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, 29 August 2012

Raya over, back to work!

Hmmm… 2 weeks since my last blog posting. I’ve been taking a longer than usual Raya break haven’t I?

Well, not really. It’s just the blog that I have not been updating, but I have been in touch with my PLHIV clients especially inviting the single mothers and children to a Raya event sponsored by my school alumni this coming mid-September. However, I did indeed take a break from home and hospital visits. There were so many things to do at my own home!

Anyway, based on an earlier list given, HIV clinic in Taiping was supposed to be on yesterday, and since it was my turn, yesterday I drove all the way to Taiping, only to find out that HIV clinic for yesterday had been cancelled since before Raya. But nobody bothered to inform us Buddies… sigh…

Today, Wednesday, I was on duty again, this time in Ipoh. When I got to the doctor’s room, the nurse told me there were supposed to be 4 new cases. 2 were already there, but one of them, a Thai lady spoke neither Malay nor English, but apparently her husband could speak Malay. After looking at the file, I knew I had already met them both during my last clinic duty. At that time it was the husband who was referred to us, the wife had yet to be tested. So I told the nurse there was no need to refer that case to me as I had already met them.

So the first case was referred to me. When the nurse brought her to the counselling room, I thought this was another case of an elderly lady. But then when I got the file, I noticed that the lady, Selvi, was actually my age, in fact she’s one week younger. So, does that mean I look younger or does that mean I am also an elderly lady???? :P

Selvi was infected by her late husband. She had actually known of her HIV infection since 2004 when she got involved in a road accident and was in coma for some time. They never went for HIV treatment after that because her husband was the type who wasn’t bothered. She now no longer works, and survives on Socso pension. She used to work at a factory before the accident. When asked if her late husband used to work, she said, “Dia banyak curi sini, curi sana la…”

They didn’t have any children of their own, but Selvi did adopt a child, now 8 years old. Based on what Selvi gets from Socso, she and her adopted daughter should be able to survive. She doesn’t have to pay rental as she had finished paying for the house using her EPF money. Only problem is, Selvi, who is a diabetic, has some eye problems as well and is due for an operation, which has not been done yet because of her HIV. That was how her case was finally referred to the HIV clinic just recently ie by the ophthalmologist.

Since her vision is quite bad, whenever she needed to go anywhere, she couldn’t take the bus. She had to hire a cab, and whenever she needs to come to Ipoh for her appointments, she’d have to fork out RM70 just for transportation alone. I told Selvi we should be able to help out with her child’s schooling needs. She then started to ask if we could cover her transportation to the hospital as well. While I did listen to her problems, at the end of the conversation I reminded her that she needs to be thankful with what she has. I told her about the other families I have been dealing with… who earn half of what she gets monthly and have 3 or 4 more mouths to feed. Then only she said, “Ya, ya you orang mau tolong saya punya anak punya sekolah pun saya sudah suka…

I guess some people tend to forget that there are so many people out there who are worse off than they are…

While I was waiting for other cases to be referred, suddenly I saw Shidah passing by. Remember Shidah? She’s the lady from a foreign country up north whose late husband used to abuse her when he was alive. After her husband’s death, I thought things would be easier for her so she could just go back to her own country and be with her child from an earlier marriage. Apparently I was wrong. For one thing, she herself wanted to continue staying in Malaysia. In addition, even her in-laws wanted her to stay with them, for their own selfish reasons.

Selfish reasons? Shidah’s husband had a job when he was alive… with EPF and Socso. They needed her as the widow to claim whatever necessary. As it turned out, Shidah has been getting the monthly payment from Socso (her in-laws aren’t too happy about this) but according to Shidah, her in-laws managed to get every single sen from his EPF account. I told Shidah she shouldn’t be too selfish herself. She did mention to me before that if she goes back to her country, she will lose her right to the Socso pension. I told her, while she herself has some rights over her late husband’s properties, his mother too had rights and so does his brother/s since they didn’t have any children together.

Today when I met Shidah, I was told she no longer stays with her in-laws. She has moved to another state nearer to the border, to join a friend doing some small business together. She came back to Ipoh just for her appointment. I told her she might as well transfer her appointment to a hospital near where she stays now so that she doesn’t have to travel so far each time she has to come for her appointment.

After Shidah left the room, in came Mas, another new client of mine. After the last time I met her, she was hospitalised because of a mild stroke (but I didn’t visit her at the hospital because I wasn’t told about it). She still looked weak when I saw her today, this time she came with her younger brother, who took leave from work to bring her to the hospital as she was too weak to come by bus. Mas plans to join the Raya event planned for mid-September… I do hope the brother will be able to send Mas and her children to the hotel for the event.

After some time, as I was starting to pack up thinking there wouldn’t be any more new cases, the junior nurse came in with another new case, Chan, a 22 year old guy. Quite a chatty young chap I must say. He even apologised for coming quite late. There was no doubt at all he’d be happy to have a buddy assigned to him. As a matter of fact, when I suggested to him that maybe he should join us as a volunteer, he welcomed the idea. Not only can he help others by doing so, he’d also end up helping himself. But before he himself becomes a volunteer, he will need to get himself to fully accept whatever that had been fated for him. By the looks of it, I think he should be able to get over the initial “shock” soon enough. All he needs is some moral support and someone to talk things out to. He now has a buddy for that…

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Last round pre-Raya visits

Like previous Ramadhans, this year quite a substantial amount of donations came in, to be distributed to the poor families I deal with. Some was even given to me before Ramadhan so that I could distribute the donations to the various families during the beginning of the month, either in cash, or, in some cases, I’d buy necessities and deliver them to their homes.

Ramadhan this year is coming to an end soon, yet I still do get some donations coming in, including a few Raya gifts (cookies/chocolates/cakes etc). And this being the final week of Ramadhan, I decided to go for a few visits to distribute the Raya gifts and money, while a few others, I just banked in some cash into their bank accounts so they could use the money for Raya.

The first I met yesterday was Wani, the one who sells Raya cookies and had for the past few years sought my help to get orders. Her children are under our sponsorship programme and her child’s sponsor had passed some money through me to be given to her. Wani had earlier promised to come to Ipoh in the morning to deliver the cookies, but she had some things to settle first and couldn’t make it then. When she found out that I’d be going to visit Fuzi in the afternoon, she asked if she could meet me at the town where Fuzi stays, since the town is located half way between Ipoh and the town where Wani stays.

So yes, we met up in front of a school in that town, she passed me the cookies, I passed her some money (to pay for the cookies and also the money from her child’s sponsor), invited her and her children to a sponsored Raya event in mid-Sept, hug hug, wish each other Selamat Hari Raya and off we went separate ways. She, back home, while I headed to Fuzi’s house.

I didn’t warn Fuzi I was coming, though. So when I honked, it was her youngest boy, 6 year old Iwan, who opened the door and upon seeing my car, shouted to his mom at the top of his voice, “MAMA!! MAKCIK FIZAH DATANG!!!”

Fuzi was actually on the phone. Apparently she had totally forgotten that she was supposed to bring her son Ijam to Ipoh GH for his appointment (note: Ijam is HIV positive), and so the doctor called her to find out what happened to the boy. I must commend that doctor, he’d go out of his way to make sure his paediatric patients get the necessary medical treatments.

Ijam was at school, the only children at home were Fuzi’s eldest, Wina, and the youngest boy, Iwan, who was happily showing off to me a RM10 note. “Budak-budak ni dah mula dapat duit raya, Kak. RM10 sini, RM10 sana… sekarang ni anak-anak yang sudah lebih kaya dari saya,” said Fuzi, laughing away. As I was about to leave, I took out 6 Raya packets from my bag, 5 smaller ones for Fuzi’s children, and 1 bigger one for Fuzi. When I told her about the Raya event, Fuzi immediately said yes. Her children always look forward to any events I invite them to, even if the event is held at the Buddies Centre. Surely her kids would be even more excited when they find out that this event will be held at a hotel.

From Fuzi’s house, I headed over to visit Sofie’s children, Saiful and Ika. I had contacted their aunt at work, and she told me that the children would be home after 2 pm. And true enough, the moment I reached the house, both Saiful & Ika came out. They were expecting me. They told me that their eldest brother, Azlan, would be coming back on Friday. As for their other brother, Azman, he hadn’t even been calling them to ask how they’re doing. Ever since he joined the culinary school, he had been befriending sons/daughters of rich people, and had been spending like one too. He did as he pleased and didn’t show any respect at all to his aunt. Let’s see how long he can last that way… the way he had been spending, I’m not sure how long the money from his Tabung Kemahiran loan can last.

Anyway, both Saiful and Ika are excited about joining the Raya event at the hotel. Even if their aunt can’t go (she usually works on Saturdays), these 2 siblings have no problem coming along with me or any assigned volunteer fetching them.

This morning, I decided to make one last visit before declaring my own Raya leave… :)

Remember Laila, Shila’s daughter? Ever since Shila passed away last year a few days before Ramadhan, I had been liaising more with the girl’s grandma or aunt. When my phone went kaput during my Kinabalu trip last month, I lost their number. And so I didn’t inform them about my visit this morning. I wasn’t sure if Laila herself was at home, but I figured her grandma would be home at least.

True enough, when I got to their house, Laila was at school. Today was the last day for her UPSR trial exams. But both Laila’s grandma and aunt were home. I was happy when they told me that Laila had shown some progress in school. From the usual C’s, D’s and E’s she used to get, for the recent exam at school, the girl managed to score 5B’s. Her teacher was impressed with the improvement, and encouraged her to try improve her grades even further for her UPSR.

Laila’s grandma also agreed to bring Laila for the Raya event in mid-September, which is immediately after the UPSR exams… so the timing is just nice. Since I couldn’t meet Laila today, hopefully I can meet her then.

And so that wrapped up this year’s Ramadhan and pre-Raya visits. I hereby declare that I am now officially on leave until after Raya. It’s now me-and-my-family time! :)

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Checking on my clients…

When Imran met with an accident just a few days before our Family Day in early July, he had problems walking. His left foot was swollen, and even with the aid of a walking stick, he couldn’t walk without feeling excruciating pain. So he texted me to ask if I had any wheelchairs.


Coincidentally, earlier in April, Sofie needed a wheelchair, and a donor graciously gave some cash for me to buy a wheelchair for Sofie. But Sofie died before I could pass the wheelchair to her, and so the wheelchair was kept at our centre. It was initially bought for Sofie’s use, but turned out Imran became the first to use it.

When I checked on him last week by phone, at the same time to order some putu kacang from his wife who made them herself to earn extra income for the family, I was told he no longer needed the wheelchair. So when I went to visit them on Tuesday, my visit was not only to get my putu kacang orders, but also to get the wheelchair and send it to back to our centre.

The house was full of boxes of cookies and kerepeks when I got there. The wife was enterprising enough to rent a space at a supermarket to sell all those stuff. Imran looked a whole lot better, but still couldn’t walk too far without the use of a walking stick. If he walked around too much, the swelling would start again. But at least his condition wasn’t as bad as when I went to visit them to send the wheelchair earlier.

After visiting Imran’s family, I figured I might as well go visit Lin, since she stays in the same town. I had not gone to visit her for quite some time already. This time it had to be a “surprise” visit. Remember my handphone’s screen had a slight crack when I went to Kinabalu? Because of that I wasn’t able to read anything on my phone screen… which meant I couldn’t see whatever info was stored in the phone. I couldn’t get Lin’s number from the first contact report we have at the centre because she had changed her phone number since then. And so I couldn’t call Lin prior to the visit. Guess I just had to try my luck and hope that somebody would be home.

When I got to her house, her daughter’s car was outside, the glass door was open, just the grill door locked. And I could hear the TV was on. Yes, somebody was home! The moment I gave the salam, it was Lin who answered. She didn’t hear my car, neither did she hear me opening the gate. And yes, she was surprised to see me because I didn’t call prior to my visit.

“Alamak, rumah tengah semak, kak!”

Lin does tailoring work at home to earn an income. With Raya coming soon, she needed to complete her work as soon as possible. And her youngest daughter was already making noise that Lin hadn’t even started anything on the daughter’s baju kurung.

When I first handled Lin’s case, all Lin’s children were still studying and Lin was without any job. Life was tough. Her ex-hubby (Mr Darling, if you can recall) was never on time with the alimony determined by the court, and Lin couldn’t depend on him to support the children. She resorted to selling fried bananas at a friend’s stall, until one day that friend decided to sell fried bananas himself and came up with all sorts of excuses not to let her continue selling there.

Lin then attended a short sewing course at Giat Mara. Immediately after completing the course, she started taking orders for baju kurung and curtains. And that was how she survived until now. While we Buddies do come in to assist in her children’s educational needs, life was still tough for the family.

Now 2 of her children, her 1st & 3rd, both girls, have obtained their diplomas, and are already working. Yes, they even have a car now so easier for them if they needed to go anywhere. Her second daughter has another year to go before she completes her degree. God willing, by next year they will have a doctor in the family. Lin still has 2 schooling children, in form 3 and form 5 this year, but life has already improved for the family, financially. I used to visit them on a monthly basis. But now that their lives have improved, I concentrate on other needy families. Of course, a visit to Lin’s home from time to time is good to boost up my spirit to help others. A real life example of how the little help given could make a huge difference in their lives. Provided of course, that the recipients of the help given, work hard themselves.

After visiting Lin, I decided to check on 2 new clients I had just recently been assigned to. Nope, no visits, yet. We never visit without their permission, and so the first step would be to call them first. One of them, a single mother with 2 schooling children, seemed very receptive, and emotionally stable. The other, a single woman about my age, sounded rather depressed. It had never been easy gaining the trust of newly assigned clients, but somehow, after a few minutes, this lady asked if she could meet up with me. I guess she really needs someone to talk to.

So yes, we promised to meet up next week when she goes for her next appointment at the hospital. Visiting her at home is a NO because she’s renting a room at a house together with a few other ladies.


Thursday, 2 August 2012

Less complicated cases?

Being the volunteer with the most number of clients, I don’t usually get assigned to new clients by my colleagues on clinic duty unless they really couldn’t think of anyone else for the particular client. However, of late I’ve been getting new clients… one by one… mainly Malay ladies including those over 50 years of age.

Yes, I used to get clients who are younger than me, some even young enough to be my daughter. But now the younger ones would be passed to my younger colleagues (unless they are pregnant, for whatever reason, usually I get assigned to the pregnant cases!), while the older ones get passed to me. Ehem… I wonder what that implies…

Anyway, I remember quite a number of the earlier cases passed to me were rather complicated and full of drama. Had I seen their stories on TV, I would have probably thought they were ridiculous and illogical. But after being exposed to the lives of the families I deal with, I found out that the ridiculous and illogical stories are ACTUALLY happening out there – some even worse than the stories on TV. Those who had been following my blog from the beginning would probably agree with me.

Stories like Lily’s, Lin’s, Yah’s (and Mr Darling), Zana’s… had lots of twists and turns. And not forgetting the “adventures” I had with my little Cek Mek… including sending her mom to the hospital in the wee hours of the morning to deliver the little girl!


But of late the cases I’m getting are not as “dramatic” as my earlier cases. Either that, or I’m getting too used to the dramatic cases, I don’t find them too dramatic anymore… ;-)

The cases I’ve been getting lately are mostly those of poor single mothers needing help for their children’s education, and of course needing some moral support as well. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem for me… I think…

Or am I speaking too soon?