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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Monday, 28 March 2016

Freemarket in Chendrong, Batu Gajah, Perak

While most of the voluntary work I share in this blog involve my work with Buddies of Ipoh, I am also a committee member of another NGO called Pertubuhan Wanita Prihatin Perak, set up just last year. We got together to help out the Rohingya boat people, and eventually decided that we should set up a proper registered organisation.

Our first project for this year is to organise a #freemarket, starting off at Dewan Orang Ramai Chendrong, Batu Gajah, Perak. This being our first of more planned freemarkets in future, we decided to turn it into a Karnival Wanita Prihatin, to include other activities like coloring competition for children, and setting up various booths including education booths. YB Dato' Nolee Ashilin, the ADUN for Tualang Sekah officiated the event and the launch of our first freemarket.

The response from the public was overwhelming. We received a whole load of contributions consisting of clothes, shoes, books, toys, food items and various other stuff. It being the first freemarket held, many were still oblivious to the concept of freemarket, some couldn't really believe that they could have the items for free.

I noticed one boy, still in primary school, who tried on a pair of school shoes, even though the shoes looked quite old. To me he obviously came from a poor family. While he was trying on the shoes, I silently hoped that they would fit. Thank goodness they did.

Then there was a lady who came with her young children quite late, when most of the better items had already been taken up by those who came earlier. She was looking for children's clothes. Noticing that this was also a needy family, a few of us volunteers took the trouble to search for suitable clothes to be given to them. Thank goodness we did find a few, so they did not leave empty handed.

After we packed up and as I was heading to my car to head home, I saw another lady who came with her son, asking another guy about the exact location of the freemarket, only to be told it was over. She must have only heard about it from others who had already taken some free items earlier. But by the time she got there it was too late. Sigh...

We are hoping to do this on a monthly basis in different locations all over Perak.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Homeless by choice

Remember last month I mentioned about sending 2 homeless guys to a shelter home? We helped to buy train tickets and to pay the initial registration fee to the home for both guys.

I visited both cases when they were warded at Ipoh GH. The first guy, J, when asked, did agree to go to a shelter home, but if possible he preferred the place to be in Perak. But when told that there was none available in Perak specifically for HIV cases, J finally agreed to go to a home in Sg Buloh. The arrangement was that I'd buy him a train ticket up to Sg Buloh station, from there he'd go straight to Sg Buloh Hospital, and someone from the shelter home would fetch him at the hospital. For J, so far so good. He's still there at the shelter home. No complaints.

As for the other guy, H, when I visited him in the ward, he did mention he didn't want to stay at a shelter home. He was then staying at an old abandoned home, without doors and windows, without any furniture whatsoever.

I was rather surprised when the nurse from Ipoh ID clinic called me to seek my help to arrange for transportation and to pay for the initial registration fee to the shelter home for H.
"Eh? Hari tu dia kata dia tak nak dok shelter home?" I asked the nurse.
"Sekarang dia dah setuju," the nurse replied.

I figured he must have ran out of options and finally agreed to go to the shelter home. So I bought him the train ticket and arranged with the rep from the shelter home to pay for the registration fee once this homeless guy reaches the shelter. But before H went, he sent me a text message, asking if there'd be any financial assistance for him. Financial assistance? We already bought the train ticket, we agreed to pay for his initial registration, what else did he want? Apparently he was asking for monthly financial aid. Banyak cantik! I told him that we're only assisting, not taking over responsibility. After he left for Sg Buloh, I thought that would be the last I'd hear of him.

Late last week, a call from an unfamiliar number came in on my handphone. The caller turned out to be H, coming up with stories that he had to leave the shelter home because the doctors told him to start on methadone and the people at the shelter don't accept methadone cases. And so he was asking me for transport money to get back to his old place. Methadone? I thought he said he was no longer taking drugs? When I asked if he was taking drugs, he denied. Then why on earth would the doctor want him to take methadone? In the end I just told him I'd have to find out more from the nurse at Ipoh GH.

Within less than an hour he sent me a text message, "Macam mana ba?" I didn't bother to reply. I hadn't even spoken to the nurse yet, and he was already pestering me for money. Our assistance actually stopped the moment we sent him to the shelter home. He shouldn't expect us to give him money as and when he wants them. Who does he think we are?

When I went for my clinic duty at Ipoh GH on Monday, I took the opportunity to ask the staff nurse at ID clinic. Apparently when H called me to ask for transport money to go back to his old place, he was already back! The nurse was surprised when she saw a case brought to the specialist clinic from the ward, the guy looked familiar and finally she recognised it was H. She then called the rep from the shelter home and found out that H only stayed there for a week (he told me he was there for a month). And H told the nurse a different version of reasons.

He denied being on drugs, but the truth is, he was brought to the hospital by the police, after he passed out when the police caught him taking drugs. No wonder the doctor in Sg Buloh wanted him to start taking methadone. And the reason he left the shelter home was because he couldn't get his supply of drugs there. They did not chase him out. He was the one who left.

So now H is back to being a homeless guy... by his own choice.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Visiting the pregnant lady

During my visit to the home of a newly referred pregnant client last month, I talked more about the importance of ARV adherence, what to expect in the next few months until delivery etc. The client, Wan, had not started her ARV medication yet back then, but was supposed to start soon. It was important to remind her about adherence before she started her medication.

I didn't call her after that visit, wanting to give her some time. But last week she called, sounding rather panicky. Apparently her husband (who had earlier been tested HIV negative) had breathing difficulty, and when they went to the nearby Klinik Kesihatan, the doctor immediately referred them to Ipoh GH. So Wan called me from the emergency department, while waiting for tests (x-ray, blood tests etc) to be done on her husband. When the doctors found out that the wife was HIV+, there was always the possibility of him being infected as well and also the probability that he had TB.

Wan started thinking that as a result of all that, soon her mother and other family members may find out that she was HIV+. I told her to just take a deep breath and relax. Even if indeed her husband was infected, the doctors/nurses don't simply tell each and every family member of the diagnosis.

The very next day, I texted Wan to find out if her husband had to be warded. The moment Wan replied, saying that her husband wasn't hospitalised, I knew it wasn't too serious. Apparently her husband has a history of asthma, and every 4 to 6 months, he'd usually have a rather major asthma attack. But he never really went for proper check-ups and follow-ups, just buying inhalers from pharmacies to be used when needed. This time, the doctor told him to follow up at the nearby Klinik Kesihatan.

On Monday, Wan sent me another text message, this time seeking help, wanting to learn more about the religion. "Saya nak lebih dekat dengan agama", so she said. I decided it was time for me to pay her a second visit. She was already opening up, it would be the perfect time for me to show her my support. Besides, I needed to assess what level of religious knowledge she wanted to learn.

So yesterday, after making sure that she'd be home, I went over to visit her. She did mention she had to go to the clinic at 8 am, but she should be back by 10. I purposely went a wee bit later than 10.30, just to be sure she'd be home. But when I arrived and gave the salam, nobody answered. I called her number, no answer. Initially I thought she wasn't back from the clinic, but after a while I saw moving shadows under the door. I decided to give the salam again, this time mentioning Wan's name. This time she answered my salam, and immediately opened the door. She didn't look too well.

"Maaf kak, sakit perut la pulak."
"Dah pergi klinik dah?"
"Belum. Nurse dah call saya tadi tanya kenapa saya tak datang, tapi memang saya tak larat nak pergi. Dia suruh datang pukul 2 pulak."

Ever since she got pregnant, Wan has no appetite during the day. Even if she eats, she'd vomit. So she'd usually only have dinner. And her dinner of mee kari her husband brought home the night before, must have been the reason for her diarrhea.

I was quite concerned that she wasn't eating during the day. After all, she is pregnant and so she needed some nutrition not only for herself but for the baby as well. But she did mention that she does drink milk for pregnant mothers, which doesn't doesn't make her purge, and so at least, she is taking some nutrition during the day. I do hope the lack of appetite is only during the early stages of her pregnancy.

Wan has also started on her ARV medication. Initially she did vomit after taking the pills, but not anymore. She did say she still gets dizzy, but that's normal. After all, it was hardly a week since she started her ARV.

Back to her intention of learning more about Islam, I asked what she wanted to learn. She wanted to start back from basics. She has started praying 5 times daily, but she wanted to be closer to God and wanted to learn more. I asked if there were any religious classes in her neighborhood, particularly at the nearby surau, but she said she hasn't been to the surau and so she doesn't know. She hasn't really mixed with around with her neighbours ever since she moved in last month.

I told her to get her husband to go to the surau and ask. Nobody knows she has HIV, so she shouldn't be too ashamed to mix around. I did however promise to get her some books for her reference. But she will have to wait until my next visit...