Tearing Down the Past to Build the Future

Tearing Down the Past to Build the Future

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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. 


For Mulu Aberra, a life of severe hardship meant living day to day. Through GRAD, Mulu has moved from subsistence to security and is able to plan for tomorrow. 

After my husband left me with our two children, we led a very harsh life. I worked as a daily laborer on other people’s farms. What I earned was barely enough for our daily consumption—not more than that. While I worked, my children stayed at home. I left them with a little food, and they stayed there the whole day. At that time, I never really gave any thought to changing my life. I only thought about getting enough to survive the day.

It was only after joining GRAD that I started to think about changing my life. As a VESA member, I was saving and also learning about doing business and managing money. And then I took a microfinance loan to buy some sheep. It was that money that made me look to the future. I made up my mind: I was going to transform my life.

I am now more financially secure than I have been in my whole life. I repaid my loan and took another. Now I have two cows and seven shoats (sheep and goats), and I am fattening two oxen. I tore down our old house, which was made of sticks and grass, and built a good house. And I have a plan to do more: I am trying new activities to generate more income, like grain trading, and I’m collecting stones to build a shop.

Now, whether GRAD is here or not, I have the confidence to keep going and keep changing. I have the VESA, I have my savings, and I have the knowledge and skills I need. I will not slide back. 

Photo Credit: Kelley Lynch