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, 26 May 2015

The hardworking and motivated family

When Ana called me in November last year, I was initially confused. She said she got my number from the nurse at the Ipoh ID clinic during her daughter’s appointment there, then she told me that she and her daughters had been tested negative. So why did they have an appointment at Ipoh ID clinic? Well, you can read that part here. In that first posting about their story, I also highlighted the stigma and discrimination they had to face despite being confirmed HIV negative. The only reason for all the stigma and discrimination was that her late husband was HIV positive. Sigh…

But Ana and her kids didn’t even try to run away from all their problems. They faced everything that came their way and my visit to their home today confirmed that Ana and her daughters are motivated to improve their lives.

When I arrived at their house today, Ana’s relatives were helping out with some repair works to the house. Her daughters’ room at their wooden house was badly affected by termites. She couldn’t afford to buy all the materials needed for the repair works earlier on, but recently managed to get an assistance of RM1K from the welfare department for that purpose. At least she could use the money to buy the much needed materials, with free labour provided by her relatives.

The 2 girls (form 5 and form 3) were in school when I visited today. They are doing quite well in school in addition to being active in co-curricular activities. What I loved to hear from Ana was that the girls’ English wasn’t too bad either. I have to say that the major subject my clients’ children are generally weak in is English, but it is not so with Ana’s children. They are not only fluently conversant in Bahasa Malaysia and English, but also Arabic, all 3 subjects they learn in school. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the girls took the initiative to also learn Mandarin on their own! It is good that both of them have the same interest, so at least they could practice with each other at home. Ana told me that at times she has no clue what the girls say to each other because sometimes they speak in Arabic, sometimes they speak in Mandarin.

I love the initiative taken by the girls. I love the fact that they are motivated to have a better future.

Both the girls are under our Education Sponsorship program, and are entitled to claim anything pertaining to their schooling needs. But after taking them out for back-to-shopping late last year, Ana never asked for anything else. A few days ago I texted Ana to ask if her children had any additional payments for school, and her answer was, “Akak dah banyak sangat tolong. Saya segan.” Immediately I knew there must be other payments needed. Which was why I decided to give her a visit today. Indeed, the girls, both sitting for major exams this year, had fees that needed to be paid. And being active PBSM members, they also needed to buy PBSM uniforms. Ana had been postposing the payments, hoping to save some money bit by bit by doing odd jobs at various people’s homes.

I love helping families like this one. They don’t simply wait for help to come their way. They take the initiative to improve their own lives by working hard.

Such a vast contrast to a few of my other clients who tend to think that they can ask for anything just because we help them with their children’s educational needs. One client, when asked to list down the items needed for her children’s schooling, included “Motosikal RM2000” in her list. Another client included “Berkhatan RM200” and another requested for a handphone.

Schooling needs indeed…


Friday, 22 May 2015

Visiting my bed-ridden client

Last month when I was at the airport, about to check-in for my 2 weeks umrah trip, I received a whatsapp message from the daughter of one of my clients, Aini, informing me that her mother was hospitalised and in the ICU. Usually I’d immediately visit if any of my clients are hospitalised, but there was no way I could visit Aini then. I just told the daughter, Erin, that I was leaving for umrah and would only be back after 2 weeks, but to keep me updated for any developments.

Upon reaching Jeddah, the moment I switched on my phone and wifi was available, I noticed there was another message from Erin. The message was short… “Mama critical.” There wasn’t much I could offer then but my du’a.

There were no further messages from Erin after that, so the moment I got home from umrah, I sent the girl another message, asking her how her mother was doing. Alhamdulillah, Aini was discharged by then and was resting at home. I however was still coughing badly and had lost my voice, there was no point visiting Aini at home (her parents’ home actually, she had moved to stay with her parents after she became too weak to take care of herself).

It had been more than a month since then, so today I decided to visit. I checked first with Erin the address of her Opah’s home and what her mama needed. After finding out that Aini needs to use adult diapers, I decided to buy some diapers for her.

When I got to the house, Aini’s mother came out, wondering who I was (I think Erin didn’t tell her I was coming). When I told her my name, she immediately knew who I was. “Selalu dengar nama tapi tak pernah jumpa”, she said. Aini was in the kitchen, having her breakfast. Thank goodness someone gave her an old wheelchair no longer being used, making it easier for the family to move Aini around at home.

Erin was also home, on leave until mid of next month before continuing for her final semester at a polytechnic. She plans to work immediately after getting her diploma, so she can support her family.

It was Erin who told me in detail what went on when her mother was hospitalised last month. Apparently Aini’s condition was so critical, even the doctors told them to be ready for the worse as  her chances were rather slim. All the family members (Aini’s siblings) staying elsewhere came back to Ipoh. Based on Aini’s condition at that time, nobody thought Aini would be able to make it. Erin’s hands were trembling when the doctors asked her to sign some documents for some procedures they needed to do on Aini.

Cutting a long story short, alhamdulillah, Aini did get out of it. Well yes, she is bed-ridden and unable to take care of herself, but at least she is able to sit and talk. She is still home and her 3 children are still able to be with her.

Anyway, Erin asked me if the volunteers in Buddies are working people or if they are doing this voluntary work full time. I told her we all have to work to make a living and that we can only carry out our voluntary work when we are free. Apparently, she is interested to become a volunteer but she was initially afraid that if she becomes a volunteer, she may not have the opportunity to work and earn income for her family. Erin felt that the experience of seeing for herself what other families have to go through would be good for her.

I was so happy to hear of her interest to become a volunteer. I told her that once she completes her diploma and comes back for good, I will start taking her under my wings and train her personally. She can tag along with me when I visit my clients.

She will be the first of my clients’ children to become a volunteer. I hope there will be more of them in future. We sure need young blood in our NGO.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A strong-willed teenage mom

When Dahlia first told me last year that her daughter Dilla (who was only 15 at that time) was raped, I feared the worst. I feared that the girl may give up on her future. I feared the girl would just lock herself at home, not wanting to see anybody, or worse, that she’d run away from home. Those who may have missed her stories earlier, can read about her here, here and here.

Dilla started going for her culinary course only 2 weeks after she gave birth to her baby girl, Cek Mek 2 (CM2). She is so determined to take care of her own baby, she told her mom she’d run away from home if her mom decides to give the baby away for adoption. Obviously Dilla loves children. Even her younger siblings listen to her more than their own mother.

With good PT3 results despite being pregnant during the exams, some friends asked me why Dilla decided to take up the culinary course instead of continuing school up to form 5. Dilla had always been interested to take up culinary course. The rape case only made her decide to start doing the course earlier, especially when the opportunity arose just when she needed it most. She is so determined to take care of her baby, she wants to finish her course as soon as possible so that she can start earning some income and reduce the burden on her own mother. To me personally, I was happy enough she decided to continue studying, albeit just for a skill certificate. During the 2 years she needs to complete the course, chances are very likely she may decide to continue her studies to diploma level, or maybe even higher. I didn’t want to push her into doing something she wasn’t ready for (like going back to school after all that had happened). As long as she wanted to continue studying, I’m happy enough.

Well, today after my clinic duty, I went to visit them. The college Dilla goes to for her culinary course is having a short break and so Dilla was home when I got there. At least for the moment her mother Dahlia gets a helping hand at home. It had never been easy for Dahlia especially during the daytime after Dilla cycles to her college, and 2 other children goes to school. Dahlia needs to take care of not only her grandchild, CM2, but also her own 2 other toddlers at home. And she also needs to send and fetch her 4th son to/from a kindergarten. She usually drags along her 2 youngest kids and her grandchild when she walks her son to/from the kindergarten. Tough, but she’s doing it. To earn some extra income to support her family, she provides tuition at home to children staying around the area. Getting a full time job elsewhere is out of the question… who will be taking care of her children and her grandchild?

Anyway, Dilla was all smiles today when I saw her, taking care of her baby. CM2 is 5 months old, but looks more like a 3 month old baby. Her growth seem to be quite slow. Dilla herself has ran out of breastmilk to feed her baby, so they have no choice but to feed the little girl with infant formula. That means more expenses for the family now. I have a feeling CM2 is not being fed enough, hence the slow growth. The little girl does however look healthy. What I need to do now is to source for infant formula and baby food to reduce Dahlia’s financial burden.

As for Dilla herself, I am happy with her progress. A bright girl (scoring 6A 2B for her PT3 was not an easy feat, especially after all she went through), it would be a shame if she decided not to continue her studies. Today, she confidently told me she wants to continue up to diploma level after she completes her certificate course. And at the same time, she also plans to sit for her SPM next year as a private candidate.

Obviously she has not given up. For a very young girl having to go through all that she had to go through, she is such a strong-willed and positive thinking person. She has vision. She has ambition. I like her attitude. And I like helping out cases like these.

You go girl! As long as you don’t give up, I won’t give up on you either!

Update on her rape case. So far no action taken on the perpetrator. DNA taken from baby after birth. When Dahlia went to check with the officer in charge recently, she was told that they had not received the results of the DNA tests. But when Dahlia went to the hospital after that, she was told the DNA results had already been sent to the police. Looks like she is being pushed around.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Another home assessment visit

While I was in Jogja for my break recently, the Buddies part time staff sent me a text message to inform me that a Malay lady, Nora, called our hotline number, seeking help. I was also given the lady’s phone number so I could call her back.

I wasn’t about to make any calls pertaining to my voluntary work from overseas, especially during my break, so I just replied the message, asking my part time staff to get hold of another volunteer, staying nearer to Nora’s place. I did receive whatsapp messages from this volunteer after she called Nora, giving me details of what kind of help Nora needed, but then again, a holiday is a holiday, so I did not respond to those messages. It’s a different story if they didn’t know I was having a break, OR if the matter was so urgent it couldn’t wait. This is, after all, voluntary work.

Anyway, after I got back from Jogja, the volunteer updated me again with a bit more details, and that she felt someone needed to visit Nora at home to assess her situation. The volunteer however, despite staying nearer (compared to Ipoh) to where Nora stays, did not dare visit alone by herself as the road leading to Nora’s kampong is a small lonely road. Furthermore, it was unfamiliar territory.

Since this volunteer was free this weekend, I offered to go for the visit together with her and another volunteer. All female volunteers, and all unfamiliar with the kampong we’d be visiting. Since the kampong is not listed in my GPS or Waze or even Google maps, I got my fellow volunteer who had been handling the initial calls to ask Nora for landmarks and directions. Nora’s directions sounded easy enough, after you reach certain school (which so happens to be listed in my GPS… yay!), you see a t-junction, take a left there.

Well, when we reached the said school, we drove straight on trying to find the t-junction. We didn’t find any. We asked an elderly man by the roadside, and had a tough time initially as he seemed to have some hearing problems. But the man was kind enough to draw us a map leading to the kampong we were heading to. His directions looked simple enough too. But as I drove further, it didn’t look promising either, and so we stopped to ask another guy at a stall by the roadside. This guy said he was from that particular kampong, and so his instructions should be more reliable. We had to turn back, and after one or more turns, we reached Nora’s kampong.

Only problem was, we tried calling Nora but couldn’t get through. Her only other directions given were… there’s a gas depot about 2km before her kampong, and that there was an electric cable in front of her house. Not much help there. We didn’t see any gas depot (we saw a minimarket selling cooking gas) and we saw a few electric cables. Yikes!

But we did manage to find the kampong, and so once there, we decided to stop and ask one of the residents there. Thank goodness, the lady we asked knew Nora. In fact, Nora’s house could actually be seen from this lady’s house. Oh, finally!

Nora stays at a PPRT house together with her husband and 6 year old daughter. Nora is also pregnant (which was how she found out about her HIV) and is due to deliver in August. They both do odd jobs to make a living, in fact most of the time, they survive on fruits/vegetables outside their home. Now the husband is very ill and unable to work, and since Nora has to take care of him, she too is unable to work.

When asked if her family members (parents, siblings etc) knew of their HIV status, Nora said not only her family, but the whole kampong knew. She wasn’t sure how the whole kampong knew, but when I asked if anyone at the Klinik Kesihatan (where she goes for her check-ups) knew her personally, the answer’s a yes. Hmmm… I know of a few other cases where the whole community found out about my clients’ HIV status if someone from the same community works at the hospital/clinic where the clients go to.

Anyway, first thing’s first. When she first called seeking help, she was in desperate need of food for her family. So today we brought along some groceries. Secondly, while Nora and her child went for further blood tests as required by the medical staff at the Klinik Kesihatan, her husband did not go along as he was too weak to get up. We told her to make sure he goes for the second blood test so that he can get a referral letter to see a specialist at the general hospital. Based on his physical condition, I believe he may have been infected for quite some time and that he needs to start on medication immediately. I gave her a small amount of cash to be used as taxi fare to take her husband for the blood tests.

Next up, her 6 year old daughter. Nora was afraid she may not afford to send her daughter to school next year. We told her to register her child for next year’s schooling session, after which we’d help out with the girl’s schooling needs.

Once things were sorted out, we left, and on our way back, we found the t-junction that Nora had told us about earlier. You see, you’d find the t-junction if you’re coming from Nora’s house, NOT from where we were coming from. DUH!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

After 8 years of blogging...

When I first started blogging in March 2007, my main objective was to share stories of the families I deal with in my voluntary work. Since my voluntary work involves sensitive and confidential issues such as HIV, I made it a point not to use real names in any of my stories. I felt the need to create awareness among the public about what goes on in the lives of people living with HIV and their families. Simply telling people the basics of HIV didn’t seem to have much impact as compared to sharing the trials and tribulations of people living with HIV.

The objective still remains, and while many fellow bloggers have abandoned their blogs after many shifted to Facebook, I never abandoned mine.

Of course my blog doesn’t get updated as often as it used to. Back then when blogging was the trend, there were times (like the time when I had to deal with the birth of my Little Cek Mek) when I’d actually update my blog almost every day!

Despite no longer getting many readers, I make it a point to update my blog from time to time, because I actually managed to get quite a number of donors (who don’t even know me personally) through my postings on this blog. They don’t get annual reports from Buddies, so any updates on whatever goes on in my voluntary work, they can get them through this blog (that is, if they still read my blog).

It was also through blogging that I got connected with so many marvellous people… fellow bloggers and blog readers, many of whom are now on my friends list on Facebook. Some I’ve met, some I’ve yet to meet till this day.

Well, somebody came up with the idea of reviving those good old blogging days, and today, 6th May, has been set as the #blogreviveday, when bloggers are to revive their blogs with new blog postings. While I don’t have to revive my blog because I never abandoned it in the first place, I decided to join the other bloggers in publishing a new post today.

And since many of my old (“old” as in both lama and tua… hehehe) blog readers had not been visiting my blog for quite a while, I guess it is appropriate if I give an update on my clients whose true life stories used to be highlighted in my blog postings during the first few years of my blogging days. I wonder if you remember people like Shila… Yah… Lin… Mr Darling… Fuzi… Nuri… Sofie… Mr & Mrs K…

Shila passed away in 2011, leaving behind her one and only daughter, Laila. Laila was still in primary school then, about to sit for her UPSR that year. Laila has since been taken care of by her grandma and her aunt at her grandma’s house. Time sure flies, she’s a big girl now, already in form 3 this year. She is still covered under our Education Sponsorship program and so I still do visit her once or twice a year.

Yah? Her stories back then sure added a lot of varieties to my blog, huh? Going angau over Mr Darling (Lin’s ex-hubby). Flirting around with men as her revenge because she got HIV from her late husband. Leaving her children under the care of her parents and the 2 older ones even went to stay at an orphanage once. Well, at one time I thought things had been going well for her after she got herself a job at a factory and her children were all staying back together again. In fact her children are doing reasonable well in school. But recently she started to come up with all sorts of excuses again after she lost her job. A fellow volunteer of mine tried to help out by calling a friend at the factory where Yah used to work, but even the friend couldn’t help because on her personnel records were written “NEVER TO BE HIRED AGAIN” because of all the problems she had been giving her employers.

As for Lin, I only contact her from time to time now because her family is already independent. Her 4 older children are all working, one of them graduated with a medical degree and is now doing her housemanship at a general hospital. Lin’s 3rd daughter is also already married. (Hmmm… wonder if Lin is already a grandma, I think I will call her for another chat soon…)

Mr Darling… Lin’s ex-husband, the guy who once asked Yah to marry him during their first ever meet at he hospital. After Yah became all angau over him, he freaked out. And after several failed attempts to coax Lin to remarry him, he then married a lady, who also has a daughter about the same age as his own youngest daughter. I later found out from Lin that Mr D were facing police charges for molesting his step-daughter (his eldest daughter was so mad as he forced her to go to the police station to bail him out, calling her anak derhaka if she refused). They got divorced but he somehow managed to coax the 2nd wife to drop all charges against him and so now he’s roaming free.

Done with the Yah-Lin-Mr Darling twists, next up… Fuzi, the Indonesian lady with 5 children, the youngest, Iwan, born out of a rape case and is fatherless. While the first 4 children are all considered Malaysians by virtue of having a Malaysian father, Iwan doesn’t have Malaysian citizenship as Fuzi herself had not even obtained PR status despite already staying here for almost 20 years. Initially Fuzi thought she got HIV from the rape case, but later after the children got tested and it was found that her 4th child, Ijam, was infected, it was clear that her HIV didn’t come from the rape case but most probably from her late husband. It was only then that Fuzi told me how often her late husband used to go to Golok with his friends when he was still alive.

Anyway, Fuzi’s eldest daughter is now taking up an accountancy course at a local university. Her 2nd daughter is in form six, and although she had not been doing too well in her studies previously, she seems more motivated to do well now after seeing her eldest sis going off to university. Fuzi’s family may still have some problems from time to time, but at least things are looking a lot brighter now.
Next up… Nuri. You may recall that Nuri’s youngest daughter is also HIV+. The girl is already in form 5 this year and seems to be doing okay, healthwise. Nuri’s eldest daughter is also already working while her 2nd daughter is taking up a nursing course.

Sofie passed away 3 years ago. While I tried my utmost best to make sure her children continued their studies, not everything went according to plan. Sofie’s sister, Ros, was also very cooperative, but 2 of Sofie’s sons, Azman and Saiful, are now leading their own lives away from the family. Azman didn’t even bother to get his cert from the culinary school I sent him to, while Saiful ran away from home before even sitting for his PMR after his aunt Ros scolded him for playing truant in school. Ros & her husband even lost their jobs after taking so many days off work to look for him. Since then they’ve moved back to their kampong in another state, taking the youngest girl, Ika and the eldest boy Azlan with them. Azlan, who also used to be a problematic boy himself, is now doing quite well after I got him a place at a vocational college, doing a course he likes. Well, at least there’s still something I am happy about for this family.

Last but not least… Mr & Mrs K! Ahh, the family who never seem to have enough money, no matter how much they get. Mrs K always tried to borrow money from me. I never gave. We only help out with the children’s education, and those are not loans. Last I heard Mr & Mrs K are now living separately as Mrs K could not take it any longer. The eldest son, Shah, is working and despite my attempts to coax him to at least go for a short vocational course to at least get a cert, he never did. But all is not lost. The 2nd daughter is now at a college doing a diploma course. The younger 2 children, including the youngest girl who underwent a hole-in-heart surgery at IJN once upon a time, are still in school. I do meet them at least once a year for their back-to-school shopping.

There are many other families I’ve blogged about, but am not sure how long this posting is going to be if I were to give updates on each and every one of them. Let’s save some stories for later, ok?