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)

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Naik belon!

Ipoh – LCCT bus ticket : ADA!

Flight web check-in : DONE!

Boarding pass : SIAP!

(Heh! If I forget any of the above, none of my office-mates will be going anywhere!)

Hotel booking confirmation : GOT!

Return flight booking confirmation : ADA!

What else? Oh yeah, DUIT : baru dapat gaji beb, ada la!

 

Okay, will NAIK BELON tomorrow morning. Taking a 3 day break from office work, voluntary work AND blogging. Be back in Ipoh Sunday night and back blogging on Monday, insyaAllah!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Enough is enough!

Unable to visit Sofie at the hospital yesterday due to a long list of things to do, I called her around noon to find out what was wrong with her.

“Doctor cakap badan saya tak cukup garam dan terlebih oksigen.”

I told her I’d be visiting today and asked her if anybody was home since I wanted to send this month’s supply of groceries as well. I felt relieved when I was told that her older sister (not the one Sofie used to stay with, this is another sister staying in another state) was home looking after the needs of Sofie’s kids. They (the sister & her husband) were there over the weekend, but looking at Sofie’s fragile condition, decided to stay on for another week. They were the ones who arranged to send Sofie to the hospital. If it was up to Sofie herself, she’d rather suffer at home than being warded at the hospital.

This morning Sofie sent me a text message, saying that she may be discharged in the afternoon. I did tell her that if she was willing to wait until after 2.30 pm, I may be able to fetch her at the hospital. But at that time she herself wasn’t really sure what time exactly she’d be discharged, as she was still on drip, so I figured I’d just give her a call before I make a move from Ipoh.

Around 12.30 pm, Sofie called to say she had already been discharged and had already called her sister to fetch her at the hospital. She preferred taking the bus rather than wait another 2 hours or so for me to come and fetch her. I figured for whatever reasons, she couldn’t stand it anymore at the hospital.

Before going home from lunch this afternoon, I went over to the minimarket near my office to get this month’s supply of groceries for Sofie’s family.


I headed straight to Sofie’s house right after my zuhr prayer, and got there about 2.40 pm. I was pleasantly surprised to see Ika there. I thought her school session was in the afternoon and so she wouldn’t be home if I visit during weekdays afternoons. Apparently her school changed from afternoon to morning session after the recent CNY holidays. So today other than Saiful, Ika too helped to carry down the groceries from my car. Sofie’s bro-in-law too came out to help carry the things. I have already met Sofie’s sister & bro-in-law twice before this, so they are quite familiar with me already.

Anyway, Sofie had already asked to be discharged from the hospital yesterday, but the doctor wouldn’t allow her. This morning she asked again, giving the excuse that there was nobody at home to take care of her children. Well yes, Sofie’s sister was home, but all Sofie wanted was an excuse to go home. The truth was, she couldn’t stand it any longer at the hospital.

You see, most of the nurses at the hospital knew Sofie’s family. It had been quite some time since Sofie was last warded at that hospital (ever since she was diagnosed HIV+, she has been going to Ipoh GH for her appointments), and so this time, they asked her all sorts of questions. They asked about her husband, whom they had always known as a playboy. They asked about her HIV. Sofie couldn’t take it any longer, so she repeatedly asked to be discharged. The doctor finally agreed this morning although her BP was still rather low.

Worse, when Sofie’s bro-in-law went out to buy roti canai this morning, the roti canai seller asked him straight in the face, “*Sofie tu sah HIV positif ya?” And guess who told him? None other than Sofie’s other sister who stays nearby – the one whom Sofie had been staying with earlier. With Sofie hospitalised, that sister has even more stories to tell the neighborhood.

Sofie has had it with that particular sister. She intends to quietly move to a nearby town in one or two months time – without telling THAT sister. Last time she told me she may move at the end of the year. But now she intends to move as soon as possible and start afresh at a new place. In fact, she also intends to change to a new phone number. She has already identified a house, with the same rental rate as the present house. She will also need to arrange for her children’s change of school. Sofie’s sister and bro-in-law (the ones who came from another state to visit) had promised to help her out when she moves.

Sofie promised me that whatever and whenever she decides, she’d inform me first. I told her that if the timing is right, I don’t mind helping her move.

Poor Sofie. It’s tough when you’re staying in a small town where everybody knows you have HIV. Worse, when people start whispering every time you pass by. And with her own sister as the main source of news, all Sofie wants now is not only to get away from her neighbors – main thing is to get away from her sister!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Good news, bad news…

I was shopping for some personal things this afternoon when I suddenly saw a familiar face that I didn’t expect at all to see, of all places, at a hypermarket in Ipoh. Without mistake, the person I saw was definitely Anita. Anita? Hmmm… what was she doing in Ipoh? And at a hypermarket?

I knew very likely she wasn’t there alone, so I looked around her. Yep, saw Kak Ana! And there was a little toddler in a pram – who else could it be other than… my little Cek Mek!! Woohoo!!

I went over to them. Kak Ana had brought Anita to the hospital earlier to see SN and since they ran out of diapers for the little ones, Kak Ana decided to go to the hypermarket to shop for the needs of the infants at her shelter home.

Cek Mek is no longer as chubby as she used to be. Oh well, the last I saw her, all she did was eat, sleep, eat, sleep. Now? Well, she’s almost 10 months old (wah, so fast??!) and dah buas, so yeah, that explains why she’s no longer chubby! But she has not lost that old selamba aka muka sadin looks… just like her Opah Pi… heheheh…

The little girl still has to go for follow ups at the hospital and get her blood tested, but alhamdulillah, so far so good.

On another note, I got a call tonight from Sofie’s number. At first I thought it was Sofie herself. But it turned out to be Sofie’s sister. Sofie was the one who asked her to call me to inform me that she was unwell and that they were waiting for a neighbour’s car to help bring Sofie to the hospital. According to the sister, Sofie was too weak to get up.

Hmmm… I’m wondering if her condition is back to square one… like when I first met her? Looks like I have to rearrange my plans for this week – instead of visiting Lin first, I’d probably better visit Sofie first.

I sure hope it’s nothing serious though…

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Staying in touch with the clients…

We’re already in the final week of February (already?!). I was looking through my log book (I have one book specifically for me to note down and scribble matters pertaining to Buddies), scribbling down things to be discussed in the coming Board meeting on Tuesday night, when I noticed that I had not been doing any house visits at all in February. Other than the month being shorter than the rest, there was also the CNY break when I decided to take a break for myself as well. Besides, basically all the children’s back-to-school expenses had been settled and so I didn’t really need to run around as much as I had to in December/January.

I did visit Azimah at the beginning of this month, but since she didn’t want me to visit her at home, I met up with her elsewhere in town.

I also met Asiah when she came to Ipoh for her blood test, but then again, it wasn’t a house visit. As a matter of fact, I have never visited Asiah at her home before. The last time I and 2 other volunteers went to visit her at her hometown, we met her in town, not at her home.

I met up with Halimah at the hospital, again not a house visit. While Halimah and her husband do not mind us Buddies visiting them at home, I have yet to do so. Halimah, along with Azimah, are my latest clients and I went to visit Azimah first as I consider her case more urgent. For the moment Halimah needs to come to Ipoh quite often for her appointments before she delivers her baby, I will probably only visit her at home after she delivers.

Other than the above, all other contacts with the PLHIV infected/affected families were either by calls or SMS.

Mrs K sent me a text message during the CNY break, asking me when I’d be visiting her at her new place. I had been keeping a distance from her ever since she tried time and again to borrow money from me, and I think she knew I got rather pissed off with her. I am only monitoring her children’s school bus fares, which are banked in direct into the account of the bus operator.

Shila too sent me a text message even though I am not her buddy… asking me if I was busy and if I had started work (after the CNY break). The moment I told her I was already at my office, she replied, “Tngah kerja. OK x nk gnggu.” Obviously it wasn’t any serious matter – she just wanted to chat with somebody. I have introduced the PLHIV women to each other, and told them to exchange contact numbers so they could call/SMS each other whenever they feel like chatting with somebody. But I guess sometimes they don’t get the replies from their felllow PLHIVs due to “habis credit”, so they end up contacting me instead.

Today Rosnah’s SMS came in – informing me of her new phone number. Sigh, why lah these people like to change their phone numbers so often? I bet most of the contact numbers of our PLHIV clients that are kept in the files at our centre are no longer valid! I personally have been using the very same number ever since I first started using the hand phone more than 15 years ago. The only change made was the change from 010 to 019 (the earlier one didn’t use SIM card) but the rest of the 7 digit numbers had remained the same.

Anyway, I intend to visit Lin and send this month’s supply of groceries to her before my office trip this Friday, so that will probably be my only house visit for the month.

There are quite a number of clients whom I have not contacted for quite some time – Ifa, Sha, Ani, Nuri, Suhaila, Maria amongst them. I’d better call them up to find out how they’re doing… but I think I’ll wait until I come back from my trip.

What about Yah? Oh forget it, I’d have to wait for her to call me – she changes phone numbers as often as she changes her clothes! (Ok, ok, I’m exaggerating of course, but really,  every time she calls it’d be from a different number…)

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Various updates

Since I will be away during the last weekend of this month, I’d better make the necessary arrangements to deliver this month’s supply of groceries to Lin’s and Sofie’s family. Chances are I’d deliver the items on weekdays. Which is not really a problem for Sofie, as she’d be home most of the time. The problem is delivering the stuff for Lin, as she will be at her goreng pisang stall almost every day. The groceries cost a total of RM300 – a whole load of things, which, if I deliver to her stall, she’d have problems taking them home on her motorbike.

Usually I’d choose a weekend if I need to visit Lin at her home. She usually goes to her stall after 11 am, so I’d be able to catch her at home if I visit her in the morning. If I visit in the afternoons, I usually go straight to her stall. I don’t want her to close her stall just because I want to visit.

So how? Looks like I still need to deliver the items on a weekday, so maybe what I can do is to get the items from the minimarket during one of the weekdays next week (they usually only open after 9.30 am) and deliver the stuff early morning the next day before I go to my office. Lin’s house is about 20 – 30 minutes drive away.

As for Sofie, I’d probably send her stuff after I come back from my Kuching trip.

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On another note, the date for the HIV talk at a private college here in Ipoh has finally been fixed. Eventually, when the student in charge called me, he said it’s on the 5th of March, then later he called and said they’re rather flexible on the dates but want the talk to be held in the morning. I had asked if it is possible to hold the talk in the afternoon, but according to him, there may not be many students around if it’s held in the afternoon (takut tertidur dengar ceramah kot?). Finally we decided to hold the talk in the morning of 9th March. He requested that the talk be in Bahasa Malaysia, but since the powerpoint presentation that I have specifically for youths is in English, I will use the English slides and give the explanation in BM. Or speak my usual Manglish… as long as the message gets through, I don’t care!

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My fellow volunteer who’s the coordinator for client’s welfare has managed to get a letter from the Welfare Department, addressed to the hospital director, asking for Halimah to be exempted from paying for hospital charges. Hopefully with that letter Halimah and hubby will no longer be given the runaround the next time Halimah needs to be warded. And hopefully I no longer need to “bail” her out whenever she’s discharged but the nurses won’t let her out of the ward until they see the receipt.

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I’m done with all my reports for the coming AGM. Yaayyy!! I had given a deadline to all the respective coordinators to get their reports ready by our board meeting next week. Hopefully all the reports will be ready by then as I want to read through everything before we get our part time staff to compile everything and make enough copies of the annual report for distribution purposes.

Remember the 20K grant we got during Ramadhan last year? We’re supposed to send a report to the Yayasan after 6 months. Well, the 6 months will be up in March. So yeah, we need to get the reports ready soon!

There will be no board meeting next month as we will be having our AGM. No committee elections this year, so I hope to make it a short meeting just to adopt the reports. Then we can just makan-makan! After all, AGMs are for makan-makan, right?

Huh? No?! I thought AGM is short for Aku Guarantee Makan? Isn’t it?!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The break

It’s already the last day of the CNY holidays. So what have I been doing during the long weekend?

Of course, my tukang kebun routine – that goes on whether or not there’s a holiday. I did manage to sweat it out more than usual since I didn’t have to rush to the office after that, so I had more exercise.

I’ve done all my reports for my NGO AGM next month, but  I still need to brush up a bit on the chair’s report, which I am still not satisfied with.

A call came in from a student of a private college – requesting for a talk on HIV at their college next month. I forgot to ask him where he got my number from, but looks like it will our first awareness programme for the year.

House visits? I decided not to visit any of my clients during the break as I needed the break myself.

Actually I spent more time on the internet – doing some homework for my office trip at the end of the month. Just like my Bali trip last year, I did all my homework online before going so that I’d know where to go and what to do. Air tickets booked and paid much earlier. Hotel rooms booked, but there’s still time to cancel if we wish.

Why would we want to cancel the rooms? Well, boss #1 did mention she prefers if we all stay in one house/apartment – but the ones within walking distance to the city attractions are rather expensive (the hotel we booked is a budget hotel). However, over the long weekend, my search for home stay came up with some results. Not only are they cheaper, we will also be able to stay in one house – which would be good for fellowship purposes. Only thing is these home stays are about 10 minutes drive from the city, meaning we may also need to rent a van, or we may have problems going around.

Transport from Ipoh to LCCT? Well, we could either go in 2 cars and park our cars at the airport parking, or we could also opt for the Ipoh-LCCT bus service. With 8 of us going, the total cost comes up to just about the same. The pros if we go by bus is… we don’t have to worry about driving. The cons? Well, we don’t have much choice when it comes to the timing, as the bus schedule is fixed. So we either have to go as early as 5 am, or take the next bus at 8 am which is scheduled to reach LCCT just slightly more than an hour before departure – a bit risky.

I’ve compiled all the options with the costings etc. Tomorrow at the office, will need to discuss with boss #1 before I finalise things.

So yeah, I made use of the CNY break to plan for our coming break.

Where are we going? Clue – we are going to “naik belon”.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Bayar dulu, baru keluar!

I just came in after my daily “tukang kebun” routine this morning when I saw the red light blinking on my hand phone. Red light blinking means there’s a missed call. I checked, and saw not one, but 3 missed calls. All came from Halimah.

So I returned her call to find out what was up. It must have been important, otherwise she wouldn’t have attempted a few times to get hold of me.

Apparently she had to be warded again at the Ipoh GH. Again, it was due to her blood pressure shooting up. The last time she was warded, she had to pay a deposit before admission and the balance upon discharge. Problem is, Halimah and her husband depends on the little income they earn from selling kuih every morning. Not much at all. Her husband just used to do “kerja kampong”, so no such thing as pension for him. Not knowing where to turn to, last time they just paid the RM30 or so. Not much maybe to many of us, but to the poor, with that money you can buy FOOD.

For those who can’t remember, Halimah is the pregnant lady to whom I was just assigned to quite recently. This is her first pregnancy with the present husband. She had 4 children from her previous marriage. No, she usually doesn’t have hypertension,only started having the problem ever since she got pregnant. And since the couple sells kuih to earn an income, Halimah has to wake very early in the morning, as early as 3 am, to make the kuih. And with a whole lot of worries such as how to meet their needs when she gives birth to the baby, Halimah has a lot of things on her mind now. Manalah darah tak naik!

Well anyway, she did call me the last time she was warded, and I told her to go to the hospital’s welfare unit to ask for exemption from payment. Both Halimah and her husband was about to go to the welfare unit, when suddenly a nurse chased her and told her she couldn’t go out of the ward until payment is settled. Although Halimah told them she wasn’t going to run away, they told her it is the procedure now to avoid people going home without paying. That happens quite often it seems. Duh, so if she didn’t have any money to pay, she should just stay there in the ward until somebody “bails” her out, huh? Anyway, since Halimah couldn’t leave the ward, her husband went, and the officer told him to get some letters first. Not knowing how to go about, he gave up and just paid.

This time, during admission, the husband begged to postpone paying the deposit as he did not have enough cash with him. He needed some cash for bus fares to go back home. They stay in another town. And upon being told by the doctor that she may be discharged today, she started worrying how to pay. She did tell the doctor that while she personally didn’t mind being warded, she couldn’t afford to pay. The doctor replied, “Bukannya mahal.”

Yep, RM3 per day may not be expensive, but when every single sen matters, RM3 a day is a lot of money.

And so today Halimah decided to call me to seek my help. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to arrange for all the necessary letters within just a day, so I told her to call me again once it is confirmed she is to be discharged. I figured today I might as well just pay up first and later claim from our Clients Welfare Fund. I got to the hospital about 2.40 pm and told Halimah I’d wait at the payment counter. Since Halimah couldn’t leave the ward, her husband met me there, gave me the discharge slip and I proceeded to make payment. Halimah was warded for 2 days, so 2 x RM3 should be just RM6, right? Well, yeah for the ward charges. I paid RM36. There was an additional RM30 for some lab tests.

Anyway, after paying for the hospital charges and while waiting at the pharmacy for Halimah’s medication, I had a chat with her husband. Halimah was then still in the ward as she wasn’t allowed to go anywhere until payment is made.

Without Halimah around, it was easier for me to get some background info on Halimah’s children from her first marriage. Apparently after her first husband died, a few of his aunties took the children under their care. 1 aunt to 1 child. And so all the children stays with different families. Halimah even has a pair of twins, both now staying separately. But what shocked me more was that one of the twins, now about 16 or so, has stopped schooling after she completed primary school! I asked if the aunt taking care of the girl was from a poor family.

Lebih dari mampu,” said Halimah’s husband. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear… whatever happened to the child’s right to education??

Well, while we do cover for children’s education through our sponsorship program and CEF, we cannot help out Halimah’s daughter as she is being taken care by another family. We cannot monitor her progress and we can’t be too sure if the financial assistance is misused by the aunt.

With Halimah’s HIV, she will very likely not go through normal delivery. And based on past experiences, chances are, when she delivers some time in March or April, she will need to spend at least a few days in the ward. And there will be labour charges, and whatever other charges added to her bill. That bill will definitely be much more than today’s bill.

My colleague is trying to arrange to get a letter from the welfare department to exempt the couple from having to pay for charges at government hospitals. But in case that doesn’t work out, I taught both Halimah and her husband what to do the next time she comes to Ipoh GH for her appointments. I told her to go see SN at the HIV clinic, to arrange for a referral letter from the clinic to the hospital’s welfare unit. With the letter, at least the officer there can proceed to process their request. Otherwise, anyone can go there claiming they have this and that wanting exemption from paying the hospital charges.

From the hospital, I sent Halimah and her husband to the bus station for them to get a bus back home. And today being the last working day before the CNY holidays, Ipoh sudah jam maaa!! It took me quite some time to get them from the hospital to the bus station; and for me to get home from the bus station.

And just as I got home, a call came in from Kak Ana. She was at the hospital as Anita had to be hospitalised. Aduh, too tired to go out again lah, so I think I will visit her tomorrow, if she’s still warded then.

444

I met up with a volunteer wannabe yesterday. She found Buddies through this blog, called up our hotline number and enquired about being a volunteer. So while I was at the centre yesterday, I decided to give her a call to ask when she was free to meet up. She happened to be on leave from work, and so we agreed to meet up immediately. Within half an hour she was already at the centre.

We had a short chat while she filled in the form to become a volunteer. She asked how long I’ve been the chairperson. “4 years?” she asked. It took me quite a while to recall that I have almost completed my second year as the chairperson, but God! How come I feel as though I’ve been the chair for ages??? Adoiii…

Anyway, as trainee, this lady will have to be under the wing of one of the confirmed buddies – we usually call the senior volunteer as the “mummy” or “daddy” to the trainee… although sometimes the mummy/daddy can actually be younger than the trainee. We will have to wait until the next board meeting to decide who to be assigned as the mummy/daddy to this new trainee volunteer.

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I got rather fed-up with my wired broadband. The line tend to be unstable at times, and although the problem could have probably been solved by filing a complaint, I was too lazy to do so. Towards the end of last year, the phone line was down quite often. I think within a period of 6 weeks, I had to report 3 times and on all 3 occasions, the reason was “kabel kena curi”. Sigh! Well, that one was not the fault of the service provider, but having to pay the same amount every month for the broadband service despite not being able to use it fully, let’s just say I got fed-up. Phone line fixed, suddenly no electricity le pulak. I had been contemplating to “potong” a few times already, but kept giving it a second, third, fourth chance. Then one day, lightning struck, and my modem went kaput.

So I signed up for one of the wireless broadband. With my mini notebook and the USB modem, I can easily access the internet even when travelling now, without having to depend on availability of WIFI.

After I got my wireless broadband running, I went to POTONG my wired broadband. Finally! The officer did everything online there and then and once done she told me that I will still have to pay for my final bill which they would send later.

I waited for that bill to come, somehow I didn’t get any. Being the type who prefers to settle things as soon as possible, I was beginning to wonder whatever happened to that final bill. Yesterday a letter came from the service provider, I thought I could finally settle the bill. But when I opened the envelope, it wasn’t a bill. Instead it was a cheque. You see, they set off the final bill against the deposit that I had paid (and forgotten about). And there was still a balance owing to me and so they sent me a cheque.

YEE HAR!! I got myself a CNY angpow! They paid me 150!!

Yes! 150… sen lah. Yep, the cheque was for the balance of RM1.50. Adoi! Buat penat aje nak pergi bank in. Nak buat duit sekolah pun for some kids it’s not even enough for one day. But I guess the service provider too need to settle their accounts, so I may consider banking in the cheque when I have any other cheques to bank in as well. And when I do, I will be sure to use the cheque deposit machine – am not going over the counter to bank in RM1.50!!! Malufying…

Oh well, my bank charges me RM1.00 for every online transfer to other bank accounts. I guess I can use the RM1.50 to cover the bank charges for 1 1/2 transfers!

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So, what has the title “444” got to do with the above stories?

NOTHING!

This is my 444th posting in this blog. Sei! Sei! Sei!

SEI LOR!!

Let’s just hope this is not my final posting…

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

The children

As I was preparing my report on our Sponsorship/Children Education Fund (CEF), I had to go through the files to get the statistics – how many children and how much spent throughout the year.

16 children from 9 families were covered under our Sponsorship program, while another 23 children from 12 families were covered by our CEF. That means we managed to help out with the educational needs of 39 children from 18 different families (a few families overlap – some children covered under Sponsorship and another one or two covered by our CEF). All the while I thought we covered just about 30 children or so – I never realised we’ve reached almost 40!

Out of the 18 families, I’m either the main buddy or co-buddy to 13 of them, although I have met all 18 families, and have visited 14 of their homes – in 10 different towns. And of the 39 children, I’ve personally met 37 of them!

Our CEF actually started much earlier, when Buddies was still under the wings of FHA (Family Health Association, back then known as Family Planning Association). I hadn’t even joined Buddies yet. However, since budget was rather limited, the financial assistance too, was limited as well.

So we started off the Sponsorship Program in 2008, getting individual sponsors to sponsor the needs of individual children, ie 1 sponsor to 1 child. The response was overwhelming!

And during the second half of 2009, we managed to get quite a huge sum from donors, and now we have more money to spend under our CEF as well. Alhamdulillah. So spend on the children we will – but only on their educational needs. We have always believed in the rights of the children to basic education at least – no matter what kind of circumstances their parents are in. It frustrates me every time I hear about children not going to school due to poverty. They will end up inheriting their family’s poverty.

But it can be tough trying to influence some of them, especially if they have already stopped schooling. Somehow they only see the short term – they’d rather work now so they can help their family. Whereas if they think long term, they should be able to help their family better if they get better education!

Mrs K’s son, Shah for example, opted to work even though I advised him to go to Giat Mara for just a 6 months course to enhance his skills and to enable him to get a better job. Devi’s son, who stopped schooling at form one, also chose not to accept our offer to help him get back to school. He’s now doing odd jobs to help his family. In both cases, the parents themselves did not encourage the children to continue studying. I guess they felt they needed their children more to earn income for the family.

Sofie too, almost asked her son, who was then in form 3, to work part-time. Only when I begged her not too, promising I’d try to get financial help for the family, did she agree to let him concentrate on his studies. Now the boy is under sponsorship, and Sofie’s family is also getting some other financial help, so she is no longer thinking of getting the boy to work yet.

I do hope these children will fully utilise the educational help they are getting. I hope they will take the opportunity to do well in their studies, and hopefully after SPM they will also further their studies in higher learning institutions.

I already see hope in Lin’s, Sofie’s, Rosnah’s and Pushpa’s children. Their mothers are not only HIV positive – they are also thinking positive!

Monday, 8 February 2010

The dilemma – when & how to tell?

Sunday 10.30 pm, with the TV remote control in my hands, I was changing from one channel to another, to see if there was anything interesting to watch on TV. I was about to finally switch off the TV when suddenly I clicked on a channel showing a Malay drama. The drama was already halfway through and under normal circumstances, I don’t think I would have watched. But the moment the word “HIV” was mentioned, I waited to watch a little bit more, out of curiosity. Apparently the drama was about the dilemma faced by people living with HIV, and although earlier dramas on HIV that I’ve watched before had pissed me off because of the wrong impression they always give to the audience, this time I decided to stay glued to the TV – at least to see if there were any changes.

I must give credit to the production because at least they didn’t make the same old same old typical HIV characters – all looking like they were dying soon… with scary-looking skin diseases… all must die by the end of the story… etc etc. This time the drama concentrated more on the emotional aspects and all the infected people at least look normal, just like you and me – which should be the case, really. The drama showed that anybody could get infected – the obedient daughter of a Pak Imam (who got from her husband), her young innocent daughter, a doctor (I didn’t watch from the start so I’m not sure how he was supposed to get infected but something to do with an accident I think)… in other words, it is very unlike the usual dramas which show that those who get infected are those involved in immoral activities.

I was quite impressed that at least some homework were done before they produced the drama… except for the ending where they showed a doctor bringing a newborn baby to the HIV+ mother, telling her, “Anak puan bebas dari HIV.” A newborn baby? Aduh, buat homework tak habis juga rupanya. It’s too early to tell if a newborn is infected or notlah. I guess whoever did the script was not aware of such a thing called window period.

But never mind, at least the drama was much better than the typical dramas on HIV+ people that I used to watch. But I didn’t bring up this topic to criticize the drama. Nosirree!

What I want to bring up is one of the plots in the drama, where the hero, a doctor who had also been infected, was in a dilemma as to how and when to tell his wife. He ended up avoiding his wife, making his wife think that he no longer loved her, and she also started thinking that he had fallen in love with another woman. When she finally found out, she was upset – not so much because he was infected, but because he was not willing to share his problems with his wife.

This actually reminded me of the PLHIVs I personally know, and the dilemma they faced when they initially found out about their HIV infection. When to tell? How to tell? Will my husband/wife leave me when he/she finds out?

There was Mr Darling, whom at that time was still married to Lin. This couple however, were already having problems earlier because of Mr D’s promiscuous activities. When Lin found out that her hubby was infected, and tests later revealed that she too was infected, she decided that she had enough of him.

Then there was Razif, who kept postponing telling his wife, waiting for the “right time” to tell. I don’t know how and when he finally told her but it seems his wife too had been infected and they both came to last year’s family day, so that means they are still together.

And there was Asiah who was infected by her late husband. She was already planning to marry her present husband when she found out she was infected. Scared that he may leave her, she did not tell him about her HIV infection despite us advising her to do so. At that time there was no mandatory testing yet. She only told him about it a few weeks after their marriage, that too after being pestered by SN. And she did lie… telling her husband that she only knew about it after they got married. Thank goodness tests after tests showed that her husband had remained negative and at least after the husband knew, they started using condoms. But somehow things didn’t really go quite right, the condom leaked and Asiah still got pregnant and just gave birth less than 2 months ago. The last test still showed that the husband was negative, let’s just hope it will remain that way despite the condom bocor incident. (and let’s hope they will be more careful after this)

Another PLHIV, Guna, postponed telling his wife about his HIV infection because when he was first diagnosed, his wife was in the hospital for hypertension. He didn’t want her BP to go further up. Or at least that was his excuse to keep on postponing telling his wife. And the hush hush went on for months. Every time his buddy asked, he said he still couldn’t find the right time. Well, apparently the latest update was that he finally did tell his wife, and they are now in the process of separation.

Maria found out about her HIV infection during her 4th pregnancy – which was also her first pregnancy with her 2nd husband. Both husband and wife were there when the doctor informed her of her HIV infection. Initially for reasons only known to him, the 2nd husband thought Maria could have got it from him, although Maria herself had suspected that she was actually infected by her first husband, who was a hard core drug addict. Maria’s present husband then had his blood tested but when it was time to get the results, he didn’t bother to go to the hospital. Maria went alone. And when she found out that his blood tests turned out negative, Maria got scared. It was then that Maria called me, crying and crying to the extent that I found it difficult to understand what she was trying to say.

Maria was actually unsure how to tell her husband that he was not infected. She was afraid he may leave her. And when she finally told him, it was rather anti-climax. Her husband told her not to talk about it anymore and pretend as though nothing had happened. In a way, it may sound good, but Maria needed someone to talk to, and her husband was not a good listener. So Maria still turned out all stressed and depressed.

Now I would like to pose the following questions to my blog readers…

Put yourselves in the shoes of the PLHIVs mentioned above. How do you think you’d go about, trying to break the news to your spouses?

Then put yourselves in the shoes of the spouses of the above PLHIVs. How would you have reacted upon receiving the news?

Friday, 5 February 2010

This and that

Asiah was in Ipoh for her appointment at the hospital yesterday and she called me earlier asking if she could see me as she wanted to pass me the receipts for her children’s fees, workbooks, uniforms etc. Her children had been recipients of our Children Education Fund (CEF) for the past 2 years, and I’d need the receipts to be able to reimburse Asiah. I told her if she’s done at the hospital before 1pm, to come to my office area and call me once she got there.

Asiah called me at 12.30 pm. I went down, looked around and saw Asiah at the nearby mamak restaurant. Hmmm… alone? I went over, and noticed her husband was waiting in the car. It was too hot outside. After getting all the receipts from Asiah, I asked, “Baby mana?”

“Ada dalam kereta. Ha’ah ya, akak tak pernah tengok dia lagi…”

The little boy is about 1 1/2 month old now.

So we went to the car, and yep, there was this little darling… SO CUTE!! Rasa nak cubit-cubit pipinya. But since Asiah’s husband was around, segan le pulak…

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We (Buddies) have finally got ourselves a part-time staff at the centre now. Still nobody full time to man the centre, but at least we have made some progress by taking that small step. At least we are now paying someone to make sure all the documents are filed properly and on time and clients particulars are updated regularly. Any admin work we can easily get the part-time staff to do for us. Before this, any reports, letters or whatever paperwork whatsoever depended on the volunteers’ free time, so they had to be “pushed” to get things done. It didn’t feel so right pushing them anyway, since they were doings things on voluntary basis.

Well, the staff came in at just about the right time I must say, since we now need to start compiling our reports for the coming AGM in March. The respective coordinators will still need to write up their own reports, but at least we now have the staff to do the compiling.

Speaking of reports, I’ve done up my reports for the CEF and Sponsorship Programme. I’ve also printed the photos of our activities for last year. All that’s left for me to do now is the Chairman’s report. For that one, belum dapat ilham. Never mind, still got time.

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I don’t have any plans for this weekend. Am done with the grocery/bicycle deliveries, and done with visiting my new client. So I think I’ll take a break this weekend and just stay home. Maybe (maybe only lah, kalau rajin) I will just call a few of my other clients whom I have not contacted for some time. I’ve told our part-time staff that she may need to call our volunteers to check on the latest status of our PLHIV clients, so I’d better start getting the updates of my own clients first. Quite a few of them have moved to a new house, or got themselves a new number. If these info are not updated into their files, and someone else has to take over my cases suddenly (mana tau, nak mati bukan boleh tau awal-awal…), it would be quite a problem, wouldn’t it?

So yes Pi, you’d better start updating your clients’ particulars soon!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Visiting the unwed mother

Having settled the deliveries of groceries and bicycle to the respective families, I felt it was time for me to check on Azimah, the unwed mother whom I met during my clinic duty 2 weeks ago.

Yesterday I called her to set a date. I asked if I could see her this afternoon.

“Nak jumpa saya untuk apa tu kak?” Azimah sounded apprehensive at first.

I told her I wanted to help her apply for child support assistance and I needed some supporting documents from her. In addition, I’d need to get her to sign the form. Besides, SN had told me that Azimah’s hospital appointments had been transferred to a hospital nearer to her place and so I can’t expect to see her in Ipoh for her hospital appointments.

Remembering that she was quite reluctant to have us visiting her at home, I told her to fix the place to meet. I also told her to get the supporting documents photocopied. Azimah then asked if I could SMS the list of required documents. As for the place to meet, she said she’d SMS me once she could think of a suitable place.

And so I sent her a text message, listing the documents needed. And I waited for her SMS… which never came. I thought she may SMS me this morning, but at noon, no SMS came in from her, so I decided to text her instead, asking if the meet this afternoon was on. I didn’t want to be going all the way to the town where she’s staying, and end up not meeting her. It would be a waste of time, energy and money.

At 1 pm, when I left my office to head for home, Azimah had yet to reply my SMS. I was beginning to think that she was reluctant to meet me. She was after all a bit apprehensive when I called her earlier – so maybe, just maybe, she has decided to just buat donno

But after I had my lunch at home, my phone rang, with the PLHIV-assigned ringtone. It was Azimah, calling using her mother’s number (I save both hers and her mother’s number in my phone). She ran out of credit for her own number, which was why she didn’t send me any messages earlier.

Azimah asked where I was and what time I’d be coming. I told her I was still in Ipoh and I should be able to be at the town she’s staying around 3 pm. She then asked me where to meet. Aik? I thought she said she’d think of a suitable place…

Finally we decided to meet up at a popular spot in that town, and I promised to call her once I reach the toll exit.

Actually, despite the place being quite a popular spot, I’m not really that familiar with the town. So yep, set my GPS I did, and off I went.

As promised, I called her right after exiting the toll near her town. I figured if she left her house then, we should be able to reach the place at about the same time. She asked if I came alone (aiyo, I sudah mau sampai baru mau tanya ka?) and told me she’d come with another person. I was hoping that other person would be her mother.

I reached the place first and called Azimah again. It wasn’t long before she got there. The other person accompanying her looked too young to be her mother. It was her sister. So no, I didn’t get to meet her mother. Never mind, next time maybe…

But Azimah had not photostated the required documents yet! She had not expected me to be punctual (sorry, I don’t follow janji Melayu, I follow janji Islam) and so she thought there was ample time to go to the shop before meeting up with me, but when I called saying I was already there, she didn’t want me to be waiting too long, so she came to see me first.

I just got her to sign the form first, then we headed to the nearest stationery shop to photostat the required documents.

Anyway, I was happy to note that Azimah seemed very stable, emotionally - just like Sharifah, the other unwed mother with family support. The difference between Azimah and Sharifah is that while Sharifah’s little girl temporarily stays at a shelter home, Azimah is taking care of her baby at her family’s home. In Sharifah’s case, neighbours & relatives are not aware that she had given birth to a little baby. In Azimah’s case, it was obvious there’s a baby at home, and even if nobody asked, there were bound to be some who would have come up with their own conclusions. So, the pressure is more on Azimah.

But the sister who came along seemed to get along very well with Azimah. And I know for a fact that her mother usually accompanies Azimah to the hospital. So no question about them being ashamed of her. There is however, a particular sister-in-law, who kept on hinting that Azimah should stay at a shelter home to avoid embarrassment to the family. But since that SIL stays in a different house, Azimah wasn’t really pressured to do so. She did however, ask me if she should. I told her that if her family is willing to accept her at home, don’t bother. Unless of course, she wants to go herself.

I was rather surprised to find out a total of 10 occupants stay in their house. Azimah, her mother, her 2 1/2 month old daughter, her 2 sisters, her brother, her sis-in-law (a different SIL, not the one mentioned earlier) and her 3 nieces/nephews. And the income earner? Her brother who sells vegetables at the market, with the rest helping out whenever possible.

Wow! Not easy to feed 10 mouths in the same house, especially with a baby as well. Milk and diapers are not cheap. Azimah used to work before, but she quit when her pregnancy began to show. She intends to find a job again once her baby is a bit older, but for the moment, I know it’s tough for them. My main concern is the baby’s needs, at least for the next few months until Azimah can get herself a job. Hopefully, I can arrange for something soon…

Oh, I did bring along milk and diapers with me today, so at least this month’s supply for Azimah’s baby girl is covered.

Monday, 1 February 2010

The bicycle

Not wanting to go through the trouble of taking the bicycle out of my car and having to load it back in again to deliver it, and not wanting to keep the bicycle in my car for too long, I decided to deliver the bicycle yesterday morning to Rosnah’s daughter.

Right after my routine kampong exercise, I headed straight to Rosnah’s house, about 20 minutes via highway. Her house is very near the highway exit. Good thing the guy from the bicycle shop had loaded the bicycle into my car in such a secure position, despite me driving at 110 km/h, the bike didn’t move a bit, even when I stepped on the brakes.

When I reached Rosnah’s house, both mother and daughter were already waiting for me. They were ready to go to the market but when I told them I was coming (I sent Rosnah a text message right before making a move from my house), they decided to wait.

Despite knowing I was bringing along a bicycle for the daughter’s schooling needs, both Rosnah and daughter looked pleasantly surprised when they saw the bicycle. I think Rosnah had probably expected to see a second hand bicycle or an “orang tua” looking kinda bike.

Berapa ni kak?” she asked, thinking it was a rather expensive bike.

Satu”, I said selamba-ly. Yeah, I knew what she meant, but a loyar buruk is a loyar buruk… that’s who I am… so get used to it!

I never did tell her the actual price. Let her think it’s expensive.

During the last board meeting, one of our members suggested that we buy a second-hand bicycle… he said he should be able to get one for RM150. But I figured, why buy a second hand bike for that price when I could get a brand new one for just an additional RM20? Yep, I bought the bicycle for RM170.

Had I left it up to the respective families to buy the bicycles on their own and claim the amount later either from our CEF or Sponsorship fund, they’d probably buy at a more expensive shop near their place. Fuzi recently bought a bicycle for her daughter and she paid RM260 for it!

RM90 difference but didn’t look any more expensive than the one I bought for Rosnah’s daughter. Rosnah’s daughter loved it, saying “Terima kasih makcik” repeatedly.

In fact, mother and daughter were so happy they both kissed my hands! Thank goodness I didn’t eat any sambal tempoyak earlier, otherwise cium tangan sure ada bau!!

And despite already thanking me when I delivered the bike, when I got home, a text message came in from Rosnah, to thank me yet again. That’s how appreciative some people can be, compared to some others who tend to take for granted that we are there to help them whereas all the bicycles and educational help are just part of our “extra” services.

Ah well, it takes all kinds to make this world! So live with it!

On to my next mission. Nope, no deliveries until the end of February (I think!). I need to visit Azimah, the unwed mother I met during my last clinic duty. There wasn’t enough privacy at the hospital room, so I wasn’t able to dig much from Azimah then. She prefers to meet outside, so I don’t think I’d be visiting her at home. Within these next few days I’d better call to fix a “date” with her… and since this will be my first visit, I won’t be inviting any trainees to tag along. The +ve ladies I’m assigned to usually don’t talk much when I bring somebody else along. At least not during the first visit.

So I’ll be going… alone again… naturally…