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

Monday, 30 November 2009

Media Sensitisation Workshop

As early as 6.15 this morning I was having my breakfast, and as early at 6.35 am, I left home heading to KL to attend the Media Sensitisation Workshop organised by the Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC). The aim of the workshop was to create awareness amongst media professionals (mainstream media, electronic and new age media) in the country on the socially and culturally sensitive approaches to dealing with the subject of HIV/AIDS in conjunction with World AIDS Day which falls on 1st December every year.

Partner organisations were also invited to attend the workshop to observe and to network with the media.

I had actually earlier on received an invitation at my personal email address (which I use for this blog), and then later there was also an invitation faxed to my NGO centre.

Guided by my friends Gee, Pea and Ass (GPS daaa...), there was no problem going to Puteri Park Hotel where the function was held. Of course the GPS didn't guide me to the hotel's parking which can be confusing but thank goodness I had been to the hotel a few years ago so basically I knew I had to go somewhere to the back lanes to get into the hotel's parking.

For the opening of the workshop, we were given some background information - introduction of MAC, MAF, Partner Organisations, MOH, plus an overview of HIV/AIDS in Malaysia.

Then we were all taken for the Voices of HIV+ Tour : where we were brought around Chow Kit Road, visiting the communities... all within walking distance from the hotel where the workshop was held.

First we were brought here...


Here we were briefed about the activities held at this centre, including their outreach activities and the facilities they provide at the drop-in centre.

The above centre caters for the adults. After visiting the Pusat Komuniti Ikhlas, we walked over to Nur Salam, a safe house for street children, managed by Dr Hartini Zainudin.


I'm telling you, despite already being exposed to HIV voluntary work for the past 5 years, the visit to Nur Salam was really an eye opener for me, not just for the media! Not all the children at Nur Salam are homeless, not all of them are poor. There are children out there who prefer to go to the streets rather than going home. They get involved in drugs (even used by some syndicates as drug pushers and dealers), they get involved in sex - exposing themselves not only to HIV/AIDS, but also to a long list of other diseases as well.

According to Dr Hartini, most of the children have not been tested for HIV, and even if they were, she wouldn't even know what to do. They definitely need more help from MAC and/or other partner organisations to help them deal with the matter.

With hundreds of children going to Nur Salam (some sent by volunteers, some by their own parents and some children go there on their own accord after hearing about it from friends), and with about only 30 volunteers, Nur Salam definitely needs more volunteers.

So, I'd like to take this opportunity to encourage my blog readers out there, especially those who are staying in or around KL, who loves children and who are looking for a platform to start doing voluntary work, how about volunteering for Nur Salam? Frankly I would if I was staying in KL.

Why should you volunteer?


Yep, because every child matters!

How can you volunteer? You can get more info by calling Nur Salam at 03-40454021.

Anyway, after the tour, we headed back to the hotel to continue with the workshop. A few sex workers related their experiences and how they felt.

Martin Choo, a consultant researcher at the Centre of Excellence for Research in AIDS (CERIA), gave a comparative analysis of Malay and English headlines on vulnerable populations. Then Dina Zaman, a consultant with Straten Consultants touched on topics like the role of the media and principles for reporting on HIV/AIDS.

Overall, the workshop was an eye opener, and just like the Unicef Media Workshop on Children which I attended last year, it was also a good opportunity for partner organisations to network with the media.


Read the Nut Graph's report here. Got my pic some more... tumpang menyibuk... :)

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Every time our volunteers at the HIV clinic get referred a poor PLHIV family, somehow they tend to assign the family to me. That was what happened recently, albeit indirectly.

There was this couple referred to us (I wasn't on clinic duty then). The husband, AJ, is HIV +ve, while the result of the first blood test done on the wife showed negative results. With both of them not working, and 2 school-going children, they needed financial help.

So what the volunteer on duty did was to assign a male buddy to the guy, while I was roped in to help out with the children's educational needs. However, the male volunteer assigned to the PLHIV is still a trainee, so usually in such cases he can only be the co-buddy while a senior volunteer will have to be the main buddy. In other words, for the time being, I'd still have to be the main buddy to this couple.

Yesterday I made arrangements to meet up with the wife, Yati. They don't allow us to visit at home since they're staying with Yati's side of the family who doesn't know about AJ's HIV. They only knew that he has TB, that's it.

So we met up at a park. Never having met each other before, I told Yati my car make and registration number. Yati told me she'd be wearing blue. At least on my part, there is only one car with such registration number. But on her part, what if so many women turned up in blue during the same time at the same place? Ah well, never mind, we had each other's phone number, so just call lah!

I got to the park 15 minutes before the promised time, and immediately sent Yati a text message to inform her I was already there. Within just 5 minutes it was her turn to text as she was already there but couldn't find my car. Apparently she was at the other end of the road, so I told her to wait there and I'd park my car nearer to where she was.

Finally I saw her waiting under one of the pondoks, alone. Initially I thought she came alone. But as we started chatting, a little girl came running over and said, "Mak, nak minum!" So her family did come along, including AJ. But AJ was probably too shy to meet me and so he sat a distance away. The trainee volunteer assigned to him had a course to attend and couldn't join me during the meet, so I let AJ be.

Anyway, this couple used to stay at their own house. When I asked Yati what sort of work AJ used to do, "Kerja sendiri kak, dia buat kerja potong pokok. Banyak juga upah dia dapat. Mampulah kami nak beli rumah, tapi belum habis bayar lagilah. Hari tu kami beli lah kereta 2nd hand dari kawan, bayar cash. Elok beli aje kereta, abang pun sakit. Teruslah tak kerja. Sekarang ni menumpang balik rumah mak saya. Naik segan pulak makan minum semua mak tanggung."

Yati's mother is not complaining though. AJ was quite a hardworking guy, and so she accepted the fact that they are now in difficulty due to AJ's temporary inability to work.

Given the nature of AJ's job, and the fact that Yati herself was not working, for the past few months, they had not earned anything. They are completely broke. Even for their little boy to have a RM5 haircut, it was Yati's mother who paid for it when she got her pay. (Yati's mother is working)

It didn't help that of late the Ipoh GH no longer provides CD4 tests for HIV patients. In cases where getting the CD4 result is important, as in AJ's case, he was given a referral letter and he'd have to bring the letter to a private hospital to get the test done. But it's a private hospital and he'd have to pay the cost of RM180. How could they afford it?

Lucky thing we (Buddies) received a grant of RM20K recently from Yayasan Sultan Azlan Shah, and our Board agreed to allocate part of it into our Clients Welfare Fund. So the cost for AJ was covered using this fund.

Yati has been supportive of AJ even after AJ was diagnosed HIV +ve. But AJ himself had been feeling so depressed. At home he'd cry and according to Yati at times it was as though he had given up on life.

Yes, he was very weak when he was down with TB. But physically, he had improved a bit. It's his spirit that needs extra attention now. The news of his HIV really really broke his heart. He felt guilty, he felt hopeless, he felt helpless. He kept on saying sorry to Yati for causing trouble to her and the kids.

I've told the trainee volunteer to call AJ as soon as possible to talk to him, and if possible, to admit to him that he too has HIV (he's one of our HIV +ve volunteers).

Anyway, Yati does have plans. She plans to start a small business, selling drinks for a start. Using her savings, she bought the necessities. But after having bought all those, she ran out of cash to buy the raw materials.

When I asked how much she needed to start the business, she said about RM100 or so. Not much, but she still couldn't afford it yet. Using the donations I usually get from friends on quite a regular basis, I agreed to help her with that. I prefer to channel the money this way ie giving them the fishing rod instead of giving them the fish. At least she takes the effort to improve her life instead of simply waiting for other people's sympathy.

I really hope she'll succeed, and I also hope AJ can get out of his depression soon. With the kind of support he's getting from his wife, he should.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

The Exhibition

22nd November 2009 - Meru Valley Golf & Country Club organised the Ipoh International Friendship Night. With the aim of bringing together foreigners working or staying in or around Ipoh, and familiarising them with the various community associations and programmes in Ipoh, an exhibition was held as their pre-dinner activity between 4.30 to 7 pm.

Buddies were invited as well, and so about 3.30pm, off I went, first to our centre to collect all the necessary stuff - buntings, posters, pamphlets and bookmarks. Another volunteer was already at the exhibition hall when I got there. She was also representing another organisation and they had actually got there earlier to set up their table... which happened to be right beside ours.

Set up the buntings behind our table, put up the poster in front of our table, and placed some pamphlets and bookmarks on the table to be distributed to visitors.

2 other volunteers then came with a few of our Buddy Bears. Ah yes, our Buddy Bears are never left behind during our exhibitions.


Here are some of the other exhibitors...

exhibition3 exhibition4 exhibition5 exhibition6 exhibition7

And here's the scene of the golf course from where our exhibition was held.


Well the exhibition today was not an HIV awareness campaign, but more of to introduce ourselves to the public, in particular the foreign community in Ipoh.

And oh, to strengthen our networking with the other organisations as well... that's important too!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Baby K - Post surgery

A few days ago, I received a text message from Mrs K, informing me that her little girl had been discharged one week after her heart op, and that they were already back home.

Coincidentally, on the very same day I got a parcel from my bank. You see, this little fella here appeared on the computer screen after one of my online banking transactions.

Am not a soft toy collector, as a matter of fact, I had never been the soft toy kinda child (I was more into hide & seek, konda-kondi and the likes), but since I do know of so many children from poor families, I figured I could give this to one of the children.

And since the parcel came on the same day as Mrs K's text message, guess who got to be the new owner of this little fella? Yep, none other than Baby K.

This afternoon I went to visit the K's. The little girl was at first quite grumpy (Mrs K said, dia baru lepas merajuk), but the moment I gave her the octo, ahh, she was back smiling again. So easy to pujuk one! :-)

Mrs K took off the girl's t-shirt to let me have a look at the scar - the cut on her chest was about 3 to 4 inches. I can just imagine how itchy it's gonna be when it dries up. I told Mrs K to put the girl's t-shirt back on so she wouldn't be scratching her chest!

The girl seemed to be doing fine. Oh yes, she does complain from time to time, but nothing serious. They just went to Ipoh GH yesterday to get the stitches off. Their next appointment in IJN will be next month.

Mrs K is on 2 months unpaid leave to take care of Baby K. It's gonna be tough for them next 2 months, especially since they need to move to another house by year end. I will be monitoring more on the children's educational needs.

I hope they have learnt their lessons and will spend more wisely this time.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Visiting & shopping season!

With school holidays beginning this Friday, I anticipate lots of house visits and/or phone calls to many of my PLHIV clients. It's that time of the year when I'd have to get all the updates of the exam results of the children under our sponsorship programme, and it's also time to re-assess the families needing financial help.

While some of the families can afford to utilise whatever money they have first to buy their children's needs and then get reimbursed later, some other families like Sofie's can't afford to do that. So, like I used to do for Yah's, Fuzi's, Mrs K's and the late Lily's families, I may have to bring Sofie's children shop for schooling needs this time.

Yesterday I went to visit Hana. The last time I went to her house during my Raya rounds, nobody was home despite me telling her before hand that I was coming (and she said she'd be home, but she ended up elsewhere without informing me).

It has been quite some time since I last met Hana. It was high time I assessed her situation again. Good thing I went yesterday. Her youngest son will already be in standard one next year so there's an additional child to be considered for our Children Education Fund.

Another reason I visited Hana was to discuss with her about her house. Those who may have been following my blog earlier may remember about her family house perched on a hilly area. And since that house was no longer safe for occupancy (one of the wooden planks made way causing Hana to fall and break her arm) and she couldn't afford to repair the house, the whole family moved to a nearby house, paying rental of RM150 per month.

The initial agreement was that she'd be paying RM50, her mother (who's also still working) RM50 and her father RM50. BUT, her father who is staying with his second wife never met his end of the bargain. So Hana and her mother had to come up with RM75 each, which, to them, is a lot of money.

Since the title of the land of the earlier house is under the mother's name, an option would be to repair the old house. But based on the condition of the house, the better option would probably be to demolish the old house and build a totally new one. But since Hana and her mother definitely can't afford it, we've been looking around if any organisations would sponsor such a thing.

There may be one organisation willing, but a representative will need to visit the place first before a decision can be made. Hopefully we can get a positive response.

As I left Hana's house, I called up Rosnah to ask if she was home. Her house is just on the way, not far off from the main road. She's on night shift at work this week, meaning she's home during the day. So yes, I did drop by her house.

Along the road from Hana's to Rosnah's place, you'd see quite a number of durian sellers on both sides of the road. Yep, it's durian season. But nope, I didn't bother to buy.

When I got to Rosnah's house, her 11 year old daughter was watching TV. Rosnah's mother was folding a whole load of clothes. It had been raining almost every day, the unwashed clothes kept piling up. From what I saw yesterday, I think they had to wash at least 3 laundry baskets full of clothes! (Or, if my mother was to describe it, she'd probably say "penuh satu kereta lembu"!)

Rosnah then served me drinks, and... DURIANS! And as I was leaving she also gave me a small container of tempoyak, a plastic bag of ulam raja, and 3 durians - fresh from the tree behind their house. Thank goodness I didn't buy any of the durians sold by the roadside!

Yep, once in a while, like this instance, I'd be the one getting the goodies instead of me bringing them the goodies. It doesn't happen often though... I think the last time I got something to bring home were the lidi brooms courtesy of Yah's late mom!

So, durians anyone?

Monday, 16 November 2009

Of birth certs and ICs

Last week both myself and Anita received a big "Urusan Seri Paduka Baginda" envelope containing the reply from JPN Putrajaya (to my letter enquiring on how to go about Anita's case) and a whole bunch of forms to be filled up.

Good that we got the reply with all the procedures and what not, telling us to go to JPN Ipoh, but our problems are far from over. Just looking through the forms makes me pening already. Who can sign the surat akuan? Who can be the penganjur?

Kak Ana and I decided to go to JPN Ipoh without filling in the forms first. We'd need to meet the officer to ensure we get the right people to fill in and sign the forms.

Last night Anita called to ask if I'd be free today to go to JPN. I had some urgent matters to settle at the office in the morning so I told them I should be free after 2 pm. And this morning we confirmed to meet up at JPN Ipoh at 2pm.

Just after I left my house nearing 2 pm, Anita called to tell me they had just left the home. Duh! That would mean they would only reach Ipoh after about 1 hour 15 minutes or so. I decided to stop by our NGO center, but after a while I figured I might as well go to JPN and ask around first. And so I did.

First to the IC department. Asked one lady at one of the counters where I should go just to get some clarifications. She told me to get a number first. Went to the counter to get a number, the lady told me to go direct to counter 9; no need to take number.

Since the customer at counter 9 was taking so long with the officer there, I decided to go up to the birth registration department first.

This time after enquiring at the information counter, I was asked to go direct to the next counter as the lady there was the officer in charge of late registration of birth. I still had to wait my turn, but the guy in front of me looked like he was almost done, so I thought I wouldn't have to wait that long.

But the guy had soooo many queries, from one thing to another. I couldn't help eavesdropping as his story was rather interesting. The guy, quite an elderly guy, had married a foreigner, but after giving birth, the lady cabut and left him - leaving the baby with him.

Now he wants to register for his baby's birth, but since it is considered late registration, there's another form he'd need to fill. The problem is, his marriage was not registered in Malaysia. Which would not be a problem to register the child if the mother was around... but she's not! And worse still, the birth of the child was not at the hospital, as a matter of fact, the officer at the counter couldn't help but chuckle when the guy wrote in the form "Tempat lahir: Tepi Jalan." She told the guy to at the very least just name the jalan. Ya lorr uncle, tepi jalan mana? :)

After listening to the guy's problem, I guess the late registration for Anita's baby shouldn't be much of a problem. I just wanted to make sure who could sign the form if the person is not a family member.

As I was heading back to the IC department, Kak Ana called to ask where I was. They had just reached JPN. I decided to wait for them, and was pleasantly surprised to see not only Anita and her baby boy, but also Kak Ana's daughter carrying none other than my little Cek Mek, and also another child staying at the home, 2 year old Nanda.

Goodness, Cek Mek has grown! But I was a bit concerned noticing some sort of rashes she seemed to be developing at her neck and her arms. I was even more concerned when Kak Ana mentioned that the problem started after they changed her medication. She's already 5 months + but still on medication? The doctor had not been affirmative about her HIV status but every time the little girl was brought to the hospital, they'd definitely poke her with those needles to get her blood tested.

Now even Kak Ana is worried that Cek Mek may be positive after all. (I had been worried since day one when she was delivered through normal delivery.) However, I am still hoping and praying that she's still being given medication just as precautionary measures and not because she's HIV positive.

Anyway, back to the problem of Anita's IC. I was told by the officer that since Anita's parents are not around (mother passed away and father nowhere to be found), we'd need to get 2 people who had known Anita for at least 10 years to sign the surat akuan. That would definitely leave me and Kak Ana out.

Somehow we'd still need to get the help of 2 of Anita's half sisters. The evil sister in Ipoh is out of the question. Anita has another sister in KL whom according to her, "boleh bawa berunding" while another sister back in her kampong, wouldn't mind signing the form but would be reluctant to come when called for an interview by the JPN.

Kak Ana and I decided that it would be best to submit the forms in KL to make it easier for the sisters to go for the interview. As for the sister back in her kampong, we told her to coax that sister, telling her that we'd pay for the bus fares when she is needed to go to KL.

So that was round 1. There shouldn't be too much problem with the little boy's birth cert (except for citizenship status which can only be confirmed after Anita settles her IC problem - but that can be rectified later), but looks like we still have a long way to go to get Anita's IC done.

Next step - coax her non-evil sisters...

Saturday, 14 November 2009


Baby K, the hole-in-the-heart toddler, underwent her heart op on Wednesday afternoon. When I sent Mrs K a text message around 2.30 pm to ask on the little girl's update, I was told Baby K was just wheeled into the operation theatre. They were told the op would take between 2 to 3 hours, after which they'd be allowed to see the girl, from outside the ICU.

By Thursday afternoon, Baby K was sent to the ward to enable her parents to see and touch her. By Friday, she was already crying asking for more milk but Mrs K was advised not to give too much for fear of the girl ending up vomiting.

Well, so far so good... alhamdulillah. More updates later.


Our Fellowship Committee met up on Wednesday night to discuss on our upcoming Fellowship Night, scheduled to be held on 1st December. The last DeepaRaya gathering we had back in 2007, the theme was "Sarong Night" where everybody had to come with a sarong - didn't matter how they wear them. Most wore their sarongs outside their normal clothes.

This time too we opted for something that wouldn't require the volunteers to take too much time to get ready especially since some of them would be coming right after work. So the theme this year is "Fancy Headgears". Any kind of headgear with the exception of sports caps are allowed.

Hmmm... so what kind of headgear should I be wearing huh?



Red Indian?






Or if I'm too lazy to find a suitable headgear, just put a wastebasket on my head and call it a headgear?



Our awareness campaign for the Orang Asli community is on. Today our vice-chair and myself met up with 3 ladies who stay at Orang Asli settlements although they themselves are not OA's. Through them, we are arranging for the awareness campaign to be held on Sunday 6th December, in conjunction with World Aids Day. The kampong is easily accessible by car, which was what we were looking for since this the first of such programme for us. Depending on the outcome of this one, hopefully next time we will be able to conduct a similar programme at other OA settlements.

Finally we get to do our own programme for World Aids Day instead of the usually "tumpang sekaki" of whatever events organised by other organisations!


The Ipoh International Friendship Night will be held at a Golf & Country Club next Sunday. With the aim of bringing together foreigners working or staying in or around Ipoh, and familiarising them with the various community associations and programmes in Ipoh, some NGOs were invited to showcase their services or programmes. Buddies were invited as well.

I have managed to get 4 volunteers other than myself to join me at our booth. It will be a good opportunity for Buddies to make ourselves known to more people around Ipoh.

*All pictures taken from

Friday, 13 November 2009

The hospital visit

The maknyah who called earlier had called our hotline number again. My colleague who's currently holding the phone then informed me about it. Again the caller, S, sought help, saying that the friend, D, who was by then hospitalised, probably needed counselling help. S asked if any of us would be visiting.

Problem was, S only mentioned D's "nama glamour" and not the real name. When I asked my colleague for details like which ward etc, she didn't know. She had to wait for S to contact her again. I told her to get S to call me direct.

On Wednesday about 6 pm S called me. It was difficult to get the true picture on D's situation by just talking to S on the phone, so I promised to visit. It would be much easier to visit while D was at the hospital. But it was too late to visit on Wednesday so I said I'd try to visit yesterday. S told me the visiting hours for the district hospital was from 3.30 to 6.30 pm. So we promised to meet up at the hospital about 3.30 pm. I then contacted one of our trainee volunteers who's also a PLHIV to ask him to come along with me if he's free. He agreed. At least if the HIV+ maknyah insisted that I wouldn't understand because I'm not HIV positive, I could use the trainee volunteer as an example of an HIV positive person with positive thinking.

So yes, yesterday, at about 3.15 pm we made a move from Ipoh. We got to the hospital about 3.50 pm only to find out that visiting hours were actually from 5 to 6 pm. Duh! S was nowhere to be seen either. The doors to the wards were locked and only authorised personnel would be able to open the door from outside with their card.

However we managed to get in after explaining to the nurses that we were from a support group.

D was in a 1st class room - a single room. Thank goodness. It would be difficult to talk P&C stuff in a general ward. D was sleeping when we got into the room, but his mother was there to take care of him, so we talked to the mother to get more info.

Apparently D never told his mother about his HIV+ result earlier. He had already got the referral letter to see the ID specialist in Ipoh but he never went. Since his mother never knew about it, she was in no position to coax him to go. Looking at his condition, relatives believed it was 'buatan orang' and decided to bring D see a bomoh up north. His mother didn't go.

After coming back from the bomoh, D began to say nonsensical stuff. At times he'd try to run away from home, to the extent that his mother would sleep at the front door to make sure he doesn't escape. Once he did manage to escape early morning around 4 am. But after subuh, his mother saw him outside the house, shivering. When his mother asked, he just said, "Setan hantar balik, tu hah, tak nampak setan kat situ?", pointing his finger to a direction. Nobody was there.

When I asked D's mother if D had been feeling depressed before this, the mother said it was difficult to say because D never seem to share his problems with family members. It would probably be better to ask his fellow maknyah friends.

I was hoping I'd be able to meet S but he never turned up. Maybe he did turn up later but I couldn't wait. I was about to leave when D finally woke up from his sleep. His mother told him, "Ni hah, ustazah datang..."

I looked at D, D looked at me, and then D said, "Ni bukan ustazah!" (He could tell I wasn't one, compared to some people who seem to think I'm one just by my looks!)

I asked him how he was feeling. He didn't say anything. After a while he began to make faces. Upon seeing that, his mother said to me, "Tu nak mula merepek lah tu. Puan cubalah cakap dengan dia." But D still didn't say anything, he just looked at his mother. It was only after his mother hid behind the curtains that D began to talk to me.

However he was imagining things and talking all sorts of nonsense. "Doktor tu dah silap potong kaki saya... tapi lepas tu dia dah ganti dengan kaki lain. Yang heran tu mana pergi kaki asli saya?" (No such thing happened, he never had any surgery before this.)

"Ni kaki betul lah ni... kalau kaki palsu takkan ada luka-luka ni", I responded. "Ye ke?" he said.

I then asked if he felt any pain.

D: "Sakit lain takde lah, sakit hati ada!"

Me: "Sakit hati dengan siapa pulak?"

D: "Dengan mak saya."

Me: "Apasal pulak sakit hati dengan mak?"

D: "Dia saja nak buat saya sakit."

Me: "Mana D tau? Takkanlah mak nak buat macam tu!"

D: "Ye betul. Dia suka dengar cakap Fatimah. Fatimahlah yang hasut dia. Tiap-tiap hari dia datang. Tadi pun dia ada datang."

Me: "Fatimah tu siapa pulak?"

D: "Setan."


Fatimah is a character in D's imagination. And nobody came to visit earlier in the day as claimed by D.

D kept on talking about some other stuff as well. Some made sense, some didn't. But even the ones that did make sense were not necessarily true.

Personally I think D's problem is not just HIV. He has some other personal problems as well which he had not been sharing with anybody. He had been thinking about his problems too much, he is beginning to imagine things which aren't happening.

D's mother then sought my opinion. I told her to continue with hospital treatment, but that maybe she should also seek the help of a proper ustaz, to help D spiritually. Whatever she decided I told her if possible to avoid the services of bomohs. After seeing the results of the recent visit to a bomoh, D's mother didn't argue with me on this point.

Based on my observations, I believe this is the same maknyah Sofie had been telling me about as mentioned in my previous posting. Of course I didn't tell either D or his mother that there were talks about him spreading around.

Before we left, I took down the phone number of D's mother. I also left her my name card and told her to call me if need be.

I then told D to hang in there and not to give up hope. D just nodded. I didn't get to see S, but I do hope he will call me soon. I think it is important to talk to D's close friends to find out more.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Update on Sofie's family

The last time I went to visit Sofie, I didn't bring along any groceries for the family. I went to fetch her kids to bring them along with me during my trip to Kedah.

With money from donors rather consistently coming in, I'd better make sure I use the money to help the poor families consistently too. So after lunch on Sunday, off I went, first to buy some groceries, then after calling Sofie to make sure they were home, I also bought some ready to eat foodstuff for the kids.

Sofie was outside her house when I arrived. I was happy to note that her condition seemed to have improved a whole lot especially if compared to the first few times I visited her. Now she can at least pay more attention to the children instead of the children having to pay more attention to her.

Anyway, only Saiful and Ika were home when I visited on Sunday. The two older boys were out. Saiful and Ika got excited when I passed to them an envelope containing their pictures taken during the trip to Kedah. They were excitedly telling their mother... "Ha, ni masa Acik panjat rumah atas pokok tu".... "Hahaha! Ada gambar masa Angah kejar itik".... "Ni ha ada gambar adik berenang!"

I bet when their brothers came home, there was a repeat of all the excitement... :)

Both Saiful's and Ika's year-end school exams were over, although their results were not all out yet. But Ika had already gotten back a few of her exam papers and she willingly showed me the papers - even her Mandarin paper (yes, she's taking Mandarin as one of the lessons in school) which she got wrong for most of the questions! Her other papers were not too bad, although she had problems for English and Maths. In fact, for her Maths paper, the only reason she couldn't score better was her poor English.

You see, since she has to take up Maths in English, due to her poor command of the language, she couldn't understand some of the questions in her Maths paper. I saw her exam papers. It was quite obvious that while she could answer the questions which came in the form of numbers alone; the ones where the questions came in the form of English sentences, she couldn't answer correctly as she didn't even understand the question.

She complained that the teacher spoke fully in English when teaching, making it difficult for her to understand. The interesting thing was according to her, at the end of each lesson, the teacher would ask, "Are you understand?" and all the kids would say, "YES!"

I then asked Ika, "Cikgu kata are you understand ke cikgu kata do you understand?"

"Kalau cikgu dulu tanya do you understand, cikgu sekarang ni tanya are you understand," she said.

Duh! Cikgu pun tak betul rupanya...

"Makcik tau ke cakap Bahasa Inggeris?" Ika then asked me. Eh, see the leg lah...

On another note, Sofie plans to get Saiful circumcised during the school holidays. When her sister heard about it, she too wanted her 12 year old son to get circumcised together and even wanted to hold a kenduri for that purpose. Sofie was reluctant, saying that she couldn't afford to hold a kenduri, but her sister said not to worry, just join her kenduri. The sister went to the extent of taking a RM1K loan from the kampong cooperative just to have the kenduri!! Although Sofie was still rather reluctant, she didn't bother to object either.

That was until Ika came home from her aunt's house one day and told her what she heard. Apparently, upon hearing that the mother (Sofie's sister) would hold the kenduri for both her son and Saiful, the eldest son (Sofie's nephew, the same mulut laser one who had prompted Sofie to move out of her sister's house in the first place), said out loud, "Sibuk je si *Saiful nak tumpang kenduri kita!"

The moment Sofie heard about it, she decided to just quietly arrange for Saiful's circumcision to be done at he hospital without informing her sister. No need kenduri-kenduri! Even families who can afford to hold kenduris without borrowing money are no longer doing kenduri bersunat.

Saiful has yet to go to Ipoh GH to set an appointment with the eye specialist. Sofie intends to bring him during the first week of the coming school holidays. Coincidentally she too needs to come and get her supply of medication then, so might as well come in one trip.

I told Sofie I'd probably come again some time in early December to bring her children shopping for next year's schooling needs. If I were to leave it to Sofie to buy first and claim later, she'd end up buying cheap poor quality uniforms/shoes as she wouldn't dare buy the average priced ones (which are already too expensive for her). Within less than a month, you'd hear the children complaining about koyak here, koyak there... lubang here, lubang there... but they'd still wear the uniforms/shoes anyway.

Just as I was about to leave, Sofie asked about an HIV positive person I had been enquiring about earlier. You see, I had asked her on the whereabouts of a particular kampong in the same town. Sofie asked if the person I was talking about was a maknyah. There were news being passed around about an HIV+ maknyah who was already in very critical condition.

Nope, the person I had enquired about earlier was a married lady, not a maknyah.

But speaking of maknyah, remember the call from the maknyah in my earlier posting here? This must be the person Sofie was talking about - the earlier caller came from the same kampong. Early yesterday morning, a text message came in from the earlier caller to inform us that the friend had already been hospitalised. I just hope it's not too late to help.

Monday, 9 November 2009

All the best & get well soon Baby K!

Saturday, 7th November 2009 -

I had initially planned to fetch one of our new volunteers to get him to come along with me to visit the K's. He stays not that far from where the K's are staying and as such I figured it would be good to introduce him to them.

Just as I was leaving my house, I called him to ask for some easily identifiable landmarks near his house. His kampong is not listed in the GPS map that I have and although I knew roughly where the area was, I'd still need some info to know where to stop.

Apparently something else cropped up for him but since he had just lost his phone, he was unable to contact me as my number too got lost together with the phone. The volunteer had to bring his father to the hospital and somehow as at the time that I called, his father had yet to see the doctor. So no go for him.

Ah well, so the lone ranger that I am, I went alone...

As I parked my car in front of the K's residence, I saw Shah, the eldest son, at the door, cleaning something. The moment he saw me, he hurriedly went inside to grab a t-shirt (segan I guess, as he was shirtless... tapi yang tak pakai baju dok depan pintu for all and sundry to see tu tak lak segan...)

It had been quite some time since I last saw Baby K, probably a year or so, as such I wasn't really sure if the little girl still remembered me or would want to come anywhere near me. But as I got out of my car, I heard Mrs K telling Baby K, "Ha tu, makcik dah sampai dah!", and the little girl's immediate reaction was "Yay, yay!!" The girl, who will be 3 in January, ran outside in her already heavy diapers which looked like it was falling off anytime.

Mrs K's 14 year old daughter (the one who had been SMS-ing me earlier this year to tell me how stressed she was with her family's problems) also came out to help carry the stuff I brought along in my car - rice, milk, cooking oil, sugar, noodles, canned food and some other ready to eat foodstuff.

Baby K was excitedly jumping up and down (causing her diapers to go lower and lower!), pointing to whatever was in my car, and telling me things in her own language. Mrs K did tell me earlier that the little girl would be real grumpy when she's in pain. But since she was in a jolly good mood when I visited, I guess she was not in pain then.

The little girl then mumbled something and then showed me her teeth. Ahh... she just had a minor dental surgery (required by IJN before she goes for her heart surgery) and that was the story she was trying to tell me. Waaa... very talkative lah this girl!

"Sakit tak?" I asked.

"Atit", came the reply. (Sakit lah tu...)

Anyway, according to Mrs K, the girl's heart surgery was originally scheduled on the 16th of November, but IJN called recently to inform them that since the particular doctor would not be around on that date, they managed to get an earlier date for the girl. Postponing it to a later date may mean the surgery will take place in another 6 months time or more, and since the letter offering financial assistance for the girl's surgery is valid for only 6 months, if the surgery is postponed too long, they may need to re-apply all over again for the financial assistance.

So might as well grab the earlier date. Get it over and done with.

Mr & Mrs K, together with Shah, would be going to KL on Sunday to accompany the little girl. Yep, Shah, the eldest son was going too as Mr K would be coming back after a day or two, as he needed to work. Mrs K is taking 2 months unpaid leave to take care of the girl. If Mr K too takes too many days off, what would they be earning for the month? So Shah will take turns with his mother to take care of the baby while at the hospital.

The 2 younger sisters are staying with their grandfather temporarily, until Mrs K and Shah comes back. They themselves aren't too sure how long the girl would need to be hospitalised.

They were initially planning to go to KL by bus but when told that train fares were cheaper, decided to take the train instead. I explained to Mrs K what to do and where to go to if they were asked to pay for this and that. I remember the first time they went to IJN, they ended up calling me for help when they were asked to pay a few hundred Ringgit.

I called the little girl to come get a duit raya packet from me. I told the girl to give the packet to her mother. (Which she did, thank goodness!) I then informed Mrs K about the financial assistance from Buddies Welfare Fund which was issued in the form of a cheque and which had been banked into her account but would only clear on Tuesday or Wednesday. I didn't tell her the amount though. I just left the printed bank slip in the duit raya packet together with some cash, in case she needed some cash, especially for bus/train fares, before the cheque cleared.

After chatting with them for about 40 minutes or so, I got up to leave. The girl, upon seeing me getting up, came running... "Nak amin! Nak amin!" (nak salam lah tu...) And when I didn't bend down, she pointed her finger to her cheeks, implying that I should kiss her! I lifted the girl up to give her a peck on her cheek.

The girl looked fit enough for the surgery. I do hope the surgery will proceed as scheduled and that everything will run smoothly for the little girl. I plan to visit them again after they come back from KL.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Baby K

I received a text message from one of Mrs K's children on Wednesday night. I seldom get text messages from Mrs K herself as usually she'd get her children to send the messages. Needless to say, being the old school type, it took me a bit more time than usual to comprehend the whole message. With phrases like "dia sroh msuk awl", "nk kne opret", "ibu cbe kol", "nak g tau sal ni le", I had to reread and reread to make sure I got the story right. Yep, this is the same family which got me confused with the "ekor jantung" SMS some time ago.

Anyway, the gist of the message was, IJN had called them and asked to bring Baby K to KL this coming Monday although originally the surgery is scheduled on the 16th. The K's had been trying to call my colleague to inform him about this but their calls never got through.

I replied the message, telling them that I'd visit them this Saturday. I think that was what they were hoping for. I learnt from my colleague that earlier on they did mention to him they may want to try ask from "Kak Zah" some financial assistance for their bus fares to go to KL (but had been postponing doing so sebab Kak Zah garang... hehehe).

We have not told them about the approved amount from our Welfare Fund. I purposely didn't want to give the money earlier, in case they end up using the money for other things before they even manage to get on the bus. And I didn't even want to tell them about it earlier either, in case they end up borrowing somebody else's money and promising to pay once they get our funds. Trust me, knowing them, they would. It's just as bad as giving them the money earlier.

I have already banked in the cheque for them this morning, but will only inform them when I visit them tomorrow. I'm not sure yet who amongst them are going to KL and who are not. But it's not school holidays yet, so I guess the other children won't be going, unless they intend to ponteng. Shah, the eldest son, who is doing odd jobs to earn some income, is reliable enough to take care of his sisters.

So I think I will bring some groceries along as well so that the children staying behind will have enough food supply in the absence of their parents.

More updates after the visit.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Buatan orang?

It was past 12 noon, and the Socso officer who came to do a random check of my Company's salary and socso files had just left my office when a call came in on my hand phone, from an unfamiliar number. Seeing that it was from a local number and not a KL number where most of those annoying telemarketing calls come from, I answered the call.

"Ini Puan Afizah ke?"

"Ya, saya." (I never care if people call me Cik or Puan or kakak or makcik or even Opah...)

"Saya nak mintak tolong sikitlah. Puan ni dari Buddies of Ipoh kan?" (with the correct pronunciation of Buddies)

The caller, whom I initially thought was a lady, was worried about a friend who had gone for a blood test at the hospital near their place, and since the result of the first test was positive, was called to come for a second test to confirm.

The caller wasn't sure if the friend had gone for further follow-ups but she suspected not. When I asked if the friend had been to the Ipoh ID clinic, the answer was no. With that simple answer, I knew the friend never went for follow-up. All HIV cases would have been referred to Ipoh GH, and so if the friend had not been to Ipoh GH, then definitely he/she had not gone for follow up.

The caller was concerned because the friend's condition seemed to have deteriorated. The caller was convinced that the friend needs counselling help. It was only during the course of our conversation did I find out that both the caller and the friend were maknyahs. Ahh, no wonder the "lenggok" of the caller's speaking style was a bit different despite sounding a lot like a lady (I am definitely much more kasar!). He/she even mentioned that the HIV+ friend was one of the most beautiful maknyahs in town.

Despite being a maknyah, the HIV+ friend had no problem being accepted by his own family. The only problem is, based on what the caller told me, I doubt the parents really knew what HIV is all about. To them, their son was a victim of "buatan orang" and they believe that the only method of treatment would have to be done by a bomoh.

The caller did mention that another reason for the friend not wanting to go for follow ups was probably because they live in such a small community, even the people working at the hospital knew the family. And so I suppose there were some sok sek sok sek going around.

Well, I advised the caller to try and coax the friend to go to the hospital. Once they can get the referral letter, all follow ups are done at the Ipoh GH and no longer at the district hospital near their place. The caller then promised to try do the necessary and then will call me back.

Maybe the parents (and the patient) are in denial. Maybe lah. Hmmmm.... and maybe another option would be for me to go visit them, disguised as a professional bomoh, jampi-jampi a bit, and then sambil menurun give instructions to the guy to go to the hospital?


Wahai penunggu badan yang lenguh

Jangan kau gatal nak main kotor

Jangan tunggu jangan tangguh

Nyah kau ke hospital jumpa doktor!



(kena ludah seround lah, baru real sikit...)

And oh, and then ask for a Blackberry Storm as pengeras maybe?

Sunday, 1 November 2009

A few more activities for the year...

We're already into the last 2 months of the year. How time flies. Thank goodness at the beginning of the year I didn't set any new year resolutions for myself. Otherwise I bet I haven't fulfilled it yet and the new year resolution would have to be "renewed" when the next new year comes!

I don't usually set any new year resolutions for myself. To me if I need to make some changes for myself, I don't have to wait for a new year to do so. BUT I do have a target for next year. What target? Not saying it yet, will only tell you when the time comes.

We still have a few more activities for this year. In three weeks time, an Ipoh International Friendship Night will be organised with the purpose of bringing together foreigners working or staying in or around Ipoh to meet, and to familiarise them with the various community associations and programmes available here. In line with that, the organisers will also organise an exhibition and craft fair in order for NGOs and charitable organisations to showcase their services, programmes and/or handicrafts.

Buddies have been invited to participate in the exhibition, and since it will only take not more than 3 hours, I don't have to worry about getting enough volunteers to take turns to man our booth. 2 or 3 people should suffice, although I hope more volunteers will be able to join us. I haven't asked around yet, as I want to wait for the organisers to come back to me with the final programme before I start contacting the other volunteers.

On 1st December, we plan to have our Fellowship Night (for our volunteers) at our centre. Usually we'd have the year-end dinner held at a restaurant somewhere... and there was one year we had a Deeparaya Night... but since it's getting very difficult to get as many volunteers to gather at the same time, this year we're combining the Raya/Deepa/Christmas/Year End dinner at the center with some fun activities planned. I do hope most of the volunteers can attend this time.

Then the first Sunday of December, if things go according to plan, for the first time we're organising something on our own for the World AIDS Day (usually even if we do participate in something, we'd just tumpang sekaki whatever other organisations had planned). And our plan for this year is to have an HIV Awareness Programme at an Orang Asli Village.

Other than all the above, I must remember to get in touch with the HIV families whose children are sponsored under our Education Sponsorship for Children. I will need to get the updates on the children's progress in school, after which I will need to send the reports to the various sponsors and start collecting the sponsorship amount for next year.

And oh, I'd better not wait till the very last minute to arrange for the back-to-school shopping for the children!

That means there will more calls and house visits for me to do within these 2 months...