Monday, May 22, 2006


Faizal is five. He has a bright smile, twinkling eyes and a carefree mop of curls. He also has cerebral palsy. But that's not the biggest of his problems.

Last year, when I first visited him in an Orang Asli kampung, he was a mess. Saliva dripped from his grinning mouth unto his T-shirt; grubby palms mixed drool, food, dirt and bacteria in an unholy union. His awkwardly clenched fingers had trouble holding on to things. Including his parents' love.

Faizal was left to his own devices in a toddler's walker that refused to co-operate with his bowed, growing legs. Without proper motor control, he did not know how to negotiate a flat surface on his own. Without proper bladder control, he dirtied his home with human waste.

A few months after my initial visit, a pastor who had been following up on the family decided to take Faizal home to care for him. He is married, with two small children of his own. Aware that Faizal would need round-the-clock attention, he divided the caregiving task amongst family and friends he could trust. A schedule was drawn out. Faizal's future was shared by these individuals.

Last week, when I dropped by Kampung Jus, Faizal looked decidedly more cheerful. He has a new chair that trains him to sit up straight. His clothes are cleaner. I didn't see him slobber. At present, things look more positive.

Yet he desperately needs to undergo physiotherapy soon to learn the things we take for granted. Things like walking and passing motion. His future would be so much brighter if he could at least learn to be independent. Coming of age is certain; what about improvement?

There was a time when Faizal's family stole provisions that were meant for him — fortified milk from the government, to be exact. The clinic eventually found out about it and later, channeled new supplies for Faizal through the pastor. Which father, if a son asks for bread, would give him a stone? Anger at the selfishness of this family is understandable but perhaps uncalled for. There are many things within the Orang Asli culture that leave the average person shaking their heads. Foremost amongst which is a subsidy mentality — certainly not something you can change overnight.

But perhaps there is a slow change of heart. Recently, Faizal's father called up the pastor to thank him for taking care of his son. I don't know what else transpired, but the pastor seemed to think it was a good sign. Does the father miss his son? I don't know. Does Faizal miss him? I seem to recall the pastor saying so.

Yet for now, I know that Faizal is at least in good hands.

Faizal with his new RM400 chair


Reaching out for the uncertain, 13 May 2006

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for doing this pal. Teared when i read it. He's a great boy and he deserves ALOT more help than he's getting. Pastor Jo and family deserve ALOT more support from people who actually have the means to help.