Mission Possible 2019 Blog: Heartbreak to Elation
The fourth day of the Mission Possible 2019 deployment to Tanzania saw Team A -Kaleem Abbas, Nazia Choudhry and Yusuf Kassam - distribute some of the aid they had raised with their fundraising. The process involved interviewing potential beneficiaries and then the crunch - telling those who did not meet the needs criteria that they could not be helped. It is arguably the most intense and certainly the most emotional aspect of Mission Possible and as Nazia Choudhry writes, the emotions go from heartbreak to elation
We started off with our usual journey to the village but with one major difference - we didn’t get stuck in the mud! Yay! This made the journey to the village much quicker than normal and that was a welcome thing for me for more than just the reason of travel time.
Today was the day I was looking forward to the most. Distribution day. We would be taking the goats, chickens and solar panels we had been interviewing our beneficiaries for and distributing to those we had selected based on the needs criteria.
The last thing anyone wants to do is let down a person in need. For me saying no doesn’t come easy, especially seeing the situations that most people here are in. The remote villages of Tanga have to live and survive in harsh conditions and I definitely wasn’t looking forward to saying no even more so than in daily life.
The livelihood team had discussed through the previous evening and decided upon who we felt needed these items the most.
Prior to us being able to distribute though came the tough part - letting those beneficiaries we’d interviewed, but not chosen to receive aid, know that they hadn’t been selected.
But I understand what Islamic Help is trying to teach us with this experience. As much as we may want to, we can’t help everyone. Every situation and need has to be individually assessed and acted upon.
The funds us volunteers raised and brought along with us have done so much but they aren’t unlimited, unfortunately. I vividly remember Kam telling us during training ‘when you get to your target, don’t stop fundraising as when you get to Africa you always wish you had done more to do more’. He wasn’t wrong.
The Feeling of Dread
Going to see our first beneficiary to explain they hadn’t been selected had me filled with dread and anxiety. Walking towards the beneficiary’s home, a million things were running through my mind. Had we picked the right people to say no to? Did these people really not deserve the aid over the others? How would they react when they find out we hadn’t selected them?
With my mind racing, we sat down and looking at the beneficiary, (who we were meeting for the first time as his wife undertook the interview portion on his behalf due to him not being available the day we came), my heart sank as I attempted to clear my mind of all the thoughts and focus on wording how we would break the news to him.
Fortunately Yusuf stepped up and began the conversation thanking them for allowing us to come out and see them. Thoughts still racing as our Tanzania staff translated the words Yusuf had spoken over to them, I leaned in and asked if I could help break the news.
I had come on this journey to help as many people as possible but I had also come with the intent to push myself out of my comfort zone, so I realised this was something - as uncomfortable as it was for me - that I had to do.
Between us Yusuf, Kaleem and I explained gently to the beneficiaries that we understood their struggles but had decided from our interviews that there were other beneficiaries who did require the aid more than themselves at this time and we were sorry we couldn’t help them in this moment.
The man turned to us and thanked us which took me by surprise. I didn’t really know what to expect with his reaction but I wasn’t expecting the gratitude portrayed, simply for us having come out just to speak to them despite us giving him news I’m sure he did not want to hear.
It broke my heart in more ways than one. These people who have next to nothing can be so gracious and polite despite all the hardships they face. This was amazing to me and makes me want to be better as a person and a reminder that we should be thankful for every action incurred by people for us.
We moved onto the second beneficiary we had to let down and again I was surprised to receive a very similar reaction to the news. My heart feeling a little heavy, we walked away once again saddened but understanding what charities regularly face when providing aid.
Our team leader pulled us to one side to see how we were doing and then gave us a very pleasant and welcome surprise. Kiren proceeded to tell us that we were done delivering bad news and despite putting us through the motions all of our interviewed beneficiaries, plus an additional 5 that were chosen by the village governor, for each aid category would be receiving aid from us today!
I went from heartbroken to elated in a split second! To find out the aid we had raised could go this far to help had me feeling so grateful to every person who had helped make this possible. For all of you who may be reading this, thank you so much for everything you helped make possible, I could not have done this without each and every one of you.
Providing the aid itself was a great experience and a lot of fun. The villagers receiving the aid gathered in certain areas of the village designated out for the drops.
First we did poultry farming distribution and had to physically catch the chickens and hand them over to the recipients.
We had a few escapees but managed to detain all the chickens and hand them over to the beneficiaries. The smiles on everyone’s faces clearly portrayed to me how much this meant to them.
Secondly we distributed goats in a similar way. This was a much funnier experience - trying to grab a goat’s leg as it charges past you is not an easy feat, we had a lot of fun with this one. Picture stubborn goats once grabbed refusing to move and rooted to one spot and escapees running and legging it across the field. The beneficiaries were at our side laughing away as they helped us capture the goats to be able to take them home and begin providing more for themselves and their families.
The third lot of aid we were able to provide was to deliver around 30 bikes to secondary school children who have to walk 16km a day to get to school and back home. The thought of how much one little bicycle can do for someone truly makes me feel humble.
At home I personally tend to drive even short distances rather than walk, and these children travel all that distance by foot in blistering heat to be able to gain an education. I felt ashamed thinking about this but overjoyed at the thought of how much this could change their lives for the better.
The final distribution of the day was for solar panels. One solar panel system was set aside for the school we had been helping renovate, and it was great news to hear that we were doing even more in that aspect for them. The other 9 beneficiaries had come out to the Biladi sub village centre to receive their aid.
One of my personal favourite people I have met on this trip was amongst this group. He wasn’t one of our interviewees but amongst the 5 beneficiaries chosen by the village governor. He was an elderly gentleman who captured my heart with his big smile and huge personality. He was so gracious and continuously thanked us and shook our hands for what we were providing him with, and his positivity was infectious and brightened everything around him.
Despite having so little and lived a very tough life, the fact he could be this way was beautiful to see and filled my heart with joy every time I looked at him or was around him.
The day ended on a very happy note and coming home I felt a real sense of achievement and fulfilment that left me wanting more and extremely excited to see what the next day would bring.