December is, to me, a month of observance days. From World AIDS Day (Dec 1) and International Volunteer Day (Dec 5) to International Human Rights Day (Dec 10), there's just no shortage of worthy causes that an activist and concerned citizen can volunteer for or get involved in.
As with the previous years, PT Foundation, formerly known as Pink Triangle Foundation Malaysia, observed World AIDS Day by holding a Red Ribbon Carnival at Sg. Wang Plaza in Kuala Lumpur.
I signed up to be a volunteer for this fundraising and awareness-raising campaign, although it was a hell of a world of difference from the work I am used to doing for Pink Triangle as a volunteer lawyer and outreach worker.
Attending the volunteer induction course at the PT Foundation drop-in centre in Chow Kit brought back waves of memories. I remember taking the bus there on Friday afternoons in 2004 to provide legal aid and counselling services. I remember endless cups of tea imbibed and endless heart-to-heart conversations shared at the drop-in centre. I remember buying groceries and personal care products for the halfway homes and lugging it all there on foot from the monorail station or bus stop. I remember the evenings spent distributing condoms and dispensing legal information in Chow Kit as part of our harm reduction and intervention programme. My experience as a legal aid volunteer had exposed me to a wider range of experiences, skills and knowledge than what private legal practice could have offered, and prepared me for my current role as a protector of vulnerable and marginalised persons. For this, and for so much else, I will always be grateful.
As my duty as a PT Foundation - World AIDS Day volunteer on Saturday would not start until 1400 hrs, I managed to squeeze in 4 hours at the SPCA animal shelter before barrelling through the weekend downtown traffic to Sg. Wang Plaza. I arrived at the SPCA in the morning and was informed by the staff that there was a group of 7 schoolgirls who were there to help out at the shelter as part of a compulsory community work programme for their school credits. I gamely took on the challenge of conducting hands-on training and an impromptu volunteer briefing session for the overprotected youngsters. I swear by the end of 4 hours that it was more draining on my energy and sanity than just doing everything by myself. But train the younger generation we must, if only they'd just pay attention and follow instructions at least half the time! I think all 7 girls left their brains at home when they came to the SPCA that day. I briefed all of them on the importance of keeping gates and cage doors shut and not letting animals out without approval and my advice seemed to go in one ear and out the other. Tsk. Kids nowadays. I turned around to teach 2 of them how to clip matted hair and spray antiseptic on wounds, and the other 5 stood near the entrance of the post-operative care enclosure, holding the enclosure gate open and letting the dogs escape. After the 3rd dog had escaped, they told me that the dogs are escaping. (Some delayed reaction there. Makes you wonder what's in the average teen's diet). I snapped: "Shut the gate, quick!" and sent 2 of the girls out with leashes to catch the escaped dogs. The girls stood around listlessly like little lost lambs, and so I had to catch all the dogs myself and start over with the training. I am glad, though, that by the end of the 4 hours, we did manage to bathe and tickwash more than 20 dogs and render basic treatment for sores and scrapes. I washed and disinfected the Cattery, the B-Extension Kennels, the Post-Operative Care Kennels and the Front/Reception/Admin area before I put everything away, cleaned myself up and got ready to report for duty at Sg. Wang Plaza. The traffic was murder at that time of day and I felt like blowing up the whole street, not that it would have helped the traffic congestion. Still, I was glad that I was able to carry out my duties as a volunteer and that my services were still needed despite my tardiness.
The information booth at the Command Centre on the 6th Floor, where we volunteers received our instructions.
Roving Angels with merchandise to raise awareness and funds in conjunction with World AIDS Day.
My teammates, Sasha and Jonathan, were all ready to greet visitors.
Would you like to donate to the cause of AIDS education, outreach, prevention and assistance for PLWHA?
Back at the Command Centre, hardworking volunteers made red ribbons for distribution on Sunday.
Activism has never looked this yummy!
PTF Volunteers demonstrated how each of us can "Be The Message".
At a personal level, my goal is to lobby pharmaceutical companies to put their patents in the UNITAID patent pool to make HIV medication more affordable. If we have the determination and commitment, each of us can be a mechanism of social change to assist and support the more vulnerable members of our society.
For those of us who wish to work with organisations that help the marginalised and provide support and assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), you may wish to support PT Foundation as a volunteer, donor or sponsor. PT Foundation's objectives, as listed in their official website, are as follows:
1. To help minimize the rate of infection of HIV/AIDS amongst the five target communities.
2. To help provide care and support and improve the quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS.
3. To help reduce discrimination against the five communities that is based on ignorance and lack of information.
Besides providing counselling and care to persons of concern, PT Foundation also conducts talks, seminars and educational and awareness campaigns, and works together with the authorities and law enforcement agencies to find durable solutions to problems involving vulnerable groups. The core communities manage their own safe spaces, including the drop-in centres and halfway homes.
Contributions in cash to fund the projects and keep the safe spaces in operation are always welcome, as are contributions in kind (dry foods such as biscuits, tea and coffee, soap, shampoo, blankets, towels and even comic books and magazines). For further information, please contact PT Foundation to find out how you can support the noble work that they do:
Address: No. 7C/1, Jalan Ipoh Kecil, Off Jalan Raja Laut, 50350 Kuala Lumpur
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm, Monday-Friday (Except public holiday)
IKHLAS Drop-in Centre (Drug User Program)
Address: 30A-30B Lorong Haji Taib 4, Chow Kit, 50350 Kuala Lumpur.
Opening Hours: 9am-4pm, Monday-Friday (Except public holiday)