It has been 15 years since I first joined Buddies of Ipoh as a volunteer back in April 2004. 12 years since I started blogging in March 2007. Blogs were the "in" thing back then, it was through the blogosphere that I got to know many new virtual friends. While many of the blogs have already been "abandoned" by their owners (laman sesawang dah dipenuhi sawang), I am still in touch with many of my virtual friends, although no longer through blogs. Many of them are my friends on FB, and in fact, I have also met some of them in person, face to face in real life!
I used to write about quite a number of my clients when I started blogging, without using their real names of course. As a matter of fact, since I no longer update my blog regularly (am still trying to keep my blog alive), sometimes I forget what their blog names are. But I guess, for some of the regular characters, like Yah, Lin, Fuzi and Sofie, and maybe a few others, even my regular blog readers back then who no longer reads my blog now, may still remember them.
So, after 15 years as a volunteer and 12 years since I started blogging, what has become of the characters I used to highlight in my blog? Their children who were just toddlers back then, are already teenagers now. Those who were still in school back then, have grown up and have either furthered their studies, working and/or married.
Here are some updates on some of my clients, the ones that I can easily remember off-hand.
As you may be aware, Yah (of the Yah Ah Ngau- Mr Darling fame), one of my most remembered character, passed away earlier this year. Her eldest child, who studied at a vocational college, just started working a few months before Yah passed away. The 2nd girl is still studying, also at a vocational college. Yah's 3rd child, the ADHD son, stopped schooling earlier and decided to do odd-jobs to support himself. The youngest, who was still a toddler when I was first assigned to Yah's case (I remember delivering milk & diapers when visiting them at their home back then), is already in secondary school. They are now staying with their grandfather (Yah's father). Although the eldest girl is already working, I am still keeping in touch with them and in fact the 2 younger girls are still covered by our education sponsorship program.
Remember Lin? Mr Darling's ex-wife. Among my many clients I used to regularly visit on a monthly basis to deliver groceries etc, Lin is the one who is most independent now. So independent that I no longer visit her and at one time even lost touch with her when I lost my phone a few years ago. Thank goodness some time last year, during an event organised by another NGO that I'm involved in, a girl who was there representing her employer at a booth, came up to me and asked, "Makcik Fizah kan? Ingat saya tak?" It was Lin's 3rd daughter, whose wedding I attended a few years ago. Through this girl I managed to get Lin's contact number and some updates of the children. Out of Lin's 6 children, 4 of them are married, including the youngest girl who used to be covered by our education sponsorship program. And all 6 are working, including her 2nd girl who is now a doctor. Lin too has remarried (don't worry, she didn't remarry Mr Darling, but someone more responsible). I remember how tough things were for Lin back then. Although during the initial meet with our volunteers at the ID clinic, Lin refused to be assigned a buddy, my colleagues still gave her my number for her to call in case she needed help. It took her a year before she made that call, and after the first meet, she was comfortable enough to share her life stories with me. Oh by the way, Lin is now a grandma to a few grandchildren.
Then there's Fuzi, the Indonesian lady married to a Malaysian. She had so many problems back then, especially since her wedding took place in Narathiwat, and the marriage was not registered in Malaysia when her husband was still alive. Imagine how troublesome it was to get ICs done for her children despite having a birth cert indicating they're Malaysians by virtue of having a Malaysian father, just because their father was no longer around and it was Fuzi, a non-citizen, who took them to JPN to get things done. Thank goodness her children finally managed to get their ICs done, with the exception of her youngest child, who was born out of a rape case. With a birth cert indicating "maklumat bapa tidak diketahui" and an Indonesian citizen as the mother, the boy is one of the many cases of stateless kids in Malaysia. The boy who is 14 this year, still can't go to school. Fuzi's repeated applications to become a PR have not been approved either, because her husband is no longer around. But, on the bright side, 3 of her 5 children are already working, including her eldest girl who graduated with an accounting degree. And Fuzi's son who used to cause so many problems when he was in school (he quit school at form 4), finally became a responsible human being after he got himself a job in another state, away from the friends he used to hang around with back home. Things may not be as good as Fuzi wants (especially for her stateless youngest child), but at least life for this family has improved a whole lot, and Fuzi knows her eldest daughter can be relied upon to take care of the youngest boy if anything happens to her.
Another character people may remember is Sofie, who passed away 7 years ago. Although initially after her death I was still in touch with the children through her older sister who became the new guardian to Sofie's children, after a while, they moved back to their home state and I lost touch with them since then. All I knew back then was that the eldest boy was in IKM, the second boy who was in a culinary college distanced himself from his family, the 3rd boy ran away from home after he was scolded by his aunt for skipping school, and only the youngest girl was still with the aunt. Based on the last info I had about them before I lost touch with them, things weren't well at all. But I did manage to search for the culinary boy's profile on FB, and from his page (which he set to public settings, so I was able to see his postings), I noticed he was back touch with 2 of his siblings and I noticed even his aunt (the one who took over as guardian) was on his friends list. The boy himself is already working as a cook, and his younger brother who ran away from home earlier, is also working as a mechanic at a workshop. It was a joy for me to see photos of the 3 of them together at a reunion of the siblings after years of separation. Sad though, from the comments, I realised that they have lost touch with their eldest brother. I do hope one fine day they will find him. And oh, the culinary boy got engaged recently. I hope that all he had been through (including his disciplinary problems back then) has taught him to become a responsible person.
Those are just updates on the families of 4 of the characters I used to update on my blog. While many of the children from the families I used to visit have grown so much, I still deal with little children from newer clients, some of whom have never been mentioned in my blog postings. So, while some things remain the same (the home visits, the back-to-school-shopping etc), things feel different now that I have examples of success stories I can actually share with my newer cases. Not forgetting, the satisfaction of personally being able to see some success stories happening right before my very eyes, has certainly given me the motivation to keep on going despite getting some frustrating cases from time to time. So yes, while my body is still willing, insyaaAllah I shall continue with this voluntary work.