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 November 2011

Back-to-school shopping : Round 1


Yes, it’s that time of the year again! When I went to a hypermarket last week to buy some groceries for my own household needs, I noticed they had just started their back-to-school promotion. Immediately I thought I’d better start off with my yearly shopping for the schooling needs of the children from various families covered either by our Education Sponsorship programme or our Children Education Fund.

Since I needed to visit Sofie this week anyway to deliver some groceries and to get the supporting documents needed to register her son Azman for the culinary school in Ipoh, I figured I might as well start off with her family first. She stays out of Ipoh and I didn’t want to end up having to visit her separately for each purpose.

Fuzi had mentioned to me before that last year because we went quite late nearing the end of the school holidays, there weren’t much choice left for her children. I decided to put her family second on the list for my back-to-school shopping for this year.

On Monday I sent text messages to both Sofie & Fuzi – to inform Sofie that I’d be coming on Wednesday and to inform Fuzi that I’d be coming on Thursday. No questions whatsoever from Sofie but Fuzi called me this morning to ask again when I’d be taking them shopping, although it was clearly stated in the SMS I sent. “Tak awal sangat ke kak?” Duh! She was the one who complained that last year I brought them a wee bit late, now she’s saying it’s too early? I told her the back-to-school sales had already begun and I wanted to settle things early.

Today, after zuhr, I went off to Sofie’s house. I did arrive earlier than promised, and so none of them were ready when I got there. Ika and Saiful were watching TV while Azman was outside somewhere. While the 2 younger kids got ready, I checked all the documents to be submitted to the culinary school for Azman. Thank goodness I checked, he hadn’t even signed the form! Initially Azman wanted to just follow us shopping but just as his siblings got ready, he decided to just stay home. For the moment, while waiting for his PMR results, he works as a helper at a food stall to earn some income.

Only Sofie, Ika & Saiful came with me to a supermarket in town to buy their schooling needs. On the way, Sofie showed me where she usually sets up her stall selling nasi lemak and kuih. Oh yes, she has already started her small business after getting some help under the Welfare Department’s e-Kasih programme. She starts selling at 7am and closes up by 11 or 11.30 am, and gets about RM30 – RM40 a day. Alhamdulillah. That’s a good enough start for someone who 2 years ago was bed-ridden and looked like she was already dying.

Anyway, this time, having to buy schooling needs for only 2 of her children, the bill still came up to almost RM500. Wow, things sure are expensive, aren’t they. I didn’t want to end up buying different stuff in different shops, so everything were bought at the same supermarket, regardless of whether I could get some of the stuff cheaper elsewhere. I didn’t have time for all that. According to Sofie, if she had to buy the things on her own, she’d probably buy poor quality materials at much cheaper prices, although they don’t usually last long. And usually she’d buy one thing at a time – depending on how much she has in her hands.

Tomorrow I will be fetching Fuzi and her children for their back-to-school shopping. This time around, Iwan, her youngest, will get some stuff for himself as well since he will finally be going to a kindergarten next year. Usually he’d just watch his siblings choose their schooling needs, this time he’d get to choose at least a pair of shoes and a school bag for himself. I bet right now he must be really excited…


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Down, but not out…

3 cases were referred to me during yesterday’s clinic duty. However, one particular case really stood out, to me, at least. Why? Because based on this lady’s condition, I was expecting someone who’d be feeling really sorry for herself and who’d expect to live totally on other people’s help.

When SN came into the room, pushing a lady on a wheelchair, at first I didn’t realise the lady didn’t have one leg. She was wearing a batik sarong and I was looking at her face instead of the whole body. I knew this had to be an exceptional case because since SN now has 2 assistants, usually either one of the assistants would be accompanying the patients to the counselling room. This time SN herself came to explain the case to me as this lady really needed all the help she could get.

Sarojini had her left leg recently amputated – right up to her thighs. She’s still married, but her husband, who works as a lorry driver felt that since he was not able to take care of her, decided to send her temporarily to a welfare home. Their 4 children have been sent to another shelter home for children in another town.

Imagine having had her left leg amputated, and finding out at the same time that she had HIV – wow! I wouldn’t be surprised if she gave up on life.

But nope, Sarojini has the strength and determination which I truly admire. No doubt she’s worried – not so much about herself, but about the future of her children. Apparently her husband was not the type whom she could depend on to take care of their children.

Dia tada suka balik rumah la akka. Dia mau keluar enjoy sama kawan-kawan saja.”

Oh dear, no wonder she was sent to a welfare home. It’s not so much that he could not take care of her at home, I don’t think he was even willing to go through all the trouble. He comes home only as and when he likes and not even bothered to visit the children at the shelter home.

Sarojini, of course, in her condition, had not been able to visit her children either. But she makes it a point to call them every week without fail to speak to each and every single one of them.

Now, without one leg, Sarojini is determined to get out of the welfare home as soon as possible and get her children to stay with her again. She is determined to live on and earn a living for the sake of her children. She may have lost a leg, but as she said, “Saya punya tangan masih boleh jahit la akka. Kalau saya tada kerja, saya punya anak mau makan apa? Mau sekolah macam mana?”

Wow! I truly admire her determination. I know of people without any physical handicap who’d go round asking for financial assistance – giving all sorts of excuses why they can’t work.

Of course, at this very moment Sarojini needs help. First thing is to help her apply for all the available sources of income like welfare aid and socso. Once she can get a fixed monthly income, then only can she move out of the welfare home, and get her kids out of the shelter home to stay with her again. Then we’d need to ensure her children gets all the necessary schooling assistance. And since she mentioned she can sew and plans to do tailoring work to earn her own income, hopefully after a while she’d be able to earn enough to feed her family. Meanwhile, we will try to source for monthly groceries to be delivered to her.

I could see tears in Sarojini’s eyes when I assured her that we’d be helping her out especially pertaining to her children’s education.

Terima kasih banyak akka. Sekarang saya tada susah hati, ada orang mau tolong saya punya anak. Kalau saya mati pun dia orang mesti mau terus sekolah.”

Hang in there lady. We are more than willing to help those who are willing to take the effort to improve their lives despite all the trials and tribulations. You may be down right now, but definitely not out yet…


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Updates here & there…

While I was visiting Nasya at her home last Friday, a call came in from a number not registered in my handphone. From the number, I figured it could be from one of the government agencies. True enough, the call from an officer of the Welfare Department.

He asked me to confirm if Buddies would be sending anyone for the welfare grant cheque presentation in Batu Gajah the next day. Huh? He thought I would have at least heard about it. I had no clue whatsoever since we didn’t get any letter. Anyway, he asked if we could send 2 reps, but since it was such short notice I could only confirm that I’d be representing Buddies.

And so yes, on Saturday I went over for the function officiated by the deputy minister for Kementerian Pembangunan Wanita, Keluarga & Masyarakat; and alhamdulillah additional funds for Buddies. The year 2011 had definitely been a good year for Buddies in terms of fundings.


On Sunday, a text message came in from an unfamiliar number -

Salam. Anak saya dpt 5A. Klu dpt masuk asrama penuh camne?”

No names mentioned in the message and I didn’t have a clue who it was from. I wasn’t about to answer the question without even knowing who I was responding to, and so I had to ask first who that person was. Apparently the message was from Maya but the number was not listed in my handphone because she was using her husband’s phone. Remember Maya? The lady who, after her iddah was over, married her late husband’s younger brother, knowing pretty well she was HIV positive. Her late husband’s family thought it was their responsibility to take care of Maya’s well being since it was their family member who infected Maya with HIV. And since the younger brother was single and willing, he agreed to marry Maya.

Good to know that her daughter did well for her UPSR. Maya was worried that if the daughter gets offered to go to a residential school, they may not be able to fork out the expenses involved. The girl is under our sponsorship programme, so I told Maya not to worry about it. I personally really love to help out in cases involving children’s education, especially when I see the children themselves showing an interest in their education.


On Monday morning, after my usual gardening routine, I realised there was another text message on my handphone, from another unfamiliar number. It started off with “Buat kehadapan mama fizah yg diingati…”

Huh?? Mama Fizah?? Couldn’t recall anyone ever calling me mama! I read on and finally I figured out that the sender of the message was Anita. As far as I could recall she used to call me Kak. It was the lady at the temporary shelter home that she called mama. Of course, age-wise she’s young enough to be my daughter but she never did call me mama before.

Anita now stays with her sister. Am not sure if she has already managed to get an identity card for herself or a birth cert for her son. We tried to help her before but she always came out with all sorts of excuses when we asked her to get her sisters to help get some supporting documents. She’s back with her own sisters now, I do hope they will do something (if they haven’t already) about her IC and her son’s birth cert.


Last night Mrs K sent a text message asking if her children will be getting any help for next year’s schooling. I told her that we still help out when it comes to children education. As always, Mrs K would always come up with even more questions – will they get bus fares, can she send the 2nd daughter for this, can she send the youngest daughter for that. This time I didn’t bother to reply. If I replied, she’d probably think of something else to ask and may even ask for additional help which has nothing to do with her children’s education. I will get to her when her turn comes.


Tomorrow I will be on clinic duty again. This time I won’t be alone. A new trainee volunteer, a PLHIV himself, has agreed to join me for tomorrow’s clinic…

Friday, 18 November 2011

Another child…

When our sole volunteer in Taiping alerted me about a girl whose parents died of HIV related illnesses, and who herself had been suffering from various ailments, the volunteer wasn’t sure when I asked if the girl was HIV+ or if she had ever been tested for HIV. The volunteer herself got the news from somebody else. I told her to try get more details, and if possible, to visit the girl.

So she went to visit and amongst the details she got was that the girl had indeed been tested HIV+ and was already regularly going for treatment at the paed’s clinic. Since it was a paed’s case, it was never referred to us as cases in Taiping referred to us were only from the adults clinic. Was told that the girl’s HIV status was known to all and sundry in the kampong as her case was highlighted in a tabloid paper. Guess the reporter was trying to highlight the girl’s sad story and to add more impact to the story, even the girl’s HIV status was disclosed.

What bothered me most was the fact that the girl was no longer schooling. My colleague wasn’t able to give me a clear answer as to why the girl stopped going to school… was it because her HIV status had been known to all… or was it because of her illness? How can we help the girl?

I needed to know more. So I told my colleague to arrange for another visit – this time I myself wanted to join the visit.

Since it was my colleague’s off day from work today, we decided to pay the girl a visit. There was another couple sitting outside chatting with the girl’s grandma when we got there, but since the girl’s status was known to all, I wasn’t too worried about confidentiality. I found out that the couple were relatives anyway, and the grandma even invited us to sit together with the couple. The girl, Nasya, 13, did come out to salam with us. At one glance she looked okay.

I started chatting with the grandma and was told that since the girl seemed to be doing a whole lot better now, they were thinking of sending her back to school beginning next year. Apparently the girl went to school only up to standard 6, sat for her UPSR but after that she had to be hospitalised for whatever ailments and they never even went to get her UPSR results from school. Until now, they don’t know her results.

According to the grandma, Nasya stopped going to school when she was hospitalised and even after she was discharged, she had difficulty walking. She had to go to the hospital quite regularly and at one time even had to be referred to Ipoh GH when her condition worsened. I couldn’t really tell what her ailments were based on my conversation with the grandma, but it probably was somewhat related to some kind of brain infection, which I have seen quite often amongst the HIV cases referred.

The doctor had to change her to a new line of ARV which seemed to work better for her. She seemed a lot better now although not fully recovered. Although at one glance she looked okay, when we observed her walk, she wasn’t really back to normal. And according to the grandma, Nasya tends to forget certain things. And when we asked her to write, she was slow. even when writing her own name. When we asked her to write her address as well, she forgot. And she even had problems reading.

I don’t think it would be a good idea sending her to a normal school. She won’t be able to cope.  And she’d probably end up not learning anything. We figured it would probably be better if she goes to Sekolah Pendidikan Khas. The grandma did agree with me but said that since Nasya’s aunt was the one who had been arranging this and that for Nasya, she’d have to discuss the matter with the aunt first. I told the grandma that if they needed help in the registration etc, we are willing to help out.

I understand Nasya will have to be registered as an OKU before she can be accepted into such schools. Maybe we’d also need to discuss the matter with the doctor handling her case before taking the next step.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Another problem not settled yet

Fuzi sent me a text message last week, asking if it was okay for her to buy reference books for her eldest daughter, Wina, who will be sitting for her SPM next year. Amongst all the children of the PLHIV families under my care, Wina is the one who takes her schooling very seriously. She’s the one who asks for tuition, and she’s the one who wants those reference books.

I told Fuzi to wait for me to visit them so I could get more details on the subjects Wina is taking. I can probably get used reference books from my friends whose children have sat for their SPM and who no longer have anyone to hand down the books to.

So today, after getting supplies of groceries at a hypermarket, I immediately headed to Fuzi’s house. The moment I got to her house & honked, it was her youngest son Iwan who opened the door, smiling as sweetly as ever. He then came out together with his mother to help unload the groceries from my car.

Fuzi’s eldest daughter, Wina, 16, and eldest son, Hafiz, 13 were also home. The other 2 children including Ijam, the HIV+ boy, were in school. I brought along with me a bag of scarves given by SN. SN was no longer using those type of scarves and so she gave them to me so I could distribute them to the poor HIV families. Fuzi and Wina were happy to choose a few from the plastic bag.

Anyway, I told Wina I’d try to get the SPM reference books for her. I noted down the subjects she’s taking. Although Wina is under our sponsorship programme, no point buying reference books if we can get some for free. Might as well utilise the sponsorship money to cover for her tuition fees.

Fuzi’s problem now is that she’s still unable to apply for PR status for herself. Earlier on she was told that foreigners married to Malaysians can apply for PR status after 5 years. Fuzi had been staying in Malaysia since she got married 17 years ago. But when she went recently, she was told the rule doesn’t apply to widows. She couldn’t apply for PR back then when her husband was still alive because he never bothered to register their marriage here (they were married in Narathiwat).

After her husband’s death, Fuzi had all sorts of problems trying to get Malaysian identity cards for her children, but that matter finally got settled when someone helped to get her marriage cert finally accepted by the court here. So now the problem of her first 4 children are settled. They have no problem getting their MyKad done.

However, her youngest boy, Iwan, was born out of a rape case, after the death of Fuzi’s husband. With Fuzi’s status still as a non citizen, and father’s details unknown, Iwan was classified as non-citizen. Fuzi was hoping that if she could get herself the PR status, then maybe she could apply to get Iwan as a Malaysian citizen. She was hopeful earlier, but with the latest development, she’s back to square one.

Iwan is 5 years old. Next year he will be going to a nearby kindergarten. The problem will arise when he needs to start schooling in 2013. If he still remains as a non-citizen, he may have problems getting into a government school. I was told he will need to apply to the state education dept and pay some additional fees as a foreign student.

There’s still another year to go. I hope something can be done before 2013 comes…

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

It’s all up to her now…

During Aidil Adha on Sunday, I did get a text message from Shidah, wishing me Selamat Hari Raya. I was quite busy when the SMS came in and so I thought I’d reply later, but ended up forgetting all about it. Then yesterday another SMS came in, again from Shidah, but this time it was a blank SMS. I began to wonder if she was in some kind of trouble.

Remember Shidah, the foreign lady married to a Malaysian? The one who got beaten up by her husband and whose passport was locked up by him? You can read her earlier stories here and here.

Amongst all my clients, Shidah is the only one whom I wouldn’t call unless and until she calls me first. Although I do have her handphone number, there was a time when her husband would hold the phone and only passed it to her when she needed to go to the hospital so that it’d be easier for her to call him once she was done with her hospital matters. Calling her when the phone is in her husband’s hands may result in her husband being suspicious of who I was, why I contacted his wife etc. And she may end up being beaten up again as the husband is the type who’d get angry even with the slightest reason.

Anyway, yesterday I just decided to respond to the blank SMS. Didn’t dare ask much though. I just asked “Apa khabar?” Shidah immediately called back. In her Pattani dialect, she told me she was having some problems.

Shidah: “Saya ada masalah sikit kakak.”

Me: “Kenapa? Kena pukul lagi ke?”

Shidah: “Bukan kena pukul. Dia sudah ada perempuan lain. Esok kakak ada pergi hospital ka? Esok saya pergi ambil ubat.”

Me: “Ada. Cari saya esok tempat biasa.”

So yes, this morning I made sure I got to the hospital a wee bit early in case Shidah came early. She was only there to get her monthly supply of ARV, not to see the doctor, so it shouldn’t take too long. If I went late and Shidah had to wait for me, her husband may suspect something if she takes too long before calling him to come and fetch her.

Indeed, it wasn’t long after I got to the counselling room when Shidah walked in, salam & kissed my hands as had always been her practise, and immediately sat beside me.

Physically, she looked fine. I asked her when was the last time she was beaten up by her husband and according to her, it was right before our last meet in May. He still gets angry, and from time to time purposely abuse her emotionally, but at least for the past 5 months, he had not beaten her. In fact lately, he had been a wee bit nicer to her – particularly after he found out that Shidah had began suspecting that he has an affair with another woman. Shidah had in fact saw the woman’s pic in her husband’s handphone but before she could double check – all pics and phone numbers had been deleted from his phone.

Typical! He’s probably trying his utmost best to be as nice as possible so that his involvement in the affair wouldn’t be suspected by the wife. In this particular case, it became even more suspicious when he suddenly became nicer because it is not normal for him to be nice to his wife!

According to Shidah she needed to get her visa renewed recently and since then, her passport had been in her hands. So, passport is no longer a problem if she wanted to go back to her home country to be back with her daughter. When she married her present husband and followed him here, her daughter was only 3 years old then. The girl is being taken care by Shidah’s mother. Her brother too helps to support the daughter financially.

Shidah has not seen her daughter since then. It has been 5 years. She does get to speak to her daughter by phone from time to time, and her daughter had been asking her when she’d be coming back. Shidah too, needless to say, missed her daughter so much. But every time she asked her husband if she could go back to see her daughter, the husband would say he didn’t have enough money. Frankly, I don’t think money is the problem. Shidah’s brother had offered her before to pay for the transport so she could go back and see her daughter, but the husband would still come up with all sorts of excuses. Shidah had asked her husband before for her to go back for good, but that got her husband real mad and she ended up being beaten up.

But back then, she couldn’t run away & go back to her family because the problem was she didn’t have her passport with her and she didn’t have any money. I could try get help to finance her transport cost to go back by bus, but her passport was another story. I did advise her to seek help from her embassy but she was too afraid to leave the house.

Now that passport is no longer the problem, there’s no more stopping her right? As it is, even though they are still husband & wife and staying in the same house, they no longer sleep together anymore. He goes in and out as and when he likes, whereas she only gets to go out when he brings her out. He never gives her any money, any household needs he will pay himself instead of giving cash to his wife for her to buy the necessities. He helps to top up her phone so she could from time to time call her family back home. She does all the housework including cooking for him.

She doesn’t sound like a wife does she? Sounds more like a maid.

So, how come she still seems reluctant to leave him? Is she afraid? She doesn’t want to be “isteri nusyuz” by leaving him? She still loves him despite all that he had done to her?

I told her of the choices she has:

1. To talk things out with her husband and tell him that she wants to be with her daughter who is growing up now. Try to go separate ways in the most amicable manner, if she thinks it is possible.

2. If she thinks her husband will only end up beating her up if she asks for divorce, then another option is to make her move during one of her hospital visits. Easier for her to escape.

3. She can choose to remain in the relationship which doesn’t seem to give her any future.

By this time, I could already see her tears flowing. She still seemed unsure what to do. I told her I wasn’t going to tell her what course of action she should take – the decision has to be hers. I just told her to go back and think things over – think of the good IF she decides to remain in the present situation & think of the good IF she decides to go back to her home country. Then weigh them and see which one brings more benefit (to me the answer is obvious). I told her to think of her own future and not let the feeling of guilt to play any part in her decision.

I also reminded her that she still has Allah to turn to. Do the istikharah. Ask for His guidance.

The decision is now in her hands. All I can do is to lend her my support.