Prosperity Update

News and stories from Global Mamas

Making of Summer 2017

Alice Grau, Creative Director

Photo Credit: Nick Ruffalo, Designer

Each of our collections originates from trend research-- anticipating how everything from high-fashion to streetwear trends will influence the clothes our customers might wish to buy in future seasons. We love getting creative with the shape, color, and prints of our product to interpret up and coming styles with our own bold, West African twist. 

 

Once our in-house designers and volunteers have developed a series of patterns we’d like to test for an upcoming season, we reach out to batikers near our Cape Coast office who are interested in helping produce samples. Mamas helping with samples receive a slightly higher price per yard for the added effort of going back and forth testing a new stamp, dye recipe, and layout.

 

The stamp is traced from a master copy then carved by the Mama from a piece of foam (we actually use chunks of foam mattresses, commonly sold in Ghana). The pattern is transferred to the cotton by dipping the stamp into hot wax and placing it repeatedly on the fabric following the designer’s spacing specifications, communicated via hand drawings or digital renderings.

 

Once a pattern is established we use the palette of dyes available in local markets (mostly primary and secondary colors) to begin sampling color. This is a delicate matter that can take many attempts and for consistent results requires the precision of a scientist. Sometimes our designers develop a recipe using basic color theory, but at other times we stumble upon an “accident” color we love and have to work backwards to figure out how it was made! The dyes are mixed with caustic soda and sodium hydrosulphite to dissolve them to the point where they can be absorbed by the cotton fabric. Because of the chemicals involved in the process the Mamas wear masks and gloves at the appropriate steps. 

 

Sometimes batikers fold their fabric into a square to submerge it in the bucket, but here you can see Mary swirling the length of fabric into the dye bath. This prevents fold lines of lighter color where the fabric may not be consistently exposed to the dye. If a batik is brought in with irregular spacing or unsightly dye lines the quality control team deems it class 2 or 3 (as opposed to export quality: class 1). In both sampling and regular product, attention to this kind of detail is required to meet our quality standards. Although fabric may not make class 1, class 2 and 3 textiles are still used in various products. One of the best tools we have to make lower classes of fabric usable is to “overdye” them in a darker color which will cover any mistakes. This improved fabric can then be used for one-of-a-kind products in our Accra store. 

 

Here a fabric sample dries on the line and you can see the color transformation from the wet material at the top, to the dry material turning a bright apple green at the bottom. An added challenge of vat dyes are that they don’t show their true color in the actual dye bath (like indigo that starts out looking yellow and then shifts to blue once it's been removed from the dye). With each of these dyes there is a significant visual shift in color when the material is exposed to air. This means accuracy is vital in measuring the dry dyes into the bucket.

 

Here Becky, a design volunteer that spent time with us in Ghana earlier this year, admires fabric produced using two of her stamp designs. Although we sampled both patterns in our colorway for summer we decided to hold one print for our Fall collection.

Once the fabric has been batiked to the designers' specifications, the finished yardage is assigned to a local Global Mamas seamstress to be stitched into the desired product. Babs, our technical designer, will go over the product and review the pattern (in white above) with the Mama before sending it off with the freshly batiked cotton.

 

Here Jennifer is working on a sample for summer. Waiting on samples to come back to the office is always exciting as different prints in different products can have a surprising effect. Sometimes we decide to hold off on designs for later collections, while at other times we love one fabric so much we want to sample it in multiple colorways. Sometimes we realize we still haven’t gotten it *quite* right and more blank cotton is sent out into the world to try something altogether new.

 

 As any maker will know, our process is one of artistry, craft, science, and a little bit of luck! After months of planning and preparations it is always with pride that we share each new collection coming from the talented hands of the Mamas. These dresses are just a few of the bold and beautiful items you will find included in our Summer 2017 collection. New items for Summer: Arriving Online June 20th!

Workshops for Financial and Physical Health

By Sæunn Gísladóttir

This week the Mamas and staff at our Cape Coast office received two short-term volunteers from Chicago, Ellen Rogin and Terri Winters. Ellen is the New York Times bestselling author of Picture your Prosperity, a book that offers a motivational plan for women who want to take control of their financial planning, and Terri is a registered nurse. The two held workshops in their areas of expertise, working with the group to create inspirational “Prosperity Pictures,” examining Cash Flow Management, and assisting with breast cancer screenings.

 

Terri (left) with Patience, Global Mamas People Development Manager (middle), and Ellen (right).  

Ellen led the workshop participants in creating their “Prosperity Pictures.” These boards are visualizations of where the women aspire to be five years now. After searching through magazines for their desired images, the Mamas shared their collages with the rest of the group and discussed how they were feeling, using adjectives like “excited” and “happy”, expressing confidence that in time they can achieve their dreams. Ellen emphasized the importance of how your attitude has a direct impact on what shows up in your life.

 

Workshop participants are pictured here, enjoying some music while searching for images they’d like to include on their Prosperity Pictures.

The Cash Flow workshop was also very popular. Ellen led the workshop which involved improving performance by imagining it. She shared financial planning techniques from her book then went over the Mamas’ business cash flow. She asked workshop participants to work on a spending plan (writing down everything they spend), and to save 10% of their income to achieve their long term goals for themselves and their families.

Ellen further encouraged positive thinking. Towards the end of the workshop she praised Global Mamas for the impact the NGO is making and pointed out that today there are more women opening businesses in Ghana than men.

In addition to providing training for financial “health” and well-being, Terri facilitated education on breast cancer screenings, in which 32 Mamas and employees participated.  The screenings involved a manual examination also utilized a newly developed screening using a breast cancer detection device.

Workshop participants pose happily with their Prosperity Pictures after the workshop.

 

Thanks so much to Terri and Ellen for sharing their expertise and contributing to the financial and physical health of our community! We love having volunteers share their skill sets with us in Ghana! 

 

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.

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.

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.

 

Announcing Our New Health Education Program for Mamas

By Amelia Brandt, volunteer

Adrienne1

In late 2013, we heard from Mamas that they were especially interested in learning more about their health —an important part of our definition of prosperity. With this feedback in mind, we recruited Adrienne McConnell, a New Mexico native studying for a master’s in community health education, to intern at our Cape Coast location.

Adrienne’s Mama-centered approach began with meeting the women and understanding their health challenges. Mamas shared that they were most interested in learning about nutrition, breast cancer, menopause, and communicable diseases, particularly Hepatitis B and HIV.

Adrienne collaborated closely with Cape Coast office manager Patience and Mama liaison Anna Rose to tackle nutrition first, via a workshop addressing local foods that would resonate with Mamas. Patience and Adrienne also forged a partnership with a nutritionist from the University of Cape Coast, Rebecca, to give the presentation in Fante, the local language used in Cape Coast.  

In mid-April, Rebecca presented on nutrition to Cape Coast’s 40 Mamas and quality control staff members and, with Adrienne’s help, answered many questions from the audience. The Mamas greatly appreciated the lesson; as quality control employee Esther shared, “I was really happy to see the presentation and I learned a lot of new things.” As a part of the workshop, Rebecca and Adrienne distributed handouts about nutrition for women to take home and share with their families and friends. While in Cape Coast, Adrienne also shared her nutrition lesson with two friends of Global Mamas: Judith, a souvenir shop owner and former Global Mamas producer, and Eli, an owner of a small restaurant near the Cape Coast volunteer house.

In late April, Mamas at our Ashaiman location also heard Adrienne’s nutrition presentation. With inventory control manager Dorcas providing translation support to the local language of Twi, Adrienne and the Mamas created a food pyramid based on typical Ghanaian foods for a practical lesson in healthy eating.

Besides nutrition, Adrienne also taught classes about breast cancer and menopause to Mamas in Ashaiman, Krobo, and Cape Coast. With this new program in place, Global Mamas plans to continue health workshops and build relationships with local experts and NGOs to address Mamas’ priority health concerns.

Volunteer Adventures on the West Coast

By Kara Scheer

Volunteer Adventures on the West Coast

On July 8th, five Cape Coast volunteers got up bright and early to head for a day trip to Nzulezo, a village on stilts built over Lake Tadane in the Western Region. Armed with groundnut sandwiches and ready for adventure, the ragtag group grabbed a tro-tro to Takoradi, expecting to make it to the stilt village in a short three hours (because that is what the guide book informed them it would take). Unfortunately, the trip ended up taking twice as long as expected and when the village visitors center was finally reached at 2pm they found that it would be another two hours until they would be able to get a canoe to the village. Thinking it was a day trip, they did not have enough money to stay the night there and realized that they would need to figure out a way back home that night. They pooled all of their money (counting every last pesewa) and crossed their fingers that it would all work out.

 

Their spirits were lifted by the trip to the picturesque stilt village and the group managed to retain smiles even after being drenched to the bone by a random shower of rain. The taxi driver who they had asked to meet them after the trip to bring them to the main road didn't answer his phone so they were ushered into a tro-tro by a woman who worked at the visitor center. Laughing, they bonded over the rickety tro barreling down the dirt road through the jungle and taking hair-pin turns onto plank bridges, comparing it to a virtual reality ride of Jurassic Park. The comedy of the situation increased as people ran out of the bushes and packed the tro- filling it to an impressive 17 people (with an 18th hanging onto the back).

 

Almost home, they were stopped by a policeman and informed that they were overloaded. They panicked thinking that they were so close and were about to be kicked out onto the road. Calmly, the driver told them they just needed money. The girls scrambled, nervously searching their wallets but the driver just laughed and grabbed one cedi from one of the girls, which seemed to do the trick!

 

They finally pulled into Elmina, which was in the midst of a festival, and were dropped off in the milling crowd. It was 11pm and the girls hadn’t eaten for twelve hours, so they raced to Sea Top and inhaled egg sandwiches, as they quizzically stared at the hundreds of people dancing in the freezing down pour, amazed by the insanity that had taken over their usually low key neighborhood. Somehow, this insanity seemed like a fitting end to one of the craziest adventures for the girls thus far.

 

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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 www.ghanaexpeditions.com.

 

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