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 May 2012

Yesterday’s cases…

Yesterday was my second clinic duty for the year at Taiping Hospital. Since we only send our volunteers once a month to Taiping for clinic duty, and we have 3 teams, our turn would come once every 3 months. For Ipoh clinic, I’d usually go every 2nd and 4th Wednesdays of each month.

The other 2 teams have 2 volunteers in each team, while for my team I cater for any trainee volunteers who’d like to join me. Yesterday however, I was alone. The moment I got to MOPD, I went straight to the doctor’s room to inform the nurse I was already there and to enquire if there were any cases to be referred. According to the nurse there were quite a few cases.

I waited at the praying room cum makeshift counselling room, located just behind the doctor’s room. Wasn’t bothered to get chairs, so I just sat on the carpet, with my netbook on lap, surfing the internet while waiting for the cases to be referred.

After a while, the nurse brought in a new case – a skinny looking guy, in his late thirties. Looking at his name which was quite unique, I remembered he used to call me before, seeking financial help. Another PLHIV gave him my number and told him to ask me if we Buddies could offer financial help. But our funds are more for children education, and since this guy was unmarried, there wasn’t much I could offer him but choices of where he could seek help from.

I was quite surprised when his case was referred to me as a new case. All the while, when he called (I think it was some time last year or the year before), I thought he had already gone for appointments at the HIV clinic. Apparently he only went to a nearby Klinik Kesihatan for his methadone fix, not HIV treatment. He now rents a room at RM150 per month, and works from midnight to early morning, processing chicken. Pay is based on hourly basis. However of late, he had been feeling rather weak, and so had been missing from work for almost 2 weeks.

The next case referred was that of Rogayah, a 52 year old lady. 2 young ladies, aged around late teens to early twenties, came along with her. They were her children, accompanying her to the hospital.

Rogayah has 7 children, all from her first marriage. When her first husband died, she then remarried. The 2nd husband died about 4 years ago of TB. Apparently, when the 2nd husband died, Rogayah and her children were tested for TB, all turned out negative. I’m not really sure if the husband was diagnosed HIV+, or if he ever got tested for HIV. But when he died, Rogayah was not tested for HIV.

That was until about 2 or 3 months ago, when Rogayah was warded for TB. Tests were done and she was found to be HIV positive. I looked through the file, and noticed that her CD4 was already very low, while her viral load was very very high. Rogayah herself seemed to be strong at heart… or maybe she was trying to be strong for her children. As I explained things to them, I could see tears in the eyes of her daughters. I am glad however that the daughters seemed to be very very supportive of their mother. They have to be strong for their mother as well.

As I went to the doctor’s room to return Rogayah’s medical file, the doctor immediately told me that Maznah, the young lady I went to visit earlier this month at a squatter area, had already given birth to a baby boy. Remember Maznah? I posted her story here. She’s supposed to deliver in July, but last week, when she kept on vomiting every time she ate anything, even her meds, she was warded again. And she ended up having to deliver the baby, prematurely.

Maznah had already been discharged from the hospital, but since the doctor at the HIV clinic wanted to see her, arrangements were made for the ambulance to fetch her from home and bring her for her appointment. So yes, I still got to see Maznah yesterday. Her baby was still at the hospital for observation, given his premature condition.

Guess who came to the hospital with Maznah? Her boyfriend… the father of the baby she just delivered. Has he been tested for HIV? Errrmmm…. he doesn’t even know Maznah has HIV. So isn’t he going to be tested? Well, according to Maznah, the plan was to get his blood sample under the pretext that they needed blood for the baby and so they needed to get his blood tested. Maznah was afraid he may leave her just like that without even getting himself tested if he knew Maznah was HIV+.

Oh well, I think I shall let the doctor take care of that part.

Another PLHIV was supposed to see me yesterday. Someone from Ipoh, who is already a client of Buddies, told me that a friend of his in Taiping wanted to register under Buddies and was interested to join us for the Family Day. I told him to get his friend to see me in Taiping during my clinic duty. He didn’t turn up until 1 pm.

The nurse on duty also asked if a friend of hers working nearby, who’s also a PLHIV, wanted to see me as well. He too, didn’t turn up until 1 pm.

Then I figured out, based on the name given, the guy mentioned by the client and the guy mentioned by the nurse must be the same person. He was the one who wanted to see me, but he was the one who didn’t turn up. I couldn’t wait too long at the makeshift counselling room since the room is actually a praying room. The staff there would want to use the room during lunch break for their prayers…


Monday, 28 May 2012

The short weekend break…

Let the pictures do the talking…













Friday, 25 May 2012

Visiting Jayanthi

When I went to the doctor’s room to inform the nurses that I was leaving after my clinic duty on Wednesday, the doctor, who was talking on the phone then, signalled to me to wait a while. She wanted to speak to me about Jayanthi. This wasn’t a new case, she had been a client of Buddies for a few years already, assigned under a Tamil-speaking volunteer.

The doctor wanted me to re-assess her case as her children needed help and the doc knows we do give financial assistance for the children’s education. Jayanthi’s condition had worsened, and it was her mother, now the breadwinner for the family, who sought assistance for her grandchildren. She did tell the doctor that the children do get some sort of assistance from the school, but the doc wasn’t too sure what kind of help they were getting.

Jayanthi had been one of those non-compliant cases – always defaulting her appointments. She was first diagnosed positive after she gave birth to her youngest son 6 years ago. Her son too, apparently was tested positive, but Jayanthi never brought him for further tests or check-ups. The paediatrician handling the case had even sent his team to look for them at home, but she was never home.

That was until recently when Jayanthi’s condition worsened. Like it or not, she was in and out of the hospital so often for various illnesses. So now she’s back on ARV medication. She’s still too weak to work, and now stays with her mother at her mother’s house.

I immediately informed the volunteer handling the case to follow up on Jayanthi and find out what kind of assistance they need. I was more concerned about the children’s educational needs.

Yesterday, a call came in on my phone from an unfamiliar number. The lady who called said she got my number from the doctor and told me that her family needed help. Luckily the doctor had already informed me about this case and so it didn’t take me too long to figure out who called. The lady who called was Jayanthi’s mother. When I mentioned the name of the volunteer in charge, she said it had been more than a year since he called or visited. When I said I’d remind the volunteer to visit and assess the family’s situation, the lady kept on telling me about her worries… she’s getting old, her daughter’s unwell… what would happen to her grandchildren…

Finally when I said I’d visit her myself, she sounded happier and kept on saying thank you. Since I was free the next day (that’s today, Friday), I immediately arranged with the assigned volunteer to visit together.

So this afternoon, I went to our center to fetch the assigned volunteer. When asked if he remembered how to get to the house, he confidently said the house was easy to find, not far off from the main road, so he said.

The moment we got into the housing area, he began to get confused, thus confusing me as well. Suddenly the excuse was that he usually came by motorbike and so he got confused. Duh! By car or motorbike, we had to go through the same route! And then when we finally found the right street, and he said it was house number 2. So I stopped at house number 2, asked him if that was the house, and he confidently said yes. Then the occupant came out, and when we asked, didn’t even know who Jayanthi was. Wrong house!

Then I called Jayanthi’s mother, asking for the address. The line wasn’t clear, and so “dua puluh enam” sounded more like “nombor 6”. So we went to house number 6 and I asked the assigned volunteer if that was the house. Again, he confidently said yes. “Sure?” I asked. “Yes, very sure,” he said. Out came the occupant…. wrong house again. Whoa! I think my late grandma was better at this… even though she may not know the way to a house that she had been to, at least once we got to the house, she’d know for certain whether or not it’s the right house!

When I asked if he couldn’t even remember if the house looked familiar, he said all the houses looked the same. We finally called Jayanthi’s mother again, and finally we got Jayanthi’s house. The house looked TOTALLY different than the 2 wrong houses we got earlier! And he claimed he used to visit once every 2 months. Sigh…

Anyway, Jayanthi’s mother was not back from work yet but Jayanthi and all her 4 sons were home. Just as we were to get inside the gate, the dog was barking furiously. The dog was tied, but still, Jayanthi got one of her sons to hold on to the dog. The dog calmed down as soon as we got into the house and out of his sight.

Jayanthi has 4 kids, all boys, age ranging from 6 to 11. The 3 older ones go to a Chinese school. The school it seems, does help out quite a lot. They help to pay for the children’s fees and workbooks. The only educational needs they had to pay on their own were their uniforms and transport to go to school. We should be able to cover for their uniforms and transportation to school.

When we asked for her bank account number, she told us her bank book and ATM card are being held by a money-lender. Apparently when her husband died, she got desperate and borrowed some money from a money-lender. She had to let the money lender hold her bank book and ATM card as guarantee.

Jayanthi had been getting welfare aid for her children for a few years already. The money goes into the bank account – the same one held by the money lender. So the money lender would withdraw the money, takes half and hands over the other half only after he had taken his share. Am not sure if the amount taken was part payment for the loan, or just for the interest.

So nope, giving her the financial assistance for the children’s transportation to school through the same bank account is out of the question. I was initially thinking of giving the monthly assistance through her mother’s bank account when she suddenly mentioned she does have an account in another bank. Initially she thought we would require an account in a particular bank, but when I mentioned it didn’t matter which bank, she finally gave me the number of her other bank account.

We then asked about her HIV+ son and was surprised when she told us that the positive child was actually the 11 year old boy, the eldest. Previously the older boys were never tested. They finally got tested 2 years ago and that was when the eldest boy was found to be positive. When we asked about the youngest son, Jayanthi said the boy “no longer has HIV”. It’s the eldest son who now needs to take ARV, not the youngest.

Huh? Well, I think we’d need to check with the doctor handling the child’s case….

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Another positive child

I was assigned to a new client last week – Amy, a 19 year old unwed pregnant girl. On Friday, I called the number given and managed to speak to the sister, the one Amy is staying with. Amy’s boyfriend left her when he found out that she’s HIV positive while his test results came out negative.

According to the sister, the family has no problem accepting Amy and her baby. So basically, it didn’t seem to be too complicated a problem. However, she had yet to start on her ARV medication, and was supposed to go back to the hospital for an appointment with the doctor on Tuesday (today) so they could get her started on the ARV.

Although my clinic duty will be on Wednesday, when Amy’s sister told me that Amy would be going to the hospital on Tuesday, I figured I might as well meet up with Amy face to face so I could assess her case better.

So yes, this morning I went to the hospital just to meet up with Amy. The nurses were surprised to see me, they weren’t expecting me until Wednesday. But when I told them I wanted to see Amy, they confirmed that yes, Amy was supposed to come but was not there yet.

While waiting, I had a chat with SN. SN then informed me about another case needing attention. According to her, the case had already been referred to Buddies last month (I wasn’t on duty then) but so far I have not heard of her case. New cases would have been brought up during our monthly board meetings, but nope, I have not heard about her case before.

SN mentioned that Ain, the patient she was talking about, is a young single mother, never married, And she has a child who has been confirmed HIV+.

Apparently during her pregnancy, Ain never went for any check-ups at the clinics or hospitals. She only went to the hospital when she was about to deliver, immediately sent to the labour room, and delivered a baby girl. Since nobody, not even herself, knew she was HIV+, no precautions were taken to protect the child from being infected. It was only after the delivery that her blood was tested and was found to be positive. And eventual tests showed that the child too had not been spared.

After delivery, Ain came back to Perak to stay with her mother. Then only both she and her child were referred to the hospital for further treatment. The problem was, after more than five months, the child still didn’t have a birth cert. SN herself didn’t quite know what the problem was.

Since I was already at the hospital and Ain was there for her appointment, SN got Ain to see me first to see how I could help out if needed.

Ain came in the room with her young mother (I think the mother may be in her early 40’s), and her 9 month old baby girl. I asked about the birth cert problem and was relieved to find out that they had finally submitted the necessary documents to JPN and their application is already being processed. Ain even showed me the acknowledgement letter.

Ah well, at least that is done now and so I don’t have to worry about the child’s birth cert anymore. Once the birth cert is obtained, then only financial assistance can be arranged for the child. Since the child herself is positive, she should be able to apply for monthly assistance from MAF’s Paediatric Aids Funds.

I gave Ain my name and number so she could call me if need be.

And what happened to Amy? SN called up the sister to find out if Amy was coming, and was told that Amy had gone to Seremban to a relative’s house. WHAT? When she knew way before hand that her appointment was TODAY??

Aiyo, I think we have a very likely non-compliant case in our hands. Our main concern now is… what will become of the baby if no proper care and precaution is taken? We don’t want to end up having another HIV positive child like Ain’s do we?

Monday, 21 May 2012

Visiting Sofie’s Children

When Sofie was still alive, I used to visit her regularly without fail on monthly basis. I used to visit her on weekdays as she’s always home. Even when she started selling nasi lemak, by 11am she should be home, so visiting her on weekday afternoons wasn’t a problem.

Now that Sofie is gone, the children stay with their aunt Rozi. Rozi works Mondays to Saturdays, and sometimes even on Sundays she works overtime. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t mind if I visit the children when she’s not around, especially since the children know me well, and had even followed me around without anyone else accompanying them, but I wanted to visit when Rozi is around, so we could at least discuss about the children’s wellbeing.

So yes, after checking with Rozi to make sure she’d be around on Sunday afternoon, yesterday I went to visit. I got there almost 3 pm, and they just finished their lunch. So late? Ahh, had late breakfast, so late lunch it was.

Only Sofie’s 2 younger ones were at home. Azlan, the eldest, was working while the second one, Azman, was at his culinary school’s hostel. The younger two, Saiful and Ika, were as chatty as ever, excitedly telling me so many updates, to the extent that I didn’t know which one of them to listen to. Their aunt Rozi told me that they were too lazy to study. Saiful is still in the midst of his school exams while Ika was done with hers. She didn’t do well this time. That’s understandable since she had skipped school for almost a month when her mother was hospitalised, and then she had to be transferred to a new school nearer to her aunt’s house.

I told Ika that while I could understand her poor results in the recent exams, that doesn’t give her the excuse not to study. In fact she should study harder as she needed to catch up with her friends.

When I asked the kids about their interest and ambition, Saiful said he likes mechanical stuff. Even now at 14, his friends go to him if they needed some repairs done to their bicycles and stuff like that. Saiful sometimes even modifies them. Saiful even said that after form 3 he wants to join Giat Mara for a short course instead of going into form 4. I showed him my fist and said, “Ni nampak?” to which he immediately responded, “Tak, tak, tak… main-main aje.” The aunt then suggested that maybe he applies to get into a Sekolah Teknik at form 4. I agreed that was a better option. I then challenged Saiful to target for at least a diploma in mechanical engineering instead of just a cert. I want him to aim higher.

Then when I asked Ika what her ambition was, at first she said she wanted to be a policewoman. Then she said, “Adik nak jadi sukarelawan macam Makcik Fizah lah.” Her aunt quickly chipped in, “Nak jadi macam Makcik Fizah kenalah belajar rajin-rajin.”

And why did she want to be like me?

Best jadi macam Makcik Fizah. Dapat jalan sana-sini. Dulu gi Bali. Pas tu gi Vietnam. Ni nanti nak gi Kinabalu lagi…”

It’s the jalan-jalan part that she was interested in. Duh! I think many people out there go jalan-jalan a lot more than I ever did.

While I was chatting with them, a text message came in from Azman, their no. 2 brother, asking me what time I was coming. I had promised him I’d come on Sunday to hand over a used laptop which I managed to get for him, free. He then asked if I could bring along some laundry detergent and body shampoo for him.

So yep, from Rozi’s house, I headed off to Azman’s hostel, and on the way stopped by a grocery store to get some stuff for him. As I was paying for the stuff, the guy at the counter asked, “Akak ni cikgu ke?” Somehow so many strangers already asked me the same question. In fact some don’t even ask if I’m a teacher, once a chicken seller just asked, “Cikgu tak ngajar ke hari ni?”

Anyway, when I got to Azman’s hostel, the gate was opened, so I just drove in. Azman’s dorm was just on the ground floor, and so I parked my car right beside his dorm. Before I could even find his number on my phone to inform him that I was already there, Azman came out, smiling.

I had a short chat with him, to find out if he had any problems. I didn’t tell him that I just went to visit his younger siblings. I wanted to see if his stories are the same with what his siblings told me earlier (about him wanting to work part time etc). Thank God I got the same version. He didn’t really seem to have too much of a problem – it’s just the rebellious side of him that was the reason behind him playing truant last week. He had in fact after that went to see his aunt Rozi, cried and apologised to her. (Azman doesn’t know that I know about this.)

Before I left, I told him I didn’t want to get any more calls from his lecturer complaining to me about his discipline. Of course to some people promises are easy to make, but not easy to keep. However, Azman is now fully aware that his lecturer does call me if he misbehaves, and I, on the other hand, do inform his aunt about it. Hopefully he will keep that in mind before he even thinks of misbehaving again.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Visiting the orphans

When I received a text message from Rosnah, saying that her daughter needed a pen drive to do her school work, and asking if we could help get her one, I figured it was about time I went to visit them. The last time I went to visit was end of last year when I brought the girl shopping (without her mother coming along as Rosnah had to work). Getting the girl a pen drive is not a problem at all. I can always use the donations I get regularly from generous friends.

And since Rosnah stays in the same town with Laila, the one and only daughter of the late Shila, I figured I might as well visit her too… to see how she’s doing and to invite her to join us for our coming Family Day.

So yes, after zohor, off I headed to visit them. First up was Rosnah’s house, as her house was very near the toll exit. Her daughter was having her afternoon nap – she was tired after helping out selling stuff at a flea market. You see, to get some extra income in addition to her salary working at a factory, Rosnah has started renting a space at a nearby flea market on Saturdays. She sells used books.

The family seems to be doing okay. Rosnah has agreed to join us for the Family Day, this time not only with her daughter, but with her mother as well. They missed last year’s Family Day but did join us the year before at Lost World of Tambun.

After about half an hour at Rosnah’s house, I headed off to visit Laila. Initially I took the short cut Shila had taught me before, but when I got to a bridge that was there before, I noticed the road was closed and the bridge was no longer there. So I had to turn back and follow the longer route. Goodness, there seemed to be so many changes. New housing up… road widened… had it been THAT long since my last visit? Oh dear…

When I got to the house, the first person I saw was Laila’s grandma, followed by Laila. And when I got inside, 3 toddlers were in their cradles, sleeping. All of them were Laila’s cousins. Quite a few of Laila’s aunts and uncles stay in the same house, so Laila is never alone in the house.

The girl was her same usual self – even when her mother was still alive, she never talked much. She just smiles. Even when I asked her anything, she’d just smile, and then she’d say, “Tak tau.” Somehow that seems to be quite a standard answer for many kids nowadays. Easy way out, just say tak tau.

I brought along a few UPSR revision books for Laila. Apparently Laila had already missed 2 motivational courses for UPSR students organised by her school. Reason being… they had to pay RM65 each time. And they didn’t have enough money to pay. Of course,  I had told them earlier to inform me should Laila require any money related to her studies. Her grandma remembers that, but the problem was, Laila, thinking that her grandma and aunt wouldn’t have enough money to pay, just kept quiet about it, and only told them at the very very last minute.

So today I told Laila, in front of her grandma and aunt, to inform me immediately if there are any similar motivational courses in future which require payment.

When I asked Laila if she’d like to join us for the Family Day, she just smiled and nodded. But her grandma immediately apologised when I mentioned the date. Apparently, that very same weekend, she had promised Laila’s paternal grandma they’d be joining them for a trip down south, all expenses paid by Laila’s paternal side of the family. So Laila won’t be joining us for our Family Day this year.

Remembering that my other children needed to pay PTA fees to their respective schools recently, I asked about Laila’s. True enough, she too had to pay RM80 to her school. But I guess they were too shy to inform me about it. Partly my fault I guess because I had not visited for some time. They may have felt that we no longer offer the same help we used to give when Shila was alive.

Hopefully with my visit today, they’d feel more comfortable to call and inform me of any financial needs related to Laila’s schooling…

Thursday, 17 May 2012

3 children, 3 different problems…

Right after I was done cooking for lunch earlier today, a call came in from the culinary school Azman goes to. I was hoping the call had nothing to do with Azman getting into trouble, but deep down inside me I somehow felt it was. I had personally met and spoken to a lady lecturer there earlier this month, and although when I spoke to her then, she said Azman so far (at that time) had been doing okay in class, I told her to inform me the moment Azman starts giving any more problems.

Puan, *Azman dah mula buat perangai la.”

Kenapa? Apa pulak dah dibuatnya kali ni?”

Dah pandai ponteng kelas. Minggu ni aje dah banyak kali tak datang. Pagi ni pun takde ni. Ada test pulak tu. Dia dah ada geng kat asrama kaki ponteng sorang lagi, tu yang makin menjadi ni.”

The lecturer then asked if Azman is doing any night time jobs, causing him to wake up late, and hence, missing his morning classes. Not that I know of, but that reminded me of the time when he was still schooling last year, in form 3, when he preferred to work at stalls until late night and ended up too tired to get up early morning the next day.

After the lecturer’s call, I immediately called Azman. He sounded like he just woke up from slumber. It was already 11.30 am. Not wanting to let him know that I knew he wasn’t in class, I asked him where he was. He said he was at the hostel. When I asked why he wasn’t in class, he said he felt a slight headache when he woke up, so he went back to sleep, but he would still be going at noon.

I then asked him if it was true he had skipped quite a number of classes within the week, he denied. He said it was only this morning that he felt unwell. When I told him that his lecturer just called me up to inform me that he had missed quite a few classes this week, all I heard were murmurs from Azman, I couldn’t figure out heads or tails what he was talking about. And when I said, “Ada test kan hari ni?” he sounded so surprised, “Huh? Ye ke?” So yeah, obviously he had been skipping classes.

I told him to go to class immediately. I think I need to have a one to one talk with him, but he always tried to avoid that, giving all sorts of excuses. He had been asking me if I could find him a laptop for him to use in his studies, and I have managed to get hold of a used laptop, free of charge, so hopefully I’d be able to see him when I send him the laptop. No meet, no talk, no laptop.

After calling Azman, a text message came in from Zainab, to tell me that she had spending time at the hospital for the past 4 days. Nope, it wasn’t her who was admitted, but her daughter, more fondly known as Kakak. I figured it must have something to do with the 9 year old girl’s kidney problems. So I thought I might as well visit after sending a sponsored laptop to Eira, Aini’s daughter.

Well, Eira didn’t really have much of a problem. Her only problem was that she needed to use a laptop in school for form 6 but couldn’t afford to buy one. Last week I had lent her my old laptop. Meanwhile I started asking around, and finally managed to get a laptop fully sponsored for Eira. So, although Aini is away at her sister’s house in KL this week, I made sure Eira was home so I could send her the new laptop and get back my old laptop. I promised to visit her at 3 pm and so yes, at 3 pm I was at her house. Eira was alone at home, just got back from school at 2.30 pm, and was watching TV when I got there.

Eira was so excited to have a laptop of her own. She said when she read my text message, she was so happy she felt like jumping! She had already started using my old laptop in school since Monday. She had even sent the laptop to a nearby computer shop for servicing so that the internet would run faster. She paid RM30 for that. I jokingly told her that since she had already paid RM30 for the old laptop, I didn’t mind if she wanted to continue using it and I’d just take the new laptop in return…

I did take the opportunity to have a chat with Eira. I even told her about the problems I’ve been facing with some other kids including Azman. By telling Eira, my hope was so that Eira herself wouldn’t get herself into any sort of trouble. So far she had not been giving much problem to her mother or anyone else.

After leaving Eira happily smiling away with her new laptop, I headed straight to the hospital to visit Zainab & her daughter. It wasn’t necessary to wait for visiting hours since I already had my special pass renewed. It wasn’t 4 o’clock yet when I got to the hospital, and so getting a parking space wasn’t too bad. Wore my special tag and so the guards didn’t stop me when I walked in. Then up the stairs to the paed’s ward on the 6th floor. Good to note that now there’s a sign at the staircase on every floor of the hospital building, telling how many calories was burnt after walking up each floor. :)

The first person I saw the moment I walked into the ward was Adik, Zainab’s younger daughter. She too had been spending time at the hospital, together with her parents, and the patient, her sister. According to Zainab, every time the housemen followed the specialists for their rounds, Adik would tag along, with a small notebook in one hand and a pen in the other, as though she was one of them. And the housemen all would layan her as well. :)

Anyway, I got a surprise when I got to Kakak’s bed. Initially I thought her problem was only kidney related, but what I saw was her left arm in a plaster cast. Apparently she fell and broke her arm while playing with her younger sister recently. So yep, she needed 2 specialists to oversee her case, one related to her broken arm, the other related to her kidney problem.

Zainab had not been going to work ever since Kakak was warded, and that means no pay for her this week. Her husband, Zaki, is still not working, and in fact needs to go to the hospital every day for his supply of methadone.

Both Kakak and Adik, are excited about the coming Family Day. In fact when told that it will be on 1st July, they said, “Alaaaa…. lambat lagi….”

Lambat lagi? That’s less than 1 1/2 months to go! Eeeks! We’d better get all the preparations moving fast!


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Those whose lives have improved…

As mentioned in my previous posting, one way of keeping my sanity after dealing with any complicated cases, is to visit the families whose lives have improved. It helps to keep me motivated to continue doing my voluntary work. Every time I start asking myself why I bother to get involved in the complicated cases, I remind myself that there are those whom we have helped before whose lives have improved by leaps and bounds after getting our assistance. The sense of satisfaction in seeing the improvement in their lives is simply… priceless!

When Lin was first referred to Buddies, she was still married. She wasn’t ready to accept a buddy then, and so my colleagues who were on clinic duty gave her my name and number in case she needed to talk to anyone. It took her a whole year before she decided to make that call. By then she was divorced. All her 6 children were still studying then. Without any working experience (she had always been a full time housewife), it was tough. She worked as an assistant at a restaurant, then due to some allergies she was hospitalised for a whole month and lost her job. After that she started selling pisang goreng to support her children. We Buddies came in to help out with her children’s education. Even though Lin herself only went to school up to standard 6, she really emphasized the importance of education to her children.

Now her eldest and 3rd daughter, both with diplomas, are already working and are able to help her out. Her second daughter, who’s studying medicine overseas, has another year to go to complete her studies. Lin’s 4th, a boy, wasn’t really interested in school, didn’t do well, but he is working now and at least is able to take care of himself without asking for money from his mother. Only the 2 younger ones are schooling now, and they are both still receiving financial assistance for their educational needs.

I used to send groceries to Lin’s family on a monthly basis. Now I no longer need to do that. The family is much more independent now.

Then there’s Fuzi. When her case was first referred to Buddies at the hospital during one of her earlier appointments, she didn’t even have enough money to go home. She just had enough cash to come to the hospital, and was hoping she could hitch a ride with anyone to get back home. She didn’t earn a single thing. She had a small kid to take care of, and so working anywhere far from home was out of the question. She did try to get a job at a nursery near her house, but the other ladies there, knowing that Fuzi was HIV+, threatened their employer that they’d all quit if he hired Fuzi. For food, she had to depend on some neighbours who took pity on her children and so they’d give some food from time to time.

We helped out in getting financial assistance for her. While we Buddies do have funds for children education, Fuzi needed more than just educational assistance for her children. Other than welfare aid, Fuzi is now getting financial aid from an individual donor. Now, she seems to be able to cope. And she seems to be putting the financial aid she’s getting to good use. Her children are all still schooling, and her eldest daughter Wina,  seems to be doing quite well in school. And she’s such a responsible girl too, taking good care of her younger siblings whenever her mother needed to go elsewhere. Fuzi has such high hopes on Wina.

When Aini’s case was first referred to us, her husband was very sick then. Just after 2 weeks, the husband died. Aini was then working at a pharmaceutical shop. After a while, the shop closed down, and Aini was jobless. At her age, and with her poor state of health, it wasn’t easy to get a job. Like in Fuzi’s case, we helped get financial assistance for Aini, while we took care of her children’s educational needs. Aini too seemed to be putting all the financial assistance to good use. And Eira, her eldest daughter, now in form 6, has grown to be a responsible girl. I can get along very well with Eira.

For all the 3 cases above, the children (or at least the girls) do see the importance of education.

There are some other cases as well which didn’t involve financial problem. These are the ones who needed more moral support than anything else. The ones who felt really down when they were first diagnosed HIV+. The ones who didn’t know how to break the news to their spouses. The ones whose family members didn’t know about their HIV status but needed to talk things out with someone.

Nowadays my conversations with them no longer involve HIV related matters. They have moved on.

Of course, once in a while when they receive news about one of them passing on, they start worrying… thinking of when their turn would come. Like recently when Aini found out that Sofie passed on a month ago, she said, “Risau pulak saya dengar.” I told her death was inevitable, whether or not one has HIV. I said for all we know it could be my turn next, to which she responded, “Eh janganlah, harap-harap sihatlah selalu… tempat kami bergantung harap.”

It’s good to know that some of my clients do pray for my good health. But what’s more important is for them to move on with their lives… in a more positive manner. They are already HIV positive, nothing can be done about that already, so they might as well use a positive approach in their lives…


Saturday, 12 May 2012

Form 6? Matriculation? Polytechnic? Private college? Industrial institutes?

Having visited Maznah on Thursday, yesterday I decided to visit 2 of my earlier clients, Fuzi and Aini. After having to face a complicated case like Maznah’s, one way to keep my sanity is to visit the families whose lives have improved. It helps to keep me motivated to continue with the voluntary work I’m doing. No doubt Fuzi’s & Aini’s problems when they were first referred to us Buddies were different, but still, seeing that they are living a better life now, somehow gives me some sense of satisfaction.

After getting some groceries loaded into my car, off I went to visit Fuzi. It had been quite some time since I last went to visit her. Once upon a time I used to visit her on a monthly basis, but with the financial help she has been getting, her life is more stable now, so I have reduced my visits to her house. But when I do visit, I do make it a point to bring along some groceries for her family.

Fuzi’s eldest daughter, Wina, was getting ready to go for tuition, while Fuzi’s youngest, Iwan, was watching TV. He looks a lot more like a boy now. Previously he had longer hair, and with his dimple and all, he looked oh so sweet like a girl. Now that he has started going to a kindergarten, Fuzi got his hair cut. They seemed to be doing okay. However Fuzi did mention that the only thing that’s giving her a headache now is her 2nd daughter, who is now in form four. For the past 2 or 3 weeks, she had been talking to herself a lot. I told Fuzi to go to the girl’s school, meet & discuss with her teacher to find out if she has any problems she has not been telling anyone.

While I was at Fuzi’s house, Rajan, one of the sponsored children, called me up. He had earlier been offered a place at a matriculation college, and I did advise him to accept it, but the offer was for accounting line, not science. Rajan wants to take up science as he is interested to do engineering. But the results of his science subjects weren’t good enough to earn him a place in science. So he called to ask if he could opt for form 6 science instead. He said he’d go to PPD immediately if I gave him the green light. I had known all along his interest was engineering, and I also knew his science subjects weren’t good enough, but seeing that he seemed determined to take up science, I told him to go and discuss with the PPD officer or with his school teacher. If they agreed to allow him to take up form 6 science stream, then by all means, go ahead.

From Fuzi’s house, I headed straight to Aini’s house. Her daughter, Eira, who had decided to register for form 6 while waiting for the results of her application to polytechnics, needed to use a laptop in school. Since I have an old laptop, which had not been used for some time, I decided to lend Eira my laptop.

I have always felt comfortable visiting Aini at her home. Her boys would usually shy away, but Aini and Eira treated me like family. In fact I can joke around with Eira just like she was one of my own nieces. I found out that she too, like me, loves adventurous activities… so I think we will get along just fine.

Anyway, Eira seems happy to continue doing form 6 even though the results of her polytechnic applications are not known yet. I guess if she is offered a place, whether or not she will accept them will depend on what course she gets. Otherwise, it’s form 6 all the way.

It rained heavily while I was at Aini’s house, so I had quite a long chat with both Aini and Eira. After a while, Rajan called again. He said after speaking to the teacher, he was advised to take up matriculation because the teacher felt that with the kind of results Rajan got for his science subjects in SPM, the boy may not be able to cope with the science subjects in form 6. So, yes, it’s back to matriculation in accounting stream for the boy.

When I got home, Hana called. Earlier this week, when Hana asked my favour to check if her daughter Ayu managed to get a place in any of the IPTAs, I checked and found out that Ayu failed to get a place. So it was sort of decided that Ayu would register for form 6. And register she did, bought the uniforms, paid the fees etc, and suddenly yesterday she received a text message saying that she had been offered a place at a college (a college in affiliation with UiTM) to do Diploma in Accounting. The offer letter would be sent to her soon. Hana called to ask if she should accept it. It was hard for me to give any advice there and then as I didn’t have much knowledge about the college Hana mentioned. But she did mentioned that Ayu was interested to take up the course, and so I told her to just wait for the offer letter to come first.

Meanwhile I decided to find out more info from the internet, and managed to get more info from the college’s website. True enough, the courses there are UiTM courses, and in fact, when students complete the courses, the diplomas will be presented during UiTM’s convocation.

So I guess it’s a safe offer for Ayu to accept.

No more changes I hope. Every time the children call up to seek my advise regarding their choice of further studies, I’m the one who ends up confused.

I still have one more child who has to wait though. Azlan, Sofie’s eldest son, will only know the results of his application end of this month. He didn’t qualify to apply for IPTA or even polytechnic, so I submitted his application for industrial training institutes. The boy has left it totally up to me to decide for him which course he should take up. Well, his interest is definitely in the automotive field, so I do hope he will get one of the courses I helped to apply for him.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Visiting the problematic girl…

Having asked a colleague (fellow volunteer) to visit Maznah (the pregnant girl on methadone I blogged about earlier), and after getting a report from the colleague about the girl’s background, I decided I needed to visit Maznah myself before advising my colleague on what next to do. With so many complicated details, I think she too got confused with all the facts she took down.

So today, after zohor, I drove over to the hospital at the town where my colleague works, and where Maznah was warded. Based on the earlier info we got, Maznah was supposed to be warded until she delivers so that the doctors/nurses could monitor her methadone & ARV intake. So I figured I would have to visit her at the hospital.

Upon reaching the hospital, I had to wait for my colleague to come so that  we could get in easier since it wasn’t visiting hours, and she being a doctor there, would get easier access into the ward. Turned out she forgot to bring her tag/pass and we almost got stopped by the guard upon entering the O&G ward! I took out my HRPB Ipoh special pass (which is actually only valid at HRPB, but at least it helped in explaining why we needed to go in) and the guard finally took us to see the Sister to get permission. Luckily the Sister recognised my colleague. So we were allowed in, only to find out that Maznah had been discharged a week earlier! My colleague couldn’t figure out where she placed the note book where she had earlier on jotted down all the details about Maznah, and so she didn’t have Maznah’s address. Thank God we could dig that out from the hospital records.

After getting some directions on how to get to the address given, off we went to visit Maznah at her mother’s house. First to get to a particular hotel… which I was told, known amongst the locals as a hotspot for prostitutes. Parked the car there, and asked someone at a nearby warong how to find Maznah’s house. The young lady we asked seemed reluctant to tell where the house was. She asked who we were looking for, and when told we wanted to visit Maznah, she asked why. Only when she was told that Maznah had already met my colleague earlier at the hospital, she told a small boy sitting in front of her to show us the way. Apparently the small boy was Maznah’s younger brother! And yes, without him showing the way, we probably would be walking in circles trying to find the house despite having the address.

It was a slum area, and we had to walk through small alleys between the houses to get to Maznah’s house.

As we got there, an elderly looking lady wearing t-shirt and shorts, holding a cigarette in her hand, met us first. She told us she was Maznah’s mother. Later I found out she was only 44. Younger than me. Seriously I thought she was much older. 2 little boys were playing inside a water tub. The house looked like it was built from discarded materials. Frankly speaking, it’s not fit to be called a house.

After a while Maznah came out, with a box of cigarettes in her hand. She recognised my colleague immediately. There was no living room for her to invite us in to, so we had a chat while just standing there – just at the entrance.

I was shocked to find out that 11 of them stayed there, including Maznah’s cousins and their children as well. The young lady we met earlier at the warong, was one of them. Another cousin, 18 years of age, is also pregnant. Apparently, in this family, getting pregnant out of wedlock, is nothing out of the ordinary. It was too sensitive a question to ask, but I believe, by the looks of it, that Maznah’s mother works as a prostitute to support the family.

Maznah’s 13 year old younger brother has stopped schooling as they could no longer afford to send him to school. He now works at a burger stall. Maznah’s 9 year old brother, the one who showed us the way to the house, is also not schooling. According to his mother, the boy doesn’t want to go to school. Maznah also has a 6 year old sister. These 3 younger siblings of Maznah’s, were all born out of wedlock. Maznah herself already has 2 children from earlier pregnancies. One given away to another family, while the other one, a boy, is now 6 years old, same age as Maznah’s youngest sister.

I asked Maznah if she wants to send her child to school. She said she does, but she may not be able to afford it. Likewise I asked her 6 year old sister if she wanted to go to school, the girl just smiled and nodded. I told Maznah we should be able to help out with the children’s schooling expenses, but she must promise to register them for standard one next year. Maznah seemed to appreciate the offered assistance, even though I only offered schooling assistance and nothing else.

With the kind of background they were brought up in, it’s difficult to change their lifestyle. Telling them what should and should not be done will not work. While we see their family as a problematic family, to their family, probably their only problem is financial, and nothing else. For the moment I just told my colleague to be a good friend to Maznah. Let her feel comfortable with us first. Things need to be done in a slow and steady manner.

My target now is so that the 2 younger children goes to school next year. Hopefully that will open them up to a totally different environment. Maznah and her mother both agreed that the 2 should go to school next year. To me that’s a good enough start…

Monday, 7 May 2012

Ahh, the children…

Rozi called me up from her workplace this morning. Yes, the aunt Rozi, new guardian of Sofie’s children. In a way, I was glad she called… at least it showed that she already felt comfortable talking to me. On the other hand, her call could mean there’s a problem she wanted to talk to me about – a problem involving the children.

True enough, Rozi was getting worried about Azman, the culinary boy. The boy did drop by Rozi’s house during last Tuesday’s public holiday, but just for a short while and with a specific purpose. Since he needed to get a new guarantor for his PTPK loan, his aunt Rozi, who previously was the second guarantor, has now become the first guarantor, and so she needed to sign the form again. And the second guarantor which he ended up getting one himself… was his other aunt’s husband. Yep, the aunt whose house he frequents.
However, according to Rozi, she wasn’t too sure herself if the signature of the second guarantor was indeed signed by the uncle, or signed by Azman himself. I remember when I brought the other kids to visit Azman at his college and asked if he had got a second guarantor, he did mention he found one although he refused to mention who. Then when I asked if all the forms had been signed, he said there was no need. Huh? Guarantor need not sign? That’s impossible.

Anyway, Rozi’s main concern was that Azman could be skipping his classes because Azman’s paternal aunt did mention to Rozi that she saw Azman at the other aunt’s house. But I told Rozi I had just met one of his lecturer’s last week and according to his lecturer, Azman is still showing interest in class. And I assured Rozi that I had already told the lecturer to inform me immediately should Azman start playing truant.

And according to Rozi, Azman now has a new girlfriend… no longer his senior at the culinary school, but his own cousin (who is also 2 years older than him). Ahh, no wonder he loves to frequent the other aunt’s house… he wanted to be with the girl! Haiya! And this was the same cousin who got pregnant (out of wedlock) and went for an abortion earlier this year. Sigh…

On the good side, when I asked Rozi about Azlan, the older brother, Rozi said Azlan had changed a lot positively. Before this, Azlan was even more problematic than Azman, not wanting to listen to his mother, always coming home late. His positive changes started when Sofie was still alive, and after Sofie passed on, both Rozi and myself noticed Azlan had indeed become a more responsible person.

Thank God for that. Imagine if both Azlan and Azman gave problems, both Rozi and myself would end up with even more headache!!

Later in the afternoon, Hana called me up and asked if I could check online to see if her daughter managed to secure a place at any of the IPTAs. Somebody told her daughter that the results would be out this afternoon and since she didn’t have any internet or even computer at home, she sought my help. She’s supposed to register for form 6 this week, and Hana didn’t want to buy uniforms etc  only to be using them for a short while should her daughter get offered to any of the IPTAs.

So yes, checked online I did. I have copies of the girl’s certs with me, so I already had her IC number to enter. She wasn’t successful in her application. And since she didn’t apply for TEVT/ILKA (polytechnic colleges & technical/industrial institutes), I suppose form 6 it is for the girl.

I then proceeded to check for Aini’s daughter. Earlier on when I went to visit her at her house, she did enter some details online using my netbook, and so I still had her IC number saved. She too wasn’t successful in her application for IPTAs. She however, did apply for TEVT/ILKA as well, and so she still stands a chance to further her studies elsewhere instead of continuing with form 6. The results for this one will only be known later some time end of May.

I didn’t bother to check for Azlan yet. I was the one who submitted his application online, and based on his results, I didn’t bother to apply to IPTAs. Instead I submitted his application for TEVT/ILKA. Which means the results will only be known end of May.
Meanwhile, according to Rozi, Azlan had gone for a 3 weeks training in KL for his new job. He got a job at a car service centre and will continue to work until he gets a place to further his studies. I do hope Azlan will get a place to further his studies in the field he likes – automotive. I want him to get a qualification better than just SPM. At least if Azman gets his Kitchen Practice certificate, he cannot look down on his older brother.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Did I make the right move?

When at one time I started getting complaints about Azman, Sofie’s son at the culinary school, I thought to myself that maybe, just maybe, I made the wrong decision sending him there at such a young age. But then again, had I not sent him there, he would probably end up just working as helper at food stalls. Even when he was in form 3, he missed school quite often, being more interested helping out at food stalls to get some extra pocket money for himself.

When he indicated he wanted to quit school after PMR and work, I could coax him to still go to school at least up to form 5, and only start working after that. But I wouldn’t be able to make sure he goes to school every day. Chances are, just like when he was in form 3, out of every 5 schooling days each work, he’d skip school 3 times a week. And him being one of the children under our education sponsorship programme, I didn’t want to waste his sponsor’s money knowing pretty well he’s not putting them to good use.

But I knew from his late mother that he loves cooking. So when a friend of mine told me about a culinary school which does accept 16 year olds on a case to case basis (usually they only take SPM leavers), I personally asked Azman if he’d be interested to take up Kitchen Practice at this place, he was all excited about it. At least with the skill he gets from this course can help him to get better jobs since the certificate given out is recognised by the Ministry of Human Resource.

So yes, early this year, he joined the culinary school. I personally sent him there as his mother was not only unwell, she had 2 younger children which she had to send to and fetch from school. I have a friend in the management team of the culinary school so I depended on her to report to me if there were any problems involving Azman.

After a while, the complaints started coming. He had been almost daily  chit-chatting with his new girlfriend, a senior 3 years older than him, at the hostel pantry, right up to 2 or 3 am in the morning. The warden/lecturers warned him.

Then when I went to visit Sofie at home, she told me how Azman had been asking for money from her every week. For the record, while waiting for his PTPK loan to be approved, he has been getting monthly pocket money from a donor, banked in straight into his bank account. The amount should be good enough, more than what his mother could afford to give him. So when his mother told me that Azman had been asking her for money too often, I was quite angry with him. He had promised me he wouldn’t trouble his mother, but there he was, even suggesting to his mother to take out money from his younger siblings’ bank accounts!

I gave him a short lecture. Azman seemed to have befriended those from rich families, and so he had been spending just like them. He needed to be reminded how hard his mother had to work despite  her ailing condition just to feed him and his siblings.

The next time I went to visit Sofie, I was told that Azman was no longer asking for money from his mother.

Then when Sofie died, instead of staying with his aunt Rozi, who had been entrusted by Sofie to take care of her children, Azman seemed to prefer going to another aunt’s house… the same aunt who had been badmouthing Sofie earlier. At that house he could do whatever he wanted to do without anyone scolding or nagging, unlike his aunt Rozi who’d scold him just like she would her own children if they did anything wrong.

I had to give Azman another short lecture. He should at least have some respect for his aunt Rozi who I could see, cared about the children.

Anyway, yesterday Azman called me up to inform me that he needed to pay a certain amount for the stamping of his study loan agreement. So this morning I went over to the culinary school and went straight to the office, first to pay whatever necessary, and then I had a short chat with one of his lecturers. It was good to know that this lecturer does keep a close watch on her students, even outside the class. And I felt even more relieved when told that Azman had indeed been showing interest in class.

So hopefully I did make the right move by sending him to the culinary school at such a young age…