Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

My Trip to Mole National Park

Madison Oeff, intern

One of the many perks about volunteering with Global Mamas is the value placed on traveling around Ghana. The staff fully supports traveling as much as you can while you’re here; being exposed to the various places and people around the country gives you a better understanding of Ghana as a whole. So from the moment I arrived in Ghana, I travelled everywhere I could with the other volunteers. We went to the Volta region seeing sights such as Wli Falls, Tafi Atome Monkey Sanctuary, Lake Volta, and traditional Kente weaving. We spent a weekend surfing at Busua Beach. We traveled to Accra and explored the neighborhood of Osu, indulging at its tasty restaurants. All of these were fabulous, but there was still one item on my list that hadn’t been checked off: Mole National Park.

Mole on my Mind

Mole National Park, situated in Ghana’s northern region, a massive expanse of grassland savannah, is home to over 93 mammal species. Tourists can either ride in a safari car or walk through the forests with a guide; everyone hopes to catch a glimpse of the elephants, baboons, warthogs, and buffalo that roam the park.I first heard about Mole from Global Mamas’ designer, Nick Ruffalo who traveled to Mole a few years ago. He said that the round trip would take around 6 days. 

First, he said, you travel to Kumasi, the second largest city in Ghana, by tro tro (a privately owned minivan that provides shared transportation along a specified route). After seeing Kumasi for a day, you spend another day traveling further north to Tamale. Once you arrive in Tamale, you would have to ride a bus for about two hours to Larabanga and voila! You’re finally only 20 minutes away from the entrance of Mole National Park. After staying at the park for a day or two, you would travel back down to Cape Coast, just the way you came. These traveling instructions both excited me and concerned me.

Flying Fast

I had a decision to make: as much as I would have loved to travel north by tro tro, I knew I could not devote an entire week to go to Mole. I resigned myself to finding a different weekend trip and to save Mole for a future trip to Ghana. The next week in Cape Coast, however, I met a man who had been in the Peace Corps in Ghana. When I divulged that I had not yet visited Mole, he said, “Oh you should definitely go to Mole. We always flew there in my Peace Corps days!”

Flying! I hadn’t even thought about that as a travel option. I excitedly looked into it, and the trip was absolutely doable: ride a fast car to Accra and from there hop on a plane at Kotoka Airport. The plane ticket was not too expensive and the entire trip would only take 3 days! Sandie Forest, another summer volunteer, agreed to accompany me on my northern journey. Plans were made, dates were set, and soon we were off.

We arrived in Accra without any snafus and boarded the small jet. As we took off, I watched Accra slowly descended beneath me. The colorful buildings, tall coconut trees, and the ocean below quickly faded into cloudy sky. The flight to Tamale was only an hour long, yet when we landed I could see that we were in a completely different environment. The palm and coconut trees of Cape Coast were replaced with dense, shrubbery and shorter trees sprouting up at random. Huge anthills made from the deep red dirt were everywhere. Our taxi ride to the hotel was a fast introduction to Tamale culture: motor bikes everywhere, Mosques every couple of blocks, and many women covered in hijabs while the men wore topi hats. In Tamale, the majority of the residents practice Islam, which is the opposite of the southern part of Ghana where the majority practice Christianity.

Safari Sightings

After staying overnight in Tamale, waking up at 4:30 am to catch the first bus to Larabanga, and missing said bus due to our taxi driver being late, we decided to charter a taxi directly to the park. The hotel we were staying at in the park was situated on a ledge overlooking miles of the savannah.  If you looked straight down, you could see buffalos walking towards huge watering hole. Antelope grazed near the pool, warthogs ate the grass outside of the huts, and baboons were everywhere! I was warned before I left to be wary of the baboons; when Cape Coast production manager Wisdom visited Mole, a baboon tried to take his food and he had to jump into the pool to get away from it! Dropping our stuff off at the room, we joined up with a group of Dutch tourists to head out into the park for the elephant safari.

 We were sitting on the top of the safari jeep in benches, and as we sped along the red dirt roads it was almost like we were on a rollercoaster. You had to avoid the hanging branches but also keep your eyes peeled for any signs of wildlife. One of my favorite things we saw was this massive white tree with sprawling branches, each crawling with baboons. This area must have been their lair because nowhere else did I see so many baboons. Moving on, we stopped the car to see what our guide called “water deer.” To me, these looked like a mix of antelope and reindeer. They were very large and bulky, but they had light tan fur with red streaks and large antlers. If you so much as moved while watching them, they scurried off into the forest. (Once, I turned around too quickly, which sent the whole herd of water deer away from us. Oops!)

Our guide had heard about of a herd of elephant heading towards the east, and so we tried to follow that path. As we drove, along the path about 100 yards ahead of us, we spot a large grayish object. All eyes are glued to the spot. We inch forward in the car and reach a little clearing – and jackpot. Not one, not two, but five elephants are moseying around a water hole. They were smaller than I expected (if you can call an elephant small), but gorgeous and graceful. I don’t know how long we watched the elephants for, but everyone was transfixed. This definitely was a highlight of my northern Ghana trip.

The next day, we were able to travel back to Tamale, board the plane to Accra, and arrive back in Cape Coast. I’m extremely glad I decided to make the trek up to Mole National Park; not only was it amazing to see all of the wildlife, but this trip allowed me to see Ghanaian culture from a completely different perspective. Even if you experience the expedited version of the trip like I did by flying to Tamale, I highly recommend visiting the northern region of Ghana – the memories and stories will last a lifetime.

The Next Generation of Ghanaian Designers

Alice Grau, Creative Director

Designer Afua in Ashaiman

Global Mamas is proud to support the next generation of Ghanaian designers. As part of our commitment to Ghanaian talent we have hired two graduates of the fashion program at Radford University College in Ghana. In 2014, graduate Afua Biney joined Global Mamas as a design assistant and trainer in our Ashaiman location. Afua worked closely with our design team and the Ashaiman production team to ensure new product roll-out went smoothly. Her attention to detail and ability to teach complicated skills to our seamstresses were a great addition to our team. Afua recently moved on from Global Mamas to pursue her own line which received development support from Ghana Fashion and Design Week New Talent Spot:


Afua, left, trains two Mamas in Ashaiman on a new stitch

New Cape Coast Designer: Barbara

At the end of 2015, a second graduate of Radford joined our design team. Barbara Tetteh-Appain assisted our team on a contract basis on several occasions throughout 2015. After witnessing her commitment to supporting women entrepreneurs and her skill with training, she was hired on as the new technical designer and trainer. Barbara will be based in our Cape Coast location where she will help the Mamas learn skills that will help them expand their sewing repertoires.


Continuing the Relationship

We were excited to continue our relationship with Radford University College during the production of our 2016 catalog. Our Cape Coast design team hosted three interns (Angelina, Amart, and Eno pictured below) for a two-day placement to help with styling and modeling in our fashion photos. The women spent time with our designers and quality control team learning about fair trade, our products, and our business practices. Our hope is to encourage these young women to take positions or create jobs that will one day impact more women in their community. We would love to see the mission of Global Mamas spread to all corners of the design world! 

Learning the Language

Pete Freeman, intern


When I first learned that there were more than 80 languages spoken in Ghana, I panicked. Sure, English is the national language. But I can count on one hand the number of times I heard English spoken while walking through the streets of Ghana during my first week as a volunteer. In place of my native tongue, I heard a cacophony of what I later learned was Fante, Ewe, Akan, and more.



While English is the national language, Akan and its derivatives are the most popular indigenous languages. Fortunately, the Global Mamas volunteers and I live in an area in which Fante, a government-sponsored language and derivative of Akan, is widely spoken.


It made sense to start learning Fante as quickly as possible, so I asked a shop owner across the street from our office to teach me the local language during my lunch break. She agreed, and for two weeks I spent my one hour lunch break learning from Chillin’ Chillin, whose actual name is Comfort. I made quick progress and was soon able to hold basic conversations with Chillin’ Chillin’ and other Ghanaians. I took to the internet as I pursued my own independent study of Fante. But I found no Fante dictionary and no resources for learning the language. I was disappointed. So I logged off and began to ask around.


Not long after my digital dictionary disappointment, I found the ‘dictionary’ I was looking for, though it was the furthest thing from what I expected. Patience, my boss at the Cape Coast office, offered me a tattered old dictionary that contained Fante words and phrases translated in English. I blew the dust off of the cover and got to work.


Days passed. I began to recognize simple Fante words when walking around Cape Coast. This delighted me. By this time I had spent five weeks in Ghana and was beginning to grasp the local language. I now affectionately refer to Ghana as my second home. My mother tells me that as long as our family’s house in Indiana remains my ‘first home,’ she’s fine with my preference. I have fallen in love with the Fante language and I can’t wait to return to this diverse country.

“Lights Out” Production

Hailey Hinshaw, intern

Power outages are part of daily life at Global Mamas and all across Ghana. While Ghanaians have experienced periods of “lights out” before, it’s gotten substantially worse within the last year. Due to a variety of factors including failing power plant equipment, a dysfunctional dam, and a lack of funds, Ghana fails to produce enough power to meet its energy needs. These outages can have drastic effects on Global Mamas as electricity is essential to almost every step in the production process. In many areas, power outages can be sporadic and lengthy, creating even greater uncertainty and delays within our production timetables.


Ghana’s nation-wide power outages can drastically affect every part of Global Mamas’ production, from sewing to quality control to administrative functions. However, seamstresses generally suffer the most. When we first give the fabric to our seamstresses, they need light, an iron, and a sewing machine to produce quality products on time. There are box irons the Mamas can use during a power outage; however, these irons are heated by charcoal.  The Mamas risk ruining the newly batiked fabric with this charcoal residue or even a spark that could burn a stain into the fabric. If this happens, the products are not up to standards and they are rejected by Quality Control.


Even if the fabric can be successfully ironed and cut, the Mamas go on to sew their products with hand powered machines – if they have one. Deborah, a seamstress at Global Mamas, expressed how physically tiring the hand machines are. She said it requires more strength and more time to work on a hand machine, so you can’t produce as many products as you would on an electric machine.


To keep orders moving on time, the Mamas get creative. Sabina, a seamstress in Cape Coast, said that on days without power, “there’s no sitting idle.” All of the Mamas work hard and use every resource at their disposal. If they have a large order to complete, they often go to other seamstresses’ shops to use their hand or pedal machines. Sometimes they may even transport their own machines to other shops that have electricity to complete an order. Mamas also call upon each other for assistance. If one Mama is finished, she will sew with another Mama to help get her order finished on time. Sometimes this extra help is enough and sometimes it’s not. If the Mamas aren’t able to complete their orders it can causes shortages at our US warehouse leading to back orders and out of stock products.


After products are sewn, they return to the office to be checked by Quality Control. QC workers make sure the products are sewn correctly, that all the loose strings are cut, and there are not any stains or irregularities in the fabric. The tasks performed by QC workers do not require electric machines, but they do require good lighting. When the power is off and Global Mamas is scheduled to ship out products the next day, the workday does not stop. In fact, it often lengthens. It’s not uncommon to see candles, lanterns and even phone lights (until they run out of battery) out on the tables to help the QC workers work as quickly and efficiently as possible.


As soon as products have been passed through Quality Control, they are ready to be shipped. But sales and administrative functions also suffer when there’s no power.  Patience, Cape Coast Office Manager, was asked about the effect of power outages on her work. She simply said, “Huge!” Without internet, it’s difficult to communicate the details and status of orders to customers, and all email correspondence is halted until the next business day. You can see how difficult it is to stick to a production schedule when so many other factors come into play.


Without power, the challenges are great. But in the midst of it all, the Global Mamas seamstresses and staff have become a family. They are willing to help each other whenever possible because, as Alice put it, “they know that if I am experiencing it, then everybody is experiencing it.”

Beads, Beads, Beads!

Paige Affinito, intern

 Nestled within a bustling fish and produce market is Ghana’s biggest bead bazaar, Odumase- from which Global Mamas sources many of the beads found in our jewelry and ornaments. Piles of brightly colored beads adorn rows of wooden tables; small seed beads, traditionally worn in strings around women’s waists, hang from each vendor’s walls. While some strings of beads cost as little as one cedi (about 30 cents), the older and more traditional clay beads are much more expensive.

C:\Users\Amelia\Desktop\Global Mamas\Social\Blog\Final Posts\Images\Bead Market Post Photos\Krobo Bead Market II.jpg

 Many Global Mamas work at this market selling their beads to a wide array of customers.  Last summer, a group of interns traveled to the Odumase-Krobo area, where the bead market is located, to interview the bead sellers. Emelia, a member of Krobo’s quality control team, guided the interns around the market and introduced them to each Mama. While the interns held interviews with each Mama, jotting down hurried notes on small pieces of paper amongst the hustle and bustle of the crowded market, Emelia worked as a translator.

She quickly translated the Mamas’ native language of Krobo to English, and the intern’s English to Krobo. The Mamas were happy to meet and be interviewed by the interns, eagerly describing how they got started in the bead business, their hopes and future goals for their businesses, and recommendations as to how Global Mamas can help them be more successful.

C:\Users\Amelia\Desktop\Global Mamas\Social\Blog\Final Posts\Images\Bead Market Post Photos\Krobo Bead Market.jpg

 For many, selling beads is a family tradition that has been passed down for generations. One bead seller, Barbara Tetteh, has been selling beads for 15 years! When asked what she wants her customers abroad to know about her, Barbara Tetteh said, “Selling beads is my family way, a tradition that has been passed down from my grandma to mother to auntie, and me!” She is very proud of her family’s traditional trade, as it is a meaningful part of Krobo’s culture.  

 To read more about the bead sellers in the Krobo market, visit our Krobo Meet the Mamas stories here.


New Cultural Workshops

By Alice Grau

Global Mamas has launched two cultural workshops in Accra for tourists

For several years Global Mamas has been offering a handful of half-day cultural workshops in Cape Coast for around US$15.00: Batiking, Drumming/Dancing, Fishing Village Excursion, Ghanaian Cuisine, and Traditional Head Wrapping & Beauty. Our recent addition is a 3-hour workshop in Odumase-Krobo for Bead Making. Since Global Mamas opened a retail store in Accra in August of 2008, we have had many requests from customers about offering cultural workshops in Accra. With the help of dedicated volunteers, Global Mamas recently launched two new cultural workshops in Accra.


Bethany Shackelford (Bellingham, Washington USA) worked with tour guide Gifty Boateng Owusu to develop and launch the Accra Market & Spice Tour. The tour is a close-up view of Ghana’s vibrant markets. Tourists walk the many passageways of Makola Market in the heart of Accra and hear folktales and legends of Ghana’s rich culture. Participants learn about peppe, funeral cloth, and everything in between.


Global Mamas has also been fortunate to receive a JICA volunteer, Maki Kawamoto (Hiroshima, Japan), for two years to help manage the Global Mamas store in Accra. In addition to streamlining the ordering and inventory processes in the store, Maki has taken it upon herself to launch the Accra Drumming & Dancing Workshop. Through her own passion for music and dancing, she identified two of Ghana’s esteemed female dancers and male master drummer and developed a half-day workshop for tourists. Participants learn the history of drumming and dancing as a significant part of Ghana’s culture and get a chance to participate. The Drumming & Dancing Workshop is offered at the Du Bois center in Accra. A stroll through the museum is a great way to wrap up the day.


Both new workshops were recently tested on a large scale with 33 students from Semester at Sea. The group docked in Tema Harbour and spent their first day in Accra learning about Global Mamas’ non-profit initiatives and participating in the workshop. For more information about the workshops, visit




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.




Tabeisa Partners with Global Mamas with Design4Life Competition

By Kristen Gallagher

Tabeisa Partners with Global Mamas with Design4Life Competition

The power of the Internet, once again, has served Global Mamas well in communicating its mission. Tabeisa, and UK-based not-for-profit consortium, discovered Global Mamas online and was so impressed with the success of the co-operative that it decided to sponsor Global Mamas in helping it expand into the UK market. Tabiesa The expansion has the women of Global Mamas feeling optimistic and confident about the future of their sales and success.


Tabeisa, in partnership with the Ethical Fashion Forum, teamed up this fall to host the Design4Life competition, which aimed to bring ethical fashion design onto the streets. The competition, funded by the EU and the UK Department for Education and Skills, challenged fashion students, graduates, and designers based in the UK, Ireland, and Africa to design a cotton dress that fit the trends of European style. Nearing 100 entries, the various designs submitted were of high-quality and encompassed original batiks with unique style. London-based retailer, TopShop, was notified and was so excited about the fair trade fashion project that they agreed to sell the dresses of the winning designers.


The selection process for the winning garments was difficult for the panel of judges. The winning designers were Annegret Affolderback, a 31 year-old graduate from Middlesex University, and Julia Smith, 23 year-old graduate from the London College of Fashion. Tabeisa sponsored Smith and Affolderback to come to Cape Coast for two weeks in December to work with the batikers and seamstresses on putting into production the new winning garments. Although there were challenges to overcome, such as lack of supplies, and the overbearing heat, the two designers had a successful visit and Global Mamas is preparing for its first shipment to the UK marketplace.




Volunteers Lead Global Mamas in Design and Color Workshops

Volunteers Lead Global Mamas in Design and Color Workshops

Women in Progress volunteers, Catherine Deane, Natalie Sturman and Gayle Pescud, created a series of design workshops for Global Mamas: Ideas Development, and Color Theory. The aim was to show the women how to gain inspiration from their surroundings and turn this into a completed design and to ultimately advance their own design and color skills. Each workshop was held twice a week for three weeks.

Natalie conducted the Ideas Development Workshop to show the basic method of creating new designs. The women learned how to create mood boards, a source of inspiration and style development, with pictures cut from magazines. The women sat together and clipped images, which appealed to them and arranged them on a poster. The effect was colorful and creative. There was much excited chatter when the women pinned their boards to the WIP office walls. Every board displayed a unique style, a sure sense of color, and an eye for design. The women were animated as they chatted about one another's selection and placement of images.

Gayle facilitated the Color Theory Workshop. She discussed the properties of color and how the mixture of different primary colors can create different secondary colors. This concept is extremely important to the batikers as they mix dyes to generate the exact color that is required for Global Mamas batik cloth. The women also learned about complementary relationships and harmonious color schemes, which is also an important concept as Global Mamas expands its product line. Global Mama, Gifty Saah, was further trained to carry out future trainings with new women entering the cooperative.




Launch of Ghana Expeditions Website

By Emilie Kimball

Launch of Ghana Expeditions Website

In May, WIP volunteers Sarah Austen, Sarah Casanolia, and Kiley O'Brien helped to set up and organize a website which would promote four cultural workshops run by the Ghanaian women members of WIP. The workshops include learning to Batik, learning the Kpatsa dance and the use of the "talking drums," learning how to prepare traditional Ghanaian cuisine, and a glimpse of a Ghanaian fishing village and insight into a fisherman's way of life.


Sarah Casanolia visited several hotels in the Cape Coast and Elmina area as well as in Accra, in order to introduce WIP's expeditions to a broader crowd to attract more attention. She left posters explaining what Ghana Expeditions had to offer in exchange for advertising the hotel on the new website. Sarah Austen and Kiley O'Brien focused on designing and writing interesting content to put on the website to interest the tourist masses.


Participation in these traditional African workshops generates income for the local women and helps tourists expand their knowledge of many aspects of the Ghanaian culture. These workshops last about a half a day (3-4 hours) and are run by motivated women such as Antoinette who leads the drumming and dance workshop. In 1999 she received the Art and Critics and Reviewers Award which is given out by the National Theatre in Accra.


Sarah Austen, Sarah Casanolia, and Kiley O'Brien created the website to generate more awareness of the Ghana Expeditions aspect of the WIP program. Check out the website now at