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The Impact of One

The Impact of One

For a crowd of thousands in a lonely, deserted place, it was just five loaves and two fish in the hands of one willing boy. In a North African country of almost 12 million people with every kind of hope and need imaginable, it was a single lady with a car. Without a mapping survey, SWOT analysis, strategic logframe, or a fat budget, there is no way one woman and a car could go the distance to meet every kind of hope and need imaginable, let alone transform the world. . . right?

“Come with me this weekend,” proposed my housemate about a month ago. “It will be a good chance for you to immerse yourself in the language and enjoy some good home cooking.”

She was preparing to drive two sisters from the city to their parents’ house in the country. It was a chance for the sisters, lately holed up together in one very tiny dorm room as one looked after the other going through surgery and then cancer treatments, to skip riding in a crowded, COVID-infested bus for 2 hours and to visit family and enjoy some fresh air and comfortable beds. I hemmed and hawed as I considered all the work I knew to be pending for both my housemate and myself which would have to be “abandoned” for almost three days. But as the four of us sped down the highway a few days later, seeing our sick friend singing, clapping, and laughing cast a new light on my sense of priority.

In the car, the topic of war in the Ukraine causing the rise in the cost of wheat and the resulting shortages in flour and pasta in the stores forced its way into the merriment. We stopped into a few stores as we neared our destination with the hope that the flour and pasta shortages experienced in the capital city might not yet have hit the southern country town. A few small bags of flour were present here and there, but the shelves were mostly empty.

It was, however, the whirlwind of a vigorous, can-do aunt fired by gratitude in seeing her nieces safely home for the moment and suddenly given wings by access to my housemate’s car that produced more than 10 kilograms of semolina by the end of the visit. The aunt hopped into my housemate’s car and drove from shop to shop until she had exhausted her personal network of contacts. 

Back in the capital, another friend, a single lady who’d had to close her bread-baking business recently, received a phone call that made her cry with joy and relief as my housemate told her to fire up her oven; she’d have bread for Monday morning’s breakfast crowd. I realized that our hunt for flour hadn’t been for our private benefit.

Instead, my housemate’s vigilance had linked two strangers in an act of generosity.

Returned Monday morning, we found our project plans still intact and our “abandoned work” still waiting, but one willing, vigilant lady with a car had helped to bring comfort to the sick, speech to the mute (that's me), livelihood to the needy, and hope to each in the process.

Never underestimate the impact of one.


As I type this, I hear my housemate in the next room laughing her friendly laugh on the telephone with an acquaintance she’s just made. They are talking about plans to meet. It will just be a quick coffee, a few minutes conversation, a short pause in a full day.

Who knows what the outcome will be?

About the Author: Kimberly is an IDEAS Associate and agricultural specialist. She works alongside local farmers in rural North Africa, giving them access to resources, techniques, information and hope. Enjoy other blogs by Kimberly, such as Surplus in a Season of Scarcity.