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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Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Visiting a new case

While we Buddies usually get cases referred either from Hospital Raja Permaisuri Bainun, Ipoh and Hospital Taiping, of late I’m beginning to get cases referred by others. 2 weeks ago, a JKM officer from another district called me to refer a case (read my previous posting). Then last week, the staff nurse at a hospital not covered by our volunteers called to refer a new case to me.

For the usual cases referred to us at HRPB or Hospital Taiping, we do have our volunteers on duty at the hospital and so the nurses would usually introduce the new patients to us. Our volunteers would get to meet and talk to the patients before letting them decide whether or not they wanted our services.

When cases are referred to us by others, we only get their details and it is up to us to approach them. It is usually not as easy to gain their trust just by talking to them on the phone.

But for this new case referred by the staff nurse, it wasn’t too difficult for me to get the lady to open up although she had never met me before. She immediately gave her consent when I asked if I could visit her at home.

Since this lady stays at a district covered by the JKM office that I went to last week, I called the JKM officer to inform him of this new case and he agreed to go for a joint visit to this lady’s place.

And so this morning we went for the visit. I drove over to the JKM office, and this time we went for the visit in JKM’s vehicle. Yay!! I didn’t have to drive. Off the 4 of us (2 JKM officers, the driver and myself) headed over to the lady’s place. If it was up to me, I would have to use my GPS to get to the kampong, and then from there on, I’d either have to ask around, or I’d have to call the lady to ask for directions. But the JKM officers and the driver was quite familiar with the place and so we got there without any problem. It was only when we wanted to find the exact unit where she was staying that I had to call her. Apparently we had to walk to the back rows to get to the house so what she did was, she walked out to look for us. So there we were, she was looking for a lady talking on the phone while trying to look for her… and I was looking for the other lady talking on the phone while trying to look for me… Smile

This lady stays at a makeshift home, built by her late father-in-law. The place comes without any title whatsoever, the land belongs to the plantation, and they are allowed to stay there as long as the plantation don’t intend to develop the place. So while she and her children may have a roof over their heads for the moment, in future anything can happen.

As for her monthly income, she sells vegetables at a stall in front of the nearby market. Since her husband died a few months ago, she had to depend on a friend, who’s also a vegetable seller, to get supplies for her. While her late husband did leave behind a motorbike, this lady doesn’t know how to ride a bike, having been too dependent on her husband all the while. Now she is dependent on the friend to help her out, so if for whatever reason the friend can’t go to get supplies of vegetables, she won’t be getting any supplies either. In other words, her monthly income is not fixed.

I told her that Buddies will be helping out with her children’s educational needs. And the JKM officer seemed keen to help her out as well, leaving her the form, telling her how to fill it up and what documents to get.

Other than reminding her about the importance of not missing any of her hospital appointments (she’s not on HAART yet), I also emphasized to her the importance of education for her children. She must have discussed the matter with her children later today when they came back from school (by then we had already left) because I got a text message from her, seeking my advice for her 2nd son who’s not so academically-inclined but has an interest in electronics and mechanical stuff.

Considering it was just our first meet this morning, I think that was a very good start.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

From not much problem before marriage, to lots of problem after marriage…

While I was shopping for the schooling needs of Mr & Mrs Rama’s children last week, a call came in from an unfamiliar number. The caller identified himself as a Welfare Officer from another district in Perak and that he got my number from the nurse at the HIV clinic in HRPB, Ipoh. He said he wanted to refer the case of an HIV+ couple who also has a 3 year old child who has been confirmed to be negative.

The officer asked how we Buddies could help, but I told him I’d need to assess the case first, if possible by visiting them at home. I was told that the couple go for appointments at a hospital in another town, and so meeting up with them during their hospital appointments is out of the question. The Welfare Officer then offered to take me along with him to visit the family.

By the time I got home and was able to sink in all the facts given to me by the officer, somehow I had that gut feeling that the couple he was referring to could actually be Jah and her husband. Remember Jah… the HIV+ lady who only found out about her HIV after both her son and 1st husband died. Despite all the trials, Jah was always the jovial type. She was always happy to follow me during my Raya visits to the homes of my other clients and never failed to join our annual Family Day. Despite not having a permanent job, it was never a problem for her as her mother and sisters had always been supportive. She also became good friends with another client of mine, Shila.

When Jah remarried, I was quite concerned. I asked if her boyfriend then knew of her HIV and if her family was ok with the marriage. I guess she was so happy to get married, she told me everything was fine.

After she got married, I sort of lost touch with her. Her phone number was no longer valid and when I finally did get to see her at the hospital during her appointment, I was told she no longer had a phone. Any contacts would have to be through her husband. When Jah transferred her appointments to a hospital in another town, I finally lost touch with Jah.

BUT… unknown to Jah, her husband did contact Shila, via SMS, asking her to marry him. And he also did contact me, again via SMS, seeking financial help and asking if her could be my adik angkat. You can read that story here.

Anyway, the visit with the Welfare Officers was arranged for this morning. I was to go to the Welfare office, and from there they’d take me to the client’s house. I thought I had the chance to visit the client in the department’s vehicle, but as soon as I got there, I was told both their vehicles had to be used for other purposes, and so I ended up having to drive and the 2 Welfare Officers became my passengers.

We finally reached a small wooden kampong house, surrounded by bigger houses around it. The door was closed, but as soon as it was opened, I immediately saw Jah. So my gut feeling was right after all. I had wanted to see for myself how the husband looks like, but was told he wasn’t home. He does odd jobs, getting daily wages, and so he was out at work. I did however, get to meet to meet her son, who will be 3 years old later this year.

When Jah and the 2 welfare officers mentioned that Jah’s husband was the shy and doesn’t speak much type, I was indeed surprised. Shy? The guy who had asked Shila to marry him (when he was already married to Jah), and the guy who asked if he could be my adik angkat… SHY?????

Oh well, I didn’t say anything then. I wanted to know more of their latest updates, because from what the Welfare Officer told me earlier, they seemed to need so much help.

Apparently, when Jah and her present husband got married about 4 years ago, it wasn’t with family’s consent. They got married in Southern Thailand, and up till now the marriage was never registered here in Malaysia. The husband had all along stayed with his mother, but after he married Jah, they were both chased out of the house. Jah, who had all along received full support from her family, began losing the support after she married this guy. While she still goes back to visit her mother from time to time, she’s no longer welcomed as she had always been before. I told her to keep on visiting her mother from time to time no matter what.

In the process of moving houses after being chased out, they misplaced their Thai marriage certificate. After Jah gave birth, they had problems registering the baby as they couldn’t provide NRD with the relevant supporting documents. And so the child up till today, still hasn’t obtained a birth cert.

Jah and her husband are however lucky that the welfare officers at their district had been helping them out… a whole lot. In addition to giving a monthly financial aid of RM200, they too took the trouble to help them out in connecting with the NRD officers to get all the documentations done. Their main concern is of course, that the child gets a birth cert as soon as possible.

Usually, the couple would have to bring their Thai marriage cert to the Pejabat Agama to register the marriage in Malaysia, and paying a fine. However, since they have also lost that cert, and after discussing with the Pejabat Agama officers, arrangements have been made for Jah and her husband to remarry, with new akad nikah, legally here in Malaysia. The welfare officers had been very helpful, the Pejabat Agama and NRD people had been very cooperative, the forms that needed to be signed had been signed by Jah’s brother as her wali, all that is needed now is for Jah and more importantly her husband to go to the Pejabat Agama for the new akad nikah. So why is the husband still dilly-dallying over the matter? According to Jah, they needed to pay a sum of RM300 for the akad nikah to be carried out (includes upah jurunikah etc). Jah says for the moment she has saved RM100, she needs to save another RM200. I’m not sure when she can reach the total RM300 needed. So her son will not get a birth cert until then? Oh dear…

I can try to get the balance of RM200 needed from donors, but I am not willing, particularly after personally knowing the husband’s history, to give them cash. If they end up using the money for some other matters which they feel is more important (they look at things more short term than long term), the child’s birth cert would still not get done. I told this to Jah straight in her face, right in front of the Welfare Officers.

The Welfare Officer then suggested that if I could get someone to donate the RM200, then I should liaise direct with another Welfare Officer who had been handling their case since day 1. That sounds like a better idea…

Just like the welfare officers, my main concern is for the child to get a proper birth cert…. ASAP!

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Planning for some shopping and home visits…

It’s already June, and I thought by now shopping for the children’s schooling necessities would be over. But no, with new cases assigned, there are bound to be newly referred clients needing help with their children’s educational needs.

The case of Mr and Mrs Rama was referred to me recently, and with Mr Rama unable to work while Mrs Rama only works as a helper at a restaurant, they certainly need help. I’ve already assigned another volunteer to this family, however when Mr Rama called me yesterday, I was told the assigned volunteer has not called him yet.

Anyway, I do plan to go to the town where Mr & Mrs Rama are staying, to visit another client of mine, so I might as well take the opportunity to bring Mr Rama’s children to shop for whatever else needed for their schooling.

Meanwhile, there’s another family I may need to visit… an HIV+ pregnant lady who also has a 2 year old HIV+ child. Am not sure yet if she needs any help because I have neither met nor spoken to her. Her details were given to me by the staff nurse when I went for my clinic duty yesterday.

Since Ramadhan is also coming soon, I also need to schedule visits to the homes of a few of my clients, particularly those who still need help financially. This will also involve shopping as my Ramadhan rounds usually include distributing contributions of groceries to these families as well. I’m already beginning to get cash contributions from friends for this purpose.

I have not been doing home visits as often as I did back then, so I am kinda excited to get things going this time around…

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Today’s clinic duty in Taiping

My next clinic duty in Taiping is supposed to be in early July. However, both the volunteers who are supposed to be on duty today couldn’t make it as they had to be elsewhere, and so they sought my help to switch duties with them.

And so I was in Taiping Hospital again this morning. I no longer worry about finding parking in Taiping Hospital ever since their multi-storey parking was opened to public. No luck getting parking space on the first 4 levels usually, but so far I haven’t had any problems parking my car at level 5. If you’re worried about having to walk down (and later up) the staircases for 5 or 6 floors, there’s a lift provided. As usual, I walked past the lift lobby, heading straight to the stairs. A security guard who was doing her rounds, called me and said, “Kak! Kak! Situ ada lif!” She probably thought I didn’t know there was a lift. I, on the other hand, opted for the exercise.

Anyway, the moment I got to the HIV clinic, I saw a patient just outside the room, on a stretcher. I figured that could be one of the cases to be referred to me. I checked with the nurse, and she told me there were very few appointments today, mostly old cases. The only case I may want to see she said, was the lady on the stretcher I saw outside.

But since our make-shift counselling room is the praying room just across the doctor’s room, and the lady was on a stretcher, there was no way for me to bring the lady into the praying room to talk to her there. I had no choice but to talk to her outside, with people passing by from time to time.

Of course I made sure I didn’t mention HIV and AIDS in my conversation. Even when I needed to ask, I’d just say “sakit ni” and she’d understand.

She was brought to Taiping in an ambulance from a district hospital where she was warded. According to her, her husband, who also has HIV, used to work as a bus driver, but now works as a rubber tapper to support the family. She herself used to open a food stall for some extra income for the family, but stopped doing so ever since she became too weak to work.

With 3 school-going children, all in secondary school, I’m sure it’s not easy for the family especially now that both parents are not well. I promised her we’d try to help out with the children’s education expenses. I told her I needed copies of some documents and she could either post them to me, or she can bring them along during her next appointment and pass them to the volunteer on duty.

Let’s see how it goes…