Economic Empowerment: Helping Hardworking Parents
When loans transformed a woman’s life, she transformed her
The best place to stay in Chongwe, Zambia, is Graka Lodge, a 31-bedroom hotel that boasts
the town’s only swimming pool. Dignitaries such as former President Levy
Mwanawasa have rented the presidential suite.
The owner, Grace Graka, employs a staff of 24. She also owns
rental properties, the local hardware store, and a small market. She has given
back to the community by funding a women’s ward at the hospital and by building
girls’ dormitories at the secondary school.
“Graka Lodge is God’s lodge,” says Grace. “The wealth I have and I
am still getting is not mine; God is merely using me as a conduit to pass it
over to others who are in need.”
Given Grace’s success, it’s hard to believe that 21 years ago, she
was in trouble. Her husband died, leaving her with nine children to care for.
Then another blow: Grace had a stroke.
Still, she walked bravely into World Vision’s VisionFund office in
Chongwe and asked for a small loan to purchase chickens to sell for
As World Vision’s microfinance institution, VisionFund dispenses small loans for people to
begin or grow their own businesses—everything from sewing equipment and capital
to start a bakery to the chickens Grace planned to buy. In many communities
where World Vision runs sponsorship programs, you’ll also find a VisionFund
The VisionFund loan officers were reluctant. Grace was high risk:
a single mother with nine children, no husband, no collateral, and no business
experience. At first, they declined to give her a loan. But Grace was
persistent, and she convinced them to take a chance on her.
With the first loan, she bought 100 chickens. She repaid the loan.
Then she got a second loan, bought 200 chickens, and repaid that loan. Then she
got a third loan, bought pigs, and repaid that loan.
At the same time, Grace started a guest house out of her home,
calling it Aaron’s Den in honor of her late husband. A steady stream of
visitors paid to stay at Aaron’s Den, but when they did, Grace and her children
gave up their beds to guests and the family slept on the floor. She had a
promising business, but no direction on how to grow it without her family
paying a price.
“My small children asked me, ‘Mummy, is this the kind of business
you are talking about, and is this how we are going to live?’” Grace remembers.
“I was perplexed. I looked at the child who asked the question, and I had no
The question nagged at her. “That night
I couldn’t sleep,” she says. “I kept crying to God and praying to him to lift
me and direct me to where he wanted me to be in this business so that I
could have a proper answer to tell my children why I made them sleep on the
In time, their changed lives provided
the answer. Grace’s son Aaron just graduated from the University of Zambia.
Daughter Lillian is getting her degree in China, where Grace travels to buy
materials for the lodge.
Though Grace’s children weren’t
sponsored, the family lives in one of World Vision’s development areas, so they
receive many of the same benefits, like access to VisionFund microloans, that
sponsored children and their families do. World Vision’s holistic development
model includes everyone in the community, because what’s good for people in
Chongwe is good for the sponsored children living there.
Grace remains humble. “Recently, the
Zambian government chose me from all lodge owners in Zambia to speak to people
in [other] countries where they took me such as India, South Africa, and a few
others,” she says. “This is God’s will to inspire people, especially women,
through me, not that I am the best.”
Next for Grace: a dream of taking in
orphans. She never stops. This Grace is truly amazing.
Story by Kari Costanza, first published in World Vision Magazine, March 2016