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08 October 2015

The Novelty of Milk and Tea

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Muslim Hands carries out livelihoods projects all over the world. After a series of devastating floods hit Tarnab village in Pakistan the MH team went out there. The flood had swept away livestock, tools and even homes and the already poor villagers were in a bad way. After more floods hit Pakistan this year we wanted to share the experience of some of our team members with you.

It was noon, the sun was beaming on our heads as we went through a small alleyway in front of what seemed like a doorway covered by cloth. The guide with us shouted something and a lady with a bright pink scarf popped her head around. Raziya looked nervously at us and welcomed us into her home – the guide remained outside.
As we entered the smell struck me first – it was pungent and overwhelming. This wasn’t like the other homes – I didn’t know where to move – not out of courtesy, but simply because there was no room for me to move. Four mud walls carved out the shape of a room barely the size of the MH guest room – with the sky as the ceiling. Cramped in the small room were two straw beds, each with an elderly lady sleeping on them – beside one of the beds were two cows – beside which there was a little wooden stove.
She looked at us in anticipation – we smiled, hugged her and took our places on the floor. As I looked around me – emotion taking over – my mind wondered what could I possibly ask this women that I could not see right in front of my eyes. Her life was written all over her facial expressions and there was no explanation required for the room around us.

And so, I did what I seemingly know best – talk about how hot it was especially with our hijabs on – but in Urdu. I still have no idea whether it translated to what I intended. But, she laughed, holding up the end of her scarf to cover her teeth.
There were tears and hugs as she told us her story. Having lost her husband at a very young age (the age she could not recollect) Raziya lives with her blind grandmother and elderly mother for whom she provides. I asked how she earned her income.

She looked down and told us how she used to look through garbage to find plastic to sell, but ever since she received a cow from MH she has been able to sell fresh milk every morning to local families and to the nearby market from which she buys food. She was also looking to have a mud roof built with some of the money she said, with a beaming smile.
One of the elderly ladies waking up –summoned me to sit on the bed with her. Trying my utmost to ignore the cows head just inches from my face – she wanted also to tell me her life story.

I asked her, 'So what’s the best thing about the cow?' She sat up and immediately shouted with excitement 'doood' – milk! Elated at her joy I hug her and her daughter explained that it’s not the money they receive from selling the milk that brings them joy. It’s the fact that after 35 years, her mother and grandmother have finally been able to have tea again – with milk! A novelty they thought they’d never experience again.
As we kissed the ladies goodbye, Raziya’s elderly grandmother hugged me tightly and said, 'Thank you for the cow. I don’t know who gave us this cow but I pray for them every day'.

That night as we travelled back to Islamabad it thundered and rained heavily. The car was eerily silent as we pondered each to ourselves how would Raziya and her elderly mothers get through the night with no roof to keep out the rain.

For families that are already struggling to eke out an existence, disasters and conflicts can devastate their lives in a way we cannot imagine. Through our livelihoods projects we support communities to support themselves and our emergency response teams are their on the ground to help families get back on their feet. You can donate to our livelihoods and emergency funds via the links below.

By Tijen Horoz, Senior Communications Editor


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Established in 1993, Muslim Hands is an aid agency and NGO helping those affected by poverty, conflict and natural disaster in over 20 countries worldwide.