Gifts of Lasting Change

Gifts of Lasting Change

Publication info

Michelle Nunn

By saving pennies a day, girls in Kenya’s largest slum fulfill a new season of promise and possibility.

We have reached the stage with our kids at ages 11 and 13 where it can be hard to think about what to get them for Christmas – especially since they have indicated they don’t want clothes and they have made clear that my favorite gifts to give – books – are not at the top of their list. It is difficult to think of something that would be truly useful, or greatly appreciated, or meaningful in some long-term way. So when I listened to this story last week from PRI about a CARE Village Savings and Loan Association, I was reminded of what it means to give and receive a really extraordinary gift.

PRI poignantly tells the story of 15-year-old Halima Mohammed and her friends who live in the Kibera slum in Nairobi – along with hundreds of thousands of other people. It’s the largest slum in sub-Saharan Africa. The PRI story tells of CARE’s work in cultivating a group of young girls who have created a Village and Savings Loan program. They meet every week and put a little money away – as little as 10 cents or as much as a few dollars. They use their money to make jewelry and small crafts that they sell, and they have started an “arcade” where, for a few minutes and a few cents, kids can play games on a gaming console. They are using their earnings to buy menstrual pads so they can keep attending school without interruption. They have dreams to fulfill and not just for themselves. As Halima declares, “We can change Kenya.” 

I was in Kibera a few months ago (check out the one-minute visual tour of Kibera for a life-like experience) and I met a few dozen of CARE’s Village and Saving Loan participants. They showed me their lock boxes where they keep their savings, and they told me of how they had supported one another to start small businesses or how they helped one another through the death or illness of a family member. The women told me that their new-found economic independence had changed their standing within their families and their communities. They said they had used their earnings to keep their children in school or to ensure they had three meals a day. Every single one of the participants had a story to tell of how their participation had changed their possibilities and their lives. And what is really extraordinary is that there are 5 million girls and women participating in CARE’s Village and Savings and Loan Associations around the world. Imagine Halima’s story of change lived out by millions of girls and women. 

So as I think about gifts this season – those we give and those we receive – I am filled with gratitude that I get to be part of an organization that gives the most important possible gifts to people throughout the year. 

The creation of these CARE savings circles has given Halima the gift of a community of girls to connect with to pursue their dreams, the means to do so, the affirmation to believe that they can and should be going to school – and leading not only their communities but even their country. So, in the spirit of the Holiday Season, thanks to so many of you who have made gifts to CARE and therefore to Halima and her friends. Your gifts are truly useful, appreciated, lasting – and life-changing. 


CARE’s Village Savings and Loan Associations are active in Kenya’s Kibera slum. One of the world’s largest slums, it is pictured here in 2012. By saving and investing pennies a day through CARE's VSLA program, girls and young women today are forging new hope in Kibera. I was happy – and inspired – to meet some of them on a recent trip.  (Erin Lubin/CARE)