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

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

A day in my voluntary work…

By 9.30 this morning I was at the Buddies center, checking to see if there were any matters needing my attention. As I stepped into the office, I saw the treasurer’s file on the table. Ah, our treasurer must have been updating the accounts to report for tomorrow's board meeting. I opened the file and saw his note saying that the accounts for August didn’t balance. I then switched on the PC to check on the accounts (I had earlier on prepared and formatted everything when I was the treasurer before). Looked to me as though the accounts was balanced, so I thought maybe the treasurer managed to balance the accounts after he wrote that note. The only thing I noticed was that he had not included the FD interest.

I then sent a text message to the treasurer to inform him about the FD and also to print out the notes pages as well so we could have the breakdown of the accumulated funds. After a while he called, asking if I was busy and whether I could check out the accounts for him since he simply couldn’t balance it. When I asked him what he meant, he mentioned that the bank balance at the bank reconciliation statement did not tally with the bank balance as per the ledger.

So yeah, I took a look, and managed to correct it in 10 minutes. There was nothing wrong with the ledger or the accounts – it was his bank reconciliation statement that was wrong.

Meanwhile I noticed there was an incoming fax. It was regarding an exhibition to be held on 16th October. Initially it looked as though the documents were complete, but after looking at the fax cover sheet, there was supposed to be 7 pages altogether but I could only see 4. It was then that I noticed our fax machine had run out of paper. So, off I went to a nearby stationery shop to buy some fax rolls. I asked for 3 fax rolls, then asked for the receipt, then off I wanted to go back to the center. But I took just 2 steps and the guy who passed me the receipt asked, “Aih? Sudah bayar ka?”

Alamak, I forgot to pay! Hehehe, siap mintak receipt lepas tu selamba nak jalan keluar… adoi, so malufying! I apologised and paid. After getting my change, I apologised again. The guy then said, “Tak apa, sudah biasa kena ini macam.”

Back at the center, after putting in the fax roll into the fax machine, a text message came in on my handphone. It was from Amy. Remember Amy & Ramli? No, not Amy Search and not Ramli Sarip. Amy is Ramli’s daughter… and Ramli’s the guy who had 4 wives when he was well, with all leaving him after he got sick. (one of the wives died, the other 3 are still alive but decided to leave him as well). Now that Ramli is unable to even take care of himself, his children from wife #1 are taking over the responsibility to take care of him and his children from wife #2 who not only left him, but left her children as well with him!

With Amy (who is 21 years old) herself already married, just gave birth to her own child, and depending on her husband to support her, it definitely isn’t easy for her. Her husband doesn’t earn much, but he’s not complaining about having to support his wife’s younger siblings.

Since Ramli is unable to do or remember anything, any financial aid cannot be under Ramli’s name. Amy has to take over as the guardian to her younger siblings and so we suggested to her that she should open up a bank account so that all the financial aid can be directly credited into her account to make things easier. And since today was Ramli’s appointment at Ipoh GH, Amy had called me earlier asking if she could meet me to hand over the documents. I told her to text me once she reached the hospital so I could go over to meet her.

And so that’s what the text message I received was about… to tell me that she had just reached the hospital. I packed up my things, locked up the center, and off I went to the hospital. This time I was luckier… got myself a parking space much nearer to the specialist clinic.

As I reached the corridor outside the doctor’s room at the ID clinic, looking for Amy and her father, I simply couldn’t find them. I knew Ramli would probably be on a bed or stretcher as he is not able to sit for too long, so it would be obvious if he was already there. Instead I saw another familiar looking face… and after a while I realised it was Sharifah, my little Cek Mek’s mother! Wei, dah tembam!

Tak datang dengan Kak Ana ke hari ni?” I asked.

Dak.. hari ni mai teghuih sini dengan ayah tiri,” she said.

Ayah tiri did she say? Ah, so her mother must have remarried. The last time Sharifah would just describe the guy as “kawan mak”, this time it’s already “ayah tiri”.

We just had a short chat before I decided to call Amy to find out where she was. She was still outside at the registration counter. So I went out to meet her. Her father was lying down, and Amy had brought along her 3 month old son with her. Her husband just got back from photostating the documents I needed to help them apply for financial aid.

It was after 11 am by the time I settled the necessary with Amy. Next stop… the minimarket. It’s the end of the month – time to deliver groceries to the 2 families whose monthly groceries are sponsored by a club until the end of this year. Today I just went to send the list first so that by the time I go to the minimarket tomorrow, the things would be ready to be loaded into my car.

I got home just in time for lunch and decided to stay home for the rest of the day, doing my work at home.

So that was a day in my voluntary work… only for this day lah. I't’s not like this every day… sometimes I’d be busier, sometimes not busy at all.

Tomorrow and the day after? 2 deliveries and 2 meetings…

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

20, married, but already a single mother…

When Liza told me she’d be coming to Ipoh GH on 28th September for her appointment, I told her to bring the necessary supporting documents to help her apply for financial help for her child. I promised to meet up with her then. When she was first referred to us Buddies, I wasn’t on duty, so I had not met her personally.

Yesterday I sent Liza a text message asking what time she expected to reach Ipoh. Since she said she should be in Ipoh before 10 am, this morning when it was almost 10 am, I made a move from the Buddies center, heading to the hospital.

By 10.10 am, I was already at the O&G clinic, where Liza was supposed to be. I tried calling Liza, but there was no answer. I then sent a text message, there was no reply. We had never met each other before, so how was I to recognise her if she didn’t answer my calls or reply my messages? I tried looking around, trying to look for a young pregnant lady who came alone… there were quite a number of them. (well, some came with their husbands, but their husbands sat far away…)

10.35 am… there was still no reply from Liza. I decided to walk back to my car and maybe try to call her a bit later, maybe meet up with her after she was done with her appointment. I had already walked halfway when finally Liza’s text message came. Apparently she was a bit late this morning and when I called earlier she was in the bus and didn’t hear her phone ringing.

So I walked back to the O&G clinic, and called Liza again to find out which one was her. Again, my call wasn’t answered. By then I knew she was already there, so I sent her a message, telling her I was sitting near the big Malaysia flag, wearing a maroon colour tudung. After a while, finally Liza came over to me.

Liza, at 20, seemed a lot mature than her age. And I mean she looked and acted mature, not old. While many 20 year olds I know are still enjoying life out there, Liza had gone through a whole lot, and although officially she is not yet a single mother, in reality she already is.

Liza found out about her HIV at the age of 18, when she was pregnant with her first child. At that time, she was staying and working in KL and so her appointments too were in KL. While Liza was mature for her age, her husband, just one year older, was not. He was not responsible enough to stick to a proper job, and most of the time, it was Liza supporting the family. She takes her job responsibility seriously, as compared to her husband who went to work as he pleased, causing him to lose his jobs.

Liza didn’t mind. After the birth of their first child, Liza worked even harder to support the family. Her husband stayed home to look after their child. But usually if the breadwinner is the husband, and the wife stays home, the wife would be looking after the child, cleaning up the house, cooking, etc etc. In Liza’s case, since she was the breadwinner, and the husband was the one who stayed home to look after the child, that was about all he did… look after the child. (I guess women are better at multi-tasking huh?) By the time Liza got home, the house was in a mess and no food cooked. After a long tiring day in the office (and husband relaxing at home just “looking” after their child), the husband would complain if Liza decided to take a short rest.

Liza did complain that he was not helping out with the housework.

“Itu kan kerja orang perempuan?” said the husband.

“Habis tu yang cari rezeki untuk keluarga ni bukan kerja orang lelaki ke?” Liza snapped back.

Sometimes Liza wanted to do overtime to earn more income for the family since the husband was not working. But the husband wouldn’t let her. He wanted her to carry out what he said were her duties as his wife… to see to his needs!

In addition to that, the husband was also the jealous type. Very jealous. Whenever he fetched Liza back from work, sometimes he’d see Liza talking to some of her male colleagues.

Handsome boyfriend baru awak? Patutlah selalu nak buat overtime. Awak tu bini orang, jangan lupa.”

Personally I think he actually felt insecure. He knew he wasn’t doing his job as a good husband, but not wanting to admit it, he looked for Liza’s faults instead.

After a while, Liza got fed up. She filed for divorce. But before the case was called, her sisters-in-law coaxed her to give him a second chance. The husband promised to change.

Liza, still feeling some love for the husband, decided to give him a second chance. They moved to a new place. The husband did manage to get himself a job. Although by then they already knew about their HIV status, they did not practice safe sex. Liza got pregnant again. And the husband fouled up again, losing his job and leaving Liza as the sole breadwinner again. When Liza complained, this time he slapped Liza’s face.

Tangan pun dah naik tu saya tak tunggu dah lah kak,” said Liza to me while I took her out for lunch today after she was done with her appointment.

When one day her husband didn’t even come home, she decided there and then to leave him, and she went to stay with her sister. The sister was the one closest to Liza and the only one amongst the siblings who knew of Liza’s HIV. She and her husband had no problems having Liza stay with them. When Liza went out to work, the sister would take care of Liza’s child.

After a while, the sister’s mother-in-law coaxed them to move back to Perak as she needed her son to help her out. Liza followed them back to Perak (she grew up in Perak) but she felt it wasn’t appropriate for her to stay with her sister as the sister stays at her mother-in-law’s home. So Liza now stays with an aunt nearby. Liza’s parents had moved to a southern state since last year to stay with Liza’s eldest brother.

Only problem now is, Liza’s aunt doesn’t know of Liza’s HIV status even though she knew of Liza’s marital problems. And knowing the aunt as the kaypoh type, Liza certainly doesn’t want the aunt to know. Initially she found herself a job at a minimarket at a nearby town, but after the employer found out that she was pregnant, and not wanting to pay her for nothing when she goes on maternity leave, decided to terminate her employment before she was confirmed.

So Liza figured she might as well wait until she delivers before she attempts to find another job,

I asked Liza about staying at her brother’s house together with her parents. But Liza is reluctant because other than her closest sister, the rest of the family doesn’t know of her HIV. Liza and her sister did finally tell the mother, resulting in the mother not letting her prepare all the food at home for fear of the virus spreading to other members in the family. So nope, staying with her parents is not an option. At least not for the moment.

As far as possible Liza wants to move out before she delivers, because if after delivery she goes back to stay with the aunty, chances are there’d be lots of questions asked… especially when the aunty finds out that she won’t be breastfeeding the baby. Even as it is, the aunty is asking all sorts of questions why Liza needed to come to Ipoh for her appointments.

If possible Liza wants to move back to KL. She already knows her way around and she knows where to find openings to get herself a job after she delivers.

And Liza also plans to file for divorce after she delivers. If she has to go through life like a single mother, she might as well make it official.

Right now I need to ask around if there is a place for Liza to stay, at least temporarily until she can get herself a job.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

More Raya rounds

After visiting Sofie and Fuzi on Monday, Lin on Tuesday, clinic duty on Wednesday and visiting my new client Maya on Thursday, on Friday I decided to visit Shila and Rosnah. I don’t visit them on a regular basis, just once in a while. Shila had SMSed me earlier to say that she made a pair of glasses for her daughter Laila, and that it cost her RM280. Laila is under our sponsorship programme, and her sponsor had indicated to me earlier that if the girl needed anything extra, just inform her.

So reimbursing her for the RM280 shouldn’t be a problem, although I do feel the amount is a bit high if compared to the pair of glasses I made for Saiful, Sofie’s son, earlier. I only had to pay RM150 for Saiful’s glasses after I managed to coax the optician to give a discount as Saiful was from a poor family. The optician ended up charging just for the lenses, and giving the frame for free. And even if he had charged for the frame, he would only have charged RM230 for student rate.

But unlike Sofie who informed me before Saiful’s glasses were made (she couldn’t afford to pay first), Shila on the other hand only informed me after the glasses for Laila were done.

Ah, it was done anyway, so I just told Shila to hand me the receipt when I come over. And since Rosnah stays just nearby, I figured I might as well visit Rosnah’s family as well. Besides, I had promised Rosnah I’d give her the Family Day photos, which I had been keeping with me since last month.

After informing Shila that I’d be coming on Friday, I checked with Rosnah if anybody would be home on Friday. Rosnah would be at work, but she said her mother and daughter would be home. By Friday her daughter would have completed her UPSR and so she should be home.

Came Friday morning, first I went over to a minimarket to get hampers for the 2 families. The same hampers that I had bought for the 3 families earlier (didn’t buy hamper for Maya as I bought her groceries instead).

First up, Shila’s house. Since I needed to drop by my old office first to sign some documents, I decided to use the old road instead of the highway. Balik kampung season was over anyway, so it didn’t really matter which road I took.

Laila was at school, so it was just Shila and her 11 month old niece at home. Shila’s mother was still not back from her stall selling kuih.

Shila had given up on her ARV medication for some time now. No matter what we said to convince her that she shouldn’t stop her medication, nothing seemed to work. Shila came up with all sorts of excuses. Even SN from the HIV clinic had given up coaxing her. Now Shila doesn’t even go for her hospital appointments anymore.

At Shila’s house, I was served nasi himpit and kuah kacang. Knowing I was coming on Friday, Shila’s mother cooked them the night before.

After chatting with Shila for  a while, I headed over to Rosnah’s house. I knew Rosnah wasn’t home, but it shouldn’t be much of a problem because her mother knows me.

As I got to Rosnah’s house, the door was shut. I gave the salam, 3 times, but nobody answered, and nobody opened the door. So I just left the hamper near the door (it was quite hidden) and put the envelope of photos on top of it.

Just as I was about to reverse my car to leave, somebody opened the door. Rosnah’s mother finally opened the door when she thought she heard the sound of a car. She didn’t hear my salam earlier as she was in the kitchen and her washing machine was making even more noise.

Rosnah’s daughter was in school. Although UPSR was over, they had some programmes in school, so she still went to school.

After chatting for a while with Rosnah’s mother, I decided to make a move. Rosnah’s mother then told me to wait as she had wanted to give me something. Off she went to the kitchen and came out with a tupperware of rambutan jam she had made herself.

6 families in 5 days - I think that wrapped up my Raya rounds. I decided to just stay home over the weekend as I, and my car, needed a break. I have promised to meet up with 2 more clients this coming week, but they will be coming to Ipoh for their appointments, so I only need to go to Ipoh GH to meet them.

And since it’s almost the end of the month, by the end of the week it will be time for my grocery deliveries as well…

Thursday, 23 September 2010

So much for not wanting people to know…

When we first wanted to meet up with Roslan some time in July, he didn’t want us to visit him at home. It was so difficult to get him to even answer our calls or text messages, what more to allow us to visit him at home. He didn’t want our visit to cause curiosity amongst his neighbors, he said. He didn’t want them to find out that he had HIV, although we assured him we wouldn’t be mentioning anything about HIV.

We respected his wishes and arranged to meet outside, so we could arrange for financial help, particularly for his children’s schooling needs.

Since he didn’t bring along the supporting documents, we gave him the list of documents we needed and told him to bring along the photocopies of the documents on the last Tuesday of the month, when we were scheduled to go for our clinic duty in Taiping Hospital.

But on the last Tuesday of July when we planned to start our clinic duty in Taiping, the clinic was cancelled as the doctor had to go for a meeting elsewhere.

By mid-August, when a few of us arranged to visit another family in a nearby town, initially we wanted to meet up with Roslan again, to get the documents. But he never answered our calls, and neither did he reply our text messages. So we gave up since we were not supposed to visit him at home anyway.

But a few days later, a male colleague of mine who had been liaising with Roslan before this, received a text message from an unknown number. It was Roslan’s wife, saying that Roslan had died earlier in the month. My colleague then called to find out more, but the lady sounded quite distraught and didn’t really want to talk.

Sensing that she may not feel comfortable talking to a man, I took over the case. I started off by sending a text message saying who I was, then I called. Roslan’s wife, Maya, did sound like she was on the verge of crying, but she was willing to talk. Initially, when I asked if I could visit at home, she was quite reluctant. But when I asked if we could arrange to meet outside, she said she didn’t have any transport. Well yes, she has her late husband’s motorcycle, but she doesn’t have a license. The furthest she dared go on the motorcycle was to her children’s school nearby.

Maya was actually reluctant to allow me to visit her at home for the same reason her late husband refused to allow us earlier on. When I told her that I’d be going “biasa-biasa aje, naik kereta sendiri”, she finally agreed to let me visit.

I know in this case, I’d need to convince her that the visit would be discreet, so I decided to go alone. Besides, for first visits I prefer to go alone as usually I’d be able to get more info that way. When I bring another volunteer along, the new clients, especially the ladies, don’t seem to talk much.

But Maya stays in an unfamiliar territory to me, and since I couldn’t bring a friend along, I had to depend on Mrs G…


Well no, Maya’s kampong is not listed in my GPS. So what I’d usually do is I’d ask for the nearest landmark, possibly a school. In Maya’s case, since she said the furthest she dared ride her motorbike was to her children’s school, then the school shouldn’t be too far away. And yes, the school is listed in my GPS, so all I had to do was set the school as my destination.

I managed to get to the school without a hitch. Then I called Maya to get further directions. Apparently, the junction I had to take was the junction right after the school, just follow that road and find her house number. Sounds easy? Well yes, quite easy… but as I was driving into the kampong, I was praying hard that there wouldn’t be any cars heading out the opposite direction! You see, it was just a small kampong road with paddy fields on my right and a big drain on my left!

I finally found a mailbox with her house number, and her house was across the big drain. Maya was already waiting in front of her house. The titi (small bridge) in front of her house was not accessible by car. Maya then showed me a bridge that was accessible by car (the width ngam-ngam just nice for the car). Reversing all the way back wasn’t easy especially on such a small road. I then saw a small piece of land a bit further up where I could make a turn, so I took a turn there, only to find out that the ground was wet and soft… and when I wanted to reverse out, only the wheels turned, but the car didn’t move! Alamak! Would I have to make a scene and get the kampong folks to help me out? Keeping my cool, I maneuvered the car by taking a different angle, and this time I managed to get the car out (phew!), drove back to the titi and then on to Maya’s house.

Then only Maya told me, “Tanah tu dulu sawah kak. Sekarang depa nak buat surau… baru semalam tambak.” Adoi! No wonder la my car almost got stuck!

Anyway, Maya, a mother of 4 girls, age ranging from 7 to 13, told me of how she and her late husband had kept their HIV status only to themselves and their close family members. When Roslan died at home almost 2 months ago, initially, the kampong folks didn’t know anything about his HIV. Roslan looked normal, no skin disease or the likes for people to suspect anything. But then came the people from the health department, in their uniforms and in the Jabatan Kesihatan van, and making their presence felt by all and sundry. They even told the family members to go out to buy clorox, for those who were bathing the body to wear apron, boots etc. And all these they did in the open. No discretion at all.

In the end, all the kampong folks found out Roslan had AIDS. And Maya had to deal with questions like “Laki engkau dulu ada main perempuan ke?” and the likes.

No wonder Maya was reluctant to let me visit earlier. She probably thought I’d appear in a similar manner. But when I appeared today, alone, and in my own private car, Maya seemed comfortable with my presence, and was even willing to talk about everything, from day one when she was first diagnosed.

Right now Maya survives on her late husband’s savings. When her husband was still alive, she had totally depended on him to pay for the family’s needs. Now that she has to handle the money herself, she’s worried how long the savings will last. I asked about their main source of income.

Kerjakan bendanglah kak. Hasil dapat 2 kali setahun. Kena bayar sewa lagi sebab bendang tu sewa kat orang. Harapkan duit jual padi sajalah. Ikan, sayur saya tak risau sangat. Sayur boleh tanam kat belakang rumah. Ikan boleh cari dalam parit depan tu. Adalah ikan sepat, ikan puyu, ikan haruan pun boleh dapat. Tapi beras kena belilah.”

Beras kena beli?” I asked.

Ye lah, padi kami jual kat taukeh tu, senang sebab benih padi selalu kami beli dari dia, hutang. Bila jual padi kat dia, dia tolaklah hutang tu.”

Dia jual beras tak bagi harga murah sikit ke?”

Harga macam jual kat orang lain jugaklah kak.”

Sigh… I guess it will be difficult for her life to improve if her family continues that way. The only thing to ensure a better future for her children will be proper, undisrupted education.

And so, that’s what I will concentrate on – to help her children with their educational needs. The family obviously qualifies for our Children Education Fund. But if possible I want to arrange for sponsorship for the girls.

Whatever it is, I’ve already broken the ice with Maya. Except for the distance, there shouldn’t be any problem visiting or communicating with Maya after this. She seemed receptive enough, although I haven’t asked her yet if she’d mind me bringing along another volunteer during my next visit.

After getting all the necessary supporting documents from Maya (to help her apply for financial aid), and after finishing a plate of mee goreng and a cup of tea Maya served for me, off I headed home. This time, there was no longer a need for the GPS. It wasn’t hard to find the expressway…


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Clinic Duty and Raya Visit Round 2

I was on clinic duty again today, and this time I went a wee bit early with the hope of getting a proper parking space without having to go around the hospital a few rounds.

Well yes, I did get a proper parking space at a parking lot nearer to the Pusat Rawatan Harian, but much further to the specialist clinic where I was heading. But then, walking is a good form of exercise, no?

Immediately upon arrival I headed straight to the doctor’s room to check with the nurse if there were any new cases to be referred today. There were supposed to be three, but none of them were there yet. So I just waited at the usual room, took out my netbook computer and did some work. Meanwhile I also observed the PLHIVs being counseled about their ARV by the pharmacists with whom we were sharing the room.

At one time a lady came in with her 7 year old son. While the mother sat at the table where the pharmacists were, the son was more interested to sit at the chair beside mine, since I was at that time using my netbook computer.

Boy: “I want to play your computer can or not?”

Me: “Cannot, I want to do some work.”

Boy: “Got game or not? I want to play.”

Me: “No, no game. I use this computer to work, not to play.”

Boy: “I press ah?” (then put his fingers on the enter key)

Me: “Don’t. I want to work, ok?”

Boy: “If I press, then?”

Me: (make donno)

Boy: “If I press, THEN WHAAAT?” (then he started pressing a few keys on the keyboard)

I gave him my usually deadly stare, but it didn’t seem to work with him. Luckily the pharmacists were done counseling his mother, it was time for them to leave the room. But before they left, the boy pointed to my tudung and said, “Why you wear like that one? Take out la!”

Aiyo, this boy… luckily his mother is not one of our clients, otherwise whoever becomes the buddy would probably have their patience tested whenever he/she visits them at their home!

Anyway, although there were supposed to be 3 new cases, only 2 came. One, a young Malay guy, an ex-IVDU. Although it was his first appointment at Ipoh GH, his case wasn’t really a new case. He had earlier done his follow-ups in KL and only recently moved to Perak and had his appointments transferred to Ipoh. So, there was not much I needed to explain to him as he had already gone through all the explanations before.

The other case was of a single Chinese lady in her thirties. She went to do her full blood tests recently, and it was then she found out that she had been infected. She suspects she must have got infected by her previous boyfriend as she couldn’t think of any other way she could have been infected.


Yesterday I went for round 2 of my raya visits. The 3rd family on my list… Lin’s. I had already bought 3 hampers on Monday, one delivered to Fuzi, one to Sofie, and the 3rd one was meant for Lin. This time I decided to go in the morning. As I reached her house at about 10 am, her 2nd daughter (the one studying medic overseas) was outside hanging her laundry.

Baru mandi ke?”, I asked.

Hehe… belum lagi pun!” she replied, and then went inside for her bath.

Only 2 of Lin’s 6 children were home. No. 1 and no.3 were back in Klang Valley where they’re currently studying. No. 5 and 6 were in school. No. 2, the daughter whom I met oustide, is due to go back overseas soon. No. 4, Lin’s 18 year old son, was all ready to go to work, but he was waiting for his boss to come fetch him. (Waaah, class gitu, nak pergi kerja boss yang datang ambik!)

While Lin’s first 3 daughters did quite well in their studies, her son didn’t seem to do well. When he was in form 5, he was more interested to lepak with his friends. Lin had quite a tough time trying to discipline this son. But I was happy to note that the boy had improved quite a lot in his attitude. Despite not doing too well in his SPM, he managed to get a job and seemed keen. Maybe he has finally found something that interests him. And unlike during my previous visits when he’d just stay away, this time he was more talkative. Hmmm… big improvement I must say. His other siblings had always welcomed me to their home, and now with the changes I see in this boy, I felt even more comfortable visiting them.

Lin had been working hard during fasting month, sewing clothes especially for neighbors. In fact, some were begging her to do some last minute alterations, or to accept last minute orders.

With her no. 1 and 3 expected to finish their studies by next year, I believe Lin’s financial worries should be over in the near future. Her first 3 daughters had always been supportive of her all along and after knowing them for more than a year, I believe they will help their mother and younger siblings financially once they can get themselves a job. I look forward to the day when Lin’s wellbeing is taken care by her children instead of her having to worry about their wellbeing.


Tomorrow I plan to visit another family, and on Friday 2 more families…

Monday, 20 September 2010

Raya visits – Round 1

After completing an additional 6 days of fasting last week, and a trip to KL over the weekend to attend my niece’s engagement ceremony, today I finally got back into my normal voluntary work mode, although initially earlier in the morning I wasn’t really sure if I’d be starting my Raya rounds today. You see, I just came back from KL last night, and this morning it was raining, so yep, the lazy bug did try to convince me to stay home for an additional day of break.

However by 11 am the sun was out, and knowing that I’d need to start mobilizing myself before I got too lazy, I decided to visit Fuzi’s and Sofie’s family in the afternoon. Sofie’s kids had earlier on invited me to come to their house for Raya, and I promised I’d do so after I completed my puasa enam, and so today was just the right time to visit them. Fuzi’s house is just on the way, I might as well drop by her house as well.

And so after my zohor prayer today, off I went… first, to a minimarket to get some hampers. Some blog readers/facebook friends had given me some cash to be distributed to the HIV families under me – some to be given as duit raya (to the single mothers and to the children as well) and some to buy whatever suitable. As in previous years, the kids had always been excited when I brought hampers for them. It didn’t matter that I bought the inexpensive hampers.


First up, Fuzi’s house. The moment I gave the signal to turn right to her house, my first reaction was… WAAA… RUMAH RAYA!! New paint!

Fuzi had been saving some money from her monthly aid to buy baju raya for her kids, but during Ramadhan, her kids, being orphans, were chosen by a political organisation to be brought to a supermarket together with some other kids to shop for their baju raya. So, the money that Fuzi had been saving to buy baju raya, she used to buy some paint instead, and they ended up painting the house themselves.

Anyway, it was good to note that Hafiz, Fuzi’s 12 year old son, who used to be very naughty and was always out with friends, prefers to stay home a lot more now. He will be sitting for his UPSR beginning tomorrow. Hopefully he will be able to do well.

After munching some raya cookies and finishing the glass of drink prepared by Wina, Fuzi’s eldest daughter, I headed off to my next destination… Sofie’s house. Sofie’s son, Saiful, too will sit for his UPSR tomorrow.

Ahh, the right time to visit the 2 families, to at least give some words of encouragement to both Hafiz and Saiful; although when I planned to visit them, it didn’t really come to my mind that both families had children sitting for UPSR.

My visit to Sofie’s was also just in time before she moves to another house tomorrow. She was just about to tell her sister to inform me about it when she received my text message this morning saying I’d be coming.

Yes, Sofie had been wanting to move to another house earlier on because the whole neighborhood knows about her HIV (courtesy of her mulut becok sister who had been spreading the news around the kampong) but decided to postpone it until Saiful completes his UPSR. She figured she might as well wait until the end of the year so she can arrange to change their schools as well. Besides, she felt financially she wasn’t ready. The present house is rented at RM150 per month while the rental rate of all other houses she had been enquiring were at least RM250 per month.

However, beginning the end of Ramadhan, Sofie’s other sister, Norma, had come to stay with her. Norma, who used to stay up north, had been the one most supportive of Sofie. Whenever she heard that Sofie was unwell, she’d ride her motorbike from all the way up north just to check on her sister. A vast difference from the mulut becok sister who stays in the same neighborhood.

Well, Norma now is separated from her husband, and she has decided to come and stay with Sofie. She had been staying with Sofie since a few days before Raya.

So, what made Sofie change her mind about moving house? And more so, why is she moving tomorrow when UPSR is to start?

You see, in addition to having the whole neighborhood know about her HIV, the house she’s staying in tend to get flooded whenever there’s heavy rain. No, not the whole neighborhood, just her house. Worse, the septic tank outside her house had been full for some time and Sofie had informed her landlord a few times. But the landlord refused to do anything. On the first day of Raya this year, the same thing happened. Imagine having dirty water (including those overflowing from her septic tank) in the kitchen. Yucks!

Again Sofie informed the landlord. And all the landlord could say was to tell her to just use buckets or pails to clear the water out of the kitchen! Sheeesh!

Sofie got fed-up, so did Norma. They both decided to look for another house, with Norma agreeing to share the rental and deposit. Off they went searching, and over the weekend, they managed to find a house in a nearby town at a rate of RM250 per month. Although the place is a bit further for the children to go to school, it was still accessible within 30 minutes by car/motorbike/bus. Sofie or Norma would be sending/fetching the children to/from school with their motorbikes until school session for the year ends. After that, she’ll arrange for the children to be transferred to schools nearer to their new house.

Once they settle down, Sofie intends to set up a small stall selling kuih or burger near her place, beside the main road.

That’s one thing I like about Sofie, no matter what kind of hardship she has to go through, she’s always thinking of something to earn her own income instead of depending on financial aid all the time.

Well, looks like my next visit at the end of the month to deliver groceries will be to her new home…

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

So, what has been happening during my break?

I’ve been taking a break from my voluntary work one week before Raya. I figured I needed to spend more time at home for my own Raya preparations.

A few things happened during my break…

A new client was assigned to me, a pregnant 20 year old who already has a 2 year old child and now separated from her husband. I didn’t call her immediately as I figured there was no urgency in her case. So I just sent her a text message informing her I’d be calling her after Raya.

A trainee volunteer contacted me to say that one of his best friends had been diagnosed HIV+ and although he had spoken to the friend, he also suggested that it’s better if we could go and visit personally. But the friend stays outside of Ipoh and I simply didn’t have the time to go and visit. So I told the trainee volunteer that whatever it is, he’d have to wait until after Raya.

Another PLHIV, Wani, the lady whom I’ve been helping to get orders for some Raya cookies, was hospitalised and was even warded at the ICU. When her buddy informed me about it, I simply had too many things to do by then and couldn’t find the time to visit.

Yesterday the lady in charge of a shelter home up north where we had arranged to send a PLHIV in July this year, called me up to say that they had to send the guy to the hospital as his condition had deteriorated. She had tried to call the friends who brought him there but her calls didn’t get through. Well, I tried calling after that, but I couldn’t get them either. So I just sent a text message, hoping the friend would read it.

This morning, the lady at the shelter home called again, this time to inform me that the PLHIV had passed away early this morning. Since neither one of us could get hold of the friends, we left it to the person in charge at the hospital to arrange for his burial.

Today is the 5th day of raya, and although I’ve gone to the Buddies center today to check if there were any matters needing my attention, I haven’t started with my house visits yet. I hope to start with my rounds next week, after I complete my puasa enam and after I come back from KL on Sunday.

However this morning I decided to call and talk to my new client, Liza, the young pregnant lady; and also Wani, the one who was hospitalised just before raya.

My first call to Liza was not answered. So I called Wani to check if she was still at the hospital. When her husband answered the call, I thought maybe Wani was still in the ward. But he then passed the phone to Wani and she told me that she had just been discharged yesterday. Aah… so she had to spend Raya in the hospital. The fact that she had been discharged was good news enough for me, considering the fact that she was actually placed in ICU for a few days.

I still needed to get hold of Liza. She didn’t reply the SMS I sent her before Raya, and this morning she didn’t answer my call. In fact it sounded as though she purposely ended the call. Maybe she didn’t want me to contact her? Or maybe she wasn’t sure whether or not to respond? I decided to try one last resort… sending her another text message – this time telling her that I’m trying to arrange for assistance for her children and asking her to contact me.

It worked. She immediately replied my SMS saying, “Sory, sy x dgr bunyi hp td.” This time I called, and she answered immediately. She is 6 months pregnant, has a 2 year old boy, separated from her husband. She’s due to deliver in November and after that she will proceed with her divorce. Apparently she had earlier filed for divorce, but her husband promised to change, and she decided to give him a chance and withdrew the case. But nope, things don’t seem to work out. Liza now no longer works, and for the moment survives on her savings to support herself and her son. She’s hoping to get a job after she delivers.

I told Liza I’d need her to sign the necessary forms and pass me some supporting documents. Since she needs to come for her hospital appointment at the end of this month, I told her I’d meet her then. So yep, for more details on Liza’s case, we’d have to wait until I meet her later this month.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Seloka Hari Raya Buat Sahabat Semua

Pi Bani menunggang unta
Namun hanya mimpinya cuma
Ramadhan kini meninggalkan kita
Tiba masanya Syawal menjelma

Ayak tepung nak buat biskut
Dimakan nanti di hari raya
Balik kampung jangan memecut
Berhati-hati di jalanraya

Pergi pekan naik landrover
Berbaju raya berbunga-bunga
Beraya sakan janganlah over
Lepas raya nanti ternganga

Makan mihun ditambah lada
Dah tambah lada pedas terasa
Sepanjang tahun bergurau senda
Mungkin ada terkasar bahasa

Ayah bonda nun di desa
Tetap di hati walau jauh di mata
Andai ada terkasar bahasa
Setulus hati maaf dipinta

Pakai kebaya naik lori
Beli daun palas di pasar tani
Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri
Ucapan ikhlas dari Pi Bani


Bersopan santun berkain belah
Dah baca pantun balas-balaslah...

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Another pregnant one?

After completing my Ramadhan rounds, I decided to take a short break from my voluntary work. By that, I meant a temporary break from visiting my clients. I still go to the Buddies center to check on outstanding admin matters, and since it is the beginning of the month, there were cheques to be signed as well (including my own claims).

Last Wednesday was the first time my 2 former clinic team mates were left on their own to handle clinic duty. By 2pm, they were already sending reports to me via SMS informing me of 2 new cases referred to us that day…

One male, ex-convict, no buddies assigned.

One young female, needs a buddy, but my two colleagues weren’t sure whom to assign as the buddy.

Hmmm… after reading through the contact report, looks like it’s not that they weren’t sure whom to assign as the buddy, but it’s just that they’re not sure if they should assign any more new cases to me.

Facts of the new case: young Malay lady, 20 year old, pregnant, separated from husband, not working, may need a a suitable place to stay after delivery. Sounds like the typical case that’s usually assigned to… ME!

Well, she’s due to deliver in 3 months time… didn’t sound like there is any urgency. So, I think I will follow up after raya. A break is still a break…

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Ramadhan visits completed!

With Monday’s visit to Lin’s house and Tuesday’s visit to Sofie’s house to deliver their sponsored monthly groceries, I have completed my Ramadhan visits for this year, alhamdulillah!

While I would have loved to include a few more clients into my schedule, I think I did well enough to cover the homes of 9 clients, meeting 2 other clients outside, and for a few others who stay a bit further, although I didn’t get to visit them, I did manage to disburse some of the money given to me by friends who sought my favour to distribute the money to deserving families. So yes, the few who deserved help but I wasn’t able to visit, I just transferred the money into their bank account to fulfill the requests of the donors.

So whom did I get to visit?

3 new clients… Ina, the Orang Asli; Rajan, the guy who got critically injured after an accident; and Riz, wife to Jeff, the guy on methadone treatment.

It’s still too early for me to observe much about these families, although I do have some basic idea on who should get what kind of help. For Jeff & Riz for example, we cannot help them with our Children Education Fund (CEF), and neither can we help them to apply for MAF’s Pediatric Aids Funds (PAF), as the couple don’t have any children. Helping them with cash or to help them apply for welfare aid may also be a problem, as Jeff is still on methadone. He may use the money for something else. So I just told them that if I do get contributions of groceries for example, I may consider distributing some to them, as I did during my last visit.

For Ina, the Orang Asli, I will definitely help her to apply for the PAF, but since none of her children are schooling, although 3 of them should (aged 14, 13 and 12). I did however, appeal to her to make sure her 6 year old goes to school next year. When that happens, then I may consider her for our CEF.

As for Rajan, well he does deserve help, and from what I gathered, so far he’s doing okay with all the help he’s getting including from Socso and welfare. In addition, he had already submitted applications to his children’s respective schools, asking for financial assistance. That doesn’t mean we will not help them. We will still help them to apply for PAF, and if need be, even our CEF.

The others I visited were old clients:

Fuzi: the Indonesian lady with 5 kids. She used to bother me with all sorts of problems, but although she is still not working (she has to renew her visa every year to ensure that she can stay here legally with her Malaysian children; maybe it will be easier when she can get her PR status), at least now she no longer complains. I gave her a piece of my mind when she started expecting me to help her with every single problem, giving the excuse that being a non-citizen, nobody would listen to her. Well, maybe so, but the least she could have done was to TRY! But anyway, Fuzi’s children are under our education sponsorship programme, and the 2 older girls seem to be doing quite well in school.

Mrs K: the one who’s always trying to borrow money, saying she’d repay by a certain month, but by the way things looked, chances are when the time comes to pay up, she’d be borrowing from someone else. Despite the fact that I never lend my money to her, she kept on trying. I just have to be firm for cases like these. When I visited, I just brought along some groceries, no cash. Besides, both Mr & Mrs K are working. They may not earn much, but if they manage their finances well, they should be okay. But with Mrs K suspecting that her husband is back into drugs, it’s a bit tough. As a matter of fact, the motorcycle they bought when Mr K managed to withdraw his EPF 2 years ago, had been sold by Mr K when Mrs K was in KL looking after her youngest daughter when the little girl had to undergo a heart surgery. Sigh…

Zainab: the sole breadwinner in her family although she’s not a single mother. Her husband, Zaki, is capable of working, and did manage to get jobs, but each time, he’d come up with all sorts to excuses to quit. Letihlah jauhlah… work colleagues tak best lah… oh dear, so the whole family has to depend on Zainab’s meager income to survive. Zaki too had tried to borrow money from me before, saying he needed to pay for utilities etc. I think he did so without Zainab’s knowledge. I didn’t tell Zainab about it though.

Aini: she was somebody else’s client. But that volunteer had just left, and since Aini’s children are all under sponsorship, for the moment I’m keeping in touch with her. Aini’s eldest daughter is doing quite well in school, but the boys don’t seem to be doing as well, although they are rather active in sports.

Lin: Mr Darling’s ex wife. Although her ex did try to coax her into remarrying him, Lin was firm in her decision. Enough is enough. Her 3 older daughters had been very supportive of her (not financially though, they are all still studying in higher learning institutions). With 6 children to support, and an alimony of a measly RM300 from her ex, it is not easy for Lin, especially since she doesn’t have a job and there’s a house rental of RM200 to be paid. Her 2 youngest children are under our sponsorship programme, although academically they are not doing as well as the 3 older girls… probably affected by the circumstances involving their parents. Well, although Lin needs help now, I foresee a better future for the family. In 3 or 4 years time, her daughters will be working, insyaAllah. With one now doing nursing, the second one taking up medic, and the third doing business studies, I believe the girls will support their mother.

Sofie: who has improved by leaps and bounds from the time I was first introduced to her last year. Last year, she was too weak to even sit down when I went to visit her. Now, although she is getting financial help here and there, Sofie tries her very best to be as independent as possible. She’s still not fit to work outside, so she now sells kuih. At least she gets some self-earned income rather than simply waiting for financial aid to come in. That’s what I like about Sofie – despite getting financial aid, she doesn’t feel comfortable depending too much on it. Very unlike some people, who’d come out with every excuse they can think of, not to work…

Other than the above visits, I did get to meet Maria and Wani. I met Maria by chance at the hospital when I was on clinic duty. Her appointment with the doctor so happened to be on the same day. Maria is not one of those who need financial help. Her husband works, and her children are doing okay. Initially when I first met her, all she needed was moral and emotional support. In fact at one time, she cried so much and had even wanted to run away from home right in the middle of the night. But she seem to be a whole lot better now. Although she still has problems from time to time, she no longer sends me text messages in the middle of the night.

Wani, whose boys are also under our sponsorship programme, takes the opportunity to earn some extra income by helping out a friend/neighbor baking cookies for Raya. She earns RM10 a day, and in addition, gets a commission of RM2 per container for every order she gets. I helped her out by getting orders for 12 containers. Although she doesn’t earn much, she still felt guilty about taking the whole commission for herself when I was the one who got the orders for her. So she offered to share the commission 50:50 with me. I told her the only reason I took the orders was I wanted to help her. Otherwise, ‘sales’ is not my line! So I told her to keep the whole amount as she needs it more than I do.

For the other clients like Aza, who stays further up north, I just banked in the contribution by donors into her bank account. Likewise for another orang asli lady, Wan, and also Hana, whose area I was not able to cover during Ramadhan, so again, the best thing for me to do was to bank in the money into their account. Being the coordinator for the sponsorship account, I have the bank account numbers of all clients whose children are under the programme.

At least now I have got the contributions from donors distributed to as many clients as possible. On behalf of all the families, I would like to thank all donors for their contribution, whether in cash or in kind. God bless you all!