Why Work For Someone Else?

Why Work For Someone Else?

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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. 


It is through the people on the front lines, like Zemzem Kefir, that real change happens. As one of nearly 200 Community Facilitators employed by the project, Zemzem works with 20 VESAs (comprising 350 households). Climate change adaptation, nutrition, women’s empowerment… you name it, Zemzem can make it happen.

I grew up in this area, so I know the challenges people face, and I wanted to help. First I worked as a health extension worker, then as a community nurse, and a few years ago I became a Community Facilitator for GRAD.

As a Community Facilitator I support the project beneficiaries in different ways, but especially through training. I have taught them the value of saving and encouraged them to save their money in the VESA. I have introduced them to ways they can adapt to climate change. I have provided nutrition training and worked with them to support women’s empowerment. I have also helped them learn how to set up a business.

All of this happens through the VESAs, but my volunteers and I also go door-to-door to follow up—to see whether they have a garden, how they are managing their livestock fattening businesses, to make sure they are repaying their loans on time. It is important to check.

These days most of our households are no longer expecting support from the government safety net program or from other organizations. They are busy working and earning, putting their energy into lots of different income-generating activities. They have been able to increase their incomes, and now they have either self-graduated or are ready to graduate from the safety net.

It feels good to have been a part of these changes. And now, as the project phases out, I am leaving with some good lessons for my own life. Lately I have been thinking: why should I keep working for someone else, expecting a salary, when I now know very well how to go out and create a profitable small business of my own? 

Photo Credit: Kelley Lynch