Materia Medica Malaysiana

July 30, 2006

The harbour of last goodbyes

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:40 am

NST: JOHOR BARU: Shunned by society and kicked out by their families, people with full-blown AIDS often die a painful and lonely death.
But it need not be so. Dignity, a charity home here, offers care and comfort during the last days of their lives.
The project, an offshoot of the Intan Life Zone (ILZ) home for the “rejects” of society, was started in October last year and now has 17 patients.
Most of them were languishing in government hospitals, with no family support.
Staff at ILZ, who are dedicated to reaching out to the homeless, ex-prisoners and others struggling to kick their addiction to drugs and alcohol, came to their rescue.
A special facility was set up on the 2nd floor of ILZ’s shophouse premises on Jalan Tun Abdul Razak here, to provide a home, meals and medical and nursing care for those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
The idea, said project founder Abraham Prathap, was to provide a place of recovery in a drug-free environment, with counselling to try and reconcile them with their estranged families.
“Most were thrown out of their homes when they had HIV and this later developed into full-blown AIDS. They had no one to turn to,” said Prathap.
“Nobody wants anything to do with them. We try and give them care, support and love.
“We offer personalised attention during the last moments of their lives. We help them die with dignity.”
These people, said Prathap, would otherwise end up dying in some dark street alley.
Dignity reaches out to people of all religions, with Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus volunteering time and effort.
“When you talk about rejects in society, there is a tendency to write them off as mere statistics and forget that we are dealing with real people,” said Dr Vanassa Ratnasingam, one of the volunteers. “To spend your last days alone with no loved ones to support and comfort you is a terrible thing. I try to give them hope by sharing my love and care for them.”
The volunteers are assisted by two full-time workers.
The project, which is financed through public donations, is supported by a monthly grant from the Malaysian AIDS Council. But this is often short of the RM8,000 to RM10,000 a month needed to run the Dignity programme.
ILZ’s other projects, which are all housed in the same premises, includes a charity soup kitchen for the homeless, which serves between 80 and 100 a day.
Once a week, staff and volunteers distribute food parcels to vagrants, ex-prisoners and addicts who live on the streets.
ILZ has also started a harm reduction programme, financed by the Health Ministry, under which addicts can turn to the centre for treatment, counselling, testing and help with job placements.
Said Prathap: “Our work at ILZ is not about numbers. If we can reach out and help just one person to make the change for the better, that in itself is a success story.
“All they need is a little love, understanding and kindness.”
ILZ is located at 26A Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, Susur 1, 80000 Johor Baru,
For telephone enquiries, call Prathap at 016-7355939 or 07-2281885.
The email address is abraham_

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