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Cheick Tidiane Diarra
Date of Enrollment
July 2007
Cheick Tidiane Diarra in his stall at the Sévaré market

Cheick Tidiane Diarra, 41 years old, was born with a physical disability affecting his legs. But that did not stop him from achieving his dreams. Here is his incredible story:

I was born into an extremely poor family with very limited means. Regardless, they had the courage to send me to school, which I attended until the 10th grade. Due to my disability, I was eventually forced to abandon my schooling.

I refused to accept resignation as the answer; I needed to prove that I was as capable as anyone else. I started looking for work, and after a few months a small water management organization hired me to tend a water fountain where I began selling water. I stayed at my post way past sunset, and at times much later into the evening. The dismal salary of 5000 Malian Francs (approximately $10 USD) didn’t allow me to meet my needs. My priority at the time was to buy myself a tricycle (like a wheelchair), which my parents could not afford.

Then, the water management organization went bankrupt due to mismanagement, and I found myself in an even more precarious situation than before. Despite this, I didn’t start begging. Since I firmly believe in the saying “he who seeks, finds,” I continued to persevere and started selling small goods and foods (tea, sugar, and candy). This is how I was introduced to ESPOIR (a Trickle Up partner agency in Mali) in 2007, who enrolled me in Trickle Up’s poverty alleviation program. Twenty-five men and women with disabilities were selected to form a savings group. We were first given business training, and then each member received a grant of 50,000 Malian Francs (approximately $100 USD). I used these funds, as well as a loan from my savings group to expand my business by diversifying my products. Today, I sell food and general supplies like tea, soap, sugar and light bulbs. Even more, I was able to build myself a stall in the marketplace.

Before Trickle Up, I would rarely save because my income didn’t allow me to do so regularly, and I also just didn’t know how. Training has helped me greatly in organizing my business activities and personal finances. I learned how to save regularly with the group (700 Malian France per week or $1.25 USD), and continue to do so. I also save on my own on a weekly basis. With the savings and the group loans I am able to diversify my business activities, contribute to my family’s income, as well as purchase goods for leisure. Two years ago, I bought myself a motorized tricycle that allows me to go long distances to sell my goods. I can also now temporarily hire employees as needed and pay them according to the services they provide.

Only work pays off!

I’ve always had one thing in mind: to be my own boss.

Today I am consulted with in all family affairs. My income helps me take care of my mother and my brothers if they ever fall ill, although sometimes it is difficult when business is slow. Often, when my friends come to ask me for help, they say, “It should be us helping you, but you were more intelligent and braver than us.” I advise them that, “There is no recipe for success. You have to persevere, be motivated and even lucky, even if you think there’s no hope. Not to mention the importance of having the support of your family and friends.”

But I do not consider myself successful, far from it actually.

Despite his successful business, Cheick Tidiane Diarra refuses to become complacent. He admits that improving his social status is his main driving force. This desire to succeed is also driven by recognizing his parents’ sacrifices and support.

“Having a disability is not easy, especially with poor parents. But it has become more of a strength than a handicap. At first, I had a difficult time coming to terms with my disability, especially when I was going to school. Now, I realize it is an asset. My goal is to get married, have a big store, and build a house. It will take time, but if God gives me a long and healthy life, I will do it,” Diarra says with a small but determined smile.


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