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Javon Liburd: Don’t despair, hang in there

Javon Liburd: Don’t despair, hang in there

Sometimes it's a struggle to get people interested in your cause

Javon Liburd explores how to deal with disappointment when the change you expected your actions to bring about, doesn’t become the reality.

To work so hard, and do so much – manpower and finances exhausted – without reaching the target you had in mind, is a hard beating to the back.

Your mind races. What have you done wrong? Is this really worth it? Am I really making a difference? Am I wasting my time?


In 2013, my organisation, Joining Heads, Hearts and Hands (J3H), facilitated a number of developmental sessions to assist students in their studies, and guide parents in supporting their child’s educational advancement.

After weeks of advertisement – exhausting all mediums possible – a session that catered for 50 students and 30 parents, attracted 22 students and six parents. This was a heavy blow to me. My focus shifted to what-ifs, followed by doubts and a sense of giving up and walking away.

But then I remembered my “why”. Why am I here? Why did I host such an event?

My perspective changed completely. The outcome may have far deceeded what I expected, but that was not my fault or the fault of those who are willing to learn.

And this is key. We blame ourselves for persons not making themselves available for some sense of advancement or help. But there is nothing we can do about it.

Focus on what matters

An old Caribbean adage says, you can bring the cattle to the water, but you cannot make them drink. It is not your fault. The priority should be the cattle who are drinking, the persons who are willing to learn or stretch out their hands unashamedly for assistance. This is your “why”.

At the beginning of your efforts, I guarantee that your aim was never quantified. You wanted to change lives, offer education, better infrastructure, better housing, feed your community, increase job opportunities for youth and so many more worthy causes.

You do this and those who want to benefit, benefit. The others wallow in misery, until their pride or any other deterring factors are melted away.

Nzonda Fotsing Kenneth of Cameroon runs the Nzoto Foundation, which seeks to empower persons to solve their own problems.

“I want to reduce poverty and bring peace in the minds of people in my community as much as I can,” he said. He shared that for some time his organisation has battled with disappointing outcomes, but has now accepted the fact that some persons refuse to be helped.

“There were times when we set out to impact 50 young persons. But at the end we got only ten who went on skills training with us. Now it’s not really about the number, but about the impact made individually.”

He continued, “We put together the resources we have for persons who have an interest in advancement.  We work with those who are willing and the results are met with great satisfaction.”

Cows at a river

"An old Caribbean adage says, you can bring the cattle to the water, but you cannot make them drink." Image credit: Rev V Deuren.

Making impact

A big factor which causes a huge rift between expected change and actual outcome, is how one measures the impact of their efforts. If one focuses on impacting their community, school, country all at once, this will serve as a driving force of failure.

Focusing on one individual at time will have far more impact, as they set out and live as an example and encouragement to others. For some, the level of impact an effort makes on a society depends on the amount of manpower an organisation possesses.

President of the Rotaract Club in the British Virgin Islands, Selvyn Dawson, shared how he engages youths and his community.

“To have full impact, I assessed change expectancy and change reality of past events,” he explained. “Members participated more in club socials than projects. So I decided to add a social aspect to all projects in order to attract membership participation.”

Getting through the rough

In my humble view, no person is great unless they have been through the rough.

The rough is where you learn more. The rough gives you invaluable experience and hones your cognitive thinking. The rough is where your patience, maturity and wisdom reach ultimate capacity.

So, it is imperative that you keep your focus on your why. Because that is your guide through the rough.