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Mission Possible 2017 blog: Wheelchairs, Goats and Emotions

27th October, 2017

Sometimes it's the volunteers on Mission Possible who get surprised. On the third and fourth day of their deployment in Tanzania, the quartet in Team Charlie - Hiba Ayaz, Shanaz Asif,Taher Ahmed and Tauqeer Abbasi - were overjoyed on days that involved handing out bikes, wheelchairs and goats.

Day 3

After an emotional day yesterday, we all thought we knew what to expect on our third day. To our surprise however we found out that the beneficiaries that didn’t receive aid would be put on a list for other projects from Islamic Help and Insha’Allah they would be reassessed and be eligible for other assistance.

The weight on our shoulders and hearts was lifted and we looked forward to meeting our first beneficiaries of the day. Having seen the wheelchairs, we were aware of the limitations of what we were able to provide. Unfortunately, all three beneficiaries we interviewed weren’t able to receive the wheelchair as their disability didn’t allow them to use it.

As a group we discussed and asked the Islamic Help team if we were able to donate the wheelchair to Aisha from yesterday as she stole all of our hearts. She is a 10-year-old girl who loves school, enjoys studying and is doing great in all her subjects. Her walk to school is 1km going and coming, but Insha’Allah with the wheelchair she’ll be able to go to school without the struggles of walking on her bad leg and getting tired or hurt.

We also had the opportunity to hand out stock to one of the beneficiaries. He was a wonderful old man who worked hard as a carpenter, a trade he learned from his father. It was beautiful seeing him create his pieces.

After speaking to him we saw he had one leg shorter than the other, and we also realised he needed tools for his work and a bike as his existing bike had no brake and he had to ride to Pangani which is 30km each way.

We had no idea what was in the bag of aid he was to be given, what kind of stock he was receiving, but we were all incredibly surprised and happy to see him receive all the tools he needed. It felt so rewarding when we saw his face.

His reaction was pure joy and happiness, he was such a humble man and felt blessed not only for us being there but for his own village and its leader who knew what he lacked for his business. He felt loved from his village and knew he wasn’t alone in this world.

At the end of the day, we got to hand out seeds to 50 beneficiaries and goats as livestock. As a team we had a great time catching the goats and we conquered some of our fears - some of which were deeper than others and some of us may have a bright future as professional goat catchers!

Day 4

Our task was to hand out 15 bikes and 15 bags of maize flour each weighing 25kg each. There was also a nice surprise for us – we found out that Aisha, the little girl who had captured our hearts, would be receiving a wheelchair.

Although we had originally wanted her desperately to have a wheelchair, we had to select Rahema, another young girl, as the beneficiary as her condition was much worse than Aisha’s. Finding out Aisha would also be getting a wheelchair made the group feel over the moon. There had been feelings of regret from day 2 since we told Aisha’s family we couldn’t provide her with a wheelchair.

We travelled to Aisha’s house and handed her the wheelchair and as you can imagine, she was really happy to receive this gift. We spent time with her and tried to bond with Aisha - the children that we have interacted with always seem shy and hesitant at first until they open up to you.
Aisha climbed the wheelchair and was excited to start pedaling which was different to Rahema’s reaction as she was shy and just sat on the wheelchair.

We travelled to a local official’s office where we would distribute the bikes and maize. All the beneficiaries were waiting for us, and there was some laughter with the group as they were making tribal noises once the bikes were handed over. Taher attempted this which made the locals laugh, and this helped everyone break the ice with each other.

Once we finished handing over the bikes, we went into the office and started a chain where we picked up and placed all the maize flour on the floor, then handed these out individually to the beneficiaries.

We had one left to hand out but as the beneficiary was elderly and couldn’t travel, we carried the 25kg bag to this house, each taking it in turns carrying it on our heads (4 of us in total). I would say the house was about a third of a mile away.

When we arrived, it was a surprise I think we weren’t expecting. It was a half-built house away from the main road and away from the rest of the villagers. There a frail old man sitting outside whilst there was a pot on top of a fire. I would say this man’s condition was the worst we have seen since we’ve been in Tanzania.

We explained what we had arrived for, and as he hadn’t been told in advance it was a very pleasant surprise for him. I believe this either topped or matched the emotion levels that we reached with Aisha on the first day. 

We put ourselves in the man’ shoes and imagined what it would be like to sit there all day without being able to move, with nothing to do and not much help. We saw his bed, which was also broken, whilst the rain was pouring through the half-built house. Very, very upsetting and this just makes you realise that you should be very happy with what you have, and never take a thing for granted.

The day ended on a positive note. On our way back, Yaseen and Zubairy (two of the IH Tanzania team) took us fruit hunting. We came across a tree which had fruit shaped like a coconut, and we all attempted to knock this fruit off the tree. Yaseen finally did this after having dozens of attempts. It was a sour fruit (we don’t know what it’s called in English). We travelled back to the lodge at that the end of day 4, an eventful emotional day which will definitely stick with us for a while.