THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)
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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

It’s calling calling time!

During our board meeting on Tuesday night, we finally decided that this year’s Family Day will be held at Lost World of Tambun (LWOT). Yep, we had our Family Day there a few years back when we had a sponsor for the annual event. Since the kids loved the place and kept on talking about how they enjoyed themselves there, we decided to go there again. Besides, it seems there are new attractions since the last time we went, and in addition to that, this year we have the budget to hold the event at a venue which requires quite a substantial amount of money for entrance fees.

So while the sub-committee will be meeting every week from now on to discuss on the itinerary, logistics and whatever arrangements, all the volunteers will have to start contacting their clients to inform them about the event and to confirm who’s coming etc. Hmmm… that means I will have to do most of the contacting because I have the most clients!

Well, I’ve started with one today. Coincidentally it is time for my monthly grocery delivery and my visit today was to Sofie’s house. So after getting all the stuff at the minimarket, off I headed to visit Sofie and the kids. It has been a month since I last went to visit.

Unlike during my usual visits, this time when I got to the house, the front door was closed. I was at first quite concerned that maybe nobody was home (I did send a text message before going but Sofie seldom replies my message – not enough credit) but I saw the children’s bicycles outside, so somebody must be home.

When I got to the front door, I did hear some voices, and so I gave the salam. I kept on hearing voices but nobody returned my salam. So I knocked on the door and gave the salam again. This time I heard a child’s voice returning the salam and asked, “Siapa?”

Saya…” (hehehe… purposely trying to find out if the boy recognised my voice…)

Makcik Afizah ya?”

It was Saiful. They (Sofie, Saiful & Ika) were in the kitchen, thus the locked front door. Once Saiful opened the door, I started carrying down all the stuff in my car – rice, cooking oil, sugar, flour, anchovies, potatoes, canned sardines, drinks, milk, chili sauce, tomato sauce, soy sauce, eggs, margarine, detergent, etc.

Usually Saiful would help me but today he was helping his mother who needed to hold on to someone to walk from the kitchen to the front. Oh dear… she looked rather weak today.

Apparently after feeling a wee bit better, and not wanting to depend on charity all her life, when an owner of a food stall who needed an extra hand at the stall, coaxed Sofie to work for her, Sofie accepted, She thought it would be a great opportunity for her to earn extra income for the family.

Problem is, Sofie is not fit to work just yet, although she’s better than the first time I met her. Well yes, working at home doing all those wires she gets from a nearby factory is okay, because she gets to do so at her own pace at home, sitting down. But the job at the stall required her to take orders from customers, meaning she had to walk around quite a bit. Given her condition, she actually couldn’t walk around too much. Now she’s starting to feel the pain and has problems even to get up and walk. After a week of working, she’s beginning to get fever, she lost her appetite to eat, and she vomits every time she tries to eat.

I told her to get a complete rest. I admire the fact that she wants to work to support her children, but for the moment I can still get financial assistance for her. For genuine cases like hers, all I have to do is open my mouth and God willing, help will start coming in.

Anyway, the moment I told them that this year’s Family Day will be at LWOT, both Ika and Saiful went “YES!!” Waaah… so very happy! That’s the purpose of the Family Day… to make them happy. I asked Sofie to confirm how many of them would be coming – Sofie said she didn’t have any doubt that Azman, her second son would want to come along, but she wasn’t too sure about the eldest, Azlan. He’s usually not the type who likes to join all the “kiddies” activities. But at LWOT he doesn’t have to worry about having to play with the kids. He is after all, already 16, he doesn’t have to play at the kiddies pool (only makciks like me do that… hehehe!)

Azlan happened to just get home from school while we were talking, so I asked him direct if he wanted to join. I told him I’d need his confirmation as we need to pay for everything before the event, and so we can’t wait for him to decide on the day itself whether he wants to join us or not. I think he too must have been wanting to go to the place which he had only heard of before, and he knows for a fact that the place is not only for children but for adults as well, so he said yes, YAYYY!!!

So yep, I already have 5 people in my “going” list now. I’d better start calling the rest… Lin, Fuzi, Murni, Sha, Mrs K, Jah, Yah, Maria, Sharifah, Nuri, Ani… hmmm… who else ya? I’d better check my clients list so that I will not miss anybody…

Monday, 28 June 2010

The problem if we go public…

I have been interviewed a few times before on my voluntary work… for magazines and newspapers. I didn’t have much problem with that.

But I have also turned down to be interviewed live on TV to talk about the same thing.

Last week I got an email from a researcher representing a TV Production, searching around for materials for a community based programme, who got to know of my voluntary work through this blog. This person was asking how they (the production) could help me so I could continue to help others.

A very tempting offer indeed but frankly I don’t even know where to start to suggest how they can help me in view of the confidentiality issues involved. When I mentioned about confidentiality, the person suggested that the focus will be on me, telling the stories of the various families without showing their pictures or mentioning their names… what are the problems faced etc.

Of course, there’s a good side to that:

1. Such a show can help to create awareness amongst the public on the problems faced by the HIV families, and problems faced by us volunteers in carrying out our work.

2. The publicity would be good in getting funding.


the problem of whether to go high profile or to keep a low profile had always been a dilemma for us. Too low a profile, and it’ll difficult to get funding to run the NGO and to help out the HIV families. Too high a profile, and our HIV clients may no longer feel comfortable being seen with us, what more to have us visiting them at their homes.

Well yeah, one TV appearance will not make you famous, but once you accept one offer, you may not have an excuse to turn down another, and so you may end up doing one appearance after another. After a while, people may or may not start recognising you. Imagine me visiting a client, and a neighbor sees me and asks, “Ni yang hari tu keluar TV cerita pasal nak tolong keluarga-keluarga HIV tu kan?” Imagine how my clients would feel. Even without neighbors recognising me, the clients themselves may feel that the neighbors are thinking that way – and so they will no longer feel comfortable with my visits.

Besides, for some of these families, their children/in-laws etc do not know about their HIV status. All they know is that I come visiting from time to time because they come from poor families. Imagine if they end up watching me on TV telling the public about the HIV families I visit?

Let’s just go back to the main objective of our NGO… that is to provide support to people living with HIV and their families. We need to gain their trust and confidence to be able to do so.

And so we need to go on a so-so profile, not too high and not too low. Awareness is still important of course, thus I resorted to creating awareness through this blog and through my FB account. The next option is for me to start writing a book. In fact I already have plans to write one in Malay.

But to appear on TV to talk about my work with the HIV families? Errmm… for the moment I don’t think so. It’s different if I don’t do house visits…

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Family Day: Where to?

With 2 new volunteers roped in during the past 2 weeks, we now have 27 volunteers altogether inclusive of 7 trainee volunteers. That doesn’t mean all 27 are really active volunteers. I haven’t met some of the volunteers for quite some time already. Understandably, since we are all working people (except for 2 or 3 pensioners), priority will have to be given to our jobs rather than our voluntary work.

Besides, this is VOLUNTARY work, and in any voluntary organisations, usually the enthusiasm is very high in the beginning, and then the momentum slows down. That’s where new volunteers with enthusiasm are needed. Otherwise, depending on the very same volunteers each time may cause burnout.

However, I do hope we will be able to get as many volunteers to attend our coming Family Day in August. We haven’t really decided on the venue of this year’s Family Day, but we have shortlisted 3 venues. There is however, a similarity between the 3 places – the children (and the “child-at-heart” adults) can play in water, water, water… it’s just a matter of whether we choose “hot or cold”!

Of course, when it comes to places where the children can play in water, we have to bear in mind the safety of these children. We went to Teluk Batik once, but during that year, we didn’t have as many clients and as such, not as many children. It was easier to control them then. Recently however, we have more and more children joining the family day and it will very difficult to control the children, especially the extra adventurous ones. They don’t often get to go jalan-jalan anywhere, so in their excitement, they may do things which may endanger their own safety. So, no to beaches and especially waterfalls, although we do have lots of choices in Perak when it comes to waterfalls.

Whatever it is, we will definitely have to decide by next week’s board meeting, and after that, we will have to start calling our clients, inviting them to join the Family Day. As I mentioned in my previous posting, chances are the sub-committee will have to meet every week to discuss on the logistics and arrangements to ensure that everything will run smoothly.

So, any guesses as to where the 3 shortlisted places are?

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Busy month ahead...

WHOOOOSH!! Almost half the year is gone. Waaa… so fast?

So what activities had we (Buddies) done for the first half of the year other than the usual clinic duties, outreach, taking care of the affected children’s educational needs and visiting/calling our HIV clients?

In March I gave a talk to a group of students from ITP, Ipoh. During the same week, we also put up an exhibition booth at Kinta City, Ipoh in conjunction with the International Women’s Day 2010 organised by the Perak Women for Women.

We put up another exhibition booth in May during a conference organised by the Perak Palliative Care Society. During the same weekend, I and 4 other volunteers also took part in a Charity Relay Run held at Ipoh Padang, where each of us had to run 2km.

Also in May, although Buddies were not directly involved, I was invited by virtue of representing Buddies as an NGO, to be in the committee to work together with a few other NGOs under the Sekretariat Pembangunan Wanita & Sosial Negeri, organising awareness campaigns on women and social issues. Our first event was a seminar on domestic violence. More campaigns will be organised, although the next event under this committee has yet to be decided.

So, what’s coming up in July?

I have been invited to give a talk at a university college in Negri Sembilan during a seminar on HIV/AIDS. I have given talks on HIV before, but this time it will be different. The talks that I had been giving so far were more on HIV in general – how it spreads etc. I’d usually just use the slides/powerpoint presentation already prepared by the Malaysian Aids Council (MAC). This time, the organisers have invited reps from the Institute of Medical Research to cover the medical aspects and reps from MAC will be showing their slides on HIV in general. I on the other hand, have been invited to share my experiences in dealing with the HIV infected/affected people. No prepared slides, so I’m in the process of preparing one. I want the audience to look at something else other than just my boring old face during the talk… :-)

The next day, I promised to have a Masters student from American University in Washington DC follow me for a day while I go round doing my voluntary work. She’s in KL for 2 months this summer, and as an independent study for her Uni on the impact of HIV/AIDS on Muslim women, she wants to do as much research as possible while she’s here in Malaysia.

The first Sunday of August, as usual, will be our Family Day (we will have to choose another date in future if the first Sunday of August coincides with fasting month). We have not made the final decision as to the venue of this year’s Family Day although we have shortlisted 3 places. We will have to decide by this month’s Board meeting as by July we will need to make all the necessary arrangements. Chances are in July the Family Day sub-committee will be meeting every week to make sure everything is in order.

We are also planning to start our support service during HIV clinic at Taiping Hospital beginning July. I’ve already got a few volunteers willing to take turns to go there, so we might as well start something soon.

So yeah, July will probably be quite a busy month for me. Never mind, one step at a time. I don’t want to stress myself out, do I? But not to worry, if I do get stressed, I’ve got the Stress Reduction Kit ready…

Monday, 14 June 2010

Sponsorship assessment: Done! Volunteer: Found!

With another unfamiliar territory to go to, I decided that for the sponsorship assessment visit to Ramli’s house, we’d better make a move in the morning.

So we (the vice-chairman, a trainee volunteer and myself) promised to meet up at the NGO center at 9 am. I got there a few minutes before 9 am and was happy to find that the other 2 were already there. I like punctual people!

Off we went, heading towards the highway, exiting Kuala Kangsar and on towards the K.Kangsar-Gerik highway. Unlike the old road which was rather narrow and winding, this new road (well, not THAT new lah, but considering that the last time I headed that way was quite some time back, it was new to me at least!) was a breeze. It didn’t really take that long to get to our destination. However, the new bridge near Lenggong was designed in such a way that we weren’t able to see the lake below. Otherwise the scenery would have been better.

As we got into the junction leading to Ramli’s kampong, we stopped by the roadside and I decided to call Ramli’s daughter, Amy. Their kampong is not listed in my GPS and so I wanted to get proper directions from her. The day before, I called the house to get the directions but Amy wasn’t around and her elder brother wasn’t too cooperative. All he said was, “Ada signboard tu ikut aje.”

Well, Amy didn’t give me directions either. She told me to wait at the junction and she’d ask her husband to meet us there. Based on that I figured it wouldn’t be easy to find on our own.

It took her husband more than 10 minutes to get to the junction where we were. Quite a young chap – must be in his early 20’s, just like Amy. Well, his father-in-law (Ramli) is also young – he’s only in his mid-40’s.

Anyway, true enough, I think if we had tried on our own to find the house, we would have needed more time since their address didn’t have any street name, just no. xxx and the name of the kampong. And there were so many lorongs, we wouldn’t be sure which lorong to turn into.

Ramli has a house which looks quite comfortable to live in. For someone working on his own, he must have earned quite well. Well enough that he  could afford to have 4 wives! As mentioned in my earlier posting here, Ramli was probably infected by his 3rd wife, who eventually died of TB.

Ramli has eight children – 4 children (now adults) from his first wife, and 4 children, still schooling, from his second wife. Now that he is bedridden and his (still living) wives have all left him, Ramli no longer earns any income. No problems about the children from the first wife – they’re all adults and can take care of themselves. Our concern now is the children from the 2nd wife – the wife not only dumped him… she dumped 3 of the kids with him, and only took along the eldest child with her. With no income and he himself needing care, there’s no way he can take care of his children.

I didn’t see Ramli when I went into the house, only Amy and her young half-brothers were there to greet us. I asked where Ramli was, and all Amy said was, “Ayah meragam pagi ni.”

Meragam? Well, ever since her was bedridden, Ramli hadn’t been himself. He talks rubbish, he tears off the adult diapers on him, and he dirties himself and his mattress with his own sh*t.

Worse, the daughter taking care of him is pregnant and is due to give birth anytime. Imagine how tiring it is for her to take care of her father in such condition. To add to that, she’s also taking care of her younger siblings when she herself is financially dependent on her young husband. With a baby coming into their lives soon, things will get more difficult.

With Ramli not even capable of taking care of himself, when arranging for financial help for the children, we definitely couldn’t put Ramli’s name as guardian. My colleagues agreed that Amy would be the right person. But she had not photostated her own IC and neither had she opened a bank account; so we told her to do so once she has settled down after giving birth to her own baby.

While I was getting all the details of Amy’s siblings, a few lady neighbours came over. They frequent the house quite often to see how the children are doing. I had to be extra careful not to mention anything about Ramli’s HIV status. We just told them that we’re from a welfare organisation in Ipoh.

One of the ladies then asked, “Tak ada ke rumah boleh ambik orang sakit macam dia ni? Kesian tengok budak-budak ni ada mak bapak pun tak ambik peduli.” Amy herself had not even mentioned anything about sending her father to a welfare or shelter home, but it seems the neighbours themselves couldn’t bear seeing Amy being burdened by her own father.

We only stayed there for about half an hour or so. After getting whatever details and telling Amy of whatever other documents she’d have to prepare after she has given birth, we made a move. It didn’t feel too comfortable to stay there longer with the neighbours around.

It was still quite early, and so we decided to go to Taiping to meet up with a Taiping doctor who had earlier expressed her interest to become a volunteer. So I called her up to tell her we were just about to make a move and that we’d meet up with her in Taiping town.

And so yes, we met up with the lady doctor who ended up paying for our lunch!

Oops, hope I didn’t scare people from volunteering with our NGO. The doctor volunteered to pay for our lunch, ok? We don’t usually make it a practice to make a potential volunteer pay for our meals… hehehe…

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Sponsorship assessment: 2 done, 1 to go!

Having weddings to attend next week, I decided I need to finish off the sponsorship assessment visits this week. Done with one on Thursday, and saving the one furthest to be done on Sunday, today I went to visit Rajan’s family, who stays in Ipoh.

Rajan’s buddy had promised to pick me up at the NGO center and drive me to Rajan’s home, so by 2.45 pm I was already at the center. By the time my colleague came, it had already started to rain but it wasn’t too bad. After transferring some groceries meant for the family from my car to my colleague’s car, off we headed to Rajan’s place. The rain got heavier and heavier. So heavy that my colleague who was driving had to be extra careful while driving. We had already promised Rajan we’d come today, so might as well just go ahead with our plan.

It was still raining heavily when we got to the low cost flats, so we decided to leave the groceries in the car first. The family stays on the third floor, no lifts, and so we had to use the staircase. Rajan wasn’t home, but 3 bright and cheerful girls opened the door for us. 2 of the girls are Rajan’s children, while the other one is his niece.

The flat looks quite comfortable. Or maybe it looked rather big because they didn’t have much furniture. Some of my colleagues however did contribute some old stuff including clothes, pillows, and a cupboard.

6 of them stay at the flat – Rajan, his elderly parents, his 2 daughters and his niece. Rajan wasn’t home as he was at the hospital visiting his father who was hospitalised after a bad fall at home recently. So we just spoke to Rajan’s mother and the 3 chirpy girls – Rajan’s daughters aged 11 and 9, while his niece is 7 I think.

Rajan’s girls lost their mother 6 years ago, while their young cousin, although not an orphan, lives like one. Her mother left the family while her father, according to Rajan’s mother, is a bad hat. So the girl had been taken care by her grandparents.

Rajan himself is not in a position to work due to his condition. The 6 survive on monthly welfare aid of RM200 for Rajan’s 2 girls (bantuan kanak-kanak) and another RM155 for Rajan’s dad (bantuan warga tua). That’s their source of income to pay for their rental (of RM120), utilities and food. Rajan’s sister, who stays elsewhere, does help from time to time, but not much.

Luckily for the girls, their school has exempted them from fees, and in fact they got free workbooks as well from the school. Oh how I wish all schools have more teachers who take the effort to help the students… unlike some of the children from other families I know, whose teachers kept pressuring them to pay up all the various fees.

We had already approved our CEF for them earlier, so my colleagues had already brought them out shopping 2 weeks ago and got them new uniforms, shoes, school bags and stationeries.

Their grandfather usually send the girls to school on his motorbike but that will be difficult when school reopens. You see, in addition to the bad fall causing him to be hospitalised, today we were told that his motorbike had also gone missing in his absence. So how are the girls going to school when it reopens next week?

We told the girl to arrange for a school van – we can cover the fares using our CEF. The girls also need and want tuition, but tuition fee is not covered by our CEF (our CEF only covers for basic schooling needs). So hopefully we can get sponsors to cover the girls under the Education Sponsorship for Children programme. At least not only are their basic needs covered, they will also be covered for tuition and monthly pocket money.

Hopefully I can get sponsors for them soon.

OK, 2 assessments done, 1 to go. And I’m going tomorrow to settle the last assessment visit, insyaAllah.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Sponsorship assessment: 1 done, 2 to go!

I finally managed to get a fellow volunteer who was able to join me for a sponsorship assessment visit on a weekday instead of a weekend. Of course, I had to ask one with flexi working hours, like myself.

So today, at 2 pm, the 2 of us headed off to north of Perak to visit Aza. As always, whenever heading to unfamiliar territory, I’d do my homework first. Last time I used to google for the place. Now that I have a GPS, I’d check on my GPS first. But the name of the kampong where I was heading today wasn’t on my GPS, and not even on google. The next course of action was to call Aza yesterday, asking for landmarks and directions. I then set my GPS to the landmark nearest to her kampong, and from then on, to look out for the other landmarks that she gave.

Halfway at the NSE, the error message appeared on my GPS. Hmmm… must be due to the updated map which I downloaded just 2 days ago. I decided to stop at the next R&R to restart the GPS. Just as I slowed down at the R&R, suddenly I heard a screeching sound. Alamak, panic seround. Please, please not the car! The sound stopped when the car stopped. After restarting the GPS (which worked well after that), I continued the journey… this time no more screeching sound. BUT I noticed the air from the aircond was getting less and less cooler. Ah, the screeching sound must have come from the aircond. The aircond had never given me problems before; but I did send the car for aircond servicing just last month! Aiya, like this baik tak payah service! But in a way I was relieved it was just the aircond – it would have been a problem if the car broke down at the highway!

As the journey continued, it got warmer. But the weather wasn’t too bad, so the “free sauna” was tolerable. :-)

Anyway, after reaching the landmark I set on my GPS, I could no longer depend on the GPS for further instructions, so I had to look around for the other landmarks and instructions given by Aza earlier. I must commend Aza – her instructions were quite clear and accurate. After getting into the lorong she told us to get into, I understood why it was not in the GPS. It’s not even called jalan or lorong, it’s called parit xxx (sorry, cannot lah mention real address here kan?) And it’s quite narrow, with padi fields on both sides.

Just to be sure I was on the right track, when we passed by a makcik on a bicycle who stopped by the roadside (erm, I mean ‘parit’side) I asked her where “parit xxx” was, and my, my, her instructions were good too! Yes, we were on the right path, but most of the time, based on my own experience, the instructions I’d usually get under such circumstances would be, “Jalan teruuuus jer…” This makcik’s instructions however were complete with, “sampai hujung tu, ikut titi, lepas titi ada surau..Waaah, caya lah makcik! If I didn’t stop to ask her, I probably wouldn’t be too confident continuing taking the same route. You see, I had to drive quite far in just to reach the titi (small bridge) the makcik mentioned.

After the titi and upon reaching the surau, I called Aza for further instructions. You see, it wasn’t easy to see the house numbers in the kampong. Some are visible while some aren’t. And Aza told us to drive further until we reach a primary school. Yes, there’s a primary school in the middle of all those padi fields! No secondary school though.

A few hundred meters after the school, I stopped where I thought the house would logically be based on the house number given, and called Aza asking her to come out of her house. And whaddaya know, I had actually stopped right in front of her house! We’ve never met before but it wasn’t difficult for Aza to figure out 2 strangers looking like rusa masuk kampong. Oh ok, in our case it was Kenari masuk kampong (I was driving a Kenari meh…). Yayy!! We made it without making any wrong turnings whatsoever! Woo hoo!

Anyway, Aza is in her early 40’s. Her husband died about 9 years ago. Aza herself was diagnosed HIV+ when she was pregnant with her youngest child, who is now 10 (and free from the virus). Her husband had refused to go for check-ups until he was too weak. He died just 2 weeks after he went for blood tests.

So Aza was diagnosed HIV+ quite some time ago. But her case was never referred to us because we don’t have volunteers doing support services at Taiping Hospital where Aza goes for her appointments. Her case was referred to us this time by the doctor (the same specialist handles HIV cases in Ipoh and Taiping) because she felt Aza needed the help.

Aza’s 4 children are all schooling – 14, 13, 12 and 10. She stopped working last year after she started taking medication which caused her to feel drowsy and sleepy. Now she is much better and should be able to work again (provided she’s able to find one) BUT her mother, whom she’s staying with, is unwell and needs looking after. So for the moment, Aza is totally dependent on welfare aid of RM400/month and Baitulmal aid of RM150/month. The good thing is that she doesn’t have to pay house rental. But with the amount that she gets it’s not easy to support 6 people (including herself) staying in the household. What more during the beginning of each schooling year.

We can definitely cover the yearly schooling expenses with our Children Education Fund. Whether or not her children will be covered by our sponsorship, that will depend on whether I can get any sponsors!

OK, so one house visit done. 2 more to go… and the plan is, the one in Ipoh this Saturday, and the other one (almost reaching the East-West highway) on Sunday.

But tomorrow I’d better go to where I got my car aircond serviced last month – the guy better fix my aircond as I don’t intend to go through another free sauna…

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

House visits, house visits… bila mau pergi?!

Last week alone a few cases were referred to me to be considered for our sponsorship program, or at least for our Children Education Fund.

There’s Rajan, a single father (of 2 schooling kids) who’s too weak to work.

There’s Ramli, who is now bedridden and whose wives have left him to take care of 4 schooling children.

Then there’s a new case referred to me by the doctor herself. This lady goes for appointment at the Taiping hospital and we Buddies have yet to send any volunteers for support service at that hospital. So for the moment, if there are any cases which the doctor feels need financial help, she’d refer the case to us for our further action.

House visits for sponsorship assessment purposes require at least 2 Buddies to be present for the assessment. So, I don’t only have to find a suitable time when I can go, I’d also have to find a time when I can pull another volunteer to tag along.

That shouldn’t be too much of a problem in Rajan’s case, because he’s staying in Ipoh.

Ramli however, stays in a town about 1 1/2 hours drive from Ipoh. That is not inclusive of the time I’d need to find the particular kampong where Ramli’s family is staying. I’m not too familiar with the place, so I’d better get at least one male volunteer to come along. Besides, the client, a male, is bedridden, and so it’s probably best for a male volunteer to talk to him.

The third case referred by the doctor is Aza, a single mom of 4 kids, staying in a town north of Taiping. Again, unfamiliar territory and not in my GPS. But I did google to look for the town… and although I couldn’t find the specific road from my google search, I guess I can always use the AMTS system when I reach the town. Huh? AMTS? That’s Ada Mulut Tanya System…

Question now is… BILA MAU PERGI WEI??!

Sunday, 6 June 2010


During my clinic duty last Wednesday, I met 2 clients whom I have not been in touch with for quite some time.

Nuri, a very reserved lady, looked skinnier than before. We did help her out initially in getting welfare aid and some other financial help for her children, but after that she preferred to be independent in earning some income for her family. She now runs a food stall near a school at her hometown. Good for her!

Guess who else I met at the clinic? Ahh, someone who used to be the main cast in my blog postings once upon a time… for all the wrong reasons! Yep, Yah Ah Ngau (for those new to this blog, I initially just named her Yah, but after the episode of getting bitten by the angau bug, when she fell heads over heels over Mr Darling, I named her Yah Ah Ngau…). Mr Darling ended up marrying someone else, and after that Yah began flirting around, with the intention of taking revenge on men. From a tough, independent & responsible kampong girl, she turned into a wild, problematic woman.

I’ve sort of stopped calling Yah ever since she started flirting around. No, not because I didn’t want to have anything to do with her anymore, but because she kept changing her phone number – so I’d have to wait for her to call me. Why does she change her number so often? Because when people start harassing her with phone calls, she’d just get herself a new number.

So when I met her last week, I asked for her phone number, and as expected, she had changed to a new number yet again. Her 2 elder daughters, Along & Angah are still at an orphanage and only come home during weekends and school holidays. It has been a while since I last met them, they must have grown! But I’m glad to note they are doing quite well in school, and they still do remember me (they still kirim salam to me from time to time).

As for her son, Achik, who had always been a problematic child (he had always been hyperactive & never listens to his school teachers or anyone else for that matter), according to Yah, he is now at “sekolah budak-budak kurang upaya”. I’m not really sure what sort of “kurang upaya” Achik is, but I had always suspected him to be suffering from ADHD (after a tip from a blog reader) and had been asking Yah to bring him for proper check-up, but she never did. I’m not sure if that’s the reason for him to be placed at the special school now (not easy getting accurate info from Yah especially when it comes to the proper medical terms), but I sure hope he is getting the proper and necessary help.

Two days ago, Halimah called me up. Initially I thought she needed another favour, until she said, “Saja je telefon akak, dah lama tak dengar cerita. Nanti akak kata bila sesak aje cari akak…”

Oh well, yayy! At least someone remembers me without having any udang di sebalik batu & cicak sebalik frame…

Thursday, 3 June 2010

My dear little Cek Mek…

3rd June 2009, at 2.40 am, while I was asleep, I was awoken by the James Bond ringtone on my hand phone. That was the assigned ringtone for my HIV clients (now dah boring, so I’ve changed it to Mission Impossible… hehe).

At 2.40 am? Yep, and the call was from Sharifah, a 19 year old unmarried pregnant girl. Sharifah, who hails from a state up north was staying alone at a flat (courtesy of a friend of my fellow volunteer who allowed her to use the place temporarily until she delivered).

“Kak, sakit kak… dah keluaq ayaq… macam mana nak buat ni?”

Uh oh… I had earlier promised to pick her up at 9 am in the morning to bring her for her hospital appointment as her c-sect was only scheduled for 2 weeks later; but apparently the baby could wait no longer!

There wasn’t much time for me to think. If I let her deliver all by herself at the flat, I’d have more problems later on, so yep, the next best course of action was to get out of my house at such an ungodly hour, fetch Sharifah at the flats, and send her to the hospital. Tak pernah dibuat seumur hidup, I tell you! That was my first time! Luckily the flats were not that far from my kampong, and from the hospital. I managed to get her to the delivery hall by 3 am.

I didn’t wait with the fathers-to-be at the waiting area though… after making sure Sharifah was in good hands, I immediately headed home to continue with my sleep. Besides, my mother was fast asleep at home when I left, and I didn’t want her to wake up in the morning to find her 46 year old daughter missing!

Sharifah finally delivered at 9 am through normal delivery. For whatever reasons, the doctors decided not to proceed with c-sect. My guess is, although the MOs who saw her earlier told her she’d have to be operated as soon as possible, by the time the specialists got there, it was too late for c-sect.

Ah yes, and so a baby girl was delivered that morning. And that was not all to it. Puan Nur, Sharifah’s mom (who knew of her daughter’s pregnancy and accepted her – but Puan Nur & Sharifah decided it was best if Sharifah delivered in Ipoh instead of at their hometown to avoid the news spreading to relatives and neighbours) couldn’t come immediately as she had to arrange for her leave from work and for her other children’s needs. And so I was sort of Sharifah’s “mak angkat” temporarily (although both Sharifah & Puan Nur call me Kak). That makes the baby, My Little Cek Mek, my cucu angkat!

I had blogged a whole lot about Sharifah and Cek Mek last year. I had to go through a whole lot of new experiences because of the little girl. Little Cek Mek had left a rather big impact on me. It would be a loooong story if I were to recap everything in this posting, so those who hadn’t been following Cek Mek’s story earlier, you can read my previous postings about Sharifah and Cek Mek at the following links:

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, and Part 11

Actually there were a few more follow ups after that, but basically the above 11 series would cover the basics (the basics alone in 11 parts???!! Goodness, Cek Mek, you’re really something – I’ve never written about anybody else in that many series!!)

Anyway, Sharifah is now back in her hometown, and working. She still keeps her hospital appointments in Ipoh as she’d be using the opportunity to visit her little girl at the shelter home.

And the little baby who caused me to go through those blood-pressure-rising moments? Tests so far showed she’s spared from the virus, alhamdulillah. And oh, she’s one year old today.

To my dear little Cek Mek,

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SWEETIE! May you lead a normal, healthy, blessed and happy life full of love!

Hugs and kisses,

Opah Pi

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Nikmatnya beristeri 4?

♫ ♪♫ Senangnya dalam hati… ♫ ♪♫ kalau beristeri empat… ♫ ♪♫ bila dah sakit kini… ♫ ♪♫ hidup merempat!

(To be sung to the tune of P.Ramlee’s Madu Tiga)


Huh? Why am I suddenly going into this madu-madu topic? Is it because of the difficulty to get gula, we now need to use madu?


Actually, I was on clinic duty today. Remember Ramli, whom I had met during one of my clinic duties last year, and I posted his story under case #3 here? You probably don’t remember because I never followed up on that story. To recap, here’s a cut and paste version of my earlier posting.


Ramli came in with a young lady - I thought his wife at first (he was wearing a mask, and he looked quite young behind the mask - hmm... I wonder if I looked young behind the mask too... haha!). Then the young lady introduced herself as his daughter. I looked at Ramli's file, and saw that he's 43. Well, still young, and with a grown up daughter, he must have got married at quite a young age. The daughter who came with him just got married recently.

I then asked how he found out about his HIV infection, and almost choked when his daughter selamba-ly answered, "Sebenarnya masa ayah kawin nombor 4 baru-baru ni kena buat test HIV. Dari situlah dapat tau."

I hope behind my mask they didn't notice my terkejut beruk face. Whoa... in our contact report form which we have to fill up, there is one column for "Spouse's name". Duh, do I now have to change it to "Spouses Names"??

I asked if his family members, especially his wives all know about his HIV infection. Here goes...

Wife #1 (also mother to the daughter who accompanied Ramli): She knows, but has yet to go for testing. 4 children with this wife... all grown up and all know about his HIV.

Wife #2: Also 4 children with this wife, the youngest is 4. All the children are staying with him. I was quite concerned about the 4 year old, but I told them to just get the wife to go for testing, if she's negative, then no need to worry about the kids. The problem is, while the children are with him, the family doesn't know the whereabouts of the wife now. As such, they are unable to get her to go for testing.

Wife #3: No children. It is believed Ramli got HIV from this wife. The wife, a foreigner from a country north of Malaysia, was infected by her earlier husband, but did not inform Ramli about it. She just mentioned she had TB. And she died of TB. Habis cerita.

Wife #4: Of course she knows lah, it was during the mandatory pre-marital testing that Ramli found out he was HIV +ve. But she still married him anyway despite the HIV and the 3 earlier wives...


That was last year. Today was Ramli’s appointment at the HIV clinic again. This time his situation is different. Last time I saw him, he was still able to walk. Today he was on wheelchair (in fact I was told he’s already bedridden at home). Last time wife #1 & #4 still around, wife #2 missing and wife #3 died. Today even #1 and #4 dah cabut lari! I guess when you’re not loyal, nobody wants to be loyal to you too huh?

Today again he came accompanied by the same daughter who accompanied him the last time. Only difference is, his daughter is pregnant and is expected to deliver anytime soon.

SN referred this case to me again because Ramli’s younger children need help. That would be the 4 children from wife #2 – all of whom are still schooling.

With ALL his wives leaving him (except #3 who died, the rest asked for divorce… including #4 who earlier married him despite knowing of his HIV status), and Ramli being bedridden, who’s to take care of Ramli? Worse, wife #2 not only left Ramli, she left the children with him as well. So who’s taking care of the kids?

Thank goodness Ramli’s daughter from wife #1 is willing to take care of him AND her half sisters/brothers. But she’s not well to do herself – she’s not working and is financially dependent on her husband. And she will be having her own child soon, surely she’d need to spend more on her own child.

I will need to visit them at home first to do an assessment before I decide on anything. Whatever it is, the children must continue schooling. Whatever their parents did, they shouldn’t be deprived of basic education at the very least!