Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

Global Mamas Interest-Free Equipment Loan Program

As the first of a series of programs to celebrate Global Mamas’ 10 year anniversary, we launched an interest-free equipment loan program in December 2013.  This program was custom-tailored based on feedback from the Mamas to provide them with the equipment most needed to increase productivity.  As most Mamas are paid per item made, this increased productivity means the Mamas can bring home more earnings to support their families.

Sergers (known as knitting machines in Ghana) were selected as the focus of this loan program.  Knitting machines are an essential tool used by the Mamas to create seams and edging on clothing, bags and other Global Mamas items.  However, many of the Mamas lack access to these crucial machines, requiring them to spend valuable time waiting in the market to use public knitting machines.  Our hope is that through the purchase of their own knitting machines, the Mamas will be able to save time and improve the quality of the items they make in their shops.

To implement this loan program, we engaged in an formal application process with the Mamas and selected only participants with strong financial records. We also ensured that they continue to follow the World Fair Trade Organization’s fair trade principles.  A contract was then entered into with each participating Mama, stating she repay the interest-free loan through deductions from her regular payments from Global Mamas.  As a result of successful development and implementation of this first equipment loan program, each of our participants received a new knitting machine at the end of 2013!

 

Melanie Popowich: Love. In Human Form.

By The Global Mamas Family

Melanie Popowich - We miss you...
This January, the Global Mamas family lost a piece of our heart with the passing of our most treasured and loved “small girl,” Melanie Popowich.

Mel was the heart and soul of Global Mamas; our friend, mother, nurse, lifeguard, storyteller and colleague. She found beauty in the everyday and the inspiration in everything. Mel brought gravity to those around her. She shared her humor, love and compassion with everything and everyone. She exuded a boundless love and light that stretched to every corner of the globe.

Since Melanie’s passing, her friends and family have donated over $10,000 dollars to Global Mamas in honor of her dream to create the Fair Trade Zone - a textile production center. We are astoundingly grateful for their contributions and the privilege of having Melanie touch our lives.

Melanie’s spirit will forever feed our dreams for Global Mamas into the future.

 

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Stirring Growth Seen at NYIGF

By Alice Grau

Batiking with Mary

The end of January has become a routinely exciting time of year for me! Our new catalog is wrapped up and in our hands and it is time to go to the New York International Gift Fair (NYIGF) to share the new catalog and the vibrant products that fill it with shoppers from around the world. It is both exhausting and invigorating to promote our products that are alive with the stories of the volunteers and producers that are behind each product’s long journey to New York. They are stories that are meant to be shared and passed on, and that is my purpose at NYIGF, to share the stories and sell the product so that the consumer can enjoy the product and feel personally connected to the producer.

 

This show was my fourth experience at the NYIGF and I have realized that our growth at this show is a perfect reflection of the ways the organization in general has grown over the last few years. My first show was January of 2010 and Global Mamas was just one of many African exhibitors housed in the AfricaNOW booth. Though we were grateful to share space with our wonderful friends, the space was limited and it proved hard to find us amidst the crowd. Merchandising our varied products in the space was very challenging. Needless to say, despite my enthusiasm, having just returned from Ghana, sales at my first show were minimal.

 

For the next show in August of the same year, we decided to move out on our own. We applied for funding from the West Africa Trade Hub to host our own booth and applied for admission into to the coveted “Hand Made” section of NYIGF. We were fortunate enough to be accepted for both.

We moved “up” into a 5x5 booth of our very own in the Hand Made Global Design division and saw a direct increase in sales as well as access to a new collection of customers who target hand made products. In 2011 we took another great leap and invested in a 5x20 booth, which is where we still reside. This move was the best yet, improving sales and increasing customer exposure each show. However, this January we saw the most exciting growth yet!

 

We saw a 44% increase in sales from the previous January, attracted 30 new customers and saw increased sales numbers per orders as well. Customers who have been with us for years were suddenly placing orders double their historical size. Every day I walked away from the booth full of joy knowing that we were ensuring the sustainability of this organization and the livelihood of the producers.

 

I believe these sales are a direct reflection of the increased investments that the organization made in itself and the women throughout 2011. Our staff size increased significantly, most notably hiring our first full-time designer and promoting a staff member to Director of Operations in Ghana as well as a full-time customer service representative in the US. Volunteers put countless hours into creating and teaching workshops dedicated to empowering the producers to be stronger artisans and craftspeople. And, the women in the Global Mamas network worked resolutely to apply their learned skills to create a better product for their customers.

 

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A Year in Reflection: Thank You

By Anna Rose Ott


Thank you. Yes, you… you’re the one we want to thank. This year, we watched you share Global Mamas’ hopes and dreams with your friends, co-workers and families. We talk about you often in our circles and have we have decided that you are the best customers in the business. In 2012, with your ever-present support and patience, Global Mamas transformed into something more than we had ever imaged. In 2012….

1. Global Mamas was the 2012 McGuffin Grant Recipient. McGuffin’s talented staff collaborated to create a great promotional campaign, Be The One, to recruit college interns and volunteers. They also re-imaged our website (yes, we were very ready) that will launch in 2013!

2. Moved Prampram production site to Ashaiman! It was a major transition for everyone involved made possible by a grant from the Embassy of France in Ghana.

3. Wisdom Tamakloe was internally promoted (yet again) to General Manager of our Cape Coasts production site. Wisdom joined GM as a Quality Control employee in 2007 and has been climbing the GM ranks ever since.

4. Developed and launched a new Internal Production Management System. Our new database, now tracks all of our raw materials, orders, payments etc. in one place! It was a major undertaking and complete transform from our old system. The new system is working magic across all production sites!

5. We welcomed our first Global Mamas Volunteer Baby, Michitake Stonewall Elliot. Jeb Elliot (West Point Academy) and Emi Yoshidomi-Elliot (JICA) met while volunteering together in Ghana in 2008. Four years, later they are happily married with a lovely baby boy. A Global Mamas love story!

In 2013, lets continue to look towards the future and envision what it could be like to live in a world, the way we dream it to be.

 

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Finding the fun in fundraising

By Melanie Popowich

Product Conception to Fruition

Global Mamas recently embarked on the daunting task of developing a public fundraising campaign to help expand our seventh location in Prampram. We started out by recruiting team USA that included former volunteers Brittany Campanelli & Kiley O'Brien Ruggiero, former intern Aileen Ottenweller and staff members Alice Grau and Kristin Johnson. Renae Adam and Melanie Popowich represented Team Ghana. Brainstorming sessions took place over Skype and vigorous e-mails were sent through cyber space for a few months before the official launch of two online fundraisers on Razoo and Global Giving. On December 1st our fundraisers made their début and by the end of the month, 128 superstars donated $12,223.50! I can vividly remember when the very first donation came through and how excited we all were to be at 1% of our goal. Now, four months later, our fundraiser is just short of $19,000 with 154 donors. As proud as we are at those numbers, the wonderful reality is that we’ve been able to hire 10 new women and provide them with fair and sustainable employment. The Fair Trade Textiles Workshop radiates a whole new energy now as the team works closely filling orders and troubleshooting everyday challenges.

 

We’re not stopping here! We’re still busy applying for grants and planning our ten-year anniversary fundraiser for 2013. A very special thank you to all of the volunteers who’ve assisted us with research for our fundraiser and to the kind and generous donors for joining the movement and sparking a new ambition for greatness in us all!

 

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From Retail to the Source

By Sofia Kim (Volunteer, United States) and Katie Modley (Intern, United States)

From Retail to the Source

Many people would not typically think about who made a product or where it came from upon purchasing an item. Nor would they trace the product to its source. A volunteer, Katie Modley, had the unique opportunity to meet the Global Mamas that made the products that she wears and sells.

 

She first encountered Global Mamas products at a store called Latitudes Fair Trade Store, in Old Towne Warrenton (Virginia). Katie was a volunteer at this store and was tasked with taking inventory of incoming shipments. She noticed that all of the Global Mamas products were labeled with names – the names of the Mamas that carefully handmade the product.

 

Katie never thought she would end up interning in Ghana where the Global Mamas reside. She was based out of the Cape Coast location and spent her time with the Quality Control employees. Her main task was writing the names of the batikers and seamstresses on the tags, the same names she encountered at the Latitudes Fair Trade Store. One day, one of the seamstresses, Julie walked into the office, the same name Katie wrote on products. Julie was no longer just a name but the woman behind many products sold in Ghana and in the United States.

 

After a whirlwind of meeting several Global Mamas, attending a batik workshop and seeing the rigorous standards of quality control; the concept of Fair Trade has become personal for Katie. Fair Trade is not just supporting women entrepreneurs or buying unique products with a distinctly Ghanaian flair; it now has a face or many faces. Interning for Global Mamas has allowed Katie to realize that Latitudes is more than just retail store; it is part of a global community.

 

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2012 Global Mamas of the Year Awards, Cape Coast

By Sofia Kim (Volunteer, United States)

2012 Global Mamas of the Year Awards, Cape Coast

On Saturday, July 21, 2012, Global Mamas held a very special event at the Community Gardens: the Global Mamas of the Year Awards. Melanie and Wisdom presided over the event, and provided entertainment and excitement for all. Prior to the awards announcements, the group enjoyed jollof rice (a popular dish in Ghana), salad and chicken cooked by EliMax, which was a big hit! We did a small icebreaker exercise where we met the people sitting around us, as well as a 'shout outs' to recognize the accomplishments of the women over the past year (had a baby, expanded her shop, sent a child to school, etc).

 

The awards for 2012 were then announced. The award winners from the previous year, announced the winners for 2012. The awards went to:

 

Initiative: Agnes Cole Arthur
Innovation: Sabina Hasford
Leadership: Betty Baiden
Dedication: Jennifer Benedicta Ocran
Staff Member of the Year: George Nassah
Global Mama of the Year: Faustina Antwi

 

The mamas all offered positive feedback about the awards program and left with smiles on their faces. Betty Baiden said to one volunteer, "Thank you for providing us the energy to go and work harder and achieve more in the coming year."

 

A special thank you to Colleen Fulp & Lauren Sheridan for fundraising to make the event possible and for leading the planning committee!

 

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Global Mamas opens Fair Trade Textile Workshop in Prampram

By Liz Lampman

The Prampram staff outside of the workshop with their first finished products

Just five minutes outside of the seaside village of Prampram, a cluster of freshly scrubbed buildings is perched on a rise of sand above a little lagoon and the Atlantic ocean. Upon entrance, visitors gasp and remark on its resemblance to Paradise. This little haven is not a new resort; here, two seamstresses and two batikers are in their second week of work at Global Mamas' newest production site.

 

Christy and Be batik in the courtyard, stamping, dying, washing, and rinsing patterns and colors in two to six yard lengths. At this point, they're working on color and stamping consistency to be sure that their products match the high quality output of other Global Mamas batikers. Christy and Be both have experience batiking, but they talk about how these patterns are much more precise than the batiking they do at home. They've also learned how to cut their own stamps, which is Be's new favorite part of her handicraft.

 

Inside, T.T. goes from room to room checking the sewing and knitting machines and assisting the seamstresses Eunice and Charity. As the resident knitting machine expert, T.T. comes on Mondays to help with maintenance of the equipment. Eunice and Charity are working on Batik Button Baskets, and they eagerly examine a newly arrived sample of Batik Storage Bins. The seamstresses have many years of experience, but they explain that they've mostly made custom dresses so it's challenging to learn how to make these new products. Both Charity and Eunice own their own businesses in Prampram and they will continue to take on orders even though they work from 8 to 5 for Global Mamas. Eunice simply said that she has four children and that she has to work to take care of them. In fact, in the next room, her eight month old daughter Rosemary takes her afternoon nap on a cushioned bench. Everyone likes the working space; it's clean, quiet, and comfortable.

 

This idyllic location has been more than a bit of work, but its gotten off to a great start in under 3 months. Tim and Lydia Richardson arrived in Ghana in August, shortly after their wedding; they are volunteering with Global Mamas for two years and their dedication and hard work have been key to this new adventure for Global Mamas. They look forward to taking on volunteers with bright ideas and innovative energy.

 

All the production here will be completed on site with Global Mamas-owned equipment; this will reduce the cost of production by centralizing materials and by providing immediate feedback and quality control. Eventually, Prampram will be the largest production location of batiked products. The plan is to construct a large facility nearby for the employment of nearly 200 batikers, seamstresses, and quality control personnel. In conversation with Christy and Be they talked about limited opportunities in Prampram; many leave for work in Tema or Accra. Be also explained that many young people need work to stay in school, but as of now, they have difficulty doing so in Prampram. So while this is a different model than the one used in Cape Coast, it will create jobs and stability in the community and also provide opportunities for women to work towards economic independence.

 

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Free Health Workshop for Cape Coast Producers

By Heather Boyd and Melanie Popowich

A health care professional from Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana providing screenings for interested producers in Cape Coast

Through the use of Global Mamas' annual surveys and interviews we became aware that health issues are a constant concern among the women. In response, Global Mamas decided to put together a Health Workshop presented by Dr. Justice Arthur, from the Cape Coast District Hospital. More than 30 women attended this workshop.

 

During the workshop, the Global Mamas were informed about the main illnesses that affect women, their risk factors and the importance of early detection. The women were told important facts, such as that 80% of the new cases of cervical cancer occur in developing countries; therefore the women were informed of prevention, symptoms, as well as how cervical cancer is diagnosed. Dr. Arthur also shared valuable information with the women, such as when and how to perform a self-breast examine, and what signs to look for during the exam; he also informed the women that it is crucial to visit a physician or qualified health care provider as soon as possible because early detection and diagnosis are crucial.

 

Throughout the presentation the women were very participative and asked many questions. After the workshop the women reported to Patience (the Capacity Building and Marketing Manager) that the workshop "enlightened them on how to manage their health".

 

About a month after Dr. Justice Arthur's workshop a team of medical staff from Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana came to Global Mamas' office in Cape Coast, and administered exams, screenings and vaccinations. Many women took advantage of this opportunity to understand and find out about the state of their health.

 

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Batiking with Mary

By Sarah Parish (Volunteer, United Kingdom)

Batiking with Mary

Since 2008, Mary Koomson has been a valued member of the Global Mamas batiking team. Mary’s passion for her work is not only evidenced in the 12 years she has spent perfecting her skills but also in the smile that spreads across her face as she discusses overcoming the challenges associated with her trade.

 

Mary comes from a family of seamstresses but broke away from this tradition by pursuing her interest in batiking at vocational college. As shown in the impressive work she regularly produces for Global Mamas, Mary understands the need for hands on experience when learning the art of batiking, and as a result invites local batiking students to leave their books behind and practice dyeing and stamping for themselves. Mary speaks warmly and passionately when talking about the importance of passing on her skills to the next generation, and suggests that one day when she retires as a Global Mama she will continue to teach those who are eager to learn.

 

Sitting in her workshop surrounded by pots and dyes, stamps and fabric, there is a calm order and not a hint of chaos that one might expect in a place where such color and creativity is brought to life. Mary credits this to the Fair Trade advice she received on becoming a Mama. Mary speaks proudly of how she now knows how to dispose of excess dye in a way to reduce any negative impact on the environment, and the steps she takes to protect herself and her employees from harm, for example something as simple as wearing rubber gloves and an apron when dyeing the fabric.

 

With Global Mamas, Mary has met a group of like-minded women, working hard and to an extremely high standard to produce top quality merchandise. While there are daily hurdles and challenges to overcome as is the case in all walks of life and all forms of business, Global Mamas as a project and Mary as a member of a dynamic workforce are successfully creating products to be taken out of Ghana and loved by customers from all around the world.

 

Global Mamas offers batiking workshops and as one of the teachers, Mary has encouraged many locals and visitors with an enthusiastic and engaging teaching style. In particular Mary becomes animated when she mentions a group of Global Mamas interns from the USA who worked with her for a week creating their own unique pattern stamps. It is a credit to Mary’s teaching ability and the creativity of the interns that the new patterns have since been incorporated into the 2012 catalog!

 

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