I READ with interest the story narrated by RK in “Consider a safety net” (The Star, March 14) and would like to share my story about a poverty-stricken family living in one of the low-cost flats near where I live.
Almost five years ago, an elderly woman rang my door bell to sell a comic book for RM5. She told me the much needed money was to allow her young daughter to see a doctor for her acute asthma.
I took her back to her apartment and was stunned by the deplorable condition of her place where only one of three lifts were working. She had six children and her husband worked at a construction site for a meagre income of RM1,500 which was considered middle income and would thus disqualify her from free medical treatment at government hospitals, a point which I have yet to verify.
In earnest, some friends and I decided to underwrite all her daughter’s medical bills, and her’s. This continued until last year.
She was always out of food and I realised her son who was in secondary school had only a pair of school trousers which he wore to meet me whenever I came around.
She told me she was helpless in seeking for financial aid from her known sources, and had to resort to frequently seeking my help, mostly for food bills and money to pay for the electricity.
Her plight became more severe when her husband took a loan from a loan shark to pay for the daughter’s medical bills and repayment was by way of surrendering his ATM card with the salary. When I first met the family he had only RM200 left for his household expenses.
I was sceptical of her story at first, but was convinced when she produced her daughter’s medical bills. I had to nip the problem in the bud and with the help of a retired police officer helped her to settle the loan.
One day two years ago, she was evicted from the apartment due to overdue unpaid rental. I had to organise funds to buy her an apartment in another location, with a few Samaritans chipping in for the cutlery, etc.
But her stories never seem to end. There was not a month that passed without her exploring for some aid. The previous time was to ask for a heart-wrenching RM30 to buy rice. Three weeks ago it was to buy food. I sent her some money and the reply I got was “terima kasih uncle, sya dh ambil dan beli brg dpur dn hari ini bru anak sya dpt mkn nasi”.
I agree with RK there is no point in keeping a social welfare programme. The staff of the welfare department MUST reach out to the poor. They should conduct regular visits to the low-cost flats as one target area to start with, hear out how the deprived live their lives.
It was also important that the rich and powerful spend more time in the slum areas to understand how life is lived, than to inaugurate high rise properties, in a world which can be so devoid of feelings and compassion.
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