Monday, June 21, 2021

When hardship and poverty beat Raya to the door

Affendi Mohamad used to earn a living as a contract worker but a workplace accident last year has left him wheelchair-bound, digging through the city's garbage for recyclables to sell to make ends meet.

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Originally from Negeri Sembilan, he now lives in poverty, digging through garbage bins and for recyclable items like tins, cardboard boxes and plastic bottles to sell.

He loads his finds on a platform on wheels attached to the wheelchair behind him. It’s tricky to dodge traffic up and down the busy streets but he does his best, sticking as much as he can to the side of the road.

He has been on his own since the accident, snubbed by most who pass by him on the streets.

What limited mobility he has outside of his wheelchair he uses for acts such as feeding stray cats.

Today, he is all smiles as he has managed to collect a good haul of recyclable items.

From time to time, he receives small amounts of money from passersby who notice his plight.

Whenever it rains, he must cover his finds with a plastic sheet. If they get wet, the recycling centre will deduct as much as 70% from their worth.

In the evening, he sits on a tarp along a five-foot way and waits for the time to break his fast with his humble meal.

He prays before he eats, taking what shelter he can from the rain in the narrow passage.

Most days, he depends on the kindness of others in order to have the food with which he breaks his fast.

Once he has finished eating, he changes his clothes which he carries with him in a plastic bag.

He prays by himself in his wheelchair, with his prayer mat spread across his knees.

Tears fall as he prays, thinking of his past mistakes and of his family members far away.

It is a lonely time for him. Before his accident, he lived with his five-year-old son in a small rented room but the child was later put in the care of a home in Cheras.

Now, Affendi himself lives in this dark alley where he returns each night to sleep.

He pushes himself through the rain to find a sheltered spot to spend the night.

This is the best spot in the alley, behind a restaurant that has closed down.

When morning comes, he makes his way to the recycling centre to exchange his finds for whatever cash he can get.

A worker there looks through his items, assessing each before settling on a price.

It’s not much, but even this small amount means the world to him.

After that, it’s back to looking for more items to sell and, hopefully, brighter prospects ahead.

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