Prosperity Blog

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12/1/2011 :: Free Health Workshop for Cape Coast Producers

By Heather Boyd and Melanie Popowich

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

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


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


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


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




9/1/2011 :: Product Conception to Fruition

By Sarah Parish (Volunteer, United Kingdom)

Product Conception to Fruition

The Global Mamas slogan 'Love Your Product, Know Your Producer, Change Her Life' is firmly embodied in every sketch, stamp, and stitch from the initial design idea to the finished product. Every completed order showcases the skills of the designers, batikers and seamstresses who make up the close-knit team here at Global Mamas, but it is not a process undertaken lightly nor without a flurry of creativity and precision.


Earlier in the year, a group of visiting interns from America took on the task of identifying the brand’s most popular styles, Colors and patterns based on current sales data. Combining this information with an instinctive insight into upcoming trends, staff designers Jessica Galasso (Ghana) and Alice Grau (US) worked tirelessly alongside interns and volunteers brainstorming what will become the ‘must have’ items of the 2012 Global Mamas catalog. The interns and designers identified ‘Pyramid’ with its crisp lines and sharp angular edges as a potential customer favourite. The interns also suggested moving away from monochromatic color contrasts and instead embraced the idea of using vibrant colors together. As a result we are particularly excited to see the reaction to ‘Cityscape’ a popular print from last year, designed by intern turned employee Nick Ruffalo (US), appearing with a striking new ‘Mustard’ colorway.


After sales research and trending predictions are complete, a rigorous process of sampling old favorites and new batik patterns, with classic and fresh product designs is carried out making sure only the best styles make it to our valued customer. Of course, these products cannot make it to the retail floor without establishing costing and pricing. Global Mamas takes great pride in our Fair Trade status, so Cape Coast General Manager Melanie Popowich sits down with all of the Mamas to negotiate a fair price for their work, from the cost of thread per item to the level of sewing expertise required to create a flawless end result.


With all of the nitty-gritty details ironed out, it is time to start producing the first US order. An on-going stream of orders means the office is always alive with the hustle and bustle of activity. Endless yards of white fabric that represent the potential for creativity, and on a more serious note a livelihood for the Mamas, are carried off to be transformed from an idea generated months prior to merchandise ready to be used and loved by its owner.


The first stage of production is batiking, where the fabric is hand stamped and dyed with meticulous care and attention, which is what makes a Global Mamas product so special. Visitors can experience this process for themselves at one of our batiking workshops and it is always noted afterwards that the accuracy and detail necessary in both stamping and dyeing is much harder to master than it looks! At Global Mamas we are not satisfied with anything but the highest quality items, and it is the responsibility of the enthusiastic and thorough quality checkers working in house to stringently check each and every dyed fabric for color and pattern consistency before it reaches the seamstresses.


While it is a huge relief when the batiked fabric matches the sample, fabric that does not meet our high standards is not wasted, rather transformed from its original purpose into something equally impressive. Some fabric is used to make off the rack products to be sold in our flagship store in Accra, where demand is increasing at an exciting pace; or the fabric could be found in the lining of a bag; or cut into squares to make an explosion of color on




9/1/2011 :: Batiking with Mary

By Sarah Parish (Volunteer, United Kingdom)

Batiking with Mary

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


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


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


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


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




6/1/2011 :: Global Mamas Gives Back during Kotokraba Market Clean Up Day

By Melanie Popowich

Global Mamas Gives Back during Kotokraba Market Clean Up Day

More than 60 Global Mamas, volunteers and staff members came together to donate their time cleaning up Cape Coast’s bustling Kotokraba Market on Saturday, June 25, 2011. The group met in the wee hours of the morning to sweep in and around the market in order to create a clean and safe environment for market vendors and patrons. Part of Global Mamas’ commitment to fair trade is providing healthy work environments for its workers and encouraging environmental sustainability.


Our Mamas rely on the Kotokraba Market for their basic supplies (everything from thread and pins to dye and cleaning supplies), which is why the Mamas and volunteers decided to spend their time sprucing it up and giving back to their community. The initiative surprised market vendors and patrons, they were taken back and appreciative.


The Mamas took extra care cleaning the areas outside of their most beloved vendors shops. "Maggie is a god-send," said Mama and seamstress Alice Korsha outside a small shop that sells a variety of sewing supplies. "Anytime we need something she will go as far as Accra to get it for us, she’s always supporting our businesses."


More than 20 volunteers from around the globe joined the cleaning crew. Gretchen Sunko from the USA is volunteering with Global Mamas for four months and was honored to be a part of the special day, "I love working side by side all of these hard working women. I can’t believe what a difference we’ve made in such a small time, the streets look unbelievably clean!"


A special thank-you to volunteers from Holy Child School, Zoom Lion and CCMA for supporting the event.




6/1/2011 :: 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.




4/1/2011 :: Great Growth in Krobo

By Rebecca Ritticello

Krobo’s Global Mamas – Photo by Desirae Early

Global Mamas has been operating in the Krobo area for more than five years. As with all new ventures, the bead operation started off relatively small while we learned the market and ensured that the products we exported met the high quality standards our customers expect from Global Mamas. In 2010, Global Mamas decided to move production of all of the beaded products in house. This was a great opportunity for the women because for the first time they became eligible for employer based health care and social security retirement.


When the decision was made to move the producers into the Global Mamas office, the office had two good size rooms and a nice covered porch. It more than met the needs of the seven women that we hired. It soon became apparent that we needed more Mamas to fulfill the orders that we were getting. The beaded products were becoming more popular and we could not keep up with the orders. The Krobo office started to hire more mamas and then we ran into a space problem. We needed a bigger office. In April 2011 a new office was identified and it is a perfect fit. The office is actually a large 3-bedroom house with a living room, kitchen, screened in porch, and garage for the grinding machine. The lease was signed on May 1st and the renovations began a few days later. On May 27, twenty-four mamas began their day working in their new office.


It is great to see the women happy to come to work in the morning, enjoying the comfortable working conditions and not having to worry about the weather. The new office gives Global Mamas room to grow and will allow us to hire more mamas as our order increase in the future.




4/1/2011 :: Transforming lives, one Voltic water bottle at a time

By Melanie Popowich

Transforming lives, one Voltic water bottle at a time

When our newest Global Mama, Ellen Eshun, gives Fante lessons to volunteers, she always starts by introducing herself as Abba atta Panyin. As she speaks you can see a small smile emerge from a normally serious face, and her chin lifts up a little. Ellen is a very proud first born twin, hence the atta Panyin. Born to Agnes and William on April 3rd 1980, she has always been surrounded by people. She is fourth born in a family of eight and at any time growing up could be found chatting with siblings, cousins or the workers that helped with the family farm in Brenu. To this day, the Eshun family still farms cassava, tomatoes and peppers. Ellen fondly remembers being responsible for cultivating tiger nuts. Along with her siblings and cousins, she was blessed to have the opportunity to attend elementary and secondary school. To pay for school fees and clothing, she sold soap to community members on the weekends. She often sold the soap on credit and collected the money the following weekend. Unfortunately, her sales weren’t enough to support her through technical school or university and at 19 she turned in her uniform.


With drive to provide for herself, she worked in her older sister’s provision store until she found herself pregnant at 21. She gave birth to Fredrick and then five years later Emmanuella was born. When Ellen talks about this period in her life she keeps her eyes to the ground as they were tough years and it is still painful for her to talk about. Shortly after Emmanuella was born she gathered up the strength to leave her abusive boyfriend and moved back home with her mother.


One fateful day, her mother met a woman looking for a house girl at the Global Mamas volunteer house in Elmina. Ellen jumped at the opportunity for a job and most importantly, the chance to earn a steady income and provide for her two children. December 11th, 2011 will mark Ellen’s four-year anniversary, another accomplishment that she is extremely proud of. Ellen’s work ethic and attention to detail are apparent when visiting the Elmina house. These attributes caught the attention of both Maria Vidal (Cape Coast General Manager at the time) and Global Mamas co-founder Renae Adams, and Ellen was asked to produce a few samples for a new and innovative product designed by volunteer Liz Lampman.


Ellen cuts strips out of old Voltic water bottles, paints them and then uses a heat gun to roll them into the shape of a bead. In the past two months she has produced over 2000 of these beautifully recycled beads. When she was asked to officially become a Global Mama, she was speechless. Not only will her products be sold all over the World helping her gain extra income, but she now has the opportunity to attend workshops and receive a wide range of business training from volunteers.


The Water Bead line is made from a mix of recycled plastic and recycled mixed beads and is available in a wrap necklace, bracelet and earrings. The line is also handmade by Ellen aka Abba atta Panyin a now self-reliant woman who provides for herself and her children all on her own!


Click here to read an article published in the Hudson Star Observer about volunteer and designer, Liz Lampman and producer Ellen Eshun.




12/1/2010 :: A Leap of Faith in the Shade of a Mango Tree

By Genny Cortinovis

Gina’s son looks to the creations made at the batiking workshop.

Batikers, although most certainly artists, are first chemists; they orchestrate chemical reactions, envisioning colors into being. A plastic tub is her laboratory, hydrosulfate, caustic soda, water and salt her elements. Does she want wine or brick, grass or Kelly green? She swirls the fabric into the dye bath and waits and watches. From a bath of brown liquid, she pulls out a cloth dyed deep indigo, from red she reveals yellow, which ripens to green as it meets oxygen. She has to trust in her training, but perhaps more crucially, her instincts.


After just a few minutes at Gina’s home and workshop, surrounded by intricate foam stamps, terracotta basins of hot wax and black cauldrons of steaming water, I was mesmerized. It was the same thrill of being in a dark room, watching an image come to the surface of a blank paper as it wading in solution. Batik, and I suppose dying, in general, has that same quality of mystery and excitement. You take a leap of faith when you drop a yard of cotton in the pot.


I came with a million ideas to Gina’s workshop: Could I make this shape? Would this color combination work? What would happen if I point that there, dipped this part here? The possibilities were endless, as well as, thank goodness, Gina’s patience. She would listen to me explain my idea. With her hand pensively on her chin, she would look up and imagine the process, step by step. "For those blocks of white, we should use resistance wood strips. For that patch of deep green, a finely shaved foam block." "Ok," she would say, "let’s try it."


I returned the next weekend with dreams of indigo dipped linen, flecked with white, like stars in a night sky. "Tie those knots tighter!" "You need larger string," she counseled. In the dye bath, out on the line. In the hot water out on the line. With each step, it got closer and closer to my dreamy blanket of night sky. Despite its flaws, I beamed with beginner’s pride, displaying it for her approval.


"Not bad. But we’ll do better next time." She handed me a mango, freshly fallen from the tree overhead. "Paradise, no?"


I couldn’t help but agree.




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