spending only on necessities must have had played a part.

We have not informed her that Buddies has approved a certain amount for her living expenses while in KL. I shall only give her the money nearer to the date. Knowing them, if they get the money now, they'd probably be spending it on other things and by the time they need to go to KL, they'd run out of money to even pay for their bus fares!

I met up with Anita and her baby yesterday. Kak Ana had brought them to Ipoh GH as Anita had defaulted the baby's earlier appointment (she went back to her home state then to get the necessary supporting documents for her IC). In addition to that, Kak Ana also just found out that Anita had finished her supply of ARV drugs and has not been taking her medication for more than 2 weeks already.

Not much problem with the baby as he was just supposed to get his blood tested to confirm that he is free from HIV. Tests so far showed that he is spared from the virus, but he will still be tested from time to time until he reaches 2 years of age.

But Anita kena sembur by SN for not being compliant with her ARV drugs. Hehehe... nasib badanlah... siapa suruh miss makan ubat...

That was yesterday. This morning a call came in from Anita's number. She then passed the call to Kak Ana who asked me about the boy's birth cert. Duh! She didn't know the boy's cert is not done yet! Kak Ana had actually brought Cek Mek and Anita's baby to the hospital for their immunisation and the nurses asked for the babies' birth certs.

After about half an hour or so, Kak Ana called again. This time to ask about Cek Mek. The nurses were asking for Cek Mek's immunisation card which according to them was supposed to have been given when the little girl was discharged from the hospital after birth. As far as I know, the only thing we got was a referral letter to transfer my Cek Mek's case to the hospital near Kak Ana's shelter home. I didn't dare confirm it though, as it was Puan Nur who took the baby and whatever documents from the pediatric ward when the little girl was discharged. I told the nurse (Kak Ana passed the phone to the nurse so she could speak direct to me) I'd have to confirm with Puan Nur and/or Sharifah first.

So yep, later this afternoon after 3 pm I called Puan Nur as I knew she usually finishes work at 3 pm. I didn't want to call Sharifah as I wasn't sure of her work shift. I didn't want to call her at work talking about her baby when her friends didn't even know she has one! Puan Nur didn't answer the phone. So I sent her a text message asking if there was any hospital card given when Cek Mek was discharged. She replied my message immediately saying there was no such thing given.

About 2 hours later another text message came from Puan Nur. She had checked with Sharifah and Sharifah confirmed that there was no immunisation card given. I decided to call Puan Nur's number. Sharifah answered the call... she just got home from work. Anyway, after confirming a few things, I told Sharifah that her baby has grown montel and is already beginning to recognise people. I told Sharifah to make it a point to visit her baby more often, otherwise the little girl may not feel comfortable with her own mother.

Before that, right after I sent a text message to Puan Nur, a call came in from a 03 number. I almost didn't answer as I thought it could be one of those telemarketing calls that have been irritating me a lot lately. But seeing that the number was not from central KL, I answered the call.

Thank goodness I did. The call came from an officer from JPN Putrajaya in response to the letter I sent earlier regarding Anita's MyKad. Yayyy, somebody's responded!

The lady told me to bring Anita to JPN Ipoh, fill in the necessary forms and submit together with the required supporting documents. She said by right there shouldn't have been any problems in the first place to get Anita's IC done (although her PR father cannot be contacted and her Singaporean mother is dead) but now that it is considered as late registration, there are additional documents we'd need to come up with. She asked why the IC was not done earlier... I couldn't really answer that. I've only known Anita just recently.

Whatever it is, the lady told me to register for the baby's birth cert first and not to worry about the mother's status or the citizenship of the baby. Just get the birth cert done. When Anita's case is settled, then we can apply to rectify the baby's birth cert to confirm his citizenship status.

My problem now is getting a supporting letter from someone who knows Anita and can confirm Anita's status. Who can I get from the list given by the JPN? Gurubesar? Anita tak sekolah. Ketua kampung? Aduh, Anita now stays at the shelter home... the ketua kampung there doesn't even know her.

We (that's Kak Ana and myself) will have to think of something. If a surat sumpah will do, then that's the easiest thing to do. Otherwise we may have to send Anita back to her hometown (in another state) again, and get her sister there to help her get the ketua kampung to sign the letter.

Ah well, at least I can start something already. But then again... aduh... kapla ku pusing...

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

This and that

We (Buddies) had our board meeting last night with ngam-ngam quorum. It would be a blessing if we can get full board attendance, even once a year. With everyone busy with their own work and family, and only joining Buddies on voluntary basis, it can be very difficult to gather all the volunteers under the same roof at the same time. One of our board members even tendered her resignation last night as her job requires her to travel a lot, leaving her very little time for voluntary work.

That's why after the meeting last night, when a fellow volunteer asked me if we should be roping in more Malays as volunteers in our organisation, I said I didn't care which race they're from. Malays ka... Chinese ka... Indians ka... heck, if he can get Mat Sallehs oso I don't care. We just need volunteers so that the small group of volunteers that we have don't suffer from burnout!

Nevertheless, we are still proceeding with our plan for an awareness programme at one of the Orang Asli settlements in Perak. During last month's board meeting, we assigned 2 of the board members to get more info from their contacts. One of them was to get in touch with the JHEOA. Well, he did get in touch with one officer, but got a rather disappointing reply. The officer said they are not interested to participate since there are already other agencies/organisations dealing with such matters (HIV). (Ladies & gentlemen, welcome to Malaysia... the land of "that's not my job"!) I'm not sure if that is the stand of JHEOA or just that particular officer my colleague contacted, but frankly, I initially thought going through JHEOA first would be more proper rather than just pandai-pandai sendiri. If they don't want to have any part in this, so be it. Pinggan tak retak, nasi tak dingin, orang tak hendak, kami pun tak ingin...

We still intend to go in anyway. My other colleague's friend has agreed to help us out, and we also have another volunteer who has also had the experience of going into the OA areas. In addition, I've also been liaising with someone from the COAC (Center for Orang Asli Concerns) who seem more interested in the project, and willing to help out at least in connecting us with the OA community leaders.

So yep, God-willing, we're targeting early December for our project, in conjunction with the World AIDS Day.

On another note, remember little Baby K... the hole-in-the-heart baby? Well, she's due for her heart operation in November. The cost of RM20K for the operation has already been covered, so we don't have to worry about going around asking for donations; but Mr and Mrs K still need some money to cover their cost of living in KL during the period when Baby K is hospitalised in IJN. And with the kind of jobs they have, taking leave from work means unpaid leave. In other words, less income for them next month.

But not to worry, the board has approved a certain amount from our Welfare Fund (a portion of the RM20K grant we got from Yayasan Sultan Azlan Shah before Raya has been allocated to our Welfare Fund) and the approved amount will be given to Mrs K before they leave for KL.

Hopefully there will be no other complications for the little girl before, during and after the scheduled surgery...

Sunday, 25 October 2009

My trip to Kedah...

Yep, I was in Kedah yesterday. Merbok, to be exact. My school alumni had been invited by Tuan Hj Romli Bakar, better known as Paksu, the orang kuat behind the setting up of Kelab Pendidikan, Sukan dan Kebajikan, Kg Bujang; to join a camp they were organising at tebing Sg Merbok, Kg Batu Besi; called Perkhemahan Perpaduan Kanak-kanak Antara Kaum.

As mentioned in one of my earlier posting, I was going to bring along Saiful and Ika with me for the trip.

After a few exchanges of emails amongst a few of my alumni members, I agreed to meet up with Kak Shahid, a senior of mine, at MRSM Merbok, before going to the camp site together.

I left home as early as 6.35 am, equipped with my new toy, a GPS, heading north using the state road to fetch Sofie's kids. Oh they were ready when I got there, not 2 of them, but 3 of them. Sofie's second son, Azman (who was earlier at his school hostel when I asked the children if they wanted to follow me) wanted to join me for the trip too. Sofie felt better that way too, as she didn't want me to be burdened with the task of having to look after the kids. Azman can look after his younger siblings.

Of course we still had our concerns. Ika, the youngest, is known to have "car-sick" problems. Sofie made sure she took her ubat muntah before the trip, and told me the girl would need to take another of the pills before I started my trip home.

We got in the PLUS expressway via Kuala Kangsar, and yep, as expected, before long Ika was already dizzy. We told her to sleep. Good thing Azman joined the trip. He's quite a chatty boy, telling me about all his "adventures", so at least I had someone in the car to keep me awake.

Confident of the route with the assistance of my GPS (I had earlier set the speed warning to shut up after continuously irritating me during my earlier "test run" in town - telling me "you're over the speed limit, please drive carefully" when I was going 60 kmh at a 70 kmh road!), we reached MRSM Merbok at about 9.20 am. Earlier, on the way to MRSM, I did notice a small junction, with the sign "Kg Sg Batu Besi", the kampong where the activities were supposed to be held. But since I had promised Kak Shahid to meet up in front of MRSM, I drove straight to MRSM, which was just nearby anyway.

But when I called up Kak Shahid, she was still in Alor Star (baru nak tutup gate!) and would need another 40 minutes or so to get to Merbok. Since Bee, another friend cum second cousin from KL had just called to inform me she was almost there, I told Kak Shahid I might as well go straight to the camp site. After all, I saw the signboard earlier, so I didn't have to worry about Kg Batu Besi not listed in my GPS map.

So yep, pusing balik to the road where I saw the junction heading to the camp site, and on the way, Bee called again, saying she was in front of MRSM. Duh, I thought she was heading straight to the camp site. So, I waited for her by the roadside, and we went into the junction heading to Kg Sg Batu Besi together. Waaah... I was glad I didn't wash my car earlier.... it was jalan tanah merah...

Anyway, the moment we saw tents, banners, stalls etc, we knew we had reached the camp site.


Met up with Paksu, and he introduced us to Hafiz, his ex-student who benefited from his tuition programme, who is now heading another similar run outfit in Kg Belau nearby. We were also introduced to a group of Canadians, who joined the camp.

The morning games for the camp participants (the children had been camping there since Friday) were about to start, so I handed "my kids" over to Hafiz so they could join the activity as well. The morning activity was held at a nearby mangrove swamp (complete with pelantar and all).

pelantarmorning game

After a while, Kak Shahid called to inform me she had arrived at the camp site. Bee and I decided to walk back to the camp to meet up with her.

We were then brought by Paksu to a cool and shady area as he wanted to explain to us in details about his activities, his plans, etc. Quite a number of my alumni members had been giving cash donations for the running of his place, and so Paksu wanted to make sure he gave us in detail what he had done with the money and what else he intended to do.

It was during the discussions that another call came in on my hand phone. It was Lyana (yep, bini Pak Usop) asking me where I was. She had just arrived at the camp site and was trying to look out for me. I went to look for her, and although I was tercangak-bangak at first, I finally saw the easily recognizable Pak Usop, and so had no second thoughts about which one was Lyana...

So yeah, I finally met up with Lyana and the gang (of course, Emil & Odin were there too!).

lyana and sons

I took them to join us listening to Paksu's "briefing".

discussionThe man wearing the white kopiah is Paksu.

Apparently while I got up to look for Lyana, my friends were telling Paksu about my involvement with HIV families. Coincidentally, Paksu is planning for some sort of HIV awareness programme some time next year, and upon hearing about my involvement in HIV cases, was hoping I'd be able to help him out. I left him my name card (my NGO name card, not my business card).

Paksu then told us to follow Hafiz who would be showing us their 2 centers, one in Kg Bujang and the other in Kg Belau, both located not too far from the place (but not within walking distance lah, we'd still have to take the cars). Lyana and gang followed us too. My kids followed in my friend's car, while I joined Lyana.

First we went to Kg Bujang, Paksu's house, also used as club center...

rumah paksukgbujang1kgbujang2 tuition

Hey, scare-crows now wear helmets, do they?


Then off we went to Kg Belau, where we dropped off a boot full of books, contributed by my alumni members.

At Kg Belau...


There was no tuition on yesterday, but these 2 ayam kampong probably were not informed about it...


And there was even a mini-museum at the Kg Belau center.


Notice the batu giling? Well, Saiful started handling the batu giling, and the way he was holding it, I somehow sensed he knew how to use it properly.

"Tau guna ke?" I asked.

"Tau! Pernah guna kat rumah Mak Yang," he replied.

Ahh... if there was a pertandingan giling rempah between me and the boy, he'd win hands down! My rempah giling would probably end up falling off the sides of the batu giling...

After Kg Belau, we headed back to the camp site. There were supposed to be other activities in the afternoon.

After saying goodbye to Lyana who had to attend a neighbour's kenduri, we had our lunch, prepared by the kampong folks. Then off for prayers at the surau.

Some games were supposed to start at 2 pm, but for one reason or another, it didn't start until about 3.30 pm. My kids were getting restless, they were just so eager to jump into the river. Ika dah tukar baju, asking me to hold her towel for her. So I sangkut the towel on my left shoulder. Saiful took off his jeans (he was already wearing his trackbottom underneath) and asked me to hold his jeans for him. So I sangkut the jeans on my right shoulder.

While waiting for the games to start, saw this guy selambaly walking by...


See the arrow? That's a snake he's holding. Bet if he had found it on Friday, the girls would have had second thoughts about sleeping in the tents!

The games finally started off with the giant terompah game for the children...

giant terompah

Then the pertandingan mendayung perahu for the adults. The YB was there to flag off the race, and he was supposed to be brought to the starting point in a boat. My alumni members, by virtue of being the organisers guests, were also invited for the short boat ride. And Pi being Pi, suka adventure, naturally accepted the offer - got onto the boat, without life jackets whatsoever despite not knowing how to swim! So yep, there was this makcik, with a camera bergantung kat tengkuk, towel sangkut kat bahu kiri and jeans sangkut kat bahu kanan, joining the YB on the boat. And my kids, upon seeing their makcik getting in the boat, quickly jumped in too! I wasn't too worried about the boys, as they were good swimmers. But I was quite concerned about Ika, who claims she can swim if the water is up to her knees... :-)

Participants of the mendayung perahu race getting ready...

dayung perahu1

The YB starting the race...

dayung perahu2

Scene of the race from inside our boat...

dayung perahu3

After the mendayung perahu race was the much awaited pertandingan menangkap itik. At first the race was meant only for the adults as the organisers were concerned about the safety of the children in the waters, but finally they gave in to the requests of the children. Of course, they put nettings around a certain area that's not too deep, and to prevent the ducks from escaping to the deeper side of the river.

Both Azman and Saiful went to register for this, but they only allowed Azman to take part as Saiful was rather small and they were concerned about his safety.

The ducks in the water, still oblivious to whatever was going to happen next...

duck race

Then came big splashes of water when the adults started jumping in the water to catch them...

duck race2

Then came the children's turn... with even more participants!

duck race3

Saiful, although not a participant, but tempted by the waters, jumped right in to join the other boys. I saw the satisfaction on their faces upon getting all wet in the water! But they were both later complaining, "Masin betul air dia!!" They probably thought it would be air tawar since it was SUNGAI Merbok; not knowing that the river was at a kuala, directly meeting the sea.

Ika was the only one still to fulfill her intention of jumping in the river. She would have probably jumped in too if there were any girls amongst the participants, but nope they were all boys!

After that there was a pertandingan memukul bantal for the adults...

pillow fight

While Azman and Saiful were able to take care of themselves, I took the opportunity to bring Ika to another end of the place where the waters were not too muddy (due to too many people splashing around at the area) and not too deep as well so she could at least berendam for a while in the river.

By 5.15 pm, although the games were not over yet, I rounded up my kids, telling them to change as we needed to head home. I didn't want to go home too late. Their mother may get worried. Heck, my mother would get worried too if I got home so late!

The kids were so tired, they all slept within minutes of getting into the car. We reached the Gunung Semanggol R&R at about 6.40 pm, so I decided to stop for makan-makan and wait for Maghrib.

We made a move from Gunung Semanggol at 7.30 pm, by then the kids were wide awake and were chatting away. Amazingly, even Ika, the one who usually gets car-sick, was also so chirpy. I guess she only gets car-sick if she travels during day-time.

Taking the Kuala Kangsar exit, I finally managed to deliver the kids to their doorstep at 8.30pm. They did invite me to come in but it was getting too late. I promised I'd visit them later after I get their photos printed.

And I myself finally reached home a few minutes after 9 pm...

Oh btw, can anyone guess what "kabat" means?

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Today at the clinic...

Today being my clinic duty, I decided to go a bit early to arrange for Saiful's appointment with the eye specialist at the Ipoh GH. SN had told me earlier that there was no need for Saiful to personally come when seeking an appointment date.

After queuing at the "kaunter temujanji", when my turn came, the moment the nurse saw the referral letter I held in my hand, she said, "Oh, kes baru terus pergi bilik 6 dulu. Bawa pesakit sekali." Aduh, luckily there were only about 4 or 5 people in the queue in front of me earlier...

So no, couldn't fix an appointment for Saiful yet. Sofie will have to bring him along to Ipoh for that. Sofie is coming to Ipoh next week to get her supply of ARV, but Saiful will be having his school exams on the same day, so I guess, they will just have to wait until the school exams are over.

I then immediately headed to the HIV clinic to inform SN that I was already there if she wanted to refer any new cases. I needed to go off early today, so if the new cases could be referred earlier the better.

Because it was still quite early, my colleagues were not there at the counseling room yet when the first case was referred. I was quite concerned at first when the guy brought in was quite an elderly Chinese guy (sometimes these elderly ones would only speak in their mother tongue), but when I started speaking to him in Malay, he was quite conversant. Yes, maybe at certain points I had to repeat myself as he didn't quite understand what I was trying to ask him, but overall our conversation went rather smoothly and he too was quite open.

Anyway, this guy's a bachelor, never married and stays alone. He knew of his HIV infection 4 years ago after an accident, but since he felt okay then, he didn't see the need to get any treatment for his HIV. That was until a few months ago when he got TB, started getting weaker, and during the recent Raya holidays, he was so weak he couldn't even get up. And imagine he was staying all alone at home! But he managed to call his sister who stays with her son in another state, and due to his condition, the sister came to stay with him temporarily, at least until he gets a bit better. I promised to assign him one of our Chinese-speaking guys as his buddy.

By the time the second case was referred to us, both my colleagues were already there. SN brought in a couple - the wife pregnant. I was quite surprised when SN told me that the wife is due to deliver next week! Apparently, at the earlier stages of her pregnancy, HIV was not detected during the blood test. It was only during another very recent blood test that she was found to be HIV positive and that was when she was immediately referred to Ipoh GH, not only to the HIV clinic, but also to the O&G clinic.

After going through her file, I noticed that this is her second marriage. She has 2 children, aged 5 and 7, from an earlier marriage. Her first husband, an IVDU, died 3 years ago. One look and you'd conclude that she must have got HIV from her first husband. But if she really did get HIV from her first husband, then the window period (for her HIV infection) is long over and the presence of HIV should have been detected during her blood tests at the early stages of her pregnancy. But nope, it was only detected just recently. So, either she got it from her present husband (who has not been tested yet as of today) OR there were some errors in the result of the earlier test.

Due to the late detection, this lady had not been given any ARV drugs to help protect the baby. The c-sect is already due next week, let's hope there will not be another "Cek Mek" case of baby coming out earlier than scheduled c-sect.

Emotional-wise, I wasn't really sure if this couple had absorbed the whole thing. They didn't look shocked, they didn't look sad, they didn't look like they had accepted their fate either. They looked... BLANK! Maybe things haven't really sunk in yet. Asked if they needed a buddy, the husband said they didn't think so. But I still gave my number anyway and told them to call me if somehow suddenly they feel the need to talk.

There was supposed to be another new case today, but the person never turned up. But SN did want us to see Zali today. Remember Zali, the guy who's still on methadone treatment, whose wife dumped him and the kids as well? He's not working (I don't think anybody dares offer him a job when he's still on methadone) but needs to feed his 2 daughters. After the last time that I supplied him with some foodstuff, the hospital welfare unit did manage to get some assistance for him with the monthly provision of groceries etc, but that was only a temporary measure and I was told that the assistance will end soon.

I never got to see his wife. Neither did SN. Zali always said that his estranged wife refused to come to the hospital. When I offered to meet up with her outside where other people wouldn't suspect anything, Zali gave all sorts of excuses. When I asked for her number so I could speak to her myself, he'd always say, "Nantilah, biar saya cuba cakap dulu dengan dia." And recently, when SN asked him why not send the kids to his wife who's working and would at least be able to support them financially, he told SN that he was the one who refused to give the kids to their mother.

Maybe all the while it's not the wife who had refused to see us. Maybe Zali was the one who didn't want that to happen. He wouldn't even give us her phone number.

Well, even if that wasn't the case, I still feel that Zali is being very selfish. With his no-income and methadone-dependent status, I'm sure he knows pretty well he is not fit to take care of his children. The children deserves a better future. If his wife had attempted to bring matters to court to gain custody of the children, I'm quite sure she'd win hands down. But obviously she hasn't done that, or has she?

Anyway, Zali was supposed to come to the clinic today and I so wanted to talk things over with him for the children's sake, but he never turned up.

Maybe for the sake of the children, I should refer this case direct to the welfare department for their action...

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Rambutan anyone?

It's Sunday... guess what I did today?

Mow the lawn? Nope, did that a few days ago.

Join the crowd at the Perak Stadium for the 1Malaysia thingy? Nope, I usually stay away from big crowds (except in Makkah/Medinah).

I actually climbed a tree. Seriously, I did!

A rambutan tree to be exact - the rambutan gading tree. Usually I'd just use a pole to get the ripe fruits, but there were so many of the ripe rambutans high up on the tree, not reachable with the pole... even after getting on a ladder.

Since today I didn't have to worry about rushing for time to go to the office, I decided to climb the tree and cut down the most tempting-looking branch - the one with the most of those ripe yellow rambutans.

Oh, I didn't climb too high up lah... got up the ladder onto one of the branches... found myself a comfortable and rather safe position before I used my golok to cut down the branch. And yes, managed to get a few basket-loads of rambutans. Gave some to my neighbour and some to an aunt who stays nearby.

I reserved a small basket for my blog readers. So here, help yourselves...


Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Of pisang abu, jagung rebus and Sofie's children

With limited time and so many things to do at home in the morning before I go to my office, I usually can't settle too many things in a day. Mana nak mesin rumput... mana nak tebang pokok pisang... mana nak kait rambutan gading... mana nak tebas semak-samun...

I actually needed to cut down quite a few banana trees as the bananas were getting almost too ripe. Some had even been eaten by the birds...

So, no more postponing, yesterday I cut down 2 of the banana trees. I put aside some of the pisang abu for own consumption at home, while the bulk of the bananas were put in my car. My intention yesterday was to send the bananas over to Lin at her goreng pisang stall.

But later I found out Lin was not in town for the week, so the bananas spent the night in my car.

I had planned to go to Sofie's house this week to get Saiful's referral letter (for his appointment with the eye specialist at Ipoh GH), so I figured I might as well go today. SN told me last week that Saiful's presence is not necessary for an appointment to be arranged, so I thought I'd take the letter and make the necessary arrangements. My clinic duty will be next week so I intend to go to the eye clinic on the same day to arrange for Saiful's appointment.

And yes, I did go to Sofie's house today. Only Sofie, her eldest son Azlan and Saiful were home. Sofie's 2nd son Azman stays at his school hostel (in the same town), while Ika, her youngest was at school. Azlan had just sat for his PMR this week.

After getting the referral letter and a copy of Saiful's birth cert, I asked Sofie if she wanted some pisang abu. "Saya terima aje," said Sofie. I told Sofie, that since I brought quite a lot, if Sofie and her children can't finish them, she can give the bananas to her sister (the one Sofie used to stay with). Her sister earns extra income by making a variety of kuih to be sent to school canteens, so she can use the bananas to make pisang goreng or lepat pisang or cokodok or whatever other banana-based kuih to be sold.

I was happy to note that Sofie seemed much better health-wise. If previously she was always lying down whenever I visited her, this time she was well enough to go to the kitchen to make a drink for me. When I was there, Saiful too came to the front with a spoon of salt and asked his mother, "Banyak ni cukup?" "Bolehlah tu," replied his mother.

"Buat apa?" I asked.

"Rebus jagung," he said.

So yes, other than the drink prepared by Sofie, I was also served Saiful's jagung rebus.

I don't usually make it a habit to let my poor PLHIV clients serve me drinks and food (they need the food more), but when they do serve me something to eat/drink, I do make it a point to eat/drink, at least a little. I don't want them to feel as though I was afraid to eat/drink anything prepared by them. Besides, when they serve the food, it was not meant for me alone, they ate together with me. It felt more family-like, eating and drinking togeder-geder with them... :-)

Anyway, I told Sofie I intend to attend a programme up north in Kedah next Saturday. The programme, organised by my alumni, will be held at a center set up by a man who has done wonders - providing tuition, educational and recreational support for hardcore poor children.

There are various reasons I want to go for the event. Firstly, my alumni seldom organizes events outside of Klang Valley. This is the first time the event is held up north. Although there's not much difference between the Ipoh-KL and Ipoh-Kedah distance, I want to give my support so that they will continue with decentralised events in future.

Secondly, the subject is close to my heart - dealing with hardcore poor children. I hope to learn a thing or two from this man. Although I cannot implement exactly the same thing ("his children" are centered in one district while "my children" are scattered all over Perak), who knows, I may still be able to use his system as a guide to plan something in future.

Thirdly, I was hoping I'd be able to bring any of "my children" to the event. My intention? Sofie's children. Saiful was the one at home today, and so when I asked Sofie if any of her children would like to follow me, Saiful immediately said yes. And although Ika was not at home, Sofie said usually if Saiful goes anywhere, Ika would want to follow too. Sofie herself doesn't feel fit yet to travel so far, but she has no objections if the children follow me. Besides, it will be a day trip, so neither Sofie nor myself have to worry about whom the kids will be spending the night with.

So yes, God-willing, I will bring Saiful and Ika with me to Kedah next weekend.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Jejak kasih?

When Anita's sister called me last week trying to get hold of Anita's present address, I didn't give it to her although I knew the address. I just buat bodoh (read: be myself... :)) and pretended I knew nothing about whatever that was going on between them.

I mentioned that Anita did call me to seek help regarding her identity card; and that I'd inform Anita (about her sister trying to look for her) the next time she calls. Anita's sister however didn't want me to tell Anita about her call. Even if I really knew nothing about the goings-on between them, I would have suspected something amiss. I mean, why wouldn't she want Anita to find out that she tried to call me to find out Anita's whereabouts?

Anyway, based on the text messages the sister's "so-called" hubby had been sending to Anita (which Anita did not respond to), it was very unlikely that the sister wanted to patch things up. The way I see it, things may get even worse for Anita if her evil sister and the guy get their hands on Anita and her baby.

For the moment, I will just let Anita and her baby stay with Kak Ana, at least until we can settle her identity card and son's birth cert problems. Kak Ana can in the meantime try to educate Anita and maybe one fine day when Anita is capable of being more independent, she can live on her own if she wants to.

Actually there was another "jejak kasih" call the week before, which I'm not really sure if it was really a "genuine" intention to patch things up, or another "udang di sebalik batu" intention.

No, not another of Anita's sister trying to look for her. This one came from Zana's sister. Those of you who had been following my blog earlier may remember my postings on The Problematic Young Woman.

Zana was the first of the out-of-wedlock pregnancy cases that I had to send to shelter homes. I sent Zana to KL in 2006 before she was due to deliver. She delivered a pair of twins just before Raya in 2006 and due to her own attitude, she couldn't get along with the other occupants of the shelter home. After a few months, she was ready to head back home to her own family. Both Kak Hawa and myself were made to believe that her family was ready to accept her at home.

Then on the very day that I went to fetch her, she got a call from her sister telling her not to come home as her father was very furious with her. And I only got the news when I got to the home. Lucky thing I had another function to attend to in KL earlier in the day, so my trip to KL wasn't really a waste of time.

Kak Hawa and I then agreed that while Kak Hawa was to try talk some sense into Zana, I would try to speak to her family, hoping for them to reconcile.

But my attempts to get in touch with the family were futile. Zana's younger sisters did not even dare answer my calls and text messages. I finally did get a text message from a different number...

"Assalamualaikum. Saya family Zana. Maaf ye, Zana dah takde tempat dalam family kami. Dah 2 kali dia buat kerja bodoh tanpa fikirkan kami. Kami dah bagi peluang tapi dia tak gunakan peluang yang diberi."

To me the message was to tell me not to pester them further. So yes, I stopped at that.

Since then, one of Zana's twins died, and Zana had moved out of the shelter home, initially with her son, but later on Kak Hawa went to get the baby from her as Zana had not been giving the much needed attention to the baby.

Zana had been contacting the shelter home from time to time, but except for once, she never even bothered to visit her baby; despite saying time and again that she wanted to take the baby back. The boy is now already 3 years old.

Back to the recent "jejak kasih" call, it was a totally unexpected call.

"Ni Kak Afizah ke?"

"Ya saya. Siapa ni?"

"Saya ni adik *Zana*. Akak ada tak nombor telefon terbaru dia? Kami dah terputus hubunganlah dengan dia."

Terputus hubungan, did she say? I thought they were the ones who didn't want to have anything to do with Zana anymore?

Truth is, I too had not been able to get in touch with Zana. She's no longer using the last number I had. I didn't ask Zana's sister why she wanted to get in touch with Zana, but I told her that her best bet would be to get in touch with Kak Hawa at the shelter home since Zana's son still says there and Zana would still from time to time call the people there. So I gave her Kak Hawa's phone number.

The next day I called up Kak Hawa to find out. Yes, Zana's sister did call her but like me, Kak Hawa too was not able to give her Zana's contact number. You see, although Zana does call the shelter home from time to time, almost every call came from a different number. Whenever her credit runs out, instead of topping up, she'd get herself a new prepaid number. And sometimes she'd call using a friend's phone.

The only thing we can do now is to inform Zana the next time she calls, about her sister wanting to get in touch with her. And it will be up to Zana if she wants to call her sister back.

Why did the sister want to get hold of Zana? Has it anything to do with Zana's older daughter who is being taken care of by Zana's parents? Do they really want to patch things up? Has Zana's garang father forgiven her?

Hard to tell now that I myself am not able to get hold of Zana...

Friday, 9 October 2009

Various updates

I wasn't on clinic duty on Wednesday, but I needed to see SN to get more info on Moorthy, the guy whose legs will be amputated soon and who needs a shelter after the operation is over. I managed to find a place for him but I did not take down his details earlier.

I knew SN would be busy on Wednesday morning, so I went in the afternoon. And as usual, whenever I go to see SN to discuss one case, we'd end up discussing lots of cases!

After taking down Moorthy's particulars, I took the opportunity to ask SN on a few other cases.


Remember Nora? I met her during HIV clinic some time in March. She's the 24 year old woman who has an 11 year old child. Rather stubborn, and didn't seem to get along well with her family despite their efforts to help her. Refused to stay with family members and stayed with boyfriends instead. SN told me of Nora's new temporary place of residence. Guess where?

Staying with another boyfriend? Naah...

At a shelter home? Naah...

Back home with her family? Naah...

SHE'S IN JAIL! Reason? I don't know. But from what I understand, it had something to do with kena tangkap with her non-Muslim boyfriend, and since she couldn't afford to pay the fine, she had to spend time in jail.


Both SN and myself are happy with Sofie's progress. Remember in my earlier postings about Sofie, I kept mentioning about how weak she was? Every time I visited she'd most probably be lying down, too weak to even get up.

Well, of late, Sofie seems a lot better. When I went to visit on Tuesday, she was even attempting to tidy up the kitchen. She still tires easily, but at least there's a whole lot of improvement in her health. Alhamdulillah. But she still needs a bit more time before she can even think of getting a job as she cannot tahan standing for too long.

I also told SN about Saiful, Sofie's son who needs to see the eye specialist. SN advised me to just bring the referral letter first without having to bring the boy, just go to the eye clinic, present the letter and set an appointment for the boy. Only bring the boy on the appointment date. Great, at least he doesn't have to miss school too often.


On another note, I got a surprise call last night from... guess who?? Well, first I heard a man's voice - when he mentioned his "so-called" Muslim name, I suspected he was the "so-called" hubby to Anita's evil sister. When I asked, "Siapa?" he passed the phone to a lady. Yep, indeed.. Anita's evil sister, sounding so angelic.

She asked if Anita was staying with me. Ahh, they must have thought Anita was staying with me.

"Tak, dia takde dengan saya," I confidently said. I wasn't lying of course. :-)

The sister then told me that Anita "lari dari rumah" and she mentioned that they had a "small" misunderstanding on the day that Anita ran from home.

I asked if they tried calling her. She said she did but while the phone rings, Anita never answered the calls.

She claims she is worried about Anita's safety and that of the baby too. "Saya risau pasal dia orang bawah jagaan saya. Anak dia pun saya ingat nak ambil buat anak angkat saya. Laporan polis pun saya dah buat."

Laporan polis? What did she report to the police? That her 23 year old sister ran away from home? And that she took along her own child with her? Duh!

I told her that Anita does call me from time to time asking me to help out with her IC and maybe what I can do is the next time Anita calls I'd tell Anita that the sister is trying to get in touch with her.

"Tak payah bagitau saya telefon. Saya cuma mintak akak dapatkan alamat dia aje, biar saya sendiri gi jumpa dia."

Oh, like that ah? Well, I just pretended I wasn't aware of their problems. I do know the evil sister had attempted to give away the baby for adoption before, with some payment in return of course, but the couple who initially agreed to adopt the child eventually decided against it when they found out that the mother (Anita) was HIV positive.

Frankly, if the sister was really sincere in trying to patch things up, she wouldn't have told me not to tell Anita that she called.

What I know is that while their calls were not answered by Anita, the guy did send a few text messages to Anita, saying nasty things. Maybe Anita should just change to a new number.

Anyway, speaking of Anita, whatever happened to her identity card and her son's birth cert? Well, somebody managed to speak to a top-level officer in JPN, explaining to him Anita's problem. The officer told this somebody to get Anita or someone on Anita's behalf to write to him directly and furnishing him with copies of whatever supporting documents available.

Anita herself is not well educated, so I am writing the letter on her behalf. Right now I am waiting for copies of the documents (which are all at the shelter home where Anita is staying). I need to hurry, before the JPN officer forgets about his conversation with this somebody...

Am going off to KL tomorrow and will be back in Ipoh on Sunday. I hope to finalise the letter when I come back and send out the letter by Monday.

Tengah rajin ni baik siapkan apa patut. I may be hardworking at times, but at other times I am hardly working. So yes, pi siapkan kerja cepat-cepat sebelum angin malas timbul!!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Poor boy's poor vision

When I went to Sofie's house for my raya visit more than a week ago, I was told that Sofie had brought her 11 year old son, Saiful, to an optical shop just to get his eyes tested for free.

The people there told her that Saiful needed to wear glasses ASAP as the power needed is already too high. They told her that since the power is so high, a cheaper pair of glasses would be rather thick and as such, a bit heavy too. So they recommended that a thinner/more expensive pair is made for Saiful. The cost? More than RM200 (this is after discount for student package). They also told her that after a year, Saiful would need to make a new pair. Since Sofie couldn't afford it, she told them she'd come back later. They gave her a card with Saiful's details, plus a discount voucher and told her to bring them the next time she comes.

So I planned to bring Saiful to the optician to make a pair of glasses yesterday. Together with a trainee volunteer, off we went to Sofie's house after lunch.

Sofie was too tired to follow us, so it was just me, my colleague and Saiful. Saiful is so used to me by now he has no problems coming with me without his mother tagging along. According to Sofie, her youngest girl, Ika, had wanted to ponteng sekolah when she heard I was coming to fetch Saiful. She wanted to come along. But Sofie managed to coax her not to.

Sofie did give me the card and discount voucher given to her earlier. The card showed that the power needed for Saiful's glasses were 350 for the left eye and 200 for the right. Oh wow, that bad... I thought.

My colleague and I decided to go to another optical shop in town. At least we'd have a second opinion on what kind of glasses Saiful really needs.

After testing his eyes, the optician told us to bring Saiful to see an eye specialist. The power needed for his left eye was actually 600!!! The right eye is normal. They didn't dare make a glass that thick for Saiful without a specialist's recommendation. Imagine from no glasses to wearing glasses THAT thick - surely it would be hard for Saiful to adjust. According to the guy, he suspects there may be other problems with Saiful's left eye.

I'm glad we didn't go the optical shop that Sofie went to earlier. Obviously they just want to make money. At least this one that we went to yesterday were more honest. They could easily kelentong us and told us to immediately make a pair of glasses for Saiful, but they instead opted to tell us the truth and recommended what was best for Saiful.

So Saiful needs to see an eye specialist. There's no eye specialist at the district hospital in the town where they live, so he needs to come to the Ipoh GH Specialist Clinic. But we can't bring him to the specialist clinic just like that. We'd need a referral letter.

My colleague and I figured we might as well settle the matter yesterday. We decided to bring Saiful to the District Hospital, see a doctor at the outpatients clinic, and hopefully get a referral letter to go to Ipoh GH specialist clinic.

But Saiful didn't bring along his birth cert, and so we had to head back to his home first to get it. Then off again to the District Hospital.

Lucky for us there weren't too many patients there in the afternoon. With the last number called being 1420, I got 1428. Just 8 patients away. Thank goodness.

To cut the story short, after all the eye tests done on Saiful, the doctor did give us the much sought referral letter. We can now go to the Eye Specialist Clinic in Ipoh GH anytime to give Saiful the opportunity of proper check-up and treatment for his eye.

After sending Saiful home, I asked Sofie when she would be coming to Ipoh next. She'd need to get her supply of medication some time end of this month. I told her I'd call her if I can arrange to come and fetch Saiful any earlier to bring him see the specialist, but if for any reason I'm not able to do that, at least Sofie must bring Saiful along with her the next time she comes to Ipoh, which is in 3 weeks time.

Whatever it is, at least we've got the referral letter done. One step at a time.

But you know what really amazed me yesterday? We were chatting in the car and I asked Saiful about his school exams.

"OK lah, tak lah susah sangat," he said.

"Periksa tengah tahun hari tu dapat nombor berapa?" I asked.

"Nombor satu."

"Waah... berapa orang dalam kelas?"

"42 orang."

What can I say but... WOW!! Even with his vision problem he still managed to come out tops in class!

That fact made me even more determined to help the boy. A responsible young chap he really is, and bright too! Even my colleague who came along commented that the boy seemed like a very responsible and obedient type. And oh, handsome too! (If any one wants to look for bakal menantu in about 10 years time, all Sofie's kids are good looking - 3 boys and 1 girl... :))

I hope the specialist at the Ipoh GH eye clinic will be able to help Saiful. I hope it is not too late to help him with his left eye.

Monday, 5 October 2009

The belated birthday do

After reserving Saturday for my final (I think) Raya rounds, I thought I'd make Sunday my rest day. Other than a kenduri aqiqah at a friend's house nearby my place, I was planning to simply relax at home in the afternoon.

But on Saturday during my Raya rounds, a text message came in from Wani. She wanted to do a small makan-makan at home on Sunday to celebrate her son's birthday (which fell during fasting month) and so she invited me to join the do.

So yes, after the heavy lunch during the kenduri aqiqah for my friend's first grandchild (it was sort of aqiqah cum Raya open house), and after my zohor prayer, off I went to a fellow volunteer's house. 3 of us volunteers planned to go, so we might as well car pool. And since I had been driving around on Saturday, this time I just wanted to sit and relax in the car, so we went in my colleague's car. We did try to call a few other volunteers to ask if they'd like to join and make the birthday-do a bit more meriah, but most of them already had other plans, so tiga orang pun tiga oranglah!

As we got to Wani's house, her elder son, the one with hearing problems and a very highly excitable kid, came running to the car. Aiyo, I so very gayat lah with this boy. He got even more excited when I took out a hamper from the car to be given to them. It was just a cheap hamper - the same type that I gave to the other families I visited on Saturday, but good enough to excite the children.

All the food were prepared personally by Wani - first I ate the mee soup, then the nasi impit and finally the moist chocolate cake. The chocolate cake was nice but it was so rich I simply couldn't take in any more food after eating it. Besides, I did have heavy lunch earlier at the kenduri aqiqah.

After a while a few female neighbors came and they did seem a bit shy seeing a man (my colleague) in the house, and since we were already full (or at least I was bloody fool, errr... I mean bloody full!), we decided to make a move.

Tomorrow I intend to go to Sofie's place to bring her son to an optician so he can get a pair of glasses. The poor boy must be struggling in class trying to figure out what's written on the board. It's about time he gets a clearer vision of things.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Raya Rounds - #4

Having completed my puasa enam on Friday, I arranged for another raya rounds on Saturday. My initial target was 5 homes, but I couldn't get hold of Jah, so 4 be it.

I told Shila last week about my plan. When I picked her up at her mother's house last week, I didn't go in as we still had a long way to go to see Anita, her son and my Cek Mek.

I contacted both Hana and Rosnah to ask if they would be home on Saturday. Hana said she'd be home the whole day while Rosnah said she'd be home by 5 pm. So I made plans for my visits to start at 2.30 pm.

I also called Maria to check if she'd be home, and yes, although 3 of her children were at their Atok's homes over the weekend, Maria and her youngest child would be home.

And so, I left home at about 2 pm and headed straight to Shila's place first. Her daughter Laila was not home - she was attending a raya do in school. Only Shila, her mother and Shila's 6 months old nephew were home. 6 months old? Yayy!! Another baby for me to play with!! And the little boy smiles a lot too! But initially I thought the boy was just about 3 months old. No, he's not really small. It's just that I just saw Cek Mek last week, and the girl who's only 4 months old was definitely more montel than this boy!

Anyway, while I was helping myself to nasi impit, Laila called up her mom to say that the function was over. So off we went to fetch her at school and we headed straight to my next destination - Maria's house. Maria stays in another town not far from Shila's.

The house seemed quiet when we got there, but the front door was open, so we knew somebody was definitely home. I gave the salam, and Maria then came out to greet us. I saw a boy lying in front of the TV, watching a cartoon series. Suddenly I realised, hey, this was the same boy I used to visit at the hospital when Maria gave birth to him. He's already 3 years old! Waaa.... sudah besar!! My, my... how time flies! I thought it was not that long ago when a pregnant Maria called me, crying and crying (to the extent I found it difficult to understand what she was saying over the phone!), feeling scared about all the possibilities of her future.

Maria is a much calmer person now. Yes, she does call me from time to time to tell me of some minor problems, but at least she no longer cries when she calls.

After a while, we left Maria's house and headed to Hana's house. When we got there, the doors were closed, so were the windows. I gave the salam, no response. I tried calling Hana's phone number, no answer. So we just left.

Next stop was supposed to be Rosnah's house. Just to be sure she was back from work, I called. To my surprise, Rosnah was still in Ipoh (she works in Ipoh) and she asked where I was. She was about to get into her car to head home when she noticed a flat tyre!

"Spare tyre ada tak?" I asked. Having done the job myself previously, I thought Rosnah may be able to do the same.

"Ada, tapi saya tak reti nak tukar tayar!" she said.

Oh well, she had no choice but to call another friend in Ipoh to help her out as I was elsewhere.

So I didn't get to introduce Shila to Rosnah although they stay quite nearby each other. On my way to send Shila home, a call came in on my handphone...

"Kak, tadi kak call saya ya?"

It was Hana. She just realised there was a missed call on her phone. She was actually in town when I called earlier. Haiya, and she told me earlier she'd be home all day! I was not about to turn around to head back to her place, so I just told her I'd try to visit her some other time. God knows when that will be...

So yep, I only managed to visit 2 families although I had planned to visit 4 and managed to reach 3 of the 4 homes. My raya sakan plan was not so sakan after all... :)

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Boleh sampai tak boleh sampai?

The HIV awareness programme we're hoping to do for the Orang Asli community is targeted for December, in conjunction with the World Aids Day. Hopefully we can get all the plans worked out by then.

But I can't wait until then to give help to the OAs who are already infected/affected by HIV - especially cases which had already been referred to us. Like the recent case I mentioned.

Actually another volunteer, Pat, has been assigned to Wan, the OA lady. I'm just the co-buddy, that too because the volunteer who was on clinic duty when Wan's case was referred to Buddies, felt that Wan's son deserved assistance from our Children Education Fund.

Earlier, when I asked Rosnah on the whereabouts of Wan's kampong, Rosnah told me that we'd need a 4 wheel drive to get there. Then later when I asked Shila, Shila said the kampong is accessible by car. She had gone there twice to mandi sungai.

This morning Pat called me to ask me again on the name of the OA lady. You see, Pat stays in a town where there are quite a few OA settlements, and other than being involved with Buddies, she and her husband, with another group of volunteers do go in to OA settlements from time to time. So yes, Pat is quite used to going in to OA settlements. Just as well that she has been assigned as Wan's buddy.

However, Wan's kampong is in another town, not far from the town where Pat stays. After getting some info from me before Raya, Pat was thinking of going to visit Wan. She had wanted to go for the past few days, but it had been raining in the mornings and her husband advised her not to go on rainy days as the roads may be slippery. But the weather looked clear this morning and so Pat called me to get more info on the lady before attempting to find the kampong, which she had not been to before, and so she herself couldn't be too sure of what to expect.

About 4 pm today, Pat called me...

"Aiyo Afizah, don't ever attempt to go there alone lah!"

Pat was glad she went in her Kancil, and with a friend. Apparently, the road is very narrow, and she had to go quite far in, uphill. After asking here and there, she still was not able to get to Wan's house. She then got to a place, where she was told she'd have to walk to get further in. The only other choice is by motorbike.

Well, both Pat and I had visited Hana's home before where we had to park our cars at the bottom of the hill and climb up on foot. But that was considered easy - walking up would take less than 3 minutes.

To get to Wan's house, Pat was told that she'd need about an hour walk. An hour?! I guess when Shila mentioned the place is accessible by car, it never occurred to her that we'd have to go so far uphill.

Nope, Pat was not prepared to walk that far in. But she wasn't about to give up either (she's a very dedicated volunteer!). Coincidentally, one guy was going up on a motorbike, and so Pat stopped him and asked if he knew Wan. Luckily the guy did. So Pat asked for a favor from him - asking him if he could go up and get Wan to come down to where Pat was. She even gave him some petrol money in return.

Off the guy went. Pat and her friend had to wait for quite some time, she thought the guy had simply ran off with the money. But the guy did finally come down, much to Pat's relief. After all the waiting, Pat was told that Wan had gone to the hospital for her appointment. It was at this point that the guy admitted to Pat that Wan was actually his sister! Duh! So Pat gave her number to this guy, and told him to get Wan to call her.

Anyway, the guy mentioned that based on the time, chances were that Wan would be at the town's bus station, back from her hospital appointment. Off he rode his motorbike to town, and within minutes, Pat received a call from Wan. True enough, Wan was at the bus station. So Pat told Wan to wait there for her.

Yes, after all the obstacles, Pat did finally get to meet Wan. Wan has a sister who stays in town, and her sister can be contacted by phone. At least if we need to get hold of Wan, we can now pass a message through her sister. Pat also took down Wan's bank account details.

That means I can now easily pass some money to Wan while having my butts parked in front of my computer - online banking lah!

But that doesn't mean I no longer intend to visit Wan. Visiting the place sounds adventurous enough, and I do love adventure! I do however have to make sure I go in the proper attire when I visit her - and especially proper walking shoes. And probably also with a small backpack - complete with drinking water and all.

And more importantly, as Pat advised, not to go alone.