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, 26 June 2013

The haze, clinic duties and this year’s Family Day

I just did my Taiping clinic duty during the first week of this month, so by right my next duty should be in August. However on Monday, a fellow volunteer called to ask if I could take over his duty on Tuesday, and he’d take over my next duty in August. I gladly agreed as first week of August will be during fasting month and during that month usually I’d be busy with my house visits.

So off I went to Taiping yesterday morning, only to be greeted with a Taiping without the view of its famous Bukit Larut. The hill completely disappeared in the haze!


Top pic: The usual view. Bottom pic: Yesterday’s view.

Only one new case was referred to me during my Taiping clinic duty. But since the lady was more comfortable speaking in Tamil, I promised her I’d assign a Tamil speaking volunteer for her. This family definitely needs help. Her husband had been unwell for the past few months and is no longer working, while she works as a cleaner, taking a take-home pay of roughly about RM500 month. With 6 children, 5 of them schooling, that’s barely enough.

Actually all 6 of her children are still of schooling age, but her 13 year old son no longer wants to go to school, and it had nothing to do with their poverty. He simply didn’t want to go to school anymore. He didn’t even sit for his UPSR last year. What a pity.

This morning I was on clinic duty again, this time in Ipoh. There were 3 new cases, 2 males and 1 female. The female case was from Hospital Bahagia, and she’s supposed to be discharged from that hospital soon, after getting the clearance from the doctor treating her. However, although her family is still around, they no longer accept her in the family because of her mental problem (they don’t even know she has HIV). So she needs a place to stay in and we need to arrange for a shelter home for her.

While waiting for cases to be referred today, I started texting my clients to inform them about our coming Family Day in September. During the Buddies meeting last night to discuss our clients progress report, I realised I had been assigned altogether 49 clients. After cancelling out the ones who are no longer in my active list (either died or moved out of Perak or changed numbers and no longer contactable), I am now left with 32. Still too many. A fellow volunteer resigned from Buddies because she felt she couldn’t cope with both work and keeping track of her clients’. And she had only been assigned 2 or 3 clients.

Anyway, although I gave my clients some time to inform me if they want to join our Family Day, within an hour after sending out the text messages, I started getting positive responses. Probably, just like previous years, most of the clients attending the Family Day will be my clients.

Let’s see how it goes…

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Clients’ Progress

When Buddies first started off, we didn’t have too many clients. Basically all the volunteers knew each other’s clients.

Initially, our monthly meetings were held alternately to discuss matters: if one month’s meeting was to discuss admin matters, then the next month’s meeting were to discuss clients progress.

Later on, when the clients list grew, and we didn’t have time to discuss the progress of all clients in one meeting, we decided to divide the volunteers into a few groups, appoint a leader for each group, and it was up to the group leader to call his/her group members for monthly meetings to discuss about their clients. The group leader would then submit a report to the Board.

But apparently it became difficult for group leaders to get a time where all his/her group members would be free to meet. The Board then decided that instead of calling for meetings, the volunteers should submit a monthly report (on paper) indicating their contact records with their clients and any updates to be reported.

Again, it didn’t really work out because the reports only came from the very same volunteers who’re also regulars to our monthly meetings. Defeats the purpose as we wanted to get reports from the volunteers we seldom get to meet.

So, even that died off. Understandably, the volunteers have other commitments. Since this is just voluntary work, we always tell them to give priority to own family and own full-time jobs first. And with our clients list growing to over 400 now (including those who had passed on), it is not easy for our Centre to keep track of the latest updates of all our clients.

In most of our clients files, what we have are just the first contact reports. And if the client had passed on, that would be recorded in the file. But when clients move to a new place or changed their phone numbers, those details aren’t recorded in their individual files.

Not really a problem as long as the assigned buddy is in touch with their clients regularly, right? But without those details updated in the files, what happens when the volunteer suddenly resigns? Yes, we can always assign a new volunteer to the clients, but without much details in the files, how is the volunteer taking over the case going to contact the clients?

Yes, it is high time we update the files. And so yes, for this month, there will be no board meetings. Instead, we will be calling all volunteers to attend a meeting specifically to discuss our clients’ progress report. And for those who are unable to attend the meeting for whatever reason, I have specifically requested that they submit a report on their clients to me before the meeting.

I do hope all the volunteers will cooperate this time around. For those who have not contacted their clients for some time, it is about time they do so in the next few days to get the latest updates.

Hmmm… need to go through the list myself too. There are a few of my clients whom I had not contacted for quite some time, it is time to call them now, IF I can get hold of them.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Clinic Duties

When I first joined Buddies way back in 2004, Buddies had volunteers providing support services for clinic duties every 1st and 3rd Wednesdays at the ID Clinic of Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun Ipoh. With most of our volunteers having full time jobs, not all of us could volunteer for clinic duties. Only those who are either retired, self-employed or with flexi-working hours could volunteer.

I used to have a flexi-hour job at that time, and so I did volunteer for clinic duties then. With 3 teams available, I would be on duty once every 6 weeks. I was lucky to have been able to join the clinic duties as I got to learn a lot during clinic. Now, I would recommend to any of the trainee volunteers to join clinic duties if they could, as I believe it is the best platform for them to learn more about HIV and about how to handle newly-diagnosed cases.

After I quit my office job to start doing freelance work at home in mid 2010, I had more time for my voluntary work. By then I was already the chairperson for Buddies. With request coming from the Ipoh HIV clinic asking if we could send volunteers more frequently to the clinic, I figured it was doable if I myself was willing to volunteer more frequently. I didn’t want to force the other volunteers to do the same, so what  I did was to divide the available volunteers into pairs of 2, and we came up with 3 teams (not including myself). These 3 pairs would be on duty as previously, taking turns on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month, while I’d take the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays, either alone, or with any available trainee volunteers.

So we now have volunteers almost every Wednesdays at HRPB. Almost? Well yes, if there are 5th Wednesdays in any month, we wouldn’t have any volunteers attending the clinic duty.

Since the ID specialist in Ipoh also goes to Taiping ID clinic, and since there are no HIV-related NGOs there, the specialist asked me if we Buddies could consider sending volunteers there. Otherwise usually if there were any cases in Taiping needing help, the doctor would go out of her way to note down all the necessary details of the patients and then pass the info to me when she comes back to Ipoh.

After discussing with my fellow volunteers, we managed to form 3 teams including myself. Clinic duties in Taiping initially was just once a month, meaning each team would be on duty only once every 3 months. Myself as usual would go either alone or with any available trainee volunteers.

Then, beginning this year, Taiping Hospital rescheduled their ID clinic to twice a month and requested, if possible, that we send volunteers twice a month too. Initially we maintained our once-a-month duty in Taiping, choosing only the usual 4th Tuesdays of each month, but after further discussion and after getting an additional pair available, we finally have volunteers twice a month in Taiping too.

So yep, we now have our volunteers for clinic duties every 1st to 4th Wednesdays in Ipoh plus 1st Thursdays and 4th Tuesdays in Taiping.

For an NGO with only volunteers, without having a single full time staff, I think that’s quite an achievement.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Fuzi’s children

I got a text message this morning from Fuzi, informing me that her son Ijam, was scheduled to be circumcised at the Pusat Rawatan Harian in Ipoh. Fuzi asked if I could help send them home later. It wouldn’t be suitable for her to take Ijam on a public bus after the circumcision, and getting a cab would be too expensive for her. Fuzi had told me earlier last month about this and I told her to remind me earlier to the date to ensure that I had no other appointments.

Fuzi had to arrange for Ijam’s circumcision to be done at the hospital due to his HIV status. Her kampong-folks did ask earlier during the last school holidays if Ijam would like to join the other kids in the kampong to have their circumcision done on the same day during a specially arranged programme. However, due to Ijam’s HIV status (which nobody else knew other than Fuzi and her children), Fuzi came up with all sorts of excuses not to have Ijam join the other kids for the programme.

Instead Fuzi sought the help of the paediatrician Ijam sees regularly to arrange for the circumcision to be done at the hospital. It was supposed to have been done during the last school holidays, but Ijam was knocked down by a motorbike near his house, broke an arm and so Fuzi decided to postpone it. Until today.

The moment I drove in front of the main entrance of the Pusat Rawatan Harian, I saw Ijam, in his kain pelikat, and his younger brother Iwan. Both immediately got into my car. “Mak mana?” I asked. “Mak pergi tandas,” answered the younger brother. After a few minutes, Fuzi came out of the building and headed straight into my car.

It took about half an hour drive from the hospital to get them home. During that half hour, with Fuzi talking almost non-stop, I got quite a number of updates about her children.

Her eldest daughter, who registered at a matriculation college just recently, apparently had offers from 2 other institutions as well. But the girl decided to stick to matriculation. Her matriculation course after all is only 1 year (apparently this is only for the brighter students, the average students need to go through 2 years matriculation). This girl, with 7A 2B won the top SPM student award at her school recently.

Fuzi’s second daughter, who never did well in her studies before this, (she had a variety of B’s, C’s and D’s in her PMR) also received a prize from her school for getting 2nd in her class during her school exams last year. The girl will be sitting for her SPM this year, and although I don’t really expect her to beat her sister’s results, I am happy with the progress she’s making.

Fuzi’s 3rd child, the first boy, who will be sitting for his PMR this year, is a different story altogether. Always getting into trouble, especially in school. Already disciplinary actions had to be taken against him in school – once for getting caught smoking in the toilet, once for playing truant, once for kicking one of the girls in school, for whatever reason. But lately, the boy has been keeping himself busy with sports, particularly takraw, and during the school holidays, he also helps out to wash the dishes etc with a catering service, to earn some pocket money for himself. I hope by getting himself involved in sports and a part time job, the boy will learn to be a more responsible person.

Fuzi’s 4th child, that’s Ijam, the HIV+ boy who was finally circumcised today.

Fuzi’s last child, born without a father (Fuzi claimed to have been raped by an intruder) is supposed to be in standard one this year, but with Fuzi still not obtaining her PR status, the boy’s status is affected as well. If Fuzi is a PR, the boy could at least register at a government school as a foreign student. But without the PR status, the boy has been unable to register at any government schools. But he does go to a nearby Sekolah Agama Rakyat which does not require him or his mother to be a citizen or a PR.

Fuzi’s earlier application for PR was rejected. She has submitted an appeal. I hope she can get that sorted out soon so that her youngest son can go to school.