May 18, 2010

Tale of Thalassaemia, Poverty and a few Good Samaritans

First (I know many people have said this but I don’t think you can have enough of thank yous for a kind deed), I would like to congratulate and thank Mr Željko Bošnjak, the Croation Ambassador to Malaysia whom had successfully rallied his friends, family and associates to fork out funds to build little Rohead Nik Dominic’s family home.

Also kudos to Children’s Wish Society of Malaysia (CWS) work (they also took part in raising funds and co-ordinate the building of Rohead’s home, which was not their earlier scope of involvement with Rohead), if it weren’t for them fulfilling an ill little boy’s wish for a Sony PSP, Rohead’s plight would not have caught the kind ambassador’s attention. Not only Rohead gets a new Sony PSP, his family gets a new home.

See the before and after :)

Rohead Old Hse  Roheads New Hse
I like how the chain of events led to a beautiful outcome but it saddens me that it took a foreign ambassador and a charitable organisation from Peninsula Malaysia to uplift the quality of live for Rohead and his family. They are hardcore poor, the father earns less or about RM400/- per month as a farmer. Isn’t it the job of the state government, if not the Federal government, to alleviate their burden? Is Rohead and his family a new comer to Kota Marudu? How come the local authority or the Member of Parliament and his officers, failed to notice this one very poor family? I am not a supporter of SAPP but it’s Wanita Chief, Melanie Chia, hit the nail right in the head with her press statement.

It was reported in the Daily Express on 12 January 2010, that when contacted, Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili, the Member of Parliament for Kota Marudu and also a Federal Minister, “sent officers from his constituency to Rohead's family home to check on the condition of the house and to provide an assessment of what was needed”.

I wonder what is the outcome of that fact finding team and action taken since then? Rohead’s home was completed on 15 May 2010. Did the government via Dr Max contributed towards the funding of the house? It was not mentioned in any report. All indications seem to point that this is solely CWS and Mr Željko Bošnjak and friends’ effort.

Furthermore, I am curious as to why Rohead’s father, Mr Dominic Maisu, did not apply for housing grant for the hardcore poor before this (Projek Perumahan Rakyat Termiskin)? He earns less than RM300/- per month. Hence, he should be listed under the ‘Most Poor’ category under the People’s Poverty Eradication Programme (PPRT) overseen by The Rural Development Ministry.

Ignorance on his part? Most likely so. I don’t think they have a TV set at home since they don’t have electricity which also makes Rohead’s gift of a Sony PSP, erh not workable (Notwithstanding, CWS gesture was commendable, after all, it did bring a smile to Rohead’s face) unless he only play it in the hospital. I also don’t think that buying newspaper is a priority for Mr Dominic Maisu, he would probably consider it as a luxury they couldn’t afford and even if he could spare some monies to buy newspaper on daily basis, I think he would have no need of it since in most likelihood, he is illiterate.

So where does that leave hardcore poor folks like Mr Dominic Maisu in Kota Marudu or elsewhere in Sabah, who doesn’t know that government has grants and schemes to uplift their status? Well, instead of waiting for the poor to come and ‘beg’ for assistance, why don’t our MP’s officers reach out to them?
Get out from your air-conditioned office, stepped out from the Kopi-tiam and go hunting for the hardcore poor. Do you have better things to do than to help the poor? They' are not hard to spot. Go into the most rural area if need be, if you see a dilapidated house and it is occupied, most likelihood they are hardcore poor. Unless they are stingy millionaires who couldn’t care less about their living conditions and per chance you stumbled upon these millionaires, I would say you have dumb luck :).

Educate the poor, tell them there are assistance provided and help them apply for these assistance.

I also think that Koperasi Pembangunan Desa (KPD) or Jabatan Pertanian Sabah(JPS) officers should approach Mr Dominic Maisu. You can do wonders with 2 acres of land. There are 1 or 2 crops that you can plant on 2 acres of land and get more than RM300/- revenue per month e.g. Ladies’ Finger or Kacang Bendi. It’s a matter of maximizing usage of limited land space by identifying the right crop to plant. For example, if you are planting Oil Palms on 2 acres of land, you’re either stupid or doing it for hobby.          

Agencies like KPD and JPS should hook up with The Ministry of Rural Development and provide skill knowhow or assistance to our hardcore poor. Are they doing this already? I hope they have, I don’t think I’m that smart or that there weren’t any government officers or ministers who already thought of that. It’s not enough to simply give free houses and free money to these folks. They have to be taught ‘how to fish’ as oppose to simply giving them the fish.

I read in the Daily Express today that CWS is at it again. Their board member, Mr Alan Yip, presented an E’Touch mobile phone which came with a prepaid phone card donated by an unidentified well wisher to 15 year old Eldie Joirin who lives in interior Tambunan.

Like Rohead, Eldie is suffering from Thalassaemia. Sabah has the highest rate of Thalassaemia case in the country. Patience generally do not live beyond their teens. Sabah seems to be the number one of almost everything in Malaysia. We also have the dubious honour of being the poorest and having the most hardcore poor in the country.

Unfortunately, most Sabahans don’t even know that Thalassaemia is a problem to us. If you wish to help, please visit Sabah Thalassaemia Society.
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