Blog, Mission Possible Aug 2015: Why I broke down in tears. 27th August, 2015
As part of their deployment in Tanzania, our Mission Possible team is choosing beneficiaries for life-changing livelihood programmes.
Volunteer Ian Yunus Daley describes how he broke down in tears at having to turn away people in need.
Today was the worst experience of my life but also the most eye-opening. Everyone in the livelihood team knew what was coming with the distribution of cattle as part of the livelihood programme - we knew that we were going to have to say no to two people.
The thought of denying someone a life changing opportunity was heart-breaking, I had no idea how I would react or how hard it would actually be.
The five candidates were Kasmir, a 70 year-old man who lived alone while his wife was undergoing medical treatment; Zubeda, a mother-of-two of which one child had special needs and the other was disabled; Rahima, a founder of one of the hamlets who now suffered from a leg problem which has kept her housebound for two years; Semeni, an inspirational woman who is raising 7 children alone; Medeni, a young man who was both deaf and could not speak. All these people I will genuinely remember for the rest of my life.
The calm before the emotional storm
The day started off calm. Our first interview was with Kasmir, a really nice, older guy also known as “Dingy” to the villagers because he’s elderly. His character was so warm and welcoming and from the start I think we all wanted him to receive cattle.
Zaynab (another Mission volunteer) especially had a strong connection with him as his story was sad. The fact he was all alone was so upsetting, and the other fact that his wife might not return was another reason I think we all had a soft spot for him.
We also visited Semeni who honestly is one of the bravest, inspirational women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Her dream was to own cows, she was a mother of 7 children and unfortunately her husband had passed away so she was alone in bringing the children up.
It was clear from her story that receiving a cow from the livelihood project would change her life tremendously and make one of her dreams come true. Her ambition was so clear - she had goats and had already began building a shelter for the cow and the only reason it wasn’t complete was because her youngest had become ill and she had to go and get treatment.
Everyone on the team wanted her to receive a cow and I think at this point we realised how hard it was going to be as it was obvious that everyone had a story to tell and everyone deserved cattle.
The anger and frustration
When visiting Rahima it was sad because her reason for wanting cattle was to have the money to pay for medicine to clear up an infection she had on her legs, which has left her housebound for the past two years.
Visiting Rahima angered me because it was frustrating to know that if this was Europe that infection would not have even got infected and if it did it would have been a simple call to the GP and a two-week course of antibiotics would have been prescribed.
Despite being in so much pain she was so polite, happy and determined to make her life better. Although there was a clear language barrier, I found her so hilarious; every time I talked to her she kept interrupting, telling me that she couldn’t understand.
Her character was so charming and funny but the reality of the situation was horrible for her. Being housebound for two years must be the worst feeling in the world, especially when we found out she was a founder of the hamlet she lived in, which shows her capabilities and that she was clearly an active part of the society.
When visiting Medeni it was clear from the start he had the space, resources and capabilities to look after cattle. Even being deaf and not being able to speak didn’t stop his ambition to better his life.
When I met him it made me think of how lazy I had been in my youth and how society in the UK treats its youth. Medeni can’t hear and can’t talk yet is so hard working and determined it puts some people to shame. I honestly learned a lot from him even though we didn’t exchange a single word to each other.
Finally we met Zubeda. This woman, Subhan’Allah, is an inspiration to single mothers around the world. Her exact age is unknown – she's about 25 years-old - a divorcee and looking after her two children, one of them with mental and physical disabilities.
When I met her she made such an impact on me, her story was so touching. I don’t know whether it was because she reminded me of my mom or if it was because she seemed lonely, I just felt responsible for her. She seemed content and happy but also fed up and tired of her life at the same time.
I don’t know how to describe what I was feeling because I had such a rush of different emotions during the interview with her. I had this instant connection to her and this affinity I had for her will definitely stay with me forever. I can honestly say I will never forget the faces of her and her children and I will never forget the name Zubeda.
After the interviews were completed, the hard part was choosing three out of the five people we had interviewed who would receive a cow. I think I knew in the back of my mind that Zubeda wasn’t eligible - she didn’t have the space or the money to keep the cow alive without severely impacting her own livelihood.
The emotion and tears
I decided that I wanted to be the one to tell Zubeda the news that she would not receive a cow. It was genuinely the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. I had to tell her that she cannot provide more for her family, that her life is going to stay hard, that her children are going to go without and that little bit of hope I gave her was now taken away.
When I spoke to her, I could barely get my words out and I couldn’t even look her in the eye. After speaking to her, Aqib wanted a quick interview with me about what we had just done. This is when I broke down, I couldn’t speak I was so overcome with emotion I didn’t know what to say. I could see Zubeda looking at me when I was crying and it just made it worse.
I really tried to stop. I felt worse for crying because it was her dreams that were shattered, not mine, her life was going to be harder, not mine. I felt angry at myself for not finding a solution for her and I felt angry at the world for allowing these problems to still exist.
We had to give the good news to Rahima, Semeni and Medeni and it was a good feeling to know that their lives had changed for the better, but to be honest after giving the bad news to Zubeda and Kasmir, nothing could keep my mind off what I had just done. I have had dreams about Zubeda since meeting her and I will never stop praying for her.
The day we had to give the cows was the biggest relief of my life when I spotted Zubeda in the crowd of villagers and not only that but she was holding rope, rope ready to collect three goats. I was so overwhelmed with pure happiness because instead of being selected for the cattle programme, she and Kasmir had been selected to receive goats instead. This gave me some reassurance that she was going to be better off, Alhamdulillah.
This day alone has set in stone that I will be returning to Africa with Mission Possible to work with the people of Tanzania and I hope I meet all the people of Meka village again one day, especially Zubeda and her family. I would love to see the impact Mission Possible has on the people and Insha’Allah their lives will continue to grow.
Ian Yunus Daley