Global Mamas offers an awesome experience to both its volunteers as well as anyone who is interested to learn about traditional Ghanaian arts. The Cape Coast location manages the batikers and seamstresses around the area, so Abbey and Ericka were able to meet up with one of the batikers and take a workshop with her. Seeing the women do their work first-hand was fascinating. We had a lot of fun and were able to create the fabric that we used. We also got the chance to travel to and do some smaller projects at the Global Mamas Krobo location. The Krobo area is known for beads, hosting an enormous bead market every Wednesday. There, we were able to take another workshop with Grace and Moses, two bead makers who have worked with Global Mamas for 5 years. We learned the whole process of creating beads – from glass bottle to bracelet. It was great to see firsthand the work that is done within the Global Mamas family each day.
But our project nears its end. Over the past month, we have formed amazing friendships and successfully adapted to the Ghanaian groove—traveling in taxis to the office each morning and afternoon, in “tro-tros” to our favorite beach spots and weekly cricket matches, and to the farthest reaches of Ghana to experience the enormity of the largest waterfall in West Africa. Our database project is almost complete. When it is, Global Mamas will be able to use this tool to analyze how their organization has impacted their producers since the very beginning. We meet with management next week to illustrate our ideas to reorganize their offices in order to add an inventory Room and account for three new positions at the Cape Coast location- Inventory Manager, Design Assistant, and Production Assistant.
Today marks our third week in Ghana! What an experience so far!
We continue to labor through data and enter it into the database, but we have also been asked to complete a few side projects. Ericka already finished updating an Infographic for the Global Mamas (GM) Annual Report. They have been really pressing her for her Graphic Design skills and she has really stepped up! Ash began a project last week called “Meet the Mamas,” in which he will interview and get to know many of the Mamas. GM will post some of his favorite quotes on Facebook so that customers can get to know their producers. Abbey and Nick will be introduced to their side project today related to Inventory Management.
According to the Rural Poverty Portal, around 6 million people in Ghana live in poverty. Global Mamas works not only to bring people out of poverty but also gives them the chance to prosper. GM producers earn on average 35% more than workers in the same industry in Ghana. That is 75% above minimum wage! By sorting through our data, we have been able to realize firsthand the difference that GM has in so many lives. On AVERAGE, each Mama supports 2 people outside of their immediate family and often times pays school fees for up to 6 children who are not their own.
Last week, we were able to help out in Quality Control where about ten employees examine the quality of the orders that the Mamas have sent in to the office. Our task was to remove any loose threads and make sure all zippers functioned correctly. We have a lot of fun there with the staff.
On the weekends when the office is closed, we are able to travel around Ghana. So far, we have traveled to Kakum National Park, Elmina Castle, the city of Kumasi, and Lake Bosomtwe.
Kakum National Park is located 45 minutes away from Cape Coast. We went on a canopy tour, which is like a ropes course 30 meters above ground in the canopy of the rainforest. Even though it was a little frightening at times to be supported by just ropes and wooden boards, the views were so worth it.
The Portugese, under the supervision of St. George of the Mine, built Elmina Castle in 1482 as a trade settlement, but it later became an important stop on the route of the Atlantic slave trade. Evidence of the type of treatment that was inflicted upon these people can still be seen and felt today. One of the most emotional parts of the tour was our stop at the “Point of No Return.” Slaves were marshalled through a small crevice in the wall where they could briefly glance back at their homeland one last time before being shipped off to the Americas, never to return.
Many name Kumasi as home to the largest market in West Africa. Once we made our way into the chaos, it was difficult to find our way out. Vast and overwhelming, one look there was enough for a lifetime. After maneuvering our way out of the market, we traveled to Lake Bosomtwe, which was created by a crater over one million years ago and is now a peaceful and secluded getaway. We enjoyed our time swimming and relaxing by the lake before journeying back to Cape Coast to get ready for the week.
1:30 AM Ash is awake due to extreme jetlag, Ghana edition
5:30 AM Ash finally falls back asleep
5:31 AM The sun rises
6:56 AM Abbey and Ericka wake up
7:00 AM Abbey and Ericka’s alarm goes off
7:00 AM Nick cannot believe it is morning
7:05 AM Nick takes his first bucket shower
7:06 AM He loves it
7:35 AM Ash wakes up
7:40 AM We leave and walk to the junction
7:45 AM We arrive at the junction and hop into a taxi
8:00 AM The taxi drops us off near the Global Mamas office
8:05 AM We’re early thanks to GMT – Ghana Maybe Time
8:30 AM The project is upon us
8:31 AM We are already drowning in data
We should probably explain what we are doing here in the first place. Over the past 10 years, Global Mamas has used a variety of models to track the impact of their work. Because different amounts and types of data were collected, none of the information is organized in a meaningful way. Our task is to populate the database for the three locations in Cape Coast, Odumase-Krobo, and Ashaiman. We will also work with the management team to identify and create relevant reports, analyze our findings to guide programs for the next few years, and possibly develop and implement a communications plan to highlight the company’s achievements to donors, volunteers, customers, and potential partners.
Global Mamas is a non-profit clothing company whose stated goal is to achieve prosperity for women. They strive to do this by using a micro-enterprise model to create fair-trade jobs for women. The ultimate outcome is to prepare women to manage their own independent, self-sufficient small businesses.
We worked on inputting the data for the rest of the day, stopping once to go across the road to the chop stand where we all got rice, beans, plantain, and red sauce. At 5 PM, we took a taxi back to our house and then walked down the road to Elli’s. Elli has a restaurant where she makes food to order, so our meal of palava, rice, and eggs was hot a ready soon after we arrived.
After dinner, we went back to the house and played some cards before simultaneously agreeing that 9:30 PM was way too late to be awake, so we scurried off to bed.
Hello friends and family!
This post begins a series of blog posts that chronicles UMN Nourish’s project with Global Mamas in Cape Coast, Ghana. First, allow us to introduce ourselves.
Nick Cotta just finished his second year at the U. He plans to create his own major with concentrations in Global Studies, Psychology, and Social Justice. He is most looking forward to meeting the Mamas and learning about Ghanaian culture.
Ashwat Giri also just finished his second year at the U. He is entering his third and final year as an English major and plans to attend law school. He is thrilled with all that UMN Nourish has accomplished this year and is most looking forward to seeing, and being a part of, the culmination of the chapter’s efforts.
Abbey Kroll is entering her third year at the U. She is majoring in International Business and Supply Chain and Operations Management. She is most looking forward to meeting the Mamas and seeing how the organization has impacted their lives.
Ericka Wallis is entering her third year at the U as a graphic design major. She is most looking forward to implementing the project with Global Mamas and experiencing a culture very different from what she is used to.
UMN Nourish raised over $7000 this year, and has been eagerly anticipating putting that money to use. We chose Global Mamas as our partner because we believe the organization demonstrates the attitudes and ethics that Nourish stands for. We believe Global Mamas has an appreciation for the complexity of the issues surrounding extreme poverty, and we are impressed with how they have focused their efforts on designing highly contextualized, sustainable, community-based solutions.
Today, the team celebrated Fourth of July with Ericka’s family and neighbors in Madison, Wisconsin.
Tomorrow, we are driving to Chicago to catch a 3pm flight to Boston, our first of many flights as we make our way to Cape Coast, Ghana.
We invite you to connect with us throughout our project. You can follow us at this blog, or any of the personal blogs that our team members have created:
Thank you for your support and interest, and look out for more posts from UMN Nourish!
I can’t believe that I’ve already been in this amazing place for over three weeks now! I’m amazed at how quickly time has passed by but also excited to see how much we as a group have accomplished and to see how our relationships with the other volunteers, staff and ABAN women and their children have continued to flourish.
Work on the land has steadily continued with the help of our Ghanaian heroes, also known as the master landscapers. At this point, we have filled up well over a dozen crop beds with carrots, sweet peppers, maize and lettuce. It’s crazy how excited a group of students gets when they see little green leaves spring up from crops that they planted with VERY little experience. The summer hut has also officially started construction on the land. Although we are unable to do much with the building at this point, we are very good at pretending we are building the hut and even better at taking pictures next to it. After the frame is built though, we will get to sand it and then choose what colors we want to paint it. I’m rooting for KU’s crimson and blue but since I’m the only student here not from North Carolina, my chances are looking pretty slim.
What’s a trip to Ghana though, without a little friendly competition? Recently, we engaged in a soccer game with all of the American and Ghanaian staff and the ABAN women. The end score was too close to call but since it ended up pouring/monsooning on us and we all were covered in mud, I’d say it was a successful game.
For me, I think that situations like the soccer game are my favorite experiences here. At the beginning of this trip, I came to Ghana and primarily focused on the differences in culture and spent much of the time contrasting this trip to the way my life is in America. However, it’s indescribable to be able to join together over something as simple as soccer but something that is also prominent and important in both places.
Although our cultures may be different, we as people are the same. We crave for acceptance and friendship and love and to freely desire these things, without the fear of judgment. Through the use of soccer games, projects and just hanging out and enjoying each other’s company on a daily basis, I feel like we get to know the ABAN women in their natural habitat. This allows us to build strong relationships with the girls and I honestly can’t think of anything that I enjoy more.
For the second half of my trip, I hope to keep in perspective how truly blessed I am to be on this trip and to also take advantage that I am given the opportunity for daily interaction with these remarkable women and staff. I’m excited to see how the land continues to develop as well. This is easily the most gorgeous place I have even been to and with an upcoming trip to hike one of the largest mountains in West Africa as well as a trip to a beach resort, Ghana is full of all sorts of wonderful surprises that I can’t wait to discover!
With so much love,
My name is Taylor Cady and I am a member of Nourish International from the University of Kansas. The purpose of Nourish International is to join with different organizations in countries around the world to help create and join in forwarding sustainable environments. Last year, Nourish sent five students from Kansas and New Mexico to build the ACE center at ABAN’s compound. This year, Kansas joined forces with Wake Forest University and sent three of us to return to ABAN.
Our main focus for this trip is to build a summer hut on ABAN’s newly acquired land. Last year, ABAN bought six acres in Dumpong with plans to develop the ABAN compound and eventually create a fully functioning village or sustainable community to replace the currently rented compound.
We began our work on the land shortly after arrival and have already experienced plenty of blood, sweat and tears (but mostly sweat). We started off by clearing all of the trees and shrubbery with our machetes and pick axes. We pretended to know how to do all of this until we actually caught on. Once the land was cleared we were able to make paths leading up to the placement of the summer hut. In those paths we planted grass, which we hope will actually grow and not just die. After the paths were completed, we were each given our very own bed of soil. We all planted carrots which are expected to germinate within a week. However, the best part about our newly found farming talents is that once the carrots begin to grow we can start making our own pizzas because many of the Ghanaian pizzas have carrots on them!
My favorite part of the trip though, by far, has been my interaction with the ABAN women and their children. It is so inspiring to see that many are the same age as myself, but have overcome so much but still continue to find joy and happiness and a have a spirit that cannot be diminished. My favorite part of each day is going to their compound and just talking with them in English and my very limited Twi. I adore hearing their stories and the reasons for their children’s names and anything that they are willing to share with me. It’s been great to see all the love and compassion that they have for each other and the hope that they all have for their futures. In a world full of sadness, despair and depression, it brings me so much joy to see the endurance and happiness that I find here in Aburi.
I’m so excited to see what is in store for me during the next five weeks of my time here in Ghana and cannot wait so see all that the girls can teach me.
With so much love,
I am very very excited for this project! It will be my first time going to Ghana and I am so ready for it!!! Love volunteering!!! 😀
Since our last blog post, we’ve had several adventures, and we’ve made significant progress on our project. Last weekend, we traveled to Cedi Bead Factory in Kofordua so that we could better understand the bead making process and view a center like the one we are building in action. We then traveled to Ghana’s Volta Region and had an exciting weekend.
On Saturday we had the opportunity to attend a Ghanaian wedding. It was a lot of fun and a great opportunity to experience Ghanaian culture.
We have nearly finished clearing and leveling the construction area, and the support pillars are cemented in the ground. Construction on the roof has been delayed for the last couple of days, due to several complications, but in the mean while we have been constructing the tools that are used in the bead making process. As of this morning we have constructed 8 of the necessary tools. Dan, our supervisor and host estimates that we have 8 more days of construction work
Our entire team is thoroughly enjoying themselves. Working with in ABAN in Ghana has been an amazing experience thus far, and I’m excited to see what the next few weeks hold.
Within these last few days, we’ve already seen, heard, shared, done, and experienced so much. The ABAN staff has been warm and welcoming right from the start; it feels like we’ve known them much longer than just three days. The amount of love and patience that they’ve shared already is unbelievable. And the same goes for the girls of ABAN. They already tease and laugh with us as if we’re old friends, share stories, and help to teach us the Ghanaian language Twi, which, believe me, requires a tremendous amount of patience with us.
We’re staying with Uncle Dan, who is treating us like royalty. He has gone above and beyond in making us feel welcome. Dan is a Ghanaian artisan that lives with his family about ten minutes from ABAN. He is the supervisor for the bead center we are building at ABAN, meaning that he has planned the center and is leading us in the building process. He’s been a great help to ABAN for years already and it is great to be able to join with him to create this bead center. He often sits and shares his stories with us, and there is an infinite amount of wisdom to learn from Dan.
We’ve already made great progress for the center! Today and yesterday we’ve been clearing the land to begin building. It is hard work, but with the support that the staff and the girls have already shown, it will be no problem to finish the center with time to help with other projects.
We’ve experienced the market in Medina, tro-tro rides, the mall in Accra, and we even played a football (soccer) game against the ABAN team last night. (we won! The rematch will no doubt be intense)
I fail to capture in words how loving and peaceful everything has been. Ghanaian culture in general is much more patient than the American hustle that we have become accustomed to at school. It is not that they do less – I find that they are always working, always doing something to improve the lives of those they love, but they maintain a calm and understanding nature.
The work that goes into ABAN is unreal. They are constantly learning new ways to care and provide for the girls, to ensure that they are wholesome women when they graduate. The opportunity to spend time with the staff and witness all of the work that they is an invaluable learning experience. I feel as if I’ve learned a lifetime of lessons already, and it’s only Thursday. Soon we’ll post more about what each member of the staff does, and how big of an impact they create. (There’s no way we can capture the magnitude of ABAN in words, but we’ll try.)
I hope all is well with everyone, wherever you’re reading. All is great here.
Peace and love,
Hey all! Our team is preparing for our project in Ghana that will begin on May 28th. We’ll start our travel this Saturday, and arrive in Ghana on Sunday night. This will be the official blog of the University of Kansas & University of New Mexico partnership with ABAN this summer. Follow our journey here! We’ll update atleast once a week with the progress of our project, the impact of our project in the community, and the impact of the project and the community on ourselves.
ABAN is an organization in Accra, Ghana that provides aid to street girls in Accra, as well as help to improve the environmental conditions of the city. Every day, the same streets that these girls are forced to sleep on are littered with over 40 tons of plastic waste. ABAN helps to teach these girls to recycle these waste products into materials that they can then transform into profitable items, such as bracelets, aprons, and cosmetic bags. ABAN not only teaches the girls the seamstress skills for this trade, but also provides them with shelter, an education, and a savings matching program upon the girls’ graduation. ABAN’s aim is not just to temporarily aid these girls, but to provide them with the life tools they need to end this cycle of poverty.
While we are at ABAN, we will spend our mornings building an outdoor bead center, which will hold the kiln (for the girls to fire their beads). In the afternoons, we will be working one on one with the girls, learning their stories and helping them grow. We’ll be doing a homestay with a man there named Dan, who works with ABAN, and will drive us there and back everyday.
I don’t know exactly what to expect on this trip, but I do know that I am excited beyond belief, and look forward to helping these women and this program grow, just as I am sure it will help all of us to grow.
See you soon, Ghana; I can’t wait to experience what you have in store for us!