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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Saturday, 27 April 2013

Visiting my clients…

A call came in from an unfamiliar number earlier this week, asking for Kak Afizah. Initially I thought it could be one of my clients who had maybe changed her phone number. Turned out the lady who called got my number from the nurses at the HIV clinic in Ipoh. Her appointment at the hospital wasn’t on a Wednesday, so she was not referred to Buddies because we only send our volunteers to the hospital on Wednesdays. Seeing that she may be needing help, the nurses at the HIV clinic encouraged her to call me.

And so she did. From the conversation we had, I was told that her husband, with a CD4 of only 2, was rather weak and had not been working since beginning of the year when he had to be hospitalised. The lady herself, Mar, just found out that she too had been infected. They have 3 children, the older two are 19 and 17 respectively, but her main worry is her youngest daughter, who is only 2 years old.

It was quite difficult to assess her situation by phone, especially since I had never met her before, so I asked if I could visit her at home. She welcomed the idea. So I arranged to visit her on Saturday. After finding out where she lived, while I knew where the area was (I have another client staying within the same area), I also knew it wouldn’t be easy to find her house just based on the address. So I told her that once I got to the foot of the hill (her kampong is at a hilly area), I’d give her a call.

After fetching a trainee volunteer at the Buddies Center this morning, we headed straight to Mar’s kampong. As we got to a kindergarten, I decided to stop and call Mar. Mar told me her daughter would be coming down on a motorbike to meet me and show me the way to their house. But Mar also asked me, “Tapi akak berani ke bawak kereta sampai rumah saya?”

Me: Kereta boleh sampai depan rumah ke tak?
Mar: Boleh, trapi setengah orang tak berani. Kalau akak jenis brutal, boleh.”

So yeah, I decided to become “brutal” today. I saw a girl on a motorbike coming my way (I told Mar to tell her daughter to look for a Kenari), and when I asked if she was Mar’s daughter, she nodded. And so, I just followed her going up the hill on the narrow tarred roads. It wasn’t too bad, I didn’t really have to be “brutal”. But when we almost reached their house, we had to go down one steep hill and it was there that Mar’s daughter looked back to see if I dared drive my car down the hill. No hal lah! No problem for my Kenari.

Mar seemed like a very pleasant person. Her husband was still rather weak, but according to Mar, his condition had improved a whole lot compared to earlier in the year. He is still however, still on leave from work (he works as a security guard) and beginning this month, although he has not been terminated from work, it will be unpaid leave for him as he has already used up his medical leave.

I was quite worried looking at Mar’s 2 year old daughter. Mar did mention that her daughter has eczema, but the little girl’s skin condition looked quite bad. Mar had only found out about her own HIV just recently. When she was pregnant with this girl, blood test did not indicate she was positive, and so she delivered the girl through normal delivery, and even breastfed the girl for 2 whole years. The girl had been brought for HIV testing, but the results will only be known later when Mar goes for another appointment at Ipoh GH in about 10 days time.

I do hope the little girl is spared from infection, although frankly speaking, I am rather worried.

Mar’s eldest daughter is 19. When asked if she’d like to continue her studies, she was reluctant. Even when I recommended short term skill training courses, she didn’t seem too keen. But she just got herself a job at a newly opened factory, let’s see how it goes from there. Mar’s second daughter is in form 5 this year, and according to Mar, the second daughter seemed more interested in her studies, and may want to further her studies after her SPM. I really hope she will.

While I was at Mar’s house, a text message came in from Hana, informing me that additional fees need to be paid to her 2 children’s school. Both her kids are under our sponsorship programme, so I didn’t have to wait for the Board’s approval to pay for their school fees. Hana’s house is within the same area as Mar’s. I didn’t bother to include a visit to Mar’s house earlier in my schedule for today as Hana usually works on Saturdays, but when she sent that text message while I was already in the area, I decided to call her to find out if she was home. Receiving a reply in the affirmative, I decided to straight away head to her house. I had not been visiting her ever since her new house (at the same old spot) was built.

Glad to see her stay in a much better house. Her old house (her mother’s house actually, she stays with her mother) was in such poor condition that at one time, the floor gave in and Hana fell through it, breaking her arm. They then rented a house nearby until they could get help to rebuild the old house. Finally when her father got his EPF, the money was used to build a new house in place of the old one. (I’ve only met the father once, he has 2 wives and most of the time when I visit, he’d be at his other wife’s house)

I didn’t stay long at Hana’s house. After passing her the money for her children’s school fees, I headed back to Ipoh. As I was driving, a call came in from another unfamiliar number. It turned out to be a long lost client of mine, Zu, who had been missing her hospital appointments for quite some time. The last time I met her, her daughter was just about a year old. Zu asked if she could meet up with me to discuss her problem. She was waiting at a specific place and she said she’d wait there until I came. I was already out, so I might as well straight away go and see her. While driving, I wondered what her problem was. She used to have problems with her mother before as her mother didn’t quite like Zu’s boyfriend. She nagged, and fed up with her mother’s nagging, Zu decided to move out and followed her boyfriend.

Once I reached the place indicated by Zu, I couldn’t see her around. Just as I was about to call her, she knocked on my car window. I told her to come in. She had lost weight and looked unwell. I asked her what her problem was…

To cut the whole story short, the boyfriend that she followed was a drug addict. He somehow got her involved in drugs as well. She tried to quit drugs by buying methadone, but when she doesn’t have enough money and asked her boyfriend to help her out, he told her he’d only buy for her drugs, not methadone. Finally Zu decided to leave him and now she’s back at her parent’s house. She told me she wanted to get proper treatment. She no longer wants to be addicted to drugs and she wants to get proper treatment for her HIV too.

We Buddies are no experts in dealing with drug cases, and so I couldn’t assure her of help straight away. But I told her I’d try to arrange for something as soon as possible. I also told her, she must be strong enough if she really wants to change. Just to be sure she wasn’t lying to me when she said she’s back with her parents, I decided to send her home. Indeed, she was telling the truth. Her daughter, now already 4 years old, was playing outside the house, supervised by her grandma, Zu’s mother. I just went down for a while to salam with her mother, then off I headed home.

What started off as a visit to a new client’s home, ended up with visiting 2 other old clients as well…

Friday, 19 April 2013

Sponsorship Assessment Visit

It’s been quite a while since my last sponsorship assessment visit. While there were one or two recommendations by my volunteers, since the recommended clients do not allow us to visit at home, we could only consider the children for their back-to-school expenses at the beginning of the year. For the Education Sponsorship for Children, one of the requirements is that at least 2 Buddies need to visit client’s home to assess the family’s situation. If we’re going to get individuals from the public to sponsor a particular child, the least we can do is to get a better picture of the family’s situation at home. Otherwise, anyone can come to us saying they need help with their children’s education, whereas their situation aren’t so bad.

There had been cases where we decided not to consider the family for sponsorship. While we do believe the family wasn’t well to do, but there were other cases needing the sponsorship more. They still do get help under our CEF to cover the back-to-school expenses, but we don’t cover for pocket money, tuition fees and other monthly expenses.

Anyway, this morning I went for a sponsorship assessment visit together with 2 other volunteers including a trainee volunteer. The area was the only place outside of Perak covered by Buddies because HIV cases from there are usually referred to HRPB Ipoh.

I had brought Jamilah and her children shopping for their back-to-school expenses late last year. School holidays were coming to an end then, but Jamilah had yet to buy her children’s schooling needs. Jamilah is a 56 year old HIV positive single mother, depending on welfare aid and her small food stall by the roadside to support her 3 children. Just enough to pay for her house rental, utilities and food for the family. But when the children come home asking for money to pay for various fees etc in school, she’d have to delay the payment until she could save enough money.

What I like about Jamilah is that she doesn’t simply rely on sympathy and financial aid. She never uses her HIV and her age as excuse for not being able to do this and that. As a matter of fact, she’s a lot more hardworking than many younger clients of mine. Based on the family’s present situation, the children do indeed qualify to be considered for sponsorship.

I got home and immediately approached a few friends who had earlier indicated their interest to sponsor the education of children from our PLHIV families. And the answer I got from them was positive.

So yes, all 3 children now have sponsors to cover for their schooling needs, including some monthly pocket money…

Thank you sponsors!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Update on Sofie’s children

While I was out shopping for some groceries this morning, a text message came in from an unfamiliar number. It was from Rozi, Sofie’s older sister who is now taking care of Sofie’s children. According to her, Ika, Sofie’s yougest child, was hospitalised for dengue.

So this afternoon I decided to pay them a visit at the hospital. As usual, I went up the stairs instead of using the lift, furthermore Ika is warded at the paediatric ward which is on the 6th floor, 2 less than the usual 8th floor when any of my clients were warded.

When I got to the entrance of the ward, I looked at the list of patients to find out where Ika’s bed was. I got in and immediately went to the bed where Ika was supposed to be, but I saw a baby instead. That definitely wasn’t Ika. So I had to do a bed to bed search, and finally I heard somebody calling, “Kak Fizah!” It was Rozi. Ika just smiled. Also there was Rozi’s eldest son.

Ika was on drips, and she was complaining of pain. Rozi had already bought 100 plus for Ika, but from what I saw, the girl didn’t drink much. I told her she’d need to drink more if she wanted to get well soon.

Since I hadn’t been visiting them for quite a while, I took the opportunity to ask Rozi of the children’s latest updates. The eldest boy, Azlan, seemed to be doing quite well in IKM. He comes home to Rozi’s house every weekend. The 3rd boy, Saiful (the boy with the thick glasses, remember?) is in form 3 and will be sitting for his PMR this year. I asked Rozi if he needed any tuition for any particular subjects, but Rozi said it’s very difficult to get feedback from Saiful. It’s always, “Entah”, “tak tau lagi” or “belum dapat keputusan”. And apparently he had also skipped school a few times without Rozi’s knowledge, but in the end Rozi found out about it. One time he came home without wearing his glasses, and when Rozi asked, he said he “saja simpan dalam beg”. Rozi knew immediately he must have broken his glasses or something, and finally after being pressured by Rozi, Saiful admitted, 2 boys in his class bullied him and ended up breaking the frame of his glasses.

Rozi’s 2nd son ended up going to the school to meet the counselling teacher, and when the 2 boys were called and admitted what they did, Rozi’s son insisted that they pay for new frames for Saiful’s glasses.

I am not quite sure if it is the bullying that’s making Saiful skip school a few times. I do know for a fact that he too isn’t into academics, just like his brothers. He did seem interested when I asked him some time back if he’d be interested to join a vocational school in form 4. Let’s see how it goes after his PMR…

Remember Sofie’s second son, Azman, the boy who went to the culinary school? I told Rozi that the boy did indeed complete his level 2 certificate of his kitchen practice course. Rozi had all the while thought Azman didn’t complete the course because he was always at his other aunt’s house in another town.

Rozi had news for me too. Azman is no longer staying with that aunt. For whatever reason, he was chased out of the house. Before this it was that aunt who asked Azman to stay with her. Rozi had all along suspected that her sister had “financial reasons” for wanting Azman to stay with him. Based on what happened earlier on when Sofie was still alive, I tend to believe so too. At that time Azman was still getting the monthly Tabung Kemahiran loan into his bank account. Now that he has completed his course, no more fixed monthly amount is going into his account.

Azman could have gone back to his aunt Rozi and apologize. But did he? No he didn’t. Knowing the boy, his ego wouldn’t let him do so.

For the moment I can only hope that the boy will change for the better. Soon.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

A day at the clinic

During my last 2 clinic duties at HRPB, Ipoh, I ended up not seeing any new cases. The earlier one there were no new cases because the specialist was on leave. The last one, there was supposed to be one new case, but the patient didn’t turn up.

Today, I was on clinic duty again. This time all new cases, 4 of them, turned up. All males.

The first case was referred about half an hour after I came. A guy on a wheelchair was helped into the room by a lady, whom I first thought was his wife. Turned out the lady was his sister. Usually by the time cases are referred to us, the patients sent to us would have already known their HIV status. But for this particular case, either he didn’t understand what was told to him by the counselling nurse earlier on, or he was in denial. He and his wife was involved in a road accident, and both were hospitalised. He then had a blood transfusion, and now claims that there was a mix-up. “Ini darah sudah masuk saya punya badan bukan saya punya darah la puan…”

Unsure if he really understood the situation, I decided to ask them to wait while I went to see the nurse to find out more. Apparently he was tested positive before the blood transfusion was done, but was not told about it because they needed to do a second test to confirm it. However, the blood transfusion couldn’t wait as it was an emergency. But the nurse at the HIV clinic did explain to him about the first test result and that they needed to wait for the confirmation of his second test results.

I went back to see this guy, frankly I think he did understand but he was still in denial. He kept insisting it was all due to the blood transfusion he had. I didn’t want to pressure him, so I told him the doctor whom he’d be seeing later would be explaining everything to him.

The next case referred was a jobless guy. Married, 2 kids, but had been jobless for more than 2 years. Already on HAART since 2006, he is now physically well enough to work. The doctor had asked me earlier if I could help find him a job. I don’t know, I’ve seen so many cases whereby the client would come up with all sorts of excuses why they are still not working. But I still assigned a Chinese-speaking buddy to this guy (I had a tough time communicating with him in Malay), hopefully something can be arranged for this guy.

The 3rd case referred, another one I had problem communicating with. His BM was very poor, and although he used to work in England before, his English was even worse. When I asked, “You sudah berapa lama tau you ada sakit ni?”, he replied, “Ya, ya… saya tau!” Aduh…

Thank goodness the 4th case referred, although a non-Malay, at least he could speak and understand BM a whole lot better. He got himself a job in Singapore, went there, had his medical check-up done, was found to be HIV+, and so had to choice but to come back to Ipoh. So far no problem with this guy. His CD4 is close to 500, I assume he won’t be starting on HAART yet.

So, out of the 4 cases referred today, only one was assigned a buddy. The rest, while they don’t want any buddies for the time being, I still gave them our brochure should they need to call us later.


Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Visiting the K’s

While I was driving back to Ipoh from KL last weekend, a text message came in from an unfamiliar number. Just a quick glance and I saw the message started with “kzh chtke”. I knew it had to be Mrs K with her sms language which I may not be able to understand without having to re-read the whole message again and again. And so I didn’t bother to read it there and then. I figured I might as well read the message when I get home.

And so I did. She was telling me that she had quit her job because she couldn’t stand working night shifts, especially since lately she had been going in and out of the hospital for high blood pressure. Her eldest son too had stopped working because his workplace was too far and he didn’t have transport. Mr K is the only one who works now, as a guard, but he too has to skip work from time to time because he’s always unwell.

Hmmm…. typical of the K’s. While I can understand the problems they face, I noticed that this particular family always come up with all sorts of excuses for their hardship instead of finding ways and means to overcome them.

Anyway, Mrs K was asking if they could get assistance for supply of groceries for this month. Wow… at least that’s an improvement. Usually she’d ask to borrow money. I guess by now she knows pretty well I don’t entertain any requests to borrow money and in fact I may end up not responding to her sms at all if she did that.

It had been quite a while since I last went to visit them, as a matter of fact, I had never visited them ever since they moved to a new home last year. If I recall correctly, this must be their 4th home ever since their case was passed to me. I had to ask Mrs K for the address, which she couldn’t give in full, and so she gave me directions instead, which wasn’t too clear either. She made it sound so simple although I knew it couldn’t be that simple. In the end she just asked me to get in a junction after a fast food restaurant and call her from there.

And that was what I did. Once I got to the junction I parked my car by the roadside and called her. After 5 minutes or so Mrs K came on her motorbike. When I got to their home, it was quiet. I told Mrs K to get her son to carry the box of groceries in my car. In the box there were rice, cooking oil, flour, sugar, biscuits, milk, canned food etc and so the box was rather heavy. her 2 younger daughters were in school, which is within walking distance (no wonder she didn’t ask for bus fares this year), the 2 older ones were still lying in bed. I could see their “muka bangun tidur” when they came out to see me. As for Mr K, he works night shifts and so he too was sleeping. Aiyo… everybody like this at 11 am, no wonder lah susah masuk rezeki!

Mrs K’s daughter, Ani, who sat for her SPM last year showed me her SPM results. She wasn’t too sure what courses to apply for. She seemed determined to apply for the Diploma Pendidikan Awal Kanak-kanak, but she simply doesn’t know what courses to put as her 2nd to 8th choices. With no computer at home, she has to go to a cyber cafe to submit her online application. But according to her most of those who lepak at the CC are boys, and so she doesn’t feel comfortable staying there for too long. So okay, I promised to look up for courses she qualifies for and give her a list for her to choose from so that the next time she goes to the CC to finalise her UPU application, she doesn’t have to browse through all the qualification requirements for each course.

As for Mrs K’s eldest son, Shah, who failed his SPM a few years back, had been working here and there. Way back then, I could see his interest in motor mechanics or electronics, and I had advised him to go for some vocational training but he came up with all sorts of excuses not to. Now he is beginning to show some interest and was asking how to go about applying.

So when I got home today, I immediately looked up for the courses suitable for both Shah and Ani. Once I got them all listed down I immediately called Mrs K to inform them. And whaddaya know… when I called Mrs K said she just got herself a job. Apparently right after I left them (ie after my short “lecture”), Mrs K immediate went out to find herself a job. And she got one. It doesn’t matter what kind of job she gets, as long as it’s halal.

Most of the families assigned to me at about the same time as the K’s are almost independent by now. But the K’s? Sigh… but I hope things are beginning to change for the better…