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)

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The short break over the weekend

After last year’s canopy walk at FRIM, Kepong, I purposely planned for the next break (my kind of break, that is) to be held some time end of January 2012, so I could be sure that I would have settled all the children’s schooling matters. My kind of break is not staying home doing nothing (I don’t need proper planning to do that) but more of those activities with the adrenalin rush.

So yes, last weekend I got that break. On Saturday, it was more of a leisure visit to Gunung Lang Recreational Park in Ipoh, with just 3 of my friends. Despite being an Ipoh gal, I had never visited the place before. It is indeed a beautiful place…

lang1

lang2 

If would have been better if the place was better maintained, but nevertheless, it was still worth the visit.

I was actually more excited about my Sunday plans. What started off with just about 10 people joining, ended up with more and more people wanting to join. In the end I had to organise the one day adventure for 36 people – mostly members of my school alumni, the rest either family members or friends. And out of the 36, there were only 5 males… either the husbands or the children.

I told everyone to be punctual and be at the Gua Tempurung by 9.15 am – ALL made it there BEFORE 9.15 am. Either they obeyed my instructions… or they were just as excited as I was! We parked our cars there and the tour operators transferred us to the location of our activities in a convertible. Yep, a convertible. This one…

lorry1

Okay, okay, it was a lorry. The lorry ride was an adventure by itself – us having to avoid branches and leaves along the way. The following picture would probably better explain the ride…

lorry2

The real first adventure was at the waterfall. Yeah, we were there for the waterfall abseiling. It wasn’t just my first time doing the abseil, but also my first time ever wearing a harness! We were to abseil down about 15 meters of the waterfall…

waterfall 

Wooo… how exciting!

abseil Yep, that’s me in this pic!

We had lunch by the river, and then I did another first for myself. I did my zohor prayer by the riverside. The rest, mostly from KL could do their jamak, but me being an Ipoh gal, couldn’t, so I just did what I had to do…

After lunch, again we got onto a lorry to be transferred to the starting point of our second activity for the day – white water rafting! Again, a first for me. And I simply loved all 7 kms of the ride – going through more than 10 rapids from class 2 to 3. It was FUN, FUN, FUN all the way!

rafting Can you tell which one is me? Except for the guide, we all looked the same, didn’t we?

Cool, huh? I could still feel the excitement until today – to the extent that I almost forgot today’s Tuesday and there’s a board meeting tonight! Haiyo, Madam Chair mana boleh lupa!!!

Back to work, woman!!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Settling down…

It’s almost the end of January. I’m done with all the back-to-school stuff except maybe for a few more additional payments here and there for a few families. The children seemed to have settled down including the ones in boarding schools or hostels.

Maya’s daughter who went to a fully residential school, initially called her mother during the first week, crying and asking for her mother to take her home, but during the CNY break, Maya told me that her daughter is okay now and in fact is beginning to enjoy the activities at the school.

As for Azman, Sofie’s son, after sending him to the culinary school, I will not make it a habit to visit him often although it’s just in Ipoh. I want him to become independent. Besides if need be, he can always call/SMS me, and if I feel that I should, then I’d go and see him. If I feel that what he’s asking for is something he can settle for himself, I shall let him settle it himself. I’m not here to spoil them rotten, I’m just helping them seek a brighter future for themselves so they can become independent. I do hope that Azman’s enthusiasm will continue until he completes the whole course and will not end up as hangat-hangat tahi ayam (google translated that as “warm-hot chicken droppings”).

Wina, Fuzi’s daughter, will be sitting for her SPM this year, and being someone who is keen to do well in her studies, had already arranged for tuition for herself. She is under our Education Sponsorship program, so the tuition fees will be covered by her sponsor. Her ambition is to become an accountant. I hope she will succeed. Wina is Fuzi’s hope to do well and to take care of her younger siblings should anything happen to Fuzi.

As I had always mentioned, our intention is to help these families become independent. I don’t intend to help them all their lives. In fact, although I still do keep in touch with Lin, I no longer visit her as often because I see that the family is doing okay now with 2 of her daughters already working. Yes, her 2 younger children are still under sponsorship but at least I don’t have to worry much about them.

Of course, there are families who, the more you help them, the more they become dependent on you even though your intention was to help them become independent. The K’s for example, would still from time to time attempt to borrow money although I never gave in. We only help out with their children’s educational needs, not anything else. Both of them are working – no doubt they don’t earn much, but still, they should spend according to their budget.

I still remember asking Hana to list down her children’s educational needs. She mentioned a few things in her list, stuff like books, bus fares etc, and at the end of her list, she wrote, “Motosikal RM2,500.” Errrk!

Then there was Rosnah, who bought a second hand car when her husband was still alive, so she could easily transport him to the hospital for his appointments. After her husband’s death, she wasn’t willing to part with the car. Okay, understandable. But just because we helped out with her daughter’s schooling needs, she asked if we could help out to pay for her car repairs.

Ah yes, sometimes you help them by giving, sometimes you help them by NOT giving. I just hope I will make the right decisions in determining whether or not to give.

Whatever it is, as coordinator for our Children Education Fund & Education Sponsorship, life is not so hectic for me as it was at the end of last year and early this year. It had however been quite a while since I went for my house visits, and since the schooling matters are almost settled, maybe I should start planning for my house visits - especially those whom I have not visited for quite some time.

BUT… before that, I shall first take a break… my kind of break… I shall go into adventure mode!! I already have some plans with my adventure loving friends over the weekend, so yep, coming right up….

fun ahead

Monday, 16 January 2012

On mak angkat mode for a day…

After running my errands last Saturday, I realised there were 2 missed calls on handphone – both coming from Sofie. I suspected it had something to do with Azman’s culinary school as the lady from the school did mention earlier that the session for new students would probably start in mid Jan. True enough, when I called Sofie, I was told that Azman had just received a call from a lady asking him to report to the school on Monday.

Sofie asked how to go about as neither she nor Azman were familiar with Ipoh (except the hospital). I told Azman to take the bus to Ipoh – I’d fetch him from the bus station and send him to the culinary school. I did suggest to Sofie that maybe she too could come along so she could see the place herself, but after giving it some thought, Sofie felt she shouldn’t. She needed to send/fetch her 2 younger children to/from school. And if she came to Ipoh together with Azman, it would mean no nasi lemak business aka no income for the day. For someone who doesn’t earn much, missing out on a day’s sale of about RM30 to RM40 is a lot.

Azman promised to call me once the bus was nearing the bus station. He needed to go to the bank first to arrange for an ATM card and immediately after that’s done, he’d get on the bus to Ipoh.

I got to the bus station at about 10.25 am, and the bus Azman was on, arrived 5 minutes later. Immediately I brought him straight to the culinary school, in fact our timing was just nice. We didn’t have to wait long for the 1 hour briefing session starting at 11 am given by one of the management personnel. I am glad I attended the session, it opened my eyes to the wide career prospects for the students once they obtained their certificates. As a matter of fact, they could go on to diploma level if they performed well. I sat beside Azman during the briefing and I noticed he paid attention throughout. Obviously this is where his interest lies. I doubt he’d be paying attention in class had I forced him to continue schooling in form 4. He’d probably ponteng 3 out of the 5 days each week in school…

After the briefing, those who needed hostel accommodation were brought to the hostel. Students would need to pay RM150 per month for hostel, and since they’d be getting a fixed monthly allowance under the Tabung Kemahiran, they can use their allowance to pay for the hostel fee. Food however, is not inclusive.

Parents were allowed into the hostel today since it was registration day, and so yes, I did get to see Azman’s dorm. There were 8 beds in the dorm. One good thing is that there is a kitchen where the students are allowed to cook. Azman prefers to cook rather than buy out every day.

Anyway, there were quite a number of things Azman still needed to buy. He came today wearing the pair of shoes bought when I brought him shopping 2 weeks ago, but he didn’t bring along any slippers. He can’t be wearing the shoes for games, and definitely not to go to the toilet! He also needed pillow, bedsheet, trackbottom, sports shoes, necktie (the dress code for Mondays is smart-dressed, including neckties for the boys), socks (the only pair he brought was the one he was wearing & when he took off his shoes to enter his dorm, I noticed his socks had one big whole).

There were more induction sessions after 2 pm for the students, and I didn’t think there was enough time for me to bring him shopping for all those stuff during lunch break, so I just brought him to a nearby minimarket to buy a pair of slippers and a pail. I told him I’d come back after asar so I could bring him out to buy all the other necessities.

After zohor, I decided to buy some of the stuff first – the ones that didn’t require size measurements. Besides, I know Azman well enough to know that he’s not fussy in terms of colour or patterns, so I bought the pillow, bedsheet/pillowcase, blanket, socks and a necktie. That way, when I brought Azman out later, we didn’t have to spend so much time shopping.

When I went to fetch Azman at the hostel later, 2 of his new friends wanted to come along. The 2 boys needed to buy some stationeries and being from outstation like Azman, they too weren’t familiar with the area yet. So yep, no problem, I took them along.

Just like when I brought him shopping 2 weeks ago, shopping with Azman had always been easy. He’s not fussy, and knowing that if it was his mother who had to pay, he wouldn’t have most of the things anyway, Azman would usually just agree with whatever that I suggested. So we bought him a pair of trackbottom, a pair of shoes and some stationeries.

Only one thing is not settled yet. Apparently for the monthly allowance, he’d need to have an account with a particular bank. The one he has right now is from another bank. Being only 16 this year, he’d need his guardian to come along with him when he applies to open up an account with the bank. Knowing it would be troublesome for his mother to come all the way to Ipoh to open up the bank account, Azman confided with the officer at the culinary school. The officer said she’d try to call the bank to ask if I could be the one accompanying Azman for the opening of bank account. But then I figured, since there was mention that the school will be closed for the whole week next week, might as well Azman open up the account at his hometown, where it wouldn’t be too troublesome for Sofie to go to the bank with him.

After being on mak angkat mode for the day, I noticed Azman seemed eager and excited this time around. He promised me he’d make full use of the opportunity given to him. I truly hope he will try his very best to prove that my suggestion to send him to the culinary school was right.

Come on Azman, show us what you’re made of…

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

First clinic duty of the year… roped in a new volunteer!

Done with my back-to-school stuff for the children from various families (well, most of them anyway), today was my first clinic duty for the year. I have already told the 2 volunteers who are supposed to join me for clinic duty, one of them is to join me every 2nd Wednesday of the month, while the other on the 4th Wednesday of the month. But today, the volunteer who was supposed to join me didn’t turn up and didn’t call or SMS me either. I think she was expecting me to remind her every time there’s clinic duty. Sorry lah, I have so many other things to remember, am not about to be her PA and remind her every single time…

The moment I got to the ID clinic today, I asked SN if she had managed to get hold of Jah’s husband. You see, on Monday SN called me up, asking me for the phone number of Jah’s husband. SN had been trying to call Jah’s old number, she never got through. As far as I know, Jah’s old number had not been in use ever since she got married to this guy. I so happened to have the husband’s number because recently just before Jah gave birth, he had been contacting me to seek help for a number of things (if you remember one of my earlier postings, he asked if I could be his kakak angkat), but he stopped contacting me after I told him our financial help was basically more for children education.

Anyway, according to SN, she tried the number I gave, and while the phone rang, nobody answered. After a few times, her calls didn’t get through at all. Probably he was avoiding SN as he knew SN wanted him to go to the hospital to get his wife’s supply of ARV. Ah well…

Today I also got to know about the death of an acquaintance. I had known this guy before through my NGO activities, and for the past few months he had been contacting me via SMS asking about various questions on HIV tests and treatments – where to get tested, what to do once he got the referral letter, how to get an appointment, etc. Apparently he had set an appointment at the ID clinic but he died before the date of his appointment due to some opportunistic diseases. And he’s still so young.

Back to my clinic duty, I had 3 cases referred to me today. The first case was a guy in his 30’s, married, 3 kids (the youngest just a few months old). He used to work as a security guard for some time until one day he was caught as a suspect in a murder case. He had to spend about a year or two in jail before he was finally acquitted. He then went back to work as a security guard at his old work place, but put back on probation. After a few months, at the end of his probationary period, he had to do a medical check-up. It was during this check-up he was found to be HIV+. And when the results of his medical tests were handed over to his manager, he was laid off from work.

Laid off because of HIV? Oh please, he’s only working as a guard, what danger could that cause to customers of the company? He hasn’t been working for a few months now, but according to him, his old boss is helping out to appeal to the management to take him back in, as HIV is not an excuse for him not to do his job well. He is after all, still strong and healthy. According to him, the latest that he heard was that there’s a 90% chance he may get his job back. I hope so too. I gave him our brochure & our number, since he didn’t want a buddy, he said he’d call us when he needs to consult us for anything.

The second case referred today was a young guy in his 20’s, just married last year. He found out about his HIV during his pre-marital mandatory testing. They went ahead with the marriage anyway, and when I asked if his wife’s family okay with his HIV status, he just said yes. It’s his family who aren’t aware of his HIV status.

Later after talking to him, I found out that although he himself is still not on ARV as his CD4 is still relatively quite high, his wife is already on ARV with a CD4 of 200+. Hmmmm… my guess is that during the mandatory testing, they were BOTH tested HIV +, and so of course his wife’s family had no objections whatsoever to their marriage. He too preferred not to be assigned any buddy, so again I just gave him our brochure so he could contact us when needed.

The third case today was another guy in his early 30’s. He seemed calm and very open. Apparently SN had spoken to him before and told him about us Buddies. After seeing him today, I found that he is more suitable as a volunteer rather than a client, and when I asked if he’d be interested to join as a volunteer, he immediately agreed. Good thing I had a membership form in my bag, and so he decided to fill in the form right away.

So although 3 new cases were referred to me today, there were no new clients. Instead, out of the three, we got a new volunteer! Yayyy!! We now have 5 PLHIVs as volunteers!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Visiting the orphan

When I contacted Laila’s aunt during the school holidays to ask if I could bring Laila out to buy her schooling needs, I was told that Laila was at her paternal grandparents home in another state. The aunt then informed me that they would buy/pay first Laila’s schooling necessities, just like Laila’s mother, Shila, did when she was alive. I decided to wait until school reopened before contacting them again to get the full list of payments.

Yesterday being the second day of this year’s schooling, I went to visit the family. I had informed the aunt the day before via text message informing her about my visit, and telling her to prepare the list of Laila’s schooling expenses. Knowing that Laila goes to school in the morning, I decided to visit in the afternoon, so I could meet Laila personally and see for myself how the girl is coping ever since her mother’s death just before the last Ramadhan.

When I got to their house, Laila’s aunt greeted me and invited me in. She’s the one who had been replying all my text messages, but whenever I visit, she’d let Laila’s grandma do all the talking. So yes, the moment I got in, she called her mother, Laila’s grandma. Alhamdulillah, the grandma looked healthy, still selling kuih in the mornings to earn some extra income for the family.

I didn’t see Laila at first. According to the grandma, Laila went out for a while as she needed to photocopy some school related stuff. But she didn’t take too long. After a few minutes, she walked in. Still the small-framed girl (you wouldn’t think she’ll be sitting for her UPSR this year), and still smiling as sweetly as she had always been doing whenever I visited, just like when her mother was still alive.

Laila had spent almost a month at her paternal grandparent’s house. Some of her schooling stuff, like uniforms & shoes, had been bought by her paternal grandma. Financially, the paternal family are better off (although they aren’t that rich either), and they did offer to take care of Laila when Shila passed away last July, but Laila had been brought up at her maternal grandma’s house all her life. Having to cope with her mother’s death is one thing, having to cope at a new place altogether would be even tougher. Laila was the one who insisted she wanted to stay with her maternal family.

With her uniforms and shoes already paid by her paternal grandma, the amount I had to reimburse the family yesterday wasn’t as much as the other children under sponsorship. I did inform them last year that Laila’s sponsorship would also cover her tuition if they decided to send her for tuition, so yes, right on the first day of school, they had already arranged tuition for 3 subjects for Laila – English, Maths and Science. I was actually expecting that the cost would come up to a total of at least RM100, but was told that the monthly fee is RM15, plus another RM10 for each subject. That’s a total of RM45 per month for all three subjects. Whoa, that’s pretty cheap! There shouldn’t be a problem at all for the amount to be covered under the sponsorship fund.

It was good to see Laila coping well with life without her mother. I do hope she’ll be able to improve on her studies…

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Another round of shopping & a round of nasi lemak

Hmmm…. I said earlier I was done with my back-to-school shopping, no? Did I miss any kid that I had to do another round of shopping this morning?

Well, this one wasn’t so much of a back-to-school shopping, but a going-to-culinary-school shopping for Azman, Sofie’s son. If you recall, Azman had wanted to quit school after his PMR and start working. But I managed to coax him to join a culinary school instead, seeing his interest in cooking. He agreed. And after arranging this and that, I finally managed to secure a place for him at a culinary school, paid for the registration etc, just waiting for them to call for the start of the semester for the next cohort.

Meanwhile, I needed to bring Azman to buy some stuff before he goes off to the culinary school. I asked the lady at the school earlier about their dress code and was told that for certain occasions, he’d need to wear shirt and slacks, while certain classes he can wear collared t-shirts. In addition, he needs to wear shoes. No sandals, no slippers. I asked Azman if he had any of those. He has 2 pairs of collared t-shirts – that’s it! Other than his school shoes and uniforms, he’d usually be wearing round-neck t-shirts and faded jeans with sandals or slippers.

Yesterday I told Sofie to make sure Azmi gets ready before 10 am – I’d be fetching him to bring him shopping. I got to the town just before 10 am, and on the way to their house, I noticed Azman was with Sofie at her nasi lemak stall. So I didn’t have to go to their house after all (the house wasn’t that far anyway). Sofie’s 2 younger kids were at home. Great, I thought, I had wanted to have a one-to-one talk with Azman, without any of his younger siblings tagging along.

So off we went to a nearby supermarket. On the way, I asked him again if he really, really wanted to go to the culinary school. His mother is afraid he may go through it halfway and quit, because he had always been fickle-minded in school matters before. I think I probably am more confident in him than his own mother – Sofie based it on Azman’s previous fickle-mindedness while I based it on Azman’s interest in culinary matters.

Me: Makcik dah bayar duit pendaftaran, duit uniform semua dah. Jangan nanti tiba-tiba separuh jalan gatal nak berhenti pulak.

Azman: Tak, saya belajar sampai habis.

Me: Janji?

Azman: Janji!

He’d better make good his promise…

Anyway, the supermarket just opened when we got there. Immediately we headed to the gent department. First up, to get 2 pairs of slacks, black in colour. Well, Azman is rather chubby, but short. So we just chose the sizes based on his waist, the length can be shortened later. The old mechanical sewing machine that I gave to them some time ago is still working, so either Sofie or Azman himself can adjust the length later at home. Then 2 pairs of collared t-shirts, followed by 2 pairs of shirts. Finally, a pair of shoes. All done is just about half an hour because Azman himself isn’t the fussy type, unlike his 2 younger siblings. Anything too expensive, he’d just put back, and when I asked him to choose the shoes, he just opted for the cheaper pair. 2 pairs of slacks, 2 pairs of shirts, 2 pairs of collared t-shirts, and one pair of shoes = RM240. Just about the average amount spent for the other children’s back-to-school shopping earlier.

By the time we headed back to Sofie’s stall, she was already packing up with her daughter Ika helping her out. It was about 10.45 am by then and according to Sofie, usually by that time there wouldn’t be any more customers. So although there were still some more nasi lemak, she usually packs up at before 11 am. I decided to stop so that Azman could help as well. Just then one last customer came to buy 2 nasi lemak and so Ika & Azman helped to pack the 2 nasi lemak at RM1 each – a cup of rice, some sambal, kacang goreng, cucumber and a small piece of ikan masin.

Anyway, since I was there, I offered to carry the big umbrella in my car. Usually they’d bring it home on her motorbike. I got to their house first together with Azman. Saiful was just about getting ready to go to the stall to help pack up. Just a few minutes later Sofie got home together with Ika. I immediately said to Ika, “Nasi lemak satu!” “Kejap,” she replied, “nanti bagi special punya!”

So yeah, I got my nasi lemak special – served in a plate, with stainless steel fork & spoon, extra sambal, one whole egg, and a glass of ice drink to add. Not bad… no wonder people like to order from her… either nasi lemak or whatever kuih.

Unlike the other customers who had to pay RM1 for each pack of nasi lemak, I got my nasi lemak special for free….

BUT…

at the end of it, I actually passed to Sofie RM200 donated by a blog reader, so the nasi lemak special was worth RM200 for her. Only thing was, I was the one who got to eat the nasi lemak instead of the donor… :)