Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

Second Saturday Warehouse Sale: A Growing Success

By Alexandra Harris

A customer shops at the Global Mamas’ Second Saturday sale in Minneapolis, MN.

About one year ago, the Global Mamas wholesale distributor in Minneapolis, MN thought of a creative way to invite the local community into the Global Mamas experience: The Second Saturday Sale. This clearance sale provides an opportunity for the distributor to free up storage space by selling excess stock. On these days the front half of the warehouse is opened up to the public and items that are discontinued or are otherwise in excess are sold at greatly discounted prices. The event has gained popularity among the Minneapolis community and has been such a success that several artists who have studios in the building have started opening up their space to the public for Second Saturdays as well!

 

The success of these events has afforded for the Global Mamas warehouse to purchase nicer retail presentation tools such as waterfall racks so that the space can be more presentable for Second Saturdays and other such events. This can only be to the greater benefit of the organization as word spreads about this exciting opportunity. Recently an advertisement for this event was placed in a local paper that targets a younger crowd that has interest in art, music and fashion. This will hopefully attract the patronage of a new customer base that will not only benefit Global Mamas but also the artists of the Minneapolis community.

 

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2008 Global Mamas of the Year Awards

By Emily Henke and Alice Grau

Lizzy Kumah at her bead stand in Odumase-Krobo

On May 22, 2009 Global Mamas kicked off the 2008 awards season at Odumase-Krobo to recognize outstanding members of the Global Mamas network. The O-K Annual Meeting took place at 1 pm at the Madizu Fair Trade Company. The meeting was well attended by bead makers, bead assemblers, and Global Mama volunteers and friends. Thomas Amuzu, MFTC manager, gave a brief recap of the last year and discussed topics concerning bead dyes and quality. The Odumase-Krobo Global Mama of the Year Award went to Lizzy Kumah for her outstanding quality, dependability, and dedication to the betterment of the project. This year we also decided to present an "Above and Beyond" award to Juliana Matey for her amazing work on educating other beading villages on the eco-friendly use of dyes, especially the brown and black dyes. Juliana has willingly taken her job a step further and demonstrates to others the importance of seeing the entire picture. The festivities were continued with light refreshments and a showcase of the groups’ musical talent.

 

The following Friday, the 29th of May at 9 am the Global Mama of the Year Ceremony took place in the Cape Coast office. With many new volunteers present to bring up the energy, we were in for an exciting day. The meeting was opened by Patience Essibu, the locations Capacity Building Manager and then some highlights from the year were covered by Wisdom Tamakloe, the Production Manager and Alice Grau the General Manager. While some tasty European chocolates and Fan Ice treats circled the room, Patience presented the awards. For 2008, three individual were acknowledged for adding value to the group in special ways. Kate "Aba" Tay (Seamstress) was recognized for her "Top Quality", Georgina Afenyo (Batiker) for going "Above and Beyond" and Molly Djan (Seamstress) for being the "Most Reliable". Each of these women was given a certificate signed by the Executive Director and General Manager as well as a lovely necklace and brooch. After a beautiful solo from one of the quality control staff members, Patience presented the Cape Coast Global Mama of the Year Award was presented to Esther Gyepi-Garbrah (Seamstress). Esther was recognized for her dedication to the organization, her beautiful quality, her commitment to sharing her success with other women and always seeking ways to grow as a business woman; notably her recent start-up of an NGO in Elmina, Ghana. Esther was awarded with a signed certificate as well as materials to support the beginning of her NGO.

 

Overall it was a successful year for all of the Global Mamas sites throughout Ghana. After seeing women from all areas of the network step up in their various roles we are looking forward to the exciting prospects of 2009. Here’s to another great year!

 

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Quality Assurance - Bridging Ghana and the U.S.

By Andrea Schwartz

Quality Assurance - Bridging Ghana and the U.S.

Profile: Dorcas Baiden, Quality Control Manager with Global Mamas in Ghana

Andrea interviewed Dorcas Baiden, Quality Control Manager, about her role, a typical day, and what she enjoys most at Global Mamas. Dorcas taught pattern making, sewing, handicrafts, and batiking at a vocational school in Tema before joining Global Mamas in 2006.

 

"My day typically involves checking quality, preparing patterns, helping with office activities, and making sure staff are working on quality control issues. And if a Global Mama is finding something difficult, like a new pattern, I'll go and help them work it out in their workshop. It's very rewarding working directly with the Global Mamas.

 

I do this is because, if we don't get good quality products, we cannot send the shipment and it's a waste of time and money. If the quality is good, the Global Mamas are also paid on time and are happy. If it's bad, it delays everything. We are always working on it.

 

Global Mamas is a great network to belong to. We all know how to sew but in different ways and we are constantly learning from one another and teaching each other new techniques- it's a give and take, a collaborative environment.

 

I personally enjoy getting the quality to be perfect. It makes everyone happy when the quality is good. And I like paying attention to detail which is why I think I got the job. But it can be hard at times because we are always busy! Getting our work done on time is the challenge. The deadlines are tough sometimes.

 

I am proud that sometimes we get an order and we don't think that we can get it done on time, but we always try and do our best—there is a good sense of teamwork in our office in Cape Coast.

In future, I want to finish my education and become a poular, well-known designer: I love to sew!"

 

Profile: Amy Drier, Quality Control Officer with Global Mamas in the USA

 

Andrea interviewed Amy, by email, about her role on the receiving side of the shipment, and how it all comes together.

 

My connection to Global Mamas started about thirteen years ago. I had the opportunity to visit Kristin Johnson, co-founder of Global Mamas, while she was in the Peace Corps in Ghana back in 1995 and fell in love with the people and their beautiful country. The Global Mamas Women, as well as all the people involved in WIP, are an inspiration to me to be a strong and independent person.

 

I work for Global Mamas three days a week and my job consists of quality control and filling orders for wholesale clients which include hundreds of stores across the United States and a good handful of International clients. When we receive the large shipments from Ghana we unpack the entire shipment, and lay out the items for organization and inspecting. We inspect every piece of batik that comes through our office and our high standards have created continuous growth for Global Mamas.

 

This is how quality inspection works: When a shipment arrives, we inspect what seems like mountains of reversible dresses, piles of tote bags, and a virtual mountain range of dresses and shirts. I hold up my first article of batik and the "story" begins. I'm impressed with the meticulously packed boxes that come across the globe, arriving with unbroken fragile beaded goods and neatly packed clothes.

 

While inspecting, I think of the women who figured out how many yards of cloth were needed and who to send it to for batiking. I think of the women who batik the yards and yards of cloth and the women who cut and sew the cloth into something to show the world. Th

 

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Helping Hand from Customers

By Gayle Pescud and Alice Grau

Helping Hand from Customers

In early 2008 Sandra Crismon from Just Creations, a US customer, joined Global Mamas in Ghana to volunteer and assist in developing new bead products. Gayle Pescud interviewed Sandra via email.

 

Just Creations has always enjoyed the Global Mamas product and Sandra Crismon, has seen a fair share of the product during her time working with the organization. When Sandra discovered that Global Mamas was going to be launching a new line of recycled glass beads she became interested in volunteering to help with the upstart location in Krobo-Odumase. As a designer of glass bead products herself, she was excited for the opportunity not only to share her skills with GM, but also to learn about the recycled glass bead making traditions of Ghana.

 

As Education Coordinator at Just Creations, Sandra also notes that "part of my job is to go out and talk to the public in different forums about fair trade. Having gone to Ghana and met artisans working for Global Mamas has given me first-hand experience I can draw on in talking to the public about fair trade".

 

During her time as a volunteer, Sandra says she was given the freedom to create without constraints. She was happy to be part of one of the fundamental advantages for fair trade artisans, that is, design assistance being provided when needed. "I believe in that process and was glad to be a part of it.

 

One of the new products that Sandra helped create was the Spirit of Africa Jewelry set. She bought a bag charm that was introduced with the original line of GM jewelry because she loved the colors so much and turned them into a bracelet and earrings. She sent the photos to GM which inspired the creation of a complete set of jewelry in 2 color schemes. Sandra says that she is "always very proud when we sell one of the Spirit of Africa pieces".

 

Witnessing the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes in product development has given Sandra a greater appreciation of what goes into getting fair trade products to the US market. It has also encouraged Sandra in her work to educate the public about the challenges of getting fair trade products made. Sandra muses, "To us, boxes just appear with all these fantastic things that we sell! I now know how much incredibly hard work goes into getting products designed, getting all the materials for those products, and getting those products made and shipped to customers like us."

 

This was not Sandra's first visit to a developing country so she was prepared for some of the challenges of spending time in a developing country. For instance, the sanitation and living conditions are something she embraces as part of "our experience of the world, because you get a taste of how most of the world lives." She also says that an experience that takes you outside of developed countries can teach you how much one can take for granted. Also, the health precautions such as being careful about the water you drink and the way you prepare your food as well as getting shots and taking anti-malarial medication can be some of the more difficult parts of an experience volunteering for Global Mamas.

 

Overall, Sandra was very inspired by learning how Global Mamas was founded and how the founders have stayed true to their ideals. Sandra says, "Renae and Kristin are a testament to what dedicated individuals can do if they put their minds to it. I often emphasize this when I am talking to younger people who feel overwhelmed by the problems of the world and feel like they can't possibly make a difference."

 

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The Bauxite Beadmakers of Abompe: A Lost Art Rediscovered

By Greg Coyle

The Bauxite Beadmakers of Abompe: A Lost Art Rediscovered

No one is entirely sure when bauxite beadmaking came to Abompe in Ghana's Eastern Region. Over the years, a story has developed that has become, for many, an acceptable surrogate for the truth. It goes like this:

 

In the early 1900s a farmer turned up an old bauxite bracelet and necklace. Fascinated by his find, he took it to the village chief, only to have it dismissed as unimportant. Still, the farmer persisted, asking everyone he knew, but learning nothing. Finally, vaguely remembering having as a boy seen something similar from a nearby village, he broadened his search. He soon learned that Abompe had, like its neighbor, once produced many beads of this kind for a variety of uses before it eventually died out.

 

The disappearance of the beadmaking art in Abompe is, like so many other degradations of culture, credited to the colonial powers of the time. Actively discouraged as lazy and fruitless, the practice fell out of favor and was over the ensuing decades all but forgotten.

 

Abompe is today the only community in Ghana producing the unusual, dusty-brown beads. Among the legion of skilled artisans working in the village many can claim to be third- and fourth-generation beadmakers.

 

George and Paulina Obeng, a husband and wife beadmaking team, learned the art from their grandmothers. Together, they boast more than 30 years of experience. George Obeng, the chairman of a newly formed beadmakers group, has become the real organizing spirit behind the artisans working with Global Mamas.

 

As Obeng describes it, "Now Global Mamas places their orders with me. I then hand out the work to the beadmakers because I know the people and what they can do, and I know how much time it will take."

 

Among those with whom Obeng works Mercy Baah is one who has distinguished herself by her creativity. Baah has been creating bauxite beads for more than 20 years. Having learned from her grandmother, she is now passing the knowledge on to her own daughter and granddaughter. "I have given birth to 10 children," she says from the porch-cum-office of her home. "Eight are still alive, and I support all of them by making beads."

 

When asked about Global Mamas, she says, "Global Mamas has brought good changes. Because of them I have more orders." She offers a playful, toothless grin. "And I like more orders."

 

Recent Peace Corps efforts, spearheaded through 2008 by volunteer Suzanne Hadley, are seeking to spread the word about the work being done by Baah, the Obengs and the other beadmakers in Abompe. The hope is that increased visibility will bring visitors and new markets.

 

Growth in bead sales could put some pressure on Sam Ofori. Ofori is a bauxite miner in Abompe. In fact, and incredibly, he is the only bauxite miner in Abompe. A one-time tailor in Nigeria, he returned to Ghana some years ago to farm, falling into mining as a means for augmenting his income. He now supplies the entire village with the brown rocks from which the artisans fashion their beads.

 

As second jobs go, bauxite mining is a rigorous one. First, you have a four-hour hike, much of it at a steep pitch uphill. Second, once on site the next four to five hours are spent in the dark, 20-feet underground, hacking out bauxite with a hand-made spade. When he can convince a partner to join him, this second person will work on the surface, hoisting up the rocks in a battered metal can attached to a line of raffia. If alone, Ofori must climb up top each time the bucket is full and pull up the rocks himself, before climbing back down to resume diggin

 

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Traveling the Distance for Quality

By Alice Grau

Traveling the Distance for Quality

Ally Harris has been an employee for Global Mamas in the U.S. for over a year. This September she had the opportunity to come to Ghana and learn more about the how the complex production of Global Mamas batik apparel and accessories works. She worked closely with the Global Mamas staff in Cape Coast for three months to learn about the quality checking process and discuss the standards of quality that our United States and European customers have.

 

Ally also took the opportunity to visit many of the Global Mamas seamstresses and batikers in their shops and see the production up close and personal. "I was overwhelmingly impressed by the efficiency and high spirits of our talented Mamas, sometimes producing hundreds of yards of cloth or hundreds of sewn items within a few weeks. Being able to meet the women in person strengthened my belief in the accomplishments and future potential of Global Mamas", said Ally.

 

Ally was also introduced to the amazing group of summer volunteers who were helping Global Mamas on all aspect of the 2009 catalog. She said that each volunteer should feel proud of their own role in accomplishing such a beautiful line of products for this year. Ally left Ghana feeling terribly sad to say goodbye to her new friends and such a beautiful place. She add, "I feel so grateful that my connection to Ghana continues at home in Minnesota, as I sell products and tell our story to our US customers."

 

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Launch of GM store in Accra

By Alice Grau

Launch of GM store in Accra

On August 1, 2008 Global Mamas launched a new store in the Osu area of Accra. The store represents the creative talent and dedication of Matthew Sturm and Megan Collins who designed and launched the store in less than one month. It is due to their 12 hour work days and the help of some of the other summer volunteers that Global Mamas can offer this exciting new retail option to its customers.

 

Location was the key factor in preparing to launch the new store. Since tourists are the number one customer of Global Mamas products inside of Ghana, it was important to be located in Osu, a tourist hub. As a potential customer is walking in the area they are very likely to pass by the store and once they step inside, the amazing products can sell themselves. Renae Adam, Executive Director of Global Mamas says that she is hoping to "introduce the high quality of Global Mamas products to tourists in Ghana so that they spread the word when they go back home to their various countries and find new export opportunities for the organization".

 

With the richly colored walls and spot lighting that is reminiscent of a high-end boutique, the store has a very warm atmosphere. Customers can easily find themselves buried in the racks for an hour trying to find just the right gift or keepsake to take home. One of the most exciting aspects of the store is that a customer can find many one-of-a-kind options. "It is really rewarding to see tourists come in to the store and get so excited about the designs and products of Global Mamas", say Rosemary Odoom the sales person at the store.

 

Another opportunity that the Accra store presents is an outlet for imperfect merchandise that cannot be exported. As Global Mamas has grown, so too have the number of cast-off products. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to sell these products locally so that the organization can earn something back toward the cost of producing the items.

 

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VEG partner in Ho

By Haley Rhoden

VEG partner in Ho

Lady Volta Batik in Ho, Ghana was established to give seamstresses and batikers in the Volta Region an opportunity to earn a fair wage creating Global Mamas clothing products. Global Mamas is constantly working to expand its fair trade business throughout the country, and the cooperative in Ho has become one of its more recent partners. With the help of its sister organization, Village Exchange Ghana in Ho, the cooperative has already employed a handful of women, providing them with a wage and work environment that they otherwise, most likely, wouldn’t have received.

 

The cooperative tries to target young women with little or no education, since they are often the ones that experience the greatest amount of difficulty in finding work. The constant, year-round business from Global Mamas provides the workers with a steady, dependable income and also, a sense of pride in the fact that their work is going towards helping other young women like themselves. Julie Nguyen, the Peace Corps volunteer that currently works with the women says that "you can just see the positive attitude that this job opportunity gives these women", she continues, "the relationship with Global Mamas has been beneficial in that it has given us a continual stream of products to work on".

 

The expanded efforts of Global Mamas in the Volta Region are proving to be beneficial for all parties. As orders continue to grow for the organization, it is helpful to have the additional services of the qualified team of batikers at Lady Volta. The quality of products that is coming from the cooperative has been extraordinary and Global Mamas is happy to have them.

 

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Fair Trade Center Launches in Krobo

By Emily Henke

Fair Trade Center Launches in Krobo
In January of 2008, Global Mamas helped to launch The Madizu Fair Trade Center, located in Odumase-Krobo. Thomas Amuzu and Gladys Adjimer are the owners and managers of the company and they have been contracted to assemble Global Mamas beaded products.

 

Inside the Fair Trade Center countless different beads are covering almost every table surface. Eight women are seated around a table enjoying conversation and busily stringing the beads into bracelets and necklaces while another woman is making the strands at a separate table. Thomas looks onto each woman's work before taking a seat by the doorway. Although they are working hard, each of the women have a smile on her face.

 

For the past three years, Thomas has been developing the Fair Trade Center in Krobo for Global Mamas. While originally one of the bead makers himself, he now oversees a group of up to ten women. Thomas' work experience before joining Global Mamas includes farming, tro-tro driving, and fashion designing. None of these jobs however, provided a continuous income. Although occasionally, his monthly salary would be higher than that of Global Mamas, there were months when Thomas would not make any money at all. Now, Thomas feels he has "tested all of the waters" and finds that working for Global Mamas is "far, far better". He has high hopes for the Fair Trade Center and feels he is able to grow and progress now that he has found financial security.

 

Gladys also sees the benefit of working for Global Mamas as she now earns 90% of her income making beaded products. She is also able to employ two part-time workers as well as save money to put toward her mother's medical bills and support her brother.

 

The center also benefits the women they employ. Each woman is paid based on an hourly wage and earns more than minimum wage with the opportunity to receive a raise for exceptional improvement of their work. Thomas and Gladys believe this strategy will improve their business and give incentives for continuing hard work from their employees. The work is progressing and Thomas and Gladys see that over time this business can grow and be a great resource of sustainable employment in the area.

 

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Global Mamas of the Year

By Megan Collins and Emily Henke

Global Mamas of the Year

Julie has been batiking for nine years and became a member of Global Mamas three years ago. She went to batiking school in 1999 for six months while raising three children. Julie prides herself as being a mother first and a batiker second. Batiking allows her to work from home while her children are at school. When she has extra time, Julie creates her own designs and sells the fabric in the local market. Her goal for the future is to acquire more workers in order to expand her business. Julie recently spoke about her work with Global Mamas at the UN Conference on Trade and Development in Accra during the fashion forum session. Julie was voted Global Mama of the Year – Cape Coast by her colleagues because she continuously produces high quality cloth, in large quantities, and on time. "Working with Julie is a pleasure; we know we can rely on her to produce high quality work every time, she keeps good records and she's always laughing" said WIP's quality control manager Dorcas Baiden. For going above and beyond in her efforts, Julie was astonished to learn she had won a microwave oven.

 

Krobo Global Mama of the Year: Gladys Adjimer
The first annual Global Mama of the Year Award for Odumase Krobo was held on 10 June 2008 at the Madizu Fair Trade Company. The meeting was well attended by bead makers, bead sellers, bead assemblers of Madizu Fair Trade Company, and Global Mamas volunteers/employees. Renae Adam, co-founder of Global Mamas, gave the history of the organization as well as giving amazing statistics for the growth of the Global Mamas beaded products. All were enthusiastic hearing their accomplishments and excited to expand on these in the next months. A phenomenal response from all was welcomed as they pledged to take on the challenges they face as they learn more about the market they have entered. Last, but certainly not least, the Odumase-Krobo Global Mama of the Year was announced. All would agree that Gladys Adjimer, co-manager of the Madizu Fair Trade Company, was very deserving of the award. Gladys has worked extremely hard and has gone above and beyond for the Madizu Fair Trade Company and the women they employ. Gracefully accepting the award and offering an acceptance speech, Gladys was all smiles to take away a new set of pots and pans for her kitchen.

 

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