I have been curious as to what happened to the family of the late Chua Soon Lee, who was reported to have fallen into an uncovered pothole and drowned back in the year 2011. He was only eight years old.
Gauging from the report, I concluded that his family must be struggling financially and lived in acute hardship. I wondered what their situation was like, and felt regretful of the tragedy that befell him and his family.
I still remember how his mother described him: He was a good boy, she said. He was accompanying me to look for scrap metal, she said. It was sad to read the report.
The meeting was arranged by a group of women who were appalled by the family’s situation. They wanted to help her, but it was clear from the moment we went into Ng’s house that financial aid and any other form of aid can pour in unceasingly, and they will continue to live in that sad state. Anyone visiting would immediately sense that not only is this family facing acute hardship in the financial term, they are also faced with a deficiency that is even more sinister and crippling – they had a poverty mindset and change must occur from from within before any change could happen externally. Anyway, this mindset is not unique to only this family. It is a plaque that affects all people.
The old dilapidated house looked as if it saw better days in the past but is now in such a bad state. Aside from Ng and Aisyah, her son also lives there but is seldom at home.
Ng says that he comes only to have his clothes washed and disappears again.
They have no water supply. They also do not have electricity although they could easily have both since the house is located right next to the road. I wonder if it is because they are unable to pay for these utilities or they simply do not know how to apply for them, or because they cannot make an application because the house is not theirs or due to all three factors.
I was made aware by the Welfare Department that the two women do received monthly allowances and that Aisyah also works at the market in Menggatal. So, they do have some money — not so much, and not even amply enough for their monthly sustenance. But at least they have something. But again, how far can RM500 plus go these days?
Ng also says that they often get unwanted visitors who steal what little they own. That probably explains why they continue to live in poverty. To ward off the unwanted visitors, they keep a lot of dogs in the house with them.
Since they are not supplied with water, Ng often walks down to the clinic to get water. She carries an empty pail downhill, and carries it back to the house filled. I noticed she has a slight limp, and looked quite worn out.
As mentioned before, the house was and is a sorry sight. There are old furniture that would probably serve better as firewood. Instead it is left in the house to rot. Such furniture are bound to hide unwanted creatures such as snakes.
Ng did say that aside from thieves, they also have problems with snakes. Unfortunately, she doesn’t want to part with many things as they had sentimental values and reminded her of her long departed husband and grandson.
I realise that Ng’s poverty problem is not just due to lack. She also needs to have a change of mindset, otherwise whatever assistance rendered to her and her family will merely bring temporary relief and not the lasting impacts desired.
I contacted former Community Development and Consumer Affairs Minister, Datuk Jainab Ahmad Ayid to ask her about the welfare aid, and she informed me that both Ng and Aisyah were recipients of the aid. “I simply do not understand why there haven’t been any changes,” she said in exasperation. Perhaps, it is because the aid did not come with the changing of mind on the part of Ng and Aisyah. Anyway, that should not be the reason to stop giving aid to this family. Change is not easy.
That said, the house is in dire need of a door so that they women can lock the house and stop intruders. A portion of the walls also need repairing, as well as a portion of the roof. They also badly need a proper toilet and shower area, as well as treated water supply.
Perhaps what they need most of all is guidance on how to manage the things they have and throw away what is unnecessary.
But for change to occur, there needs to be a deeper want for it to happen. And this is a case study that requires more than monthly cash assistance to resolve.