HISTORY OF POSITIVE LIVING COMMUNITY

 

Featured  in the photo is Alex Arokiam, the co-founder of Positive Living Community (PLC). He is doing what he loves best, thoughtfully dishing out meals lovingly prepared by himself. Around him is a group of Rohingya youths who landed on Malaysian shores by boat, seeking asylum. Over a period of more than 20 years, Alex Arokiam a humble man of humble beginnings has provided basic shelter and care for thousands of marginalised people, with very little in his pocket, a big heart, and with god's grace. Any recollection of the history of Positive Living Community will undoubtedly have to start with the story of Alex, and his passion to serve, in his own words, "the least in our midst".

 

A HISTORY SPANNING MORE THAN 20 YEARS

Positive Living Community, in its current form was registered as a Non Governmental Organisation in 2015, with the registration number PPM-002-10-06042015. Co-founded by Alex, a pioneer in Malaysia when it comes to sheltering and caring for people living with HIV/AIDS, the organisation has long history dating all the way back to 1997. It was a time when homeless people  afflicted with AIDS died on the streets as there wasn’t a single shelter (govt. or private) that was willing to handle HIV/AIDS cases. Stigma, prejudice & discrimination of HIV/ AIDS victims were widespread.

 

1997

THE BEGINNINGS

  • In response to the grim situation of homelessness ,lack of care and support services on a national level for people living with HIV/AIDS, Alex collaborated with Anthony Rogers, fsc to establish Welcome Community Home - the first shelter in the country for People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV).

  • The project was funded by the Drugs & Aids Ministry of the National Office for Human Development under the auspices of the Catholic Church

  • A dilapidated chicken shed was acquired in Batu Arang, just 25 km away from the Infectious Diseases unit in Sungai Buloh.

  • With an initial cohort of recovering drug abusers, Alex put his carpentry skills into use to construct a 20 bed kampung style shelter home. 

 

MAIN SERVICES FOR PLHIV AT WELCOME COMMUNITY HOME:

i) HARM REDUCTION FOR DRUG ABUSERS:

  • With more than 70 % of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1990's originating from sharing of needles due to heroin abuse, Welcome Community Home (WCH) provided harm reduction for those who were at risk of contracting HIV through addiction and for who were already HIV positive and continuing to struggle with their addiction.

ii) NURSING CARE: 

  •  With the arrival of volunteer nurses from the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEO), a nursing bay was established in 1999, mostly providing palliative and hospice care for the terminally ill. It was during this time, that the mission of Alex to enable those with HIV/AIDS to live and die with dignity was fully realised. Recovering drug abusers with or without HIV who were in stable health conditions were enlisted and trained to become caregivers. In more than 2 decades of service Alex and his team of dedicated volunteer caregivers have cared for at least 1000 people with HIV/AIDS, many of whom have since passed away. ​

2005-2008

AN UPGRADE OF SERVICES - PREPARING THE FIRST HIV/AIDS HOSPICE IN MALAYSIA

  • An old abandoned colonial bungalow was acquired from the IJ (Infant Jesus) nuns.

  • Sabina Arokiam, the current Managing Director of Positive Living Community managed the Secretariat of the Redevelopment Committee whereby funds were raised to hire an architect and contractors to transform the old bungalow into the first HIV/AIDS hospice in Malaysia. 

  • The hospice, an upgrade of Welcome Community Home was designed to accommodate up to 40 beds.

  • A brand new ambulance was acquired by Alex from the Multicultural Ladies Association of Malaysia.

 

2006 - 2008 

THE FALLEN LEAVES THEATRE PROJECT

  • A theatre project facilitated by Sabina Arokiam in partnership with UK theatre director Bryn Jones and producer Jade Ong resulted in the conception of Fallen Leaves - A Theatre Project by PLHIV for PLHIV (People Living with HIV).

  • Over a span of a year, selected English and Malay speaking residents underwent a leadership program, using theatre and communication skills as a tool for empowerment and story telling.

  • Stories that emerged of personal tragedy, grief, resilience and transformation were adapted for the stagee. At the end of  2006, Fallen Leaves was presented to a full house at Actors Studio in Bangsar.

  • A grant was acquired from the Malaysian AIDS Council to fund a 2 year Fallen Leaves roadshow.

  • The Fallen Leaves Theatre Company was founded, and its members traveled to all 14 states in Malaysia to spread awareness around the HIV/AIDS stigma, awareness and prevention.

  • Only 2 members of Fallen Leaves, Augustine and Azahar, remain. A dozen others have since passed away due to AIDS.

2009

THE EMERGENCE OF POSITIVE LIVING COMMUNITY

  • Shortly after moving into the new hospice at the end of 2008, Alex left the establishment due to a restructuring exercise.

  • A change of policy in WCH, left out those recovering from addiction and Alex responded by establishing an alternative support system for recovering addicts with HIV/AIDS - Positive Living Community. 

  • In 2009, with two of his long term resident leaders, Abdul Manap Bin Saim and Kovala Krishnan getting on board as co-directors, Alex registered Positive Living Community as a private company.

  • Alex and his team opened several charity homes, providing services such as: i) harm reduction for drug abusers, and ii) care for homeless and marginalised persons with HIV/AIDS (including refugees).

  • Marc Rogez, a French volunteer nurse (from the Paris Foreign Missions Society) who had served with Alex's since 2002 also left WCH (hospice) and joined Alex to establish the Oasis Nursing Home for people with HIV/AIDS, a project of PLC.

  • The organisation grew in capacity almost instantaneously, housing between 50 - 70 residents at any given time. 

  • Kovala Krishnan and Abdul Manap, the co-directors of  PLC succumbed to AIDS and passed away leaving an unprecedented legacy of humility and service.

  • The status of the company, Positive Living Community eventually lapsed with the demise of two out of its three directors. 

  • Out of necessity, Alex single handedly registered Positive Living Community as an NGO.   

CARING FOR REFUGEES

  • With the increase in prevalence of HIV/AIDS among refugee communities in Malaysia, Oasis Nursing Home was commissioned by UNHCR to became a partner organisation in caring for refugees with HIV/AIDS.

  • Reaching out beyond just the capacity of caring for PLHIV, Alex sat on the advisory board of the first formal ethnic alliance of Burmese refugees in Malaysia, also known as the Alliance of Chin Refugees (ACR).

  • With friends, Alex co-founded another NGO, ACTS (A Call To Serve), which primarily focuses on providing medical care and aid to refugees.

  • Marc, Alex and and an extensive team of volunteer doctors and nurses visited makeshift refugee camps in the jungle of Malaysia to provide mobile clinic services and HIV/AIDS testing.

  • Sabina Arokiam worked with Malaysian theatre activist, Chris Ng, to train and mobilise a team of refugees who would accompany mobile clinics and spread awareness on HIV/AIDS and testing, using Participatory Educational Theatre (PET) as an effective method of knowledge transmission.

  • At the mobile clinics, anyone found to be HIV positive was admitted into Oasis Nursing Home for further assistance and care.

  • Refugees found with other terminal illnesses or needing palliative care are channeled to PERCH 1 and PERCH 2, homes initially developed by Alex for PLC's purposes, eventually handed over to ACTS to support a growing need to provide residential care for male and female refugees inflicted with debilitating conditions other than HIV/AIDS. 

2014

PARTNERING WITH UNHCR TO PROVIDE RESPITE CARE FOR ROHINGYA YOUTH 

  • In 2014, Alex provided additional services to UNHCR, organising temporary shelter and care for Rohingya youths fleeing from persecution in Myanmar. Having been herded together in boats and cramped in jungle camps at the Malaysian border, they were kept forcibly and beaten to entice friends or relatives in Malaysia to pay a hefty sum for their safe passage to Malaysia. 

  • Hundreds of Rohingya youths were rescued by UNHCR and sent to Alex. He would accommodate anywhere between 20 - 40 youths at any given time. Many of them were unable to walk and required good nutrition and exercise to help them recover, services which Alex and his team provided to the best of their ability.

  • After several months of respite stay with Alex, the youths are finally reunited with their communities in Kuala Lumpur. This make way for a fresh batch of Rohingya youths rescued from the Malaysian borders and in need of respite care ... 

2015

POSITIVE LIVING COMMUNITY IN ITS CURRENT FORM IS BORN

  • In 2015, the NGO that Alex initially created lapsed in status due to insufficient adherence to protocols as deemed necessary by the Malaysian Registrar of Societies. 

  • A new registration under a similar sounding name, Persatuan Kebajikan Positive Living Community or Positive Living Community Welfare Organsiation was established with the registration number PPM-002-10-06042015.

  • Under the leadership of Dr. Rajiv Bhanot, the new chairman of the EXCO, the construction of a new livelihood & training building was initiated with Engineers Without Borders - Monash University Malaysia. 

  • Dr. Babak Salamanti of Engineers Without Borders, Emelyn Low of Bluescope Malaysia and architect, Saskia Hesselink were instrumental in bringing the project together and to a completion.

2017

POSITIVE LIVING COMMUNITY SURVIVES IMMINENT CLOSURE AND UNDERGOES RESTRUCTURING

  • In 2017, Alex nearly closed down Positive Living Community due to an abrupt discontinuation of the UNHCR Rohingya Youths Respite Care Services.

  • Alex had depended on the UNHCR funds to run his entire operations. 

  • Deprived of a secure source of funds, Alex, by this time, was worn out and 'nearly throw in the towel'. Luckily enough, his daughter, Sabina Arokiam helped to secure some funds, and in 2018, the Malaysian AIDS Council provided a minimal grant of RM 60,000, a fraction of what was required to operate PLC with its 60 odd beneficiaries. 

  • Sabina downsized operations, focusing wholly on providing palliative, hospice and disability care to those in need.

  • The remaining able bodied men, with or without HIV were referred to other NGO's capable of providing quality residential care for free. 

  • In 2019, the organisation showed robust and satisfactory growth under Sabina's leadership and with a new EXCO on board. 

  • Alex has since stepped down from management to make way for a new face and new era of Positive Living Community - one of only two surviving care homes in Malaysia that continues to provide palliative and hospice care to PLHIV. 

 

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Donate to PLC:

Account No. 2142 7700 073818

RHB BANK, Positive Living Community

Contact us:

Tel. 016-213 4037

plcwelfareorg@gmail.com

Batu Arang, 45000 Batu Arang, Selangor, Malaysia

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Positive Living Community, a partner organisation of the Malaysian AIDS Council is registered under the Registrar of Societies act as 'Persatuan Kebajikan Komuniti Kehidupan Positif', also known as Positive Living Community (PLC). 

Our registration number is:

PPM-002-10-06042015