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)

Sunday, 31 May 2009

The Award

I received an award recently.

I'd like to thank my abah, my mak, my adik-beradik, my kakak-berakak, my abang-berabang, my atok, my opah, my tok sedara, my opah sedara, my pak-pak and mak-mak sedara, my cikgu sekolah, my kawan-kawan, my memanda menteri, my hulubalang-hulubalang semua...

Laahai... Pi Bani dok menang award apa pulak ni?!

Woman of the year? (Ish, sekadar nak berangan pun tak layak)

Pelakon terbaik? (Haa... kalau sekadar jadi pelakon extra tukang pegang tombak je pun entah berapa kali tuan director suruh CUT agaknya...)

Penyanyi terbaik? (Oh well, the frogs sing better than I do! Kedek, kedek, ONG!)

OK lah, let's cut the craps and go straight to the point lah.

Actually Naz named me as one of the recipients of this award...

award_thumb

It's an award which doesn't come with any prize money (sigh!) but instead comes with some set of rules. In other words, it's a tag disguised as an award. (cakap je lah terus terang...) Senang cakap, it's some sort of multi-level marketing. At first I wanted to postpone doing this, but then I figured might as well get this over and done with. Lama sangat hutang nanti kena interest tinggi!

The first set of rules: State 5 interesting facts about the person who gave you this award.

Well, yeah, Naz did mention to the 10 recipients to feel free to skip this part. Dia takut pecah tembelang apa-apa kot. Now that I am responding to the award/tag, I am NOT going to skip this part. So here are 5 facts about Naz:

1. She's a northerner. She hails from a state north of Malaysia and now stays in a country north of Europe.

2. She's the incurable juggler - voluntary and involuntary - who crosses the street to walk in the sunshine. (hahaha! Cut and paste babe, apa susah?)

3. Her interests include anthropology, linguistics, travel and photography. (chuckle! Guess where I got that from?)

4. She loves foreign (hollywood and bollywood-free) movies. (hehehe, this is darn easy!)

5. She has another blog by the name of Dapur Serenity which is open only to invited readers.

OK, first part easily done. (Work smart, not hard, okay people?)

Now for the second set of rules: Each blogger must mention 10 facts about themselves or their hobbies before choosing the next 10 recipients.

Okay, I've done another tag before this where I had to state 15 random facts about myself. So here's a special offer for you - if you'd like to know 10 facts about myself, please click here and you'll get a bonus of 5 more.

(Hehehehe... work smart people... work smart, not hard!)

Finally, the third set of rules: Choose 10 recipients and describe them.

Although I don't usually name anyone when responding to tags, this time I will. I will have to choose 2 groups of people. The first group are those who tagged me before (it's payback time!). And the second group will have to be a few regulars to this blog or blogs I frequent to, even though they may not visit mine. MARI KITA TENGOK SIAPA YANG KENA!

1. Kak Teh - She gave me the Thinking Blogger award during my earlier blogging days and last year she tagged me for the cringe moments tag. No need to describe Kak Teh lah... she is already "fofular" di alam blogosphere.

2. Raden Galoh - Ahh, the bouncing cancer survivor who deserves this award very much! And the award comes in pink ribbon... very sesuai gitu...

3. Typhoon Sue - Someone who moves around like a typhoon, and sues people while at it. Errr no-lah, kang tak pasal je kena saman! Sue's a lawyer who blogs to express whatever's in her mind.

4. Pak Zawi - here's one guy who needs to be roped in to be Kelantan's tourism ambassador - he's good at it! Right now he's touring Europe though...

5. Kerp - A die-hard Arsenal fan who fights for the rights of OKUs.

6. Mamasita - The mak datin from Kuantan yang baru belajar pakai pario. (muahaha! Jangan marah kak... nanti terlucut kain...)

7. Yvonne Foong - Yvonne probably doesn't follow my blog, but I'm naming her as a recipient of this award as I find her truly remarkable and admirable.

8. Mat Cendana - the title of his blog, Recovery From Drug Addiction, is good enough to describe him. And oh, he writes well too!

9. Akmal - A medic student who loves photography.

10. ___________ - I shall leave the last one blank. This final award is dedicated to ALL bloggers out there - because you are an AMAZING lot!

I wish I can name Pak Malim and Mekyam, but they don't have blogs. So to these two, nanti later we try to come up with Anugerah Khas Juri untuk Kaki Komen Terbaik ya?

So, Naz, itu hutang dalam buku tiga lima boleh cancel sekarang ok?

smiley_faces

Saturday, 30 May 2009

The "Drama Swasta" cases for the last 5 years

I can't remember the exact date of my joining the Buddies of Ipoh, but I do remember the year - it was 2004. Which means this year I have been a volunteer in HIV support services for 5 years.

When I first joined Buddies, I had anticipated that the problems faced by the PLHIVs would basically be stigma and discrimination problems; and maybe some financial problems due to the inability of some of these PLHIVs to work. And yes, initially those were the kind of problems I saw. I didn't really do much house visits then as I was not yet allowed to visit them on my own due to my status as a trainee still.

Then I got confirmed... assigned to a few cases and that was when the drama swasta cases started emerging. Drama swasta cases? Well yeah, the kind of situations which I thought I would only see in the local dramas on TV. But reality is, there are many real-life situations out there, which, if shown in dramas on TV, you would brush them off as being exaggerated.

Some of the problems are like normal problems faced by others not infected with HIV. Marriage problems, for example, would still occur with or without HIV - although in certain cases, like Lin's, being infected with HIV was indeed the turning point. Lin had known about Mr Darling (her ex-husband)'s promiscuous activities since early in their marriage, but it was only after she was diagnosed HIV+ve that she felt she couldn't take it any longer. By then they already had 6 children.

As for Mr Darling, those who had been following his story may remember the time when he asked Yah to marry him during their FIRST meet at the HIV clinic. And no, it wasn't a blind date or anything of that sort. They were just waiting for their turn to see the doctor, started chatting with each other, and when he found out she was a single mom, immediately proposed to her. Seriously, I never thought anyone would do that unless he had gone bonkers. (Oh well, maybe he was bonkers!) It wasn't even love at first sight. It was a case of a man desperately wanting to get married (so he can have sex!) after his wife filed for divorce.

What made me even more baffled was the fact that Yah started falling heads over heels over him after spending one night at his mother's house. Am not really sure what went on then, but Yah went really ANGAU to the highest level, the tough lady I once knew changed overnight to someone more like a troubled teenager. Her children were no longer her prioritiy. Well, Mr Darling is now married to another lady (who was never in any of my drama swasta), but Yah has yet to recover from her angau-ness... in fact, knowing she has HIV, she started sleeping with various men to seek revenge!

Anyone remember Lily, the lady with such a complicated life? Her husband's family took him back to their hometown without informing Lily he had HIV. And because they were not in good terms with Lily, they didn't bother to inform her or her children when her husband died. Ada ka patut?! It was only when Lily asked her eldest daughter to call the grandma to ask how the father was doing, were they informed of his death. One problem lead to another, and when Lily finally died due to complications arising from dengue, I figured that was the end of all the complications. Well yes, that was the end of Lily's own complicated life; but her children, especially Boboy, the one infected with HIV, continued enduring one problem after another. Well, Boboy is now in a shelter home for HIV infected children, after being sent there by the new guardians of Lily's children.

Another one with marriage problem was Maria. Her half brothers married her off to someone of their choice right after her SPM so they would no longer have to be responsible for her. It wouldn't be so much of a problem if they got her Mr. Right; but nope they got her a Mr. Wrong - he was a hard core drug addict. But Maria, never taught to be independent, stayed on in her marriage. They had 3 children. His addiction came to the extent that he started stealing right in front of his son and his son's school friends, much to the boy's embarrassment! They did finally get divorced, and again, Maria's half brothers arranged for another marriage for Maria - although this time, the husband seemed more responsible. It was during her pregnancy in this second marriage did Maria find out of her HIV infection and how she panicked when her present husband was tested negative. For someone who had always been dependent on others, Maria was afraid her husband would leave her. Her confidence level is almost zero.

Other than marriage problems - the other PLHIVs I was assigned to, had other complications. Fuzi, for example, an Indonesian who got married to a Malaysian in Narathiwat, Thailand, all the while thought her husband had registered their marriage in Malaysia. It was only after he died, and her daughter wanted to get her IC done, did she realise that her marriage cert was not accepted here - the result of which is having to solve one problem before solving another problem before solving yet another problem.

Well, I had initially thought Fuzi's case was complicated enough. But at least she has some papers - whether they are legal or not is another matter.

Then came another case I would never have thought existed - a case of an HIV positive lady who existed physically but not on paper. An adult without an IC I've heard of, but without even a birth cert, she doesn't even have any nationality! Oh, forget nationality, it's like she doesn't even exist! You see, Hasnah's mother got married in Thailand, her marriage never got registered, then they got divorced, and she gave birth to Hasnah somewhere in Thailand, without registering the birth. Hasnah was then brought back to Malaysia, never went to school, grew up, and got married. Without identification, how on earth did she get married? Like mother like daughter lah... in Thailand. I doubt it was legally recognised. We've lost touch with her... she has not even gone for her hospital appointments it seems...

And the above cases are not even half of the cases I've handled! There are definitely more of these drama swasta cases.

And we thought WE had problems, huh?

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Activities, activities...

Our monthly meeting last Tuesday night ended much later than usual. In addition to the normal admin matters we usually discuss during Board Meetings, this time we also included clients progress report in the agenda.

Prolonging the meeting even further were discussions on upcoming activities. What activities?

Well, first and foremost we had to discuss our participation in ICAAP in Bali this year. Originally only 8 of us confirmed our participation. Only recently, another volunteer, who's a PLHIV himself, indicated his interest. Because he indicated his interest rather late, after we had utilised our approved budget for ICAAP, I helped him apply for scholarship from the Congress organisers, failing which he is encouraged to apply for MAC scholarship. However, in case he doesn't get any scholarship, we had to discuss other options as well - including subsidizing his costs to attend the Congress. We are depending on him to spearhead the Peer Support Group which we are in the process of setting up, as such the experience at ICAAP will definitely be good for him.

Another activity we discussed is our Annual Family Day scheduled on the first Sunday of August. After discussing a few options, we decided to organise this year's event at a stud farm near Ipoh. I was informed that the view there is magnificent. However, the farm is not open to the public and as such we needed to write in to get special permission from the management of the farm to organise our event there. One of our volunteers had already informally spoken to one of the management, so now we need to formally hand in a letter to request permission.

The last activity discussed is the coming soon Buddies Retreat in Cameron Highlands which will be in June, next weekend to be exact. My, my... we seemed to discuss our activities backwards, didn't we? ICAAP will only be in August... the Family Day even earlier on the first Sunday of August... and the last item discussed is to be held just next week.

But first up, this Sunday, I will be attending a workshop on "Hak Wanita Dalam Perundangan Islam" jointly organised by Sisters in Islam and the Perak Women for Women Association (PWW). Since the workshop is only open to a limited number of participants, when a lady from PWW called me up to offer me a place (fully sponsored), it was an opportunity hard to say no to. Besides, the topic may be very helpful in carrying out my voluntary work for some of the PLHIV women.

Monday, 25 May 2009

What I've been up to...

Yesterday, I attended the AIDS Memorial Day jointly organised by Mak Nyah PT Foundation and the Jabatan Kesihatan Perak. I received a forwarded message from a colleague who received the message from one of the PT people inviting us to attend the function. Then later on Monday last week, I received a call from the manager of PT's Mak Nyah programme, personally inviting me and Buddies to attend.

So yes, I extended the invitation to all Buddies and asked them to invite their clients as well. The only client I invited was Jah, who would always say YES no matter where I invite her to! I didn't invite Fuzi although I knew her children would love functions where makan-makan are involved. You see, her children are not quite exposed to Mak Nyahs, and with their "mulut tak ada insurance", I didn't want to end up being in an awkward situation if they end up saying loudly things they shouldn't be saying.

In the end, representing Buddies to the function were 6 volunteers and 1 client. That one client? Who else but Jah. She insisted I pick her up at the bus station as she didn't know where this hotel was, even though I told her it's at the nearby railway station. Yes, the function was held at the Majestic Station Hotel, located at the Ipoh railway station.

Actually, it is within walking distance from the bus station. Jah was just about to put on the seatbelt when I told her "Tak payah pakailah, dah nak sampai dah..."

However, first timers to the hotel may not be too confident trying to find the function room. A few people had to call their friends in the organising committee to ask how to get to the function room. I chuckled when I heard one of the Mak Nyahs, when giving directions, saying, "Alaaa... engko masuk je lif zaman Jepun tu, naik tingkat 3."

Indeed, the lift does look rather "scary" and "antique". The door is not automatic - it's AUTAmatic. You'd have to open/close it manually! Am not too sure if "lif zaman Jepun" gives the right description though - I wasn't born yet during Japanese occupation of Malaya so I don't even know how the lifts then looked like... if there were any in the first place!

Anyway, other than the usual speeches, we were briefed on the activities organised by the Mak Nyah PT Foundation, while the Jabatan Kesihatan people gave a talk on STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) showing actual pictures. We were supposed to watch a video called "Pecah Lubang" after that, but due to some technical problems, the organisers had to cancel the showing of the video. So we simply proceeded with food glorious food, much to Jah's joy.

During the function, one of the Jabatan Kesihatan staff came over to me and asked, "Dari Buddies of Ipoh ke?" I nodded. He had been trying to find our center to deliver a letter inviting us to attend a meeting called by the Pejabat Kesihatan Kinta. He couldn't find our center. So when during the speeches by both the PT Foundation and Jabatan Kesihatan reps, our attendance at the function was mentioned, particularly both the chair and vice chair; this guy quickly looked for me (the name Puan Afizah from Buddies was mentioned, and since I was the only Malay lady sitting in front, he knew it had to be me) to hand me the letter.

So I finally got the letter yesterday, and the meeting... was TODAY! The meeting was to discuss on the HIV/AIDS National Strategic Plan (NSP) for implementation by the various agencies and NGOs in Kinta area. When I saw that amongst those called for the meeting was the principal of the home for problematic teenagers (which didn't want to accept Sharifah because she has HIV), I figured it would be a good opportunity for me to meet the principal herself to discuss the matter and maybe coax her to accept Sharifah. So yes, I made it a point to attend the meeting.

Since the meeting was to be held at the town where Lin is staying, this morning during my routine kerja kampong before leaving for the office, I looked around at the banana trees behind my house to see if there were any bananas ripe enough for me to give to Lin - for use at her pisang goreng stall. Found one, cut down the tree and immediately put the whole bunch of bananas into my car before I went in to have my bath. I didn't want to dirty my work clothes carrying the bananas only after getting ready for office.

The meeting was in the afternoon, and I got there just in time before the meeting started. The chairman of the meeting called out the agencies/organisations invited, to find out who was there and who was not. To my disappointment, there were no representatives from the shelter home I was talking about. Oh, Buddies of Ipoh was last on the list. When the chairman came to our turn, he pronounced the Persatuan Buddies as Persatuan "Buddhist". Of course, when he saw this one Malay makcik wearing a tudung & jubah raising her hand, he reread the letter and apologised, "Maaf ya, Persatuan Buddies, bukan Buddhist."

Despite the absence of representatives from the shelter home, the meeting was still a good avenue for me to expand my networking. So yeah, expand my networking I did.

Right after I got into my car after the meeting ended, it rained heavily. I tried to call Lin to ask where she was, but my call couldn't get through. So I just went over to her house, left the bananas right in front of the door, and then left her a text message to tell her about it. It was getting late, so I didn't bother looking for her at her pisang goreng stall. The bananas were still green anyway, I doubt any monkeys (of whichever kind) would get to it first... :)

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Poor, poor Sofie...

When my colleagues who were on clinic duty were trying to decide on who should be Murni's buddy some time back, they said they had no choice but to refer the case to me as Murni comes from a hard core poor family. Then when Sharifah's case came, again they said they had no choice but to refer the case to me, not because Sharifah was poor, but because hers was a rather problematic case (out-of-wedlock pregnancy & all).

Likewise, during the weeks that we don't have any volunteers going for the HIV clinic duty, sometimes SN would call me up from the HIV clinic to inform me of any new problematic cases. SN wouldn't usually call if the cases are not THAT urgent. If a call comes in from her, I would immediately know that she had either a complicated case she wanted to refer, or a hard core poor.

I'm already having too many cases under me, and as such, during the Buddies meeting this coming Tuesday night, I intend to hand over some of the less problematic cases to other buddies. Cases like Fuzi's, Zainab's and Jah's I think other volunteers wouldn't have any problems taking over. Like one of my fellow volunteers mentioned, I can hand over the more manageable cases to others, but please continue handling the "drama swasta" cases. :) But I can only hand over those who are more "open". I cannot hand over clients like Maria and Lin because although their cases are manageable, it is not easy to gain their trust. These two I noticed, are not ready to open up to others.

Anyway, one of the new cases I'm handling is the one referred to me direct by SN last week - that of Sofie's, the one I mentioned in my previous posting.

I promised Sofie I'd visit her this week, and so this morning, after my usual pasar tani routine, and after dumping whatever necessary into the slow cooker for my sup tulang, off I went to visit Sofie. Ahh... getting lunch cooked while at the same time doing one of my house visits - can I call that multi-tasking? :)

I had my car filled with rice, flour, noodles, bread, cooking oil, canned food etc. Although I had never met Sofie before, from the little details I managed to get from my earlier phone conversation with Sofie, plus the fact that it was SN who referred the case to me directly, I knew this had to be a genuine case of poor family.

Sofie lives in a small town, unfamiliar territory to me. Ever since the PLUS expressway was open, I hardly ever pass through that town. But ever since joining Buddies, I am getting quite used to doing house visits based entirely on the address given, even if the place happens to be in unfamiliar territories. Apa susah, ada mulut tanyalah...

So yes, once I reached the town, I did stop by a petrol station to ask where this particular kampong was. Apparently it was just 3 traffic lights away from the petrol station and easily accessible from the main road.

Once I got to the kampong, looking for the house was not a problem, as the place is more of a kampong tersusun where the house numbers are in order, very unlike my kampong where it is hard to find a specific house based on the house number. Sofie's house, or her sister's house to be exact, was a wooden house right at the end of the lane. There were a few children at the door when I got there - I just asked if Sofie lived there, and they all nodded.

I got in, and immediately saw Sofie on my right, lying on a thin mattress. She looked so weak I wondered how she managed to go to the hospital in Ipoh by bus. According to Sofie, one of her children would accompany her, for her to hold on to when she walks.

Sofie got her divorce papers finalised just a few months ago. Yes, she was the one who filed for divorce. What was the point hanging on to a marriage when the husband disappears without any news and only comes back once every 2 or 3 months. And even when he does come back, he never gives his family a single sen. It was Sofie all the while who had to support her family.

When Sofie first filed for divorce, her husband threatened to kill her if she proceeded with the divorce case. He said he'd make her suffer her whole life. Sofie ended up having to file a police report in addition to going in and out of the Syariah Court for her divorce case.

Well, Sofie got her divorce papers, but her ex-husband did manage to make Sofie suffer - he infected her with HIV, didn't he? Sofie herself never knew her husband had HIV. It was only a few months ago when she fell ill, got hospitalised and tests revealed she was HIV positive. In fact, based on her condition, the doctors believed she could have been infected more than 10 years ago. That gave Sofie another worry - if indeed she had been infected that long ago, her youngest daughter, who is 7 this year, may have been infected too. She intends to bring that daughter for blood tests soon.

Before this Sofie had been working very hard to support her children. She helped out at a canteen, and did some odd jobs here and there to earn about RM400 to RM500 per month. Hardly enough to pay for house rental and support 4 schooling children, but at least she had an income.

However, Sofie had not been working for the past 3 months due to her weak condition. How was she going to pay for her house rental? What was she going to feed her children with?

Thank goodness her sister and brother-in-law sympathised and took the whole family in to stay with them at their house - the house I went to visit today. But Sofie's BIL only earns about RM800 per month and they have 6 children of their own to feed - 5 of them schooling while the youngest is still a toddler. Every night Sofie's sister stays up to 3 am to make some kuih to be sent off to a few stalls early in the mornings to be sold. That's their only source of extra income.

But Sofie's sister & BIL aren't complaining. Whatever they & their children eat, Sofie and her children will get to eat too. But with 13 people staying under the same roof, and with the kind of income they earn - obviously they have to ration their daily food intake. And the groceries that I brought along with me in my car today? They welcomed it very much. I got the children to help me carry the stuff out of my car. And I was amazed when Sofie's fragile looking 11 year old boy managed to carry a 10 kg bag of rice on his left shoulder, and another heavy bag of other stuff with his right hand - with ease! Obviously he's so used to carrying heavy stuff and doing hard work.

I got hold of the photocopies of whatever supporting documents needed to help Sofie apply for financial assistance. I also requested her permission to come and visit again with at least 2 other colleagues - that's a requirement if we are to consider her children for our Education Sponsorship programme. Sofie agreed as long as we don't come in a Jabatan Kesihatan van. Apparently before this, there was one such visit to a neighbour's house and within hours the whole neighbourhood knew about the neighbour being HIV positive. I assured Sofie that we don't work with the Health Ministry - we're only volunteers and any visits will be in our own personal vehicles. The neighbours know Sofie is poor and so if anybody asks about the visits from me and my colleagues, we can always say we're from a charitable organisation. Besides, during our house visits, we NEVER tell people we're from an HIV support group.

Sofie and her children definitely need all the help they can get. If my colleagues who assigned me to Murni earlier thought Murni was a hard core poor; Sofie's situation is even worse than Murni's. And people like Mr and Mrs K who are both working are always complaining "tak ada duit" to pay for this and that. Yes, they don't earn much I agree, but I wish they could see Sofie's sufferings to really understand the meaning of "tak ada duit". Sofie now doesn't earn anything. Nothing at all - not a single sen. Zero! Zilch! Not because she's not willing to work, but because she's unable to work. When she needs to go for her hospital appointments, her sister would have to fork out some of her hard earned money to give to Sofie.

I will get my colleague to help Sofie apply for welfare aid and MAC's Paediatric AIDS Fund; while I myself will bring up this case to be considered for my NGO's Education Sponsorship programme. Right now I am also looking for donors to buy bicycles for Sofie's children who for the time being have to walk to school...

And we have been complaining about what... lauk tak best?

Friday, 22 May 2009

Various Updates

1. Sharifah will be going back to her hometown today - temporarily. Since we can't get her a place at the shelter home for problematic teenagers in Perak due to her HIV status, she'd need to go home first. Yes, we can send her to any of the shelter homes in KL/Selangor, but Sharifah is due to deliver soon. The owner of the flat has agreed to let her temporarily use the flat whenever she needs to be in Ipoh for her hospital appointments, and so we thought if we need to send her elsewhere, might as well wait until she delivers in June. Besides, I will need to discuss with her mother on the future of Sharifah and the baby, so I cannot really say for now what the arrangements will be like. Sharifah's mother promised me she'd come along with Sharifah to Ipoh during her next appointment as it will be during the soon coming school holidays. Coincidentally, my next clinic duty will also be on the same day as Sharifah's next appointment at the HIV clinic.

Yesterday I bought the bus ticket for Sharifah. Since she needed to see the doctor first this morning, I bought a ticket for the 4 pm bus. I told her I'd fetch her at the flat at 3 pm. So yes, I will send her off to the bus station today, pass her the bus ticket and get the key (of the flat she's been staying in) from her. I will be seeing her again, insyaAllah, next weekend, hopefully together with her mother.

2. Remember I mentioned in my posting here about SN calling me from the HIV clinic to inform me about a new case of a poor single mother with 4 kids? I had been busy with Sharifah's case earlier so I didn't call the lady immediately. But I finally managed to call her last Tuesday. Sofie, divorced, has 4 schooling children - 2 in secondary and 2 in primary. She used to help out at a canteen to earn some income for her family, but for the past 3 months she was too weak to work. Unable to earn anything to pay for house rental (or any other expense for that matter), she and her children now stays at her sister's kampong house. The sister already has 6 children of her own staying in the same house - imagine how much space each person has!

I promised Sofie I'd visit her this week. Sofie was initially reluctant to let me visit. She was thinking I may be coming in a Jabatan Kesihatan van with a few other colleagues, and so she got worried. You see, she's staying in a kampong area with *ambil tahu/kaypoh neighbours, (*strike out whichever you think is not applicable) and an official visit as such will definitely attract attention. I told Sofie I'd be coming alone in my own car and that I can easily pass off as a relative visiting from another kampong. After all, I myself am a kampong girl! (Ni kira woman perasan masih girl... hehehe...)

An office-mate of mine had also asked me to deliver some fidyah puasa through me to any poor families I visit, and Sofie definitely sounds like an eligible recipient. By the sound of it, I think Sofie's children too may need to be considered for our Education Sponsorship programme.

More updates after the visit....

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

My abstract

2 or 3 weeks after I registered for myself and my colleagues (just in time for the cheaper early bird registration) to attend the ICAAP in Bali this August, one of my colleagues encouraged... no, urged... no, PESTERED me to submit an abstract for the Congress. By then the initial deadline for submission of abstracts was already over, but the organisers had extended the deadline by 2 weeks.

Despite being the chair of my NGO, I am relatively new to this. I had never attended ICAAP before compared to many of my other colleagues, and I had never submitted any kind of abstract for any kind of Congress whatsoever. So I didn't really know how to even start doing the abstract. What topic was I to write about?

I'm definitely not an expert in any specific field, so if I were to submit an abstract, it would have to be on community issues. But this is already the 9th ICAAP - surely most of the more common topics have already been covered in previous ICAAPs. I'm sure the organisers wouldn't want the same old story repeated over and over again.

But this particular colleague (who was one of the pioneers of Buddies) insisted I should submit an abstract. She went on and on saying that I could do it... I had the potential bla bla bla. By then the closing date was nearing, and since I didn't want to get any side effects of not submitting an abstract (the side effect is getting nagged by this colleague later on), I decided to just go for it.

The only topic I could think of that I'm truly exposed to is our Education Sponsorship for HIV Affected/Infected Children. As a matter of fact, it has sort of become my "baby".

OK, so I've got the topic. How do I go about doing the abstract? What approach should I use? Well, time was running out, and so I decided to use the kind of approach most suitable for people like me. It's called the "Hentam Sajalah" approach.

And yes, I did submit the abstract online on time right before the ICAAP 09 website encountered some problems (I guess too many people were trying to submit their abstracts at the very last minute - just like our tax e-filing lah!).

And so, that was it. For an abstract that was done using the "Hentam Sajalah" approach, and submitted only to "release cough at the stairs" (hehehe... that's a direct translation of melepaskan batuk di tangga!), I didn't think it was worth the organising committee's selection. At least if my colleague asked, I could tell her that I had already submitted the abstract and she couldn't nag me about non-submission.

That was end of March. Then sometime in April, MarinaM blogged about having being holed up in Bogor with some colleagues, sifting through hundreds and hundreds of abstracts. Among others, she mentioned...

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"I must admit to one disappointment; there really aren't many submissions from Malaysia. I don't know whether it's because few people do any research in Malaysia or, few people submit their abstracts, or the quality of those submitted were just too low to be accepted. But what is clear is that there will indeed be very few Malaysians who will be presenting their work or experience in Bali this August."

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Alamak! Terasalah pulak... my submission must have been in the third category, ie quality too low to be accepted. Aiseh.. malunya! I hoped she didn't read my abstract.

This morning, I downloaded my emails and saw one from ICAAP 9 asking to log in to the ICAAP website and check if my application was successful. So I went to the ICAAP website, logged in to my account, and the status of my abstract submission was "Accepted Presentation". I clicked on the confirmation status, and on the next page was written...

---------------------------------------------

Dear AFIZAH BINTI BANI HASHIM,
On behalf of the Scientific Programme Committee, we are pleased to inform you that your abstract entitled:
Abstract Title : xxxxxxxxxxxx *
Abstract Number : xxxxxxxxxxxx *

has been selected for Poster Presentation in the 9th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific.

---------------------------------------------

*I deleted the abstract title and number - will tell about it later AFTER the Congress.

So my abstract has been selected after all! OK lah, not so malu now... hehehe...

I actually submitted the abstract for oral presentation, but it got accepted for poster presentation. Which means I will now need to come up with a poster to be brought along with me when I go to Bali in August. While it does mean I need to spend some time doing the poster, I guess the bright side is, I don't have to worry about being "darah gemuruh" if it is to be an oral presentation.

Young, single and ... (part 3)

I finally got to speak to Sharifah's mother. When I met Sharifah earlier on Sunday, I told her to give my number to her mother to enable her mother to talk to me direct if she needed to.

So yesterday morning while I was in my office, a call came in from a northern number. At first I thought it could have been a wrong number, but suddenly I remembered it could also be Sharifah's parents.

True enough, when I answered the call, a lady asked for Afizah. It was Sharifah's mother. She probably didn't realise I'm older than her because Sharifah has been calling me Kak Afizah.

Anyway, Sharifah's mother, whom I forgot to even ask for her name, but let's just call her Puan Nur (I never disclose their real names in this blog anyway!), just wanted to thank me for taking care of her daughter. She also explained why she couldn't accompany Sharifah to Ipoh.

According to Puan Nur, she had called up the welfare office at her state, explaining her daughter's situation, and asking if they could arrange to place her daughter at the shelter home for problematic teenagers (which is under the welfare department) in Perak, but was told by the officer there, that since Sharifah is already in Ipoh, might as well deal direct with the welfare officer here. I told Puan Nur that we are already liaising with the home for troubled teenagers but are still waiting for their answer.

I also told Puan Nur that if possible I'd like to meet up with her personally so we can discuss face to face what we can do for Sharifah's and the baby's future. Puan Nur agreed, and said she'd probably be able to come to Ipoh at the end of the month. Which is good timing I guess, since Sharifah herself needs to come to Ipoh for another appointment on 1st June. I told Puan Nur that hopefully by then, we'd be able to finalise the arrangements with the shelter home.

But yesterday afternoon when I went to my NGO center, I was told by my colleague (the one liaising with the people in charge of the home) that while the home accepts single unwed mothers below 21 years of age, they aren't ready to accept those who are HIV +ve.

Sigh...

We have to tell the shelter home about Sharifah's HIV status because she'd need to go for hospital appointments quite often, but when we do tell them about her HIV status, they aren't willing to accept her. Susahlah like this!!

Oh well, I guess we can't depend on gomen shelter homes for HIV cases...

Now we'll have to make other arrangements. Whatever it is, Sharifah is expected to deliver her baby next month. For the moment, the owner of the flat has agreed to let her use the flat whenever she needs to be in Ipoh for her appointments, so maybe, just maybe, we'll wait for her to deliver before we take the next step.

But I will need to discuss the matter with Puan Nur first. Do they want to give away the baby as Sharifah mentioned to me earlier, or how? Hopefully I will be able to meet up with Puan Nur soon.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Young, single and ... (part 2)

I was in Putrajaya over the weekend for some alumni matters. Despite Sunday's events not over yet, I had to leave the function by about 3.30 pm as there was an urgent matter I needed to attend to here in Ipoh.

You see, I had promised to help out Sharifah, the 19 year old HIV+ single girl who's pregnant. She has appointments in Ipoh GH today, Wednesday and Friday. She can't be travelling up and down every alternate day from her hometown just to go for her appointments. We are still trying to arrange for her to stay at a shelter home for problematic teenagers here in Perak, but we are still getting the "nanti kami akan hubungi" answer.

So, where on earth is Sharifah supposed to stay during the 5 days? My home? No way, we are not supposed to allow clients to know where we stay for reasons I've stated before.

A colleague of mine managed to arrange for Sharifah to stay at a flat during the 5 days. The owner for the time being has to stay at his parents home in another town to take care of his mother, so for the moment the flat is vacant. After listening to Sharifah's plight, he agreed to let Sharifah stay at his small flat for free for the 5 days. He even allowed Sharifah to use whatever facilities like the stove, radio, bed, etc.

Sharifah did SMS me earlier, telling me her bus is expected to reach Ipoh around 7 pm. Which was why I needed to be sure I'd be back in Ipoh by then. If I had waited for the function in Putrajaya to end before making a move, I'd probably reach Ipoh rather late. As such, I made it a point to leave by 3.30pm and managed to reach home about 6 pm, during heavy rain.

At about 7.30 pm, Sharifah called to tell me she was already at the bus station. I told her to wait at the "tempat mengambil & menurunkan penumpang", then off I went to fetch her. On the way, I called up my colleague to tell him I was already on my way to pick up Sharifah. He was by then already waiting at the flat, together with the owner of the unit. Suddenly I remembered, Sharifah & I have never met each other before. How on earth was I supposed to recognise her? It would have to be her who had to look out for my car, but she didn't even know what car I was driving. So, I called her, gave her my car make and registration number, and told her to look out for me.

When I reached the bus station, I saw a young chubby looking girl who looked as though she was looking out for me. I waved at her asking her to come to my car. Luckily she was the right person... :)

Sharifah was rather calm - unlike the description I got from the contact report handed over to me by my colleague who met her during clinic duty. Probably by now she has managed to compose herself, knowing that her parents are not disowning her... and knowing that there are people out here trying to help her. I have to admit, I pay extra attention to pregnant HIV positive ladies. My main concern is to avoid HIV infection to the baby. Worse, with cases of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, where there is always the possibility of the young mother defaulting hospital check-ups and appointments, increasing the chances of the baby getting infected.

Anyway, I brought Sharifah straight to the flat where my colleague and the owner of the flat were already waiting. After explaining a few things to her, I took her for dinner at the Medan Selera at the flat area, which is just within walking distance, so there shouldn't be any problem for Sharifah to get food during the 5 days.

We had a good chat during dinner. The moment Sharifah told me she was the eldest of 5 siblings, I could immediately figure that her mother is probably younger than I am. True enough, her mother is only 39. Her mother had to attend a work related course in another state, otherwise she would have followed Sharifah to Ipoh. Her father couldn't accompany her either as there'd be nobody to take care of her younger siblings at home. But they gave her their blessings, gave her enough pocket money to last her for the 5 days and told her to take care of herself.

Her younger siblings do not know anything about her predicament. They thought she's on leave (from her studies). They do not know she's HIV positive, and believe it or not, they do not even know about her pregnancy. Yes, her tummy is a bit buncit but she can easily pass off as someone chubby (I have met people who got asked "dah berapa bulan?" when they weren't even pregnant!). Neighbors do not know of her condition either as most of the time she just stayed home. That's why if possible Sharifah and her parents do not want her to deliver in their home state where there are too many relatives around.

I asked Sharifah what her plans are after she delivers. "Bagi kat kebajikan lah kot..." came the answer. I asked if she didn't want to take care of the baby herself. She said she'd love to but she didn't know how that would be possible. When they first found out about her pregnancy, her mother did manage to arrange with a friend to get a childless couple willing to adopt the coming-soon baby. Then later when Sharifah was diagnosed HIV positive, they opted out as they were afraid they may need to take care of an HIV infected baby, and they simply weren't willing to face whatever future lies ahead for the child. So that plan got cancelled.

While care is being taken to avoid the baby from being infected, whoever the caregiver still needs to bring the baby for follow-ups with the doctor for a year or so, just to be safe. So frankly, I'm not sure myself if it is advisable to get someone to adopt the baby, unless they are willing to bring the baby for the necessary follow-ups.

Whatever it is, I told Sharifah I'd like to meet up and discuss the matter with her mother if possible. It would be best to discuss the matter with a more mature person. After all, the future of a young girl and a baby are at stake here.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Updates from Perak...

Now, now, now... if you had actually clicked on this link hoping to read my take about the recent political fiasco in Perak.... SORRY, WRONG NUMBER! All I can say on that issue is.. I think next time I may want to vote for Party Tupperware lah!

You see, I stay in Ipoh, and as such, any updates coming from me on whatever matters (even personal matters) are still updates from Perak, aren't they? :)

Well, anyway, my updates this time, as per most of my blog postings, are related to my NGO work.

1. Sharifah contacted me as promised. She wanted to know if we Buddies provide temporary shelter for people like her. She needs shelter temporarily when she delivers. While her mother is willing to take care of her at home, her father is a different story altogether. To him Sharifah had brought shame to the family. Sharifah herself wants to avoid the embarrassment her family may face. Since we don't have shelter homes, I told her we can help find a suitable shelter home for her. Sharifah also asked if it is possible for her to go for follow-ups at her hometown but still deliver her baby in Ipoh. She will still need to get referral letters from Ipoh GH for that purpose, so I told her to come to Ipoh for her next appointment, which is next week, and we'd try to get things settled then. Hopefully by then, I will be able to find a suitable home for her.

2. Yah sent me a text message on Monday. Her mother passed away on Sunday - Mother's Day.

3. Mrs K called me yesterday. She and Mr K were in Ipoh to apply for various financial help for their daughter's coming operation in IJN. She asked how to go about applying for her EPF withdrawal (for medical purposes). I told her the best people to ask would be the EPF people themselves. They already know where the EPF office is, so I told her to go there and get the necessary forms. Later in the afternoon, she sent me a text message, telling me that it is so difficult to apply for the EPF withdrawal because they'd need to come up with a medical report from the doctor. Duh! You want to withdraw for medical purposes, surely they'd need a medical report?! And remember I asked for the bank account number of the bus operator who takes Mrs K's children to school? Well, according to Mrs K, the bus operator told her he didn't have any account number as he is working on his own. I was still rather reluctant to give cash to Mrs K for reasons stated earlier. They may for this one time pay the money to the bus operator, but what about future bus fares? So I replied to Mrs K, telling her that the bus operator must have at least a personal savings account, unless he keeps all his money under his pillow! I was not asking for a company or business bank account. I told her if she can't get his account number, then give me his full name, so we can write him a cheque for the monthly bus fares. Later at night, I got another SMS from Mrs K, this time with the name and bank account number of the bus driver. Now, that wasn't so hard, was it?

4. SN called me from the HIV clinic this morning. Today being the second Wednesday of the month, we don't have any of our volunteers at the clinic to provide support service. But there was one case of a poor single mother with 4 kids who needed help, so SN called me up. I had some work at the office and so I couldn't go to the hospital to meet up with this lady. So I took down her contact particulars and also told SN to give her my number. I hope to be able to meet up with this lady soon to assess her situation.

5. I went to visit Lin today. 2 of her children are under our Sponsorship Programme. One of them, Rahim, will be 14 tomorrow. His sponsor had sent me some money to buy a birthday gift for the boy. So yep, I bought him a present based on what Lin had been telling about the boy's likes and dislikes...

Inside the box?

An MP3/MP4 player.

Lin was at her pisang goreng stall, so I took the opportunity to visit her at the stall. Usually I'd visit her at home. No, I didn't bring along any bananas this time, as the ones at home are not ripe enough. Maybe next time.

Anyway, Lin was quite busy at her stall, which means business is okay. I told her to continue frying the bananas and cokodok, while I ordered a drink for myself from the stall she's sharing with. Lin told me that her daughter's school had already asked for an additional fee that needed to be paid. She was thinking of sending me a text message tonight, to inform me about it. But since I went to serah diri, there is no need for her to do that now. I took down the amount, and told her I'd bank in the money into her bank account, as usual.

As we were chatting, a young girl in school uniform came over, offering her hands to salam. It was Marlia, Lin's youngest daughter, who just came back from school.

I didn't stay too long as I didn't want to disturb Lin in her business. But just as I was entering my car, I saw Marlia running over to me. Apparently she was just informed by her school teacher that they'd need to pay RM80 ASAP for a motivational programme for the school's UPSR students. The programme is next week, and they'd need to pay by this week. Well, that amount can easily be covered with her sponsorship money since it is related to her education, so I decided to give my money first and later claim from my NGO.

Ah well, my mission was to pass the birthday present to Lin (Rahim was in school, so I couldn't pass it to him personally). Mission accomplished, and in addition, I also managed to settle some other sponsorship matters. Perfect timing to pay them a visit, I must say.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Gua masuk gua, gua cakap lu!

Sunday, 10th May 2009 - An exciting day it was for me... not because it was Mother's Day (I left my mother at home with my sister) but because it was the day for my office Gua Tempurung tour (this was one place I wouldn't bring my mother).

Didn't I go there some time during Raya month last year? So why was I excited this time around?

Because last year I went with 2 of my staff for the dry tour due to time constraint. This time it was for the Grand Tour! Woohoo! What's so exciting about the Grand Tour? Read on...

We (my office-mates and I) met up at 7.30 am near our office. Off we went for breakfast first. Need to fill up our tummy before we go for the 3 1/2 - 4 hours tour.


Welcome to Gua Tempurung...
Greeting us outside were a few siamangs...

The landscape outside the cave.

There was also a fishing competition at the lake outside the cave.

When there were enough people (they require a minimum of 8 people in a group for the Grand Tour), about 9 am, in we went, into darkness. There were 2 options available - either we'd go through the dry tour first before getting wet... or the way the ranger took us - which was through the river first.


I kinda like this pic... the lady in green looked as though she didn't have any feet... and there were a few of her in this pic... hihihi...

We had to crawl...
Mind you, there were a total of 7 stretches that we had to crawl... one of them, lower than the above pic, we were not able to crawl on our knees... but more of the commando style... yep, getting all wet!

We had to slide down the boulder...
Sorry, pic taken with my camera still inside my waterproof casing. By then the outer part of the casing was all wet and dirty (caused by all the crawling), and I didn't have anything dry on me to wipe it with. How far down did we have to slide? You see the torchlight at the top and the 2 guys waiting down there? (btw, if you intend to bring in your camera or handphone, make sure you put them in a waterproof casing especially during the crawling part)

Then we had to go down this hole...

No, not asshole. This is called the "lubang tikus". The ranger went down first, then offered his thigh for us to put our foot on to get down.

Taking a break...

Meet my office-mates... yours truly was behind the camera lah...


Aaah... light at the end of the tunnel! Yayy!! The worse was over!!

The only picture with me in it... this was the only time one of my staff offered to take the pic.
This pic was taken just a few seconds before this lady shouted, "MAK! LINTAH!!" Hehehe...

The Malaysian mentality I hate!


Did I say the worse was over? Uh oh... back into the cave we went...


And we had to climb up... yep, this far up...

And saw Mr Bat at close range... (well, I can't tell between male and female bats... this one could have been Mrs Bat for all I know!)

More bats...

Then we had to go down again...

This was one of the least challenging part...

Up down up down... until we reached the staircases for the dry tour after which we had to huff and puff up and down the stairs.

I was too lazy to take any more pics after that because I had gone through that tour before. The only difference was, the earlier tour I went, I was dry (except from the sweat of having to huff and puff up and down the stairs). This time around, by the time I reached the dry tour, I was wet from chest down (and all dirty!)

It was already 1 pm by the time we got out. First things first... we went straight to the car to get our change of clothes, paid to get into the toilet (30 sen if you want to use the toilet, RM1 if you want to have a bath). I just did the "mandi P.Ramlee" (not P.Bani) before changing into fresh dry clothes. After that we had lunch. There are ample food stalls outside the cave.

Then we headed back. I got home, dumped all my wet clothes into the pail (kena rendam dulu, seluar dalam biru pun dah berubah jadi brownish!!), had a good bath, then my solat zohor, and a good massage on the massage chair at home. Ahh, bliss...

It was indeed an interesting tour, but those who are claustrophobic or asthmatic, DON'T GO for the Grand Tour. You can go for the dry tours (Tours 1 & 2). Bear in mind that Tour 4 (the Grand Tour) is not only adventurous, it is also VERY CHALLENGING! The rocks where you'd have to climb up/down, can be very slippery at certain spots. TEAMWORK is very important - you'd need to help each other out.

Having said all that, I have to add that amongst those who joined our group was a 62 year old Ah So. But she was FIT! Of course, she had problems when climbing up the slippery rocks and sliding down the boulder, but with the help of others in the group, she managed.

So, Gua Tempurung, anyone?



Friday, 8 May 2009

Young, single and ... (Updated)

I wasn't on clinic duty this week but when I went to our center yesterday, I was told by my colleague who was on duty on Wednesday, that they couldn't think of anybody else but me to be assigned to a new client they met.

Uh, oh... I already have the longest list of clients amongst all the volunteers, and yet they're adding more? Never mind, I think what I'll do is to hand over a few of my less problematic clients to other volunteers so I can concentrate on the problematic ones. The fact that my colleagues who were on clinic duty said they couldn't think of anybody else; only meant that this new client must be a problematic one.

True enough, this new client, who is young enough to be my daughter (she's 19) was crying when my colleagues met her at the clinic. Wow! My youngest adult client ever. The only younger clients I have are children - where my contacts are basically through their mothers. But for this girl, it's her I have to talk to and be a friend to.

Well, I haven't met or even called her yet. Usually we'd call our newly assigned clients within 2 weeks from the date of the first contact at the HIV clinic. But for this young girl, I'd better call her soon. Maybe by tomorrow.

You see, this girl, Sharifah, is not only young and single. She's also.... pregnant!

Oh dear, no wonder lah they passed the case to me. Despite never being pregnant myself, I have been handling quite a number of cases involving pregnant ladies. But for Sharifah's case, just like Zana's, being pregnant and single, and HIV positive to add, there are a whole lot of other problems involved.

From the basic info I managed to get from my colleague who spoke to Sharifah at the clinic, Sharifah is a student at a private college. She hails from another state, and her parents know about her pregnancy. While her mother is willing to accept her back and take care of the baby when she delivers, her father is not on talking terms with her. So I'm not too sure yet how the arrangement is going to be after she delivers.

Right now she's not staying with her parents because she's studying here in Ipoh. She's staying with a group of girls studying in the same college. They had no problem having her as their housemate earlier on despite knowing of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, but after they found out that she was diagnosed HIV positive, they began boycotting her. They are scared to even use the same toilet with her. Thank goodness one of her housemates is rather sympathetic, so for the time being, this friend is her pillar of strength. That's the only friend she has for now.

Hmmm... maybe we Buddies need to find a way to give a talk on HIV/AIDS to students of that private college. Maybe we can approach the management of the college. Obviously awareness on this subject is still very poor.

Anyway, I'd better call Sharifah and arrange to meet up with her so we can have a heart to heart talk. She may have done a huge mistake in her life, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't care about her well being.

So yeah, I think I'll call her today or tomorrow. Hmmm... do I tell her to call me makcik or what??!


*Update: I managed to get hold of Sharifah today. Not wanting to call at the wrong time in case she was in a class or something, I sent her a text message around 5 pm, introducing myself and asking if we could meet up anytime soon. After an hour her reply came - telling me she needed to go back to her hometown today as she had just been dismissed from her college. I am not too sure if the dismissal was due to her HIV or her pregnancy or both. She was already pregnant when she first registered at the college... but she may not have declared her pregnancy then - I don't know for sure, I didn't get to meet her to have a heart to heart talk. However, I offered my help and told her to inform me if she needed assistance. She promised she'd call me back.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Oh no, not again...

Remember some time in November last year, I blogged about how Mrs K tried to borrow money from me? She promised she'd pay me back when she gets her duit kutu. I didn't give in to her request for reasons I already mentioned here.

When I told her off, telling her to spend her money wisely on necessities only, I thought she wouldn't try to borrow from me anymore. Well, 2 days ago, I received a text message from her. Yep, she tried to borrow money again. This time with a longer mendayu-dayu SMS.

She said she took an advance of RM300 from her employer to bring Baby K to IJN last month. Mr K too took an advance but not much since he earns much less. After they came back from KL, Baby K got ill and so Mrs K took one week unpaid leave, leaving her with very little money to spend this month. The bus fares for her 2 schooling daughters have not been paid for the past 2 months and so she's scared the bus driver may not want to take them to school anymore. She also said sometimes she doesn't have enough to buy milk for Baby K. She promised she'd pay me back in early July when she comes to Ipoh. Besides, she said, it has been quite some time since she last met me, and so she "rindu pulak kat akak." Yeah, sure!

Frankly, I do believe she's having a hard time making ends meet. Having to spend quite a lot when they had to bring Baby K to IJN, and having to take unpaid leave for whole week, obviously she doesn't have much left to spend.

But I remember very well when she tried to borrow the last time, she promised to pay when she gets her duit kutu. Well, she was supposed to get her duit kutu in April, the month when she brought Baby K to IJN. If she had really got the money then, there was no need for her to take any advances from her employers to bring the little girl to KL. Unless of course, she borrowed from so many people, promising them to pay by April, and so when she got her duit kutu, she finished the whole amount immediately to pay off her debts. Maybe she didn't even get enough to pay off everyone. And I believe, chances are, if I had lent her some money back then, she wouldn't have paid me.

Now she's promising to pay me in July if I lend her some money. How she is going to get the money to pay me back, I don't know. Maybe borrow from somebody else.

I did get a bit pissed off with the way she worded her SMS this time.

"Sy mnta prtlngan k.zah utk mnylsaikan masalah sy." (She's the only person I know who calls me Kak Zah. Pandai-pandai sendiri je...)

Whoa! She's asking me to settle her financial problem? She gets herself into financial problem and expects somebody else to settle the problem for her? Banyak cantik!

Having said that, I am actually very concerned about her children's schooling. If their bus fares are not paid, and the bus driver refuses to take them to school, chances are they will miss school when they don't have anyone they can tumpang. Nope, not good at all! They need a better future and they must not be deprived of education.

They can easily qualify for our Children Education Fund to cover for their monthly bus fares, and Mrs K doesn't need to pay me back. But knowing Mr & Mrs K's poor financial management, is it advisable to pass the money to them in cash for them to pay the bus driver? Knowing them as the gali lubang, tutup lubang type (dig one hole in the ground and use the soil to cover another hole they dug before... the circle continues), I didn't think it was a good idea. They tend to use money meant for something else to pay for something else instead, thinking that they will be able to pay for the said necessity later... and then later end up not being able to pay for it. (am I making sense?)

And I am not willing to go to their house as early as 7 am or as late as 7 pm so I can pay the bus driver personally! They are after all, staying in another town, not in Ipoh.

After thinking things over, I figured one option is to bank in the money direct into the bus operator's bank account. So I sent a text message to Mrs K, asking her to give me the name and bank account number of the bus operator.

Well, I'm still waiting for her reply. Let's see how it goes, and let's see if she will still try to borrow money from me.

As for buying milk for Baby K, we did help them apply for MAC's Pediatric Aids Fund, which was approved and the money had been banked in monthly into Mrs K's bank account. May not be much, but should be sufficient to buy milk for the little girl. They must have used the money for something else, thinking they would be able to get money from elsewhere to buy the milk.

We want to help them become independent, not dependent on us. We tried getting them a cheaper place to stay in Ipoh, and jobs with higher pay. When they initially agreed to our suggestion, my colleague who went out of his way to apply for a cheap DBI flat for them to rent, actually got the application approved. But because by the time the application got approved, Mr K just got himself a job as a guard near their present home, although not paying much, they thought the additional income from Mr K was enough to cover their needs without having to move to a cheaper place. So they turned down the offer. Jual mahal!

Now they're struggling, they come back to us for help. When will they ever learn?

I wonder if they ever watch Bersamamu. Are they not aware that there are people out there who are worse off?

Monday, 4 May 2009

One woman's husbands, and one guy's wife and girlfriends...

Noticed the plural and singular words used in the title of my posting? No, no typo error there.

I was going through whatever documents given to me by Murni last week to enable me get the necessary assistance for her children's schooling needs. I can't consider her for our sponsorship programme yet before I visit her at home to assess her situation. However, she should easily qualify for our Children Education Fund which covers for one-off payments to the respective schools. No doubt there are no more school fees applicable, so what the schools are doing now is to use other terms as long as they don't use the word fee or "yuran". There's "Bayaran Runcit Sekolah", there's "Bayaran PIBG" which includes the so-called "derma" and not forgetting there's "Bayaran Pelbagai" to cover whatever else they couldn't find a category for.

The total amount that needs to be paid for Murni's 4 schooling children comes up to almost RM500. That's a whole lot of amount for someone who's not working, and whose husband is only doing odd jobs without any fixed income. And to add to that, Murni also has a 1 year old baby whom she can't breastfeed due to her HIV. And Murni's present husband is only the step-father to the 4 schooling children.

Speaking of which, all the while I thought Murni had 5 children from her first husband, then after he died, she remarried. And her present husband is the father to her youngest child. When I looked through copies of her children's birth certs, I was expecting to see 2 different father's names. So when I saw 3 different names, I got a little confused. Her 16 year old daughter has a different father's name, her next 3 children with a different father's name, and the youngest child has another father's name. It seems her present marriage is already Murni's third marriage. The eldest daughter is married, so her birth cert was not given to me... therefore I'm not too sure of her father's name. Who knows, for all I know the present marriage may be Murni's fourth! Besides, there is a 5 year age difference between her first and second daughter, as compared to the 1 to 2 years difference between her next 3 children.

But I'm not going to crack my head thinking about it. I don't usually ask those kind of personal questions unless I have a reason to. For the moment I don't see the need. All I know is that her present husband has been confirmed negative, so Murni must have got HIV from one of her earlier husbands - most likely the one who fathered 3 of her children.

On another note, remember Razif? The guy who didn't know how to break the news of his HIV status to his wife? Well, Razif did finally tell his wife about it although I am not too sure how he did it and how his wife took it. Both he and his wife attended a talk on HIV medication last year which confirmed the fact that he had already told his wife. However, I couldn't attend that talk as I had to be in KL the same day. As such I did not get to meet Razif nor his wife to find out more about the wife. My colleague who attended the talk couldn't give me much info - not even on the wife's HIV status. He only told me the wife "looked okay". Duh! Someone else was assigned as Razif's buddy so I didn't want to be menyibuking away calling him up.

To my surprise, Razif himself called me up this morning. He found out from Majid (one of our trainee volunteers who's also a PLHIV) about the PLHIV sharing session planned to be held next week at our center. Since Majid, who's still relatively new to our NGO, didn't dare give an affirmative "Yes, you can attend" answer, Razif called me up to ask if it is okay for him and his wife to attend. But of course, the main target audience for the session is the PLHIVs themselves, so we welcome Razif and wife very much if they intend to attend. I took the opportunity to ask Razif about his wife without making it too obvious that I wanted to know if his wife was tested positive. But the moment Razif mentioned that his wife's CD4 was about 200+, I immediately knew the answer. My next concern now, since the wife is positive, is whether the children are tested - especially the youngest child who is 6 years old this year. I personally know of 3 children who were only diagnosed +ve when they were about 5 or 6 years of age (because it was only then that the mothers were found out to be positive); so yes, I am very concerned about Razif's child.

Razif has yet to bring his children for blood tests. Hopefully he will do so soon. He no longer has the problem of having to break the news to his wife; so he shouldn't be delaying the tests for his children.

So, how did he finally tell his wife? And what was his wife's reaction when he told her? Frankly I don't know. I didn't want to ask Razif on the phone about such matters. Besides, I was in my office when he called this morning, what would my staff think if they heard me talking about any "pinggan mangkuk melayang" or similar situations. For the record, Razif got infected because of his extra marital activities, and when I met Razif the first time, he did mention that he wasn't sure if his wife knew about his many girlfriends.

Well, both Razif and his wife will be coming for the session next week, so I hope to be able to talk to his wife then, and assess for myself if the wife needs a buddy for herself.