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Dispatches from the field: Dreaming to dance

GiveDirectly’s field team is at the heart of our operations. Our field officers explain the program to potential recipients, provide ongoing education and support, and collect detailed data at every stage of the process. They act as the first line of defense, interacting with recipients on a daily basis. Occasionally, they share stories with the rest of the team, and we’ll be sharing some of their stories with our readers. This week, Japheth writes about a recipient whose passion inspires and motivates him to go to work every day.


As a GiveDirectly field officer on the registration team, I get to interact with recipients on a daily basis. Over the course of my time with GiveDirectly, I have met many recipients and been inspired by many of their stories. This is the story of one recipient who had a profound impact on me.

In most major towns and cities, you see on every corner beggars asking for money. Some have disabilities; others are homeless. I believe that if given the opportunity, they could do jobs to earn money, rather than beg on the streets.

I recently visited Peter, nicknamed Ous Papa, a 50-year-old man and beneficiary of GiveDirectly. Ous Papa had an accident a long time ago and lost one of his legs; as a result, his wife left him. He therefore takes care of his 80-year-old widowed mother alone. They are in absolute poverty — he has a small grass-thatched house, with mud walls and floor.

He has old crutches that he uses to help him walk and do chores. They are quite old, and therefore difficult to work with. In spite of that, he still wakes up early to work on the farm. When we met, I asked him what he was planning to do with the transfer he was going to receive from GiveDirectly. These were his words: “I would buy a leg.”

I did not understand why he would buy a leg, when he could get a wheelchair that would help him move quickly and easily. He explained that he loves dancing and that he can’t dance in a wheelchair. Furthermore, once he got an artificial leg, he would be able to work, just like anybody else. He said that he would put the rest of the money into his farm, and later get a wife to keep him company and help him take care of his old mother.

I found it really inspiring that a 50-year-old can be in absolute poverty and still dream of dancing. He did not have to go to town to beg for money; he managed to succeed, despite his accident, and keep his dream of dancing alive. Meeting people like Ous Papa is what motivates me to wake up in the morning, and makes me feel not like I’m going to work, but going to change lives – and be inspired in the process.