There is always a moment that feels like you are in a vacuum and all the air around you is being sucked away. It happens seconds before panic sinks in. The fear sings a story of how alone you are in the world and how you don’t have what you need to make it out of where you are. If we listen to those lyrics, we always lose.
It takes great courage and even greater strength to close the book on that fear and reconnect to our innate ability to persevere.
Maybe it’s because her name is Happy that the distance to her namesake is shorter. Maybe it’s because she is a mother and has no choice but to be a living example of what’s possible. But for Happy Allen, living in fear was something she was always pulling herself out of and a place she refused to stay.
Happy is 36 years old and has been married for 6 years. She has spent most of that time alone with her one child. Her husband left to find work in Dar es Salaam when she became pregnant. He may come home once a year but mostly, he does not come home at all. Before he left, they rented a house and made plans for the future. He made promises. He said he would send her money. But that comes as often as he does. So the responsibility falls on Happy to pay the rent and raise their child.
Happy is smart. She found out about a loan program to help women start small businesses. She knew little about the shoe business but felt it had promise as shoes are something everyone needs. She borrowed money to buy sealed sacs of shoes in Moshi, a city some distance from where she lives. These sacs were filled with used shoes. There was no guarantee of what the quality of the shoes would be. Every sac was a gamble. Her profit would be dictated by the luck of her draw. Sometimes she would open the sac and there wouldn’t be one matched pair. She would have to take the loss, ration the food that week and move on. She never let it steal her joy. She would sing to her child and paint a picture in the sky of a better life to come. Some weeks went well, some did not. But she always drove her panic away.
Unfortunately, several weeks in a row, Happy’s sacs of shoes failed her. The loan program did not care about her misfortune. They cared only that the loan would be paid and paid on time. She was threatened. They would take what she had that had any value if she did not pay. It took amazing will not to sink under the pressure.
Save the Rain arrived in Happy’s village and put a call out for Women to sign up for work. The village leadership knew of Happy and her struggle. They recommended her for the job.
Since Happy joined Save the Rain, her life has changed. Her fear is not welcome anymore. The fight is over – fear lost. Happy works at Save the Rain’s farm and spends her day growing food, trees, vegetable starts, and tree saplings for all of the organization’s efforts. With her first paycheck, she paid off her shoe business loan.
With her earnings, Happy easily pays her rent, has been saving up to buy land and build a house on her own, without her husband. She has enough to pay for her child’s school fees. She took the knowledge she gained from her work and applied it at home. Her garden is so successful that she sells the surplus to her neighbors. With every step, she passes what she learns to her child.
As for the newfound team she proudly belongs to, the women she works with every day, she knows they are there for her as she is for them. Her joy permeates the farm and is so contagious. No matter where Happy is, the people around her are happy as well.