Monday, 21 December 2015

Reflective Journal: Homeless Volunteer

The main aim for this journal is to keep a record of my experience and thoughts during my involvement as a volunteer to help homeless that stay around metropolitan city of Kuala Lumpur. All the experience and thoughts in this journal are connected. However, I have decided to clarify them by chronology.

Background of the program

First of all, let me describe the background of this program and how I can enter this program as a volunteer. This program named “Program Sukarelawan Sosial Islam: Bersahur Bersama Sahabat Jalanan” and held on 12th July 2014 at Masjid Jamek, Kuala Lumpur and involve other small area like Dataran Merdeka, Masjid Negara and Puduraya. It was organized by Yayasan Ihtimam Malaysia (YIM) with Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (JAKIM) and participated by many NGO’s that came from all state of Malaysia especially from Klang Valley area like Pertubuhan Menangani Urusetia Gejala Sosial (UNGGAS) and Pertubuhan Belia Mahasiswa Bersatu.

Most of the volunteer consist of youth and students that came from different universities and colleges. Because of this event held on Saturday, there were also many individual volunteers get involved in this program.

As for me, I am one of the members of an NGO called Gabungan Belia Institut al-Qayyim (GBIQ). Several of us including me came from Penang by our own transport and the remaining came from Klang Valley area. Our plan has started about one month before when one of our members told us about this event. We named this event as “Simbiosis 2” after we held “Simbiosis 1” about two months before. The meaning of “Simbiosis” is a close relationship between two or more organisms that come from different kind of species.

From the meaning, we relate with this event where we met some people that are not related to our life before this and we want to know what are their experience and their life story as a homeless in the center of the city. 

With my team members

Starting of Program

After Isyak prayer, the volunteers and the homeless are gathered at Masjid Jamek area and volunteers were given a task on getting important details from the homeless. From this task, we got opportunity to talk with the homeless. I had a chance to talk with an old man that was shy to share his story. I just understand and get important details from him only.

When talking and sharing with other team members, I got to know that some of the homeless are removed by their own families. Some homeless were having serious financial burden like bankruptcy and the situation forced them to continue their life at the street. However, there are also homeless that have their own opinion that sound a little weird where they actually does not need to have a home but they can live everywhere without paying to the people.

The program was continued by distribution of foods to the homeless and they also got some gift.     
One of the homeless smiled when he got the gift
Rules for the Volunteer

Before we enter homeless’ sleeping area to give foods, we were given a simple briefing by the authority of JAKIM. There were a few rules that we have to follow when we want to give food to the homeless. Some of the rules were:

  1.      We were not allowed to pat the back of the homeless’ body as they might think that the pat is a sign to attack them and they will attack back the person spontaneously. This situation is a very dangerous situation for a volunteer.
  2.      We were prohibited to show dishonorable sight or sign to the homeless like covering our nose when walking through their ‘residence’ that are smelly.
  3.       We must walk in a group and it is prohibited to walk alone.

After the briefing, each of us was been given one plastic bag that contains some foods and water to distribute for the homeless. Then, we were divided into several groups that will go to different area. The senior group went to the areas that were more risky like the dark alley and under the bridge while the junior group like us went to less risky area such as the sidewalk. 

Packed foods that were ready to distribute
Entering Homeless Sleeping Area

When we enter the homeless’ sleeping area, many of the homeless did not sleep yet and when we gave them the foods, they showed their gratefulness and they were so thankful. Based on the information that was given to us, there are some homeless that don’t eat for several days. They tend to suffer in hunger because they feel shy to ask people for money and foods.

It was true that the homeless sleeping area was smelly and we just walked away and didn’t say anything as told. I think that the government or any authorized people should do something about those homeless who stay at the place like this. Other countries have begun to care about the homeless issue by starting several brilliant ways.

One of their ways to handle the shelter of homeless is by build a simple shelter for them behind the advertising board. I don’t know much how the shelter looks like but what I know is the idea comes from a professional architect. This is what we called creativity that comes from good management of education. People like this do not think about the money that they get from their career to treat for themselves only but they feel that their knowledge is more important to be used for those who are in need.

At one of the sidewalk near Masjid Jamek
Homeless Everywhere

We walked through the streets in a large group with the number of volunteers that were really high at that time. From the official website of JAKIM, it was stated that the number of volunteers at that time was about 180 volunteers. However, the number of the volunteers did not make me really shocked but the number of homeless make me become more speechless as the foods that we were distribute actually did not enough for them. This thing told me that there were a huge number of homeless that stay around KL at the night. I believe that many people will not realize this fact except when they by themselves become the volunteer and see what happen to the KL at night.  
            In conjunction with this, I feel that there should be proper ways to handle the homeless. We realized that homeless is not belong to underdeveloped countries only but there are homeless too at the developed country. But the way we handle them make us different. When we make something that give benefit to the homeless, other countries will follow too and this will raise humanity awareness among the citizens.

            Sometimes, there is no need for us to rely on government effort but we can stand as an individual to relief this issue. As for example, there is a laundry shop at the West Country that gives free services for the homeless to wash their clothes there. With that small effort, it can make homeless become a better person so that they can pass interview and easily get a job.

One of the homeless were having conversation with my team members
Not Only Food but Love

From this program, I learned that the homeless sometimes does not need foods, drinks, toiletries or money. What they need the most is some consultation from other people that they can rely on. They need motivation as some of them got trauma in their previous life. They also need guide in religion knowledge as they must believe in the fate that has been determined by God and they can change their life with their own effort.

            As for their children, they also need proper education and they need to be surrounded with good people. Only education can change their family condition but not the change of financial only but what is the most important is the change of their perspective in life. Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradhawi said in his book Fiqh al-Awlawiyat (priority) in a small topic “Education before Fight”:

“This is what makes today's reformers called for the necessity to prioritize the education compared to battle, putting the personal formation of occupying important positions.

What we mean by education and formation here is to build a Mukmin human, who can bear the responsibility of dakwah mission; responsible for spreading the message of Islam; not stingy on the property; no pity for his soul in the struggle for the cause of Allah. At the same time he is a living example that could apply religious values in themselves, thus attracting others to do the same. In himself, people see the truly live of Islam.”

Everyone Should Volunteer

For this kind of volunteer program, I think that everyone especially youths and students should join in volunteering and lend a hand for those homeless. Even though this program does not give much benefit like college coupon activities nor can increase the carry marks for final exam, lending a hand with full of sincerity gives a lot of values for us and we can get valuable experience that we will never get in the lecture room.

From this program, we can teach ourselves not to be selfish and always ready to help people even there are no relationship between us and those people. When we feel the gratefulness after seeing the life of poor people, it can publish sense into ourselves to make a better change in our life.

Before I end my reflective journal, I would like to share my poem that I write several days after the program. This poem has been translated from Malay to English language.

Hectic and Quiet Eid

On a busy road
Sound of Eid can be heard
People scattered in abundance
Those who has finished their work
Those who has not finished their work
Those who come from the town

Remind me about the night I met with the homeless
Catch the sight of the stairs under the tower
Get illustrated when they are sleeping
on the floor stepped by people
Roofed with the sky that when the rain pours
forced them to get up
and go for a tiny space in a small place

What else people know
about homeless story?
Is there still a thought like,
"Oh, the homeless are lazy!"
"They do not want to work!"
"Crazy mind and always begging!"
Is that what we're really thought?

Homeless has their own 1001 stories
Sometimes the stories are very far
from the prediction of people
People just predict
But they never feel
Even for a second

At the dark alley
The writing have been sketched
They make expression there
‘Cause no one willing
to hear their story

Maybe they are there.. watching..
A lot of people queuing today
Scrambling to get a bus
The reason is that the people
want to go back quickly

Those who has finished their work
Those who come from the town
All of them want to go back
To their home, to their village

While he..
When looking at himself
There is no home that he can go back
There is no village that he can return
‘Cause he is only a despicable human

As for this Eid
He continue to be alone


Note: Feel free to watch the video of this program produced by GBIQ Media. Please click this link Video Simbiosis 2: Program Bersama Gelandangan

Photo credit to: Amir Farhan

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