Full Bellies, Smiling Babies

Full Bellies, Smiling Babies

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You don’t break the cycle of poverty by giving people money. You break it by giving them power. This has been CARE’s mission from the start – to give people the ability to take control of their futures, and not let it be dictated by assistance.

Every success story reinforces this mission. That’s why we’re publishing a series of success stories from CARE Ethiopia’s GRAD Program (Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development), a microfinancing program funded by USAID wherein communities set up Village Economic and Social Associations for its members (VESAs).

VESAs give members of the community a chance to buy into a savings and loan program, from which they can pull small, targeted loans to start new businesses and enterprises. It has been a wild success. Members are trained in financial management, adaptation to climate change, promotes behavioral changes in husbands and men, nutritious meals for children and there is an almost 100% repayment rate. Most importantly, it shows women that when the power is in their hands, great things can happen, and entire communities can prosper.

The program shows that when you give someone not assistance, but opportunity, just how far they will run with it. 


Since joining GRAD, Gebiyanesh Ambaw and her husband have received nutrition training that helps them support the health and well-being of their family, especially its tiniest members. 

Previously, I didn’t know anything about nutrition. All of us ate the same food. So if the adults were eating injera and wat, the children ate that too. Through the project, I learned that children—especially when they are just starting to eat solid food—need a balanced diet.

I have really seen the impact of this with my youngest child. For all of the others, breastfeeding was their only source of nutrition other than adult food. So whenever I would try to leave them in the house with their older siblings and go outside to work, they would cry and cry because they were still hungry. Most of the time I had no choice but to carry them with me to the field.

But because the youngest ate a balanced diet, life was easy. He was strong and healthy—I don’t remember even a day when he was sick—so I could easily leave him with the older children while I took care of the vegetable garden or helped my husband in the field. Working together we were finally able to give proper attention to what we were growing—weeding it, watering it, like that. As a result, the food was of better quality and there was more of it, not only for us to eat, but also for us to sell. 


Photo Credit: Kelley Lynch