At your ser­vice

Whether they are HIV pa­tients, dis­abled chil­dren or the blind, Ed­ward Solomon is happy to vol­un­teer his time and ser­vices to all and sundry.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - SENIOR - By MAJORIE CHIEW star2@ thes­tar. com. my

RE­TIREE Ed­ward Solomon is more than a friend to the blind. He is their helper, chauf­feur, tour guide and con­fi­dante. Five days a week, from Mon­day to Fri­day, Solomon helps to run er­rands for a group of blind friends.

Whether it is trips to the bank, shop­ping for gro­ceries or pay­ing bills, Solomon thinks noth­ing of go­ing the ex­tra mile for those who need his ser­vices.

He ac­com­pa­nies them to the hos­pi­tal for fol­low- ups which can be tax­ing to the blind as they may have to move from the doc­tor’s clinic to the lab for tests, and to the phar­macy to col­lect their med­i­ca­tion.

Solomon, 75, is some­times ac­com­pa­nied by his wife Pad­mini, 68, a part- time teacher at an in­ter­na­tional school in Kuala Lumpur.

Life has been good to this el­derly cou­ple and they want to give back to so­ci­ety with what­ever en­ergy and money they have.

Hng Tek Hing, 59, a small- time busi­ness­man, is one per­son whom Solomon helps reg­u­larly. Hng phones Solomon when­ever he needs to pay util­ity bills or go to the bank.

“Some­times I may need help if I’m go­ing to an un­fami­lar place,” said Hng. “Solomon is very ac­com­mo­dat­ing.”

Hng loves trav­el­ling and Solomon ac­com­pa­nied his fam­ily on a trip to Sabah two years ago.

“We had a great time there. We brought back many heart­warm­ing mem­o­ries of our hol­i­day to­gether,” said Hng. “We vis­ited the Sepi­lok Orangutan Sanc­tu­ary and spot­ted pro­boscis mon­keys while on a river cruise. Solomon was the tour guide and he gave a run­ning com­men­tary of in­ter­est­ing hap­pen­ings or beau­ti­ful scener­ies.”

“Be­ing blind does not stop peo­ple from trav­el­ling,” Solomon chipped in. “They can still en­joy the scenery, sam­ple new food and make new friends along the way.”

Solomon has also ac­com­pa­nied two blind cou­ples on trips to Chen­nai and Madu­rai in In­dia. He even ar­ranged for free board­ing with his rel­a­tives in In­dia, and they were happy to play the gra­cious hosts.

Re­cently, he drove a blind man, his wife and three young chil­dren to Pe­nang and Alor Se­tar. “They wanted to visit their rel­a­tives,” said Solomon.

Solomon may be a vet­eran now when it comes to serv­ing the blind but he still re­mem­bers an un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent when he first started out as a vol­un­teer. He was tak­ing a group of six blind men out for a walk when one of them fell into a big drain.

“Thank God he wasn’t hurt. The rest of the group stopped in their tracks. The blind man who fell into the drain is al­most 80 now. Re­cently he frac­tured his hand and is house- bound. A group of us vis­ited him in his house.”

Af­ter the mishap, Solomon learnt how to lead the blind prop­erly. “I alert them to ob­sta­cles along the way. I also in­form them of the num­ber of steps ahead or what I see. It is im­por­tant to cul­ti­vate their trust. Hon­esty is an­other pre­req­ui­site for vol­un­teers, es­pe­cially when we help with ATM with­drawals and trans­fer of money.”

The Solomons first got in­volved in so­cial work two decades ago. They were part of a church sup­port group which vis­ited HIV pa­tients in hos­pi­tal.

“Some of th­ese ter­mi­nally- ill pa­tients were cut off from their fam­i­lies or shunned by friends. Their fam­ily mem­bers and rel­a­tives did not visit them for fear of con­tract­ing HIV. They felt de­jected and aban­doned by so­ci­ety due to the so­cial stigma. So they were very happy to see us. We of­fered a lis­ten­ing ear and coun­selled them,” said Solomon.

He had no fear of so­cial­is­ing with HIV pa­tients be­cause he knew the dis­ease could not be trans­mit­ted by touch.

“We hugged and touched th­ese HIV pa­tients. We helped the nurses to feed them. We felt their vul­ner­a­bil­ity, lone­li­ness and empti­ness. They just wanted some­one to talk to, and we were there for them.”

“Back then, al­most ev­ery Sun­day, my wife and I would go to Sun­gai Bu­loh Hos­pi­tal and be­friend a dozen of th­ese pa­tients. We talked to them and brought them food. They were de­lighted to be treated to laksa and char

kway teow.”

Solomon re­mem­bers with fond­ness a par­tic­u­lar pa­tient they had be­friended.

“This man was in his 40s and he came from a rich fam­ily. He had turned over a new leaf af­ter he con­tracted HIV. He wanted to show his grat­i­tude and cooked a lovely meal for my wife and I. He was stay­ing at a nurs­ing home at that time. A few days later, we heard that he had passed away. We felt very sad and cried.”

Solomon has also worked with dis­abled chil­dren at an eques­trian club in Am­pang, Se­lan­gor. He learnt to ride a horse when he was in his 30s, and gave free rid­ing lessons to dis­abled chil­dren some 10 years ago.

“It was ther­a­peu­tic for the chil­dren. They made progress in their hand move­ments af­ter six months to a year. Ini­tially their fists were clenched but af­ter many rid­ing ex­er­cises, they were able to flex and move their fin­gers,” Solomon re­counted.

It is ob­vi­ous that he en­joys ev­ery minute spent serv­ing the needy. “It keeps me oc­cu­pied. And I feel blessed to be able to help peo­ple who need my ser­vices,” added Solomon.

We hugged and touched th­ese HIV pa­tients. We helped the nurses to feed them. We felt their vul­ner­a­bil­ity, lone­li­ness and empti­ness. they just wanted some­one to talk to.

Ed­ward Solomon

— AZLiNA AB­DUL­LAh/ The Star

Solomon with his blind friend, hng. ‘ Some­times i may need help when go­ing to an un­fa­mil­iar place,’ says hng.

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