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 July 2015

Voluntary work back in full swing

I had initially planned to get started with my post-raya home visits after I complete my puasa 6, but thinking that I had promised Din during my last visit (a few days before Raya) to send him a wheelchair after Raya, I decided to go earlier. I figured he may need the wheelchair earlier to enable him to easily move around. Besides, I have assigned a male volunteer to Din and I thought it would be a good idea to bring this male volunteer along, show him Din’s house, and introduce them.

After sending Din a text message the day before, last Wednesday I headed off, first to Buddies Center to get the wheelchair and to meet up with Din’s assigned buddy, then to Din’s house. I was taken by surprise when I knocked on the door and someone else opened the door. And when I asked for Din, the guy told me Din wasn’t around. Alamak…

Apparently the guy was Din’s brother-in-law, and while Din wasn’t around, his wife was home. Din’s family had taken him to go for some alternative treatment somewhere. But Din had already told his wife that I was coming to send the wheelchair, and so she was actually expecting me. Before she started preparing any food/drinks to be served, I quickly told her I was fasting. I also reminded her that the wheelchair was on loan to them, and that they should return it once it is no longer required by Din. The fellow volunteer assigned as Din’s buddy will take over this case from now on, and so I probably won’t be visiting this family again.

I managed to complete my puasa 6 on Sunday, and so this week it’s back to my voluntary work routine. Starting off with Monday’s clinic duty, where only one case was referred; followed by last night’s board meeting when we finally confirmed the venue of this year’s Family Day. With both date and venue confirmed, I will need to start contacting my many clients to invite them to join this year’s Family Day.

This morning I went to visit Dahlia’s family. It being a school day, I only expected to see Dahlia, her 2 younger children and her grandchild. To my surprise, I even got to meet her 14 year old son, Asyraf, who I have yet to meet before this because being an active boy in school, he always seemed to have some activities to attend every time I meet the family. Dilla, the teenage mom, was also home. Classes at the culinary college she goes to have already started, but since they usually have trainings during weekends, Wednesday is their off day.

The only 2 not home today was Dahlia’s 3rd & 4th children, who were both in school. Asyraf’s school session is in the afternoon and amazingly I finally got to meet him today because he didn’t have any co-curricular activities to attend.

The family seemed to be doing well. Dilla herself was very cheerful today. For a girl who had been raped just slightly over a year ago, and who was pregnant when she sat for her PMR last year, she has truly bounced back tremendously. And to see her being such a loving mother to her 7 month old baby, I am really in awe. Her strength and courage is making me more determined to help her in any way I can to ensure a better future for herself and her little girl.

Anyway, each and every single one in this family will be joining our coming Family Day in early September. Just from this one family alone, I already have confirmation for 8 pax… 3 @ adult rate, 2 @ children rate, 3 more toddlers below 90 cm in height, who won’t be charged for entrance fees.

The moment I got home after today’s visit, I immediately sent out messages either via SMS or whatsapp to all my clients. It is not even half a day yet and I already have confirmations for 28 pax, with a few more who will be joining but can’t confirm the number of pax yet. They will have to confirm by the 10th of August, after which we will need to arrange for all the logistics.

Being the volunteer assigned to the most number of clients, I believe my phone will be busy for the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Ramadhan visits settled!

I haven’t updated my blog after last week’s post on Aida, the unwed mother of 7. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have any voluntary-work-related activities.

Within the past one week, I went to visit 2 clients at their respective homes; I went for a 2nd trip to the Immigrations Detention Depot in Belantik, and I went for clinic duty at HRPB Ipoh.

On Thursday, I went to visit Ana. While I have some other clients who earns more and yet still like to ask for money for any and every reason they can think of, Ana, whose current job is to help bathe an elderly bed-ridden person with a pay of RM10 each time, is not that type. To her, Buddies helping her out with her children’s educational needs is a blessing enough. She was so appreciative of the help she’s getting, the moment she found out I was coming last Thursday, she prepared some durians and rambutans for me to bring home. To me, I am happy enough that she and her children see the importance of education.

On Friday, together with a few other volunteers calling ourselves Wanita Prihatin Perak, went for a follow up visit to the Immigrations Detention Depot in Belantik, Kedah. We brought along a few boxes of educational materials for the Rohingya children. We totally forgot that Friday’s a public holiday in Kedah, but the officer was kind enough to entertain us.

On Monday, I went for my clinic duty at HRPB, Ipoh. The moment I got there, I was told that there were no new cases to be referred to me, so I ended up discussing a few cases with Sister Zaitun. And since Aida, the unwed pregnant lady, was at the hospital for her appointment, we decided to meet up. When I brought her shopping for her baby’s needs the previous week, she told me she wanted to bring the baby balik kampong to see her mother (who still doesn’t know she’s pregnant) and she’s hoping her mother can help take care of the baby. This time, when I met her, her story has changed. It seems her foster mother (the one she’s staying with now) is interested to adopt the baby, and so Aida thought that would be a better idea. She’s thinking she doesn’t have to break the news to her own mother. The only problem is, her foster mother doesn’t know she has HIV and so she doesn’t know that the baby, even if not infected, will need to be brought for follow up appointments as precautionary measures. Aida doesn’t intend to tell her foster mother about her HIV.

I told Aida to rethink her decision. Whatever she decides, whoever is going to take care of the baby needs to know the real situation.

Yesterday, I went to visit one more family, this time a new case. A guy, Din, called me last week seeking help. He got my number from Sister Zaitun. It was rather difficult for me to assess his situation via a phone call, and so I sought his permission to visit his family at home this week. Meanwhile I took the opportunity to get more info about him from Sister Zaitun during Monday’s clinic duty.

The moment I got to the house, I noticed the doors and windows were all closed and the gate was locked. It looked as though nobody was home, but I had already informed Din I was coming and he said ok. So I decided to call, to be sure I got to the right house. Indeed it was the right house, and they were inside. Even after the call, it took quite a while before Din opened the door. I was initially wondering why it took him so long, but the moment I saw him walking to unlock the gate, I immediately understood. He couldn’t properly control his movements, even when he walks, he’d sway left and right like a drunk person. I guess his inability to control his movements had something to do with the infection to his brains.

Thank goodness, his wife was tested negative. The wife doesn’t mind going to work in place of her husband, but given Din’s present condition, she didn’t feel good leaving him at home alone with their 2 young children either. So they are thinking of setting up a small stall near their home, and maybe sell stuff like pisang goreng and the likes. They have even applied for help from e-kasih to get some starting capital to start off the business. They were also happy when I told them Buddies may be able to help out with their children’s schooling expenses. Both boys are not in school yet, but the older boy will start pre-school next year. I also offered to lend Din the donated wheelchair we have at the centre, and they both felt it was a good idea especially to use when they need to go out somewhere (at home at least he can grab on to the chairs/walls etc). I promised to deliver them the wheelchair after Hari Raya.

And that wraps up my visits this Ramadhan. My next visit will probably be after I complete my puasa enam.

To all my blog readers (if there are any), Selamat Hari Raya. Maaf Zahir Batin. Hope you’ve had a blessed Ramadhan and wishing you a blessed Syawal ahead.

Monday, 6 July 2015

The unwed mother of 7

During one of my clinic duties last month, a case referred to me involved another unwed pregnancy. I have handled a few cases of unwed pregnancy cases before, so I figured it was nothing new to me. That was, until the nurse told me a little background of the case.

The lady referred to me was Aida, 28 years of age. Age-wise, she’s older than the previous unwed pregnancy cases I’ve handled. But the most shocking revelation was that this was Aida’s 7th unwed pregnancy. Her first child would already be 9 years old this year. Out of the 6 earlier pregnancies, she gave 5 of her children up for adoption. The only one she’s taking care of now is her 4th child, a 6 year old girl.

When I spoke to Aida during the clinic duty, she did mention that she wants to take care of the yet-to-be-born baby. Her mother by the way, who stays in another state, is only aware of the child she’s taking care of now, and doesn’t know that Aida is pregnant again. For the moment Aida stays with her foster mother, who is not well to do herself. Together with the foster mother’s own children, they stay in a small flat.

Aida hasn’t been working for the past 5 months, and so she had not been contributing to the household expenses. Understandably, her foster mother, with her own children to take care of, is not helping Aida with anything else but a place to stay.

When I contacted Aida last week, I was told her c-sect is scheduled immediately after the Raya holidays. Without any income, Aida has yet to prepare anything at all for the birth of her baby. She was so relieved when I told her I’d take her out on Monday to shop for the necessary items.

So this morning I fetched her and brought her to a supermarket. I took the opportunity to have a chat with her… what her plans were after giving birth… who will take care of her baby… etc. I wanted to make her feel comfortable with me and trust me enough. I think I did quite well… a few times she mentioned herself as “Along” instead of her own name to me. Along is what she’s called in her family. I believe that means she’s comfortable enough with me.

Since Aida doesn’t want to give the baby up for adoption this time, she plans to open up to her mother after her confinement period. She plans to balik kampong, together with the baby, and tell her mother the whole truth, including the fact that she has been infected with HIV. She knows her mother may be upset and angry initially, but she’s hoping that her mother will accept the baby, just like she had accepted Aida’s other child. Aida is hoping that her mother will help to take care of the baby. She plans to work after she comes back from her kampong, and so if her mother is willing enough to take care of the baby, Aida doesn’t have to worry about looking for babysitters.

I told Aida to start thinking of her future, and the future of the 2 children. The past is over and done with. She needs to pay serious attention to her future.

Aida seemed very receptive. She’s not as stubborn as Zana, another unwed pregnancy case I’ve handled before. She’s willing to listen to my advice.

The important thing right now is I need to follow up on her case quite often and provide her with the necessary support.

Yes, what she needs most right now is support.

Friday, 3 July 2015

2 new cases, and visiting the teenage mom

After loading my car with some baby stuff and household needs, plus some of the vegetables I still had from Monday’s visit, off I drove to Taiping Hospital for my clinic duty. Since Dahlia’s family stay in the same town, I thought I might as well take the opportunity to visit them after my clinic duty. For the moment, this is one family I visit more than the rest because of their situation and needs.

As soon as I got to Taiping Hospital, I went straight to the ID clinic room, asking if there were any cases they wanted to refer to me. The staff nurse pulled me aside to discuss with me a few cases and to ask for my opinion if she should refer those cases to me. For one particular case, she said the patient himself and his father are okay and may not need any help, but the patient’s mother was the one who seemed very depressed. However, yesterday the mother did not come along to the hospital. Since we Buddies not only give support to the PLHIV themselves, but also to their family members, I told the nurse to ask the father if they wanted to talk to me.

I then waited at the praying room aka makeshift counselling room. It wasn’t long before the nurse brought in the father & son she had told me about. The one with HIV was the son, an 18 year old boy. With a Sekolah Agama background, and scoring a long list of A’s in his SPM last year, his parents had high hopes for him, and never in a million years would they have thought that their son would ever be involved in having sex with a fellow male. Understandably, it was very difficult for the mother to swallow.

The father, however, was more accepting, although initially he too found it hard to believe and accept. What is past is done and over with, his main concern now is his son’s future. The boy only found out that he had been infected with HIV when he did a full medical check-up after being offered a place to further his studies at a local university. He eventually entered another college which only required urine test (for drugs) and no blood test as part of their entry requirement.

According to the father, the boy’s mother is beginning to accept the situation now, although she is still very sad about the whole situation. I gave him my number and told him to get his wife to call me if she needs to talk it out with someone, as I may be able to share with her my experience in dealing with other PLHIV families.

The next case referred to me wasn’t a new case, but a case that had never been referred to Buddies before. The nurse figured the lady may need some help. A 51 year old lady, Nina, who sometimes would refer herself as “kakak” to me, and sometimes as “makcik”. Little did she know that I was actually older than her.

Nina goes to the hospital frequently because of her kidney problems, and during one of the tests done, it was found that she was also HIV+. She is already on dialysis, having to go to the hospital 3 times a week. HIV and dialysis, that’s enough problem already. But wait till you hear the rest of her story…

In addition to having to face her own health problems, Nina needs to take care of her husband at home. Her husband, an ex-IVDU, also has mental illness and had even been warded at the psychiatric ward before. He can become violent from time to time (his addiction to drugs certainly didn’t help). Given the conditions of both husband and wife, neither of them are working. So who supports them? They do get RM300 financial assistance from Baitulmal, but the amount is not enough, given that there are 11 people in their household.

The couple has 10 children. Because of their parent’s condition, the first 4 did not continue their studies after SPM. It didn’t matter that they only managed to get low-paying jobs, what mattered was that they needed money to support their family. The eldest basically supports the family’s living expenses. The #2 took a loan to help repair and renovate the family’s house to cater for their big family. He is now married and stays elsewhere. #3 took a loan to buy a car to make it easier for him to bring his mother to the hospital at least 3 times a week. Half of his monthly pay is deducted to pay for the loan. #4 is earning just enough to support himself. #5 and 6 are studying at higher learning institutions and still needs financial support. #7, 8, 9 and 10 are all still in school… 3 in secondary schools and the youngest still in primary school.

With their house (which looks nice of course after the renovation works) and the car, from the outside it did not look like they needed help. If there were any assistance given to the kampong folks, this family would never even be considered.

I told Nina that we Buddies may be able to help out with her 4 younger children’s schooling expenses. She looked somewhat surprised. “Tak pernah ada siapa-siapa bagi kami bantuan,” she said.

After taking down her particulars, I told her either myself or any one of my fellow volunteers would be contacting her to arrange for help.

Since there were no more cases to be referred, I headed off to visit Dahlia’s family. When I got into the house, Dahlia’s daughter Dilla (the 16 year old mom) was feeding her little girl some baby food. The girl is almost 7 months old now. It was good to see some progress in the baby’s growth, considering that during my previous 2 visits her growth seemed somewhat slow.

Dilla was home because during the fasting month, most of the college’s culinary programs are held during iftar and so Dilla would only be able to go home at night. That leads to another problem. Of late it seems a group of guys on motorbikes like to disturb her while she cycles home from her college. After having gone through the rape case before this, both Dahlia and Dilla did not want to take any chances. Luckily Dilla had a friend who goes to the same college daily on a motorbike, so now the friend would pick her up and send her home daily, especially if their program ends at night.

I admire her courage. Dilla is very mature for her age, and especially after having to go through such a harrowing experience. May God protect her and her family.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

2 more families revisited…

After sorting out all the vegetables that I got from Kak Mimi and Rubi during my visit on Monday, yesterday I decided to visit 2 more families staying nearer to Ipoh.

First up was Imah. I had only visited her once, after she called me seeking help. At that time, she was no longer together with her husband, but there was no proper divorce. Whenever she tried applying for help from relevant agencies, she couldn’t prove she was a single mother as there was no document to show that. To support her one and only child, and to pay for her living expenses including house rental, she started selling nasi lemak at a stall near her rented house.

Why didn’t she file for divorce? Well, she intended to. In fact during my first visit, she showed me the relevant forms, all filled up. All she needed to do then was to submit them. BUT… she needed to pay a certain amount when submitting the forms, and since she didn’t have enough money, she just put the matter aside.

Unless and until she had the papers to prove that she’s indeed a single mother, it would be hard for her to apply for financial aid from the relevant agencies. Based on that, I managed to get someone to donate a small amount of cash to help her submit her divorce papers. And so she finally submitted the forms and managed to finalise her divorce.

Yesterday morning when I visited her, she was making some kuih to be sold during pasar Ramadhan. She’d just send her kuih to a few stalls so she herself doesn’t need to spend time selling them. That way, at least during iftar she’d be home with her one and only daughter.

Imah told me Baitulmal has approved some financial assistance for her, by way of paying for her monthly house rental. The cheque will be prepared under the landlord’s name, but Imah herself will need to go to their office every month to get the cheque, after which she will pass the cheque to her landlord. At least now Imah doesn’t have to worry about her house rental. That’s one burden off her shoulders.

Imah’s daughter, now in form 4, doesn’t know that Imah has HIV. Imah doesn’t want her daughter to worry. She wants the girl to concentrate on her studies. I don’t know how long she can keep that a secret though.

After visiting Imah, I went to visit Lin. Remember Lin? Ex-wife of Mr Darling? There were quite a number of her stories during my earlier blogging days. It had been quite a while since my last visit. I used to visit her without fail on a monthly basis, delivering groceries etc because during that time, she was struggling to bring up her children. Divorced, and ex-hubby not consistently giving alimony to support her 6 children, all studying at that time. She found a job as an assistant at a restaurant, then she started selling pisang goreng at somebody else’s stall and in the end after attending a short sewing course with Giat Mara, she started sewing baju kurung so she could work at home.

So why am I no longer visiting her regularly? Because the family is already independent. Her 3 older children (all girls) completed their studies, 2 with diplomas, and one with a medical degree. All 3 are already working, in fact one is already married.

When I got to Lin’s house, I heard the voice of a baby. The baby is Lin’s grandchild. Yes, Lin is already a grandma! It was good to hear updates about Lin’s children.

Number one never managed to get a job relevant to her qualifications, so after moving from one job to another, she has now started her own business, having her own boutique. Didn’t do too well initially, but since she moved to a more strategic place, the business is doing better now.

Number two, the one with medical degree, is now doing her housemanship at a general hospital.

Number three, married, and the mother to Lin’s grandchild, works at a private company.

Number four, a boy, never did too well academically, and had been jumping from one job to another. He is engaged and is expected to get married later this year.

Number five, another boy, also didn’t do too well academically, but after some coaxing, agreed to do a vocational course and seem happy to be doing so now. He is already in his second semester doing a course he likes.

Last but not least, number six, a girl, is now doing form six. Hopefully she will emulate her sisters academically.

Visiting Lin and getting updates about her children reminded me why I like doing this voluntary work. Seeing them succeed in life and getting a better future instead of inheriting poverty from their parents, makes me a happy person. Hopefully the other families who are still struggling right now, will also have a happy ending like Lin’s.