Sunday, February 28, 2021

A family’s struggle to keep the roof over their heads

Although poor, they have enough – all they want is to keep the roof from collapsing in on them.

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With Chinese New Year just a few days away, a family living in Malaysia’s richest state of Selangor only hopes that their roof will not cave in before then.

Chin Kim Choy, Koo Yok Kion and their son Kok Ming live in a run-down house in Kampung Baru Ampang. The wooden walls have been eaten away by termites, much of the rusty zinc roof has been torn away, and whenever it rains, water comes pouring in through the cracks of what little shelter remains over their heads.

Chin, 63, used to work as a carpenter. Three years ago, though, he suffered a stroke. Since then, it has been up to Koo, 53, to keep the family going.

But her job as a kitchen helper is nowhere near enough to bring in the kind of money needed for the upkeep of the house. She earns a modest salary of RM40 a day and to get to work, she must cycle 5km.

“After I suffered the stroke, I could no longer walk without using a cane,” Chin told MalaysiaNow.

“My eyes are not very good anymore either, maybe because I had a heart attack,” he added.

Chin Kim Choy worked as a carpenter until he experienced a stroke three years ago which left him with limited mobility.

Their son, Kok Ming, is 13 years old. A straight-A student, their hope for him is that he will have a better life.

For now, though, life is hard.

Each day, Chin and Kok Ming subsist on meals of biscuits while waiting for Koo to return from work.

For dinner, the three of them eat whatever was not sold at Koo’s workplace that day.

There are four rooms in the house but only one is in any shape to be used. This is where the family sleeps. But even there, the roof has collapsed and the door does not fit its frame.

“Last year my son got dengue hemorrhagic fever, maybe because he was bitten by mosquitoes because the doors cannot close properly and the roof is broken like this,” Koo said.

“I grieved to see my son sick. But I cannot afford to repair the house. My salary is needed to pay the bills for water and electricity, and to buy medication for my husband.”

It may not look like much, but it’s home for Chin Kim Choy and his family.

The house was inherited from Chin’s mother. For 60 years, he lived there with her and his five sisters but now he is the only one left.

“My younger sister has passed away and the other four moved out when conditions began to deteriorate,” he said.

Chin’s fear is that the roof will cave in due to heavy rain or strong wind. The last thing he wants is for his wife and son to be injured with Chinese New Year just around the corner.

“I am not asking for help for other things,” he said. “We can still live like anybody else. We have enough food and we are used to living this way.

“But please, help me repair my roof before it really collapses one day.”

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