When I met Grace Kapila Shilimbwa in rural Zambia, I had no idea about the story behind the owner of the premier guesthouse in the area. Standing by the recently added feature, a swimming pool, I was deeply curious to find out a little more about Grace’s background and journey.
Grace lost her husband in 1996. “My husband was providing for the family, and I was merely supplementing his efforts, but now, things were different; I had to provide all that was needed.”
After making several attempts to start a business, Grace sought help from a World Vision microfinance institution called HARMOS. With their counsel, she decided to reposition herself and pursue her dream of starting her own restaurant and lodge. This was despite her disability resulting from a stroke she suffered soon after her husband of 20 years had died.
The pain of her loss and the financial stress had taken their toll on her body -- but not her vision.
With a loan from HARMOS, she was able to roof her first structure. With the help of her children, Grace had literally molded bricks and provided the bulk of the labor. But that was just the beginning.
In Malawi, 20-year-old Mercy runs a small grocery shop. When her business was struggling, she received a small loan through World Vision to buy more groceries. "My business is now doing well and... I am a happy person because I am able to buy clothes and learning materials for my children," explains Mercy. ©2011 Wezzie Banda/World vision
Powered by her vision and access to financial services from HARMOS, Grace has now fully recovered from the effects of her stroke and is a proud owner of a 25-room guesthouse.
The guesthouse has a conference room and dining room, and is the only place that has a swimming pool in the area of rural Zambia where she lives.
“I want the facilities that are found in the city to be available here, so that the people of Chongwe [will] not feel left out of the developments, and that the women can also learn from me not to give up on their dreams.”
When I asked Grace what she had in mind next, I was surprised by her response.
“I want to run an orphanage here in Chongwe," she replied. "That is my way of saying 'thank you' to God for healing me and giving me this lodge. I want to take care of children who have nobody to take care of them, and just be there for them.”
She added: “I also want to encourage my fellow women not to despise small beginnings; we all must start from somewhere, then grow.”
How is that for testimony of the true meaning of her name, Grace? The unmerited favor of God!
We're celebrating a milestone this month: World Vision Micro is now 2 years old! Our wish for this year? That more entrepreneurs than ever will be empowered with microloans to help change their lives! Fund a loan today.
Making an investment in the dreams of entrepreneurs like Grace is a sustainable solution to poverty. As their businesses grow and prosper, they can hire additional workers and provide valuable services. Then, when their loan is repaid, it's recycled to help even more small business owners, who can enjoy similar success -- meaning that an entire community can benefit from just one loan!