Friday, December 22, 2017

Good morning friends. I realize it has been a while since I last shared my journey encounters with you. And today seems to be the right day. We are now in Ghana and my daughters took great interest in taking a day to explore the slave castles here and understand slavery. To me, this time when this inhumane form of trade was generally accepted conduct has resulted in the confusion of post-colonial African culture, economic disparity, and dignity of people of African origin.
I will admit whole heartedly that I did not have the stomach to walk the castles as bravely as my daughters. Instead, I sat down next to the local fishermen to write this note to share my feelings with you. I asked myself if we are not repeating the normalization of this practice today as I looked at the young woman with a child on her back in front of me washing dishes to serve the fishermen, and as I spoke on the phone with an Alaffia team member whose husband, a teacher, is not being fairly compensated. I again questioned myself that while one cannot equate the suffering of the slave trade with the suffering I currently see, I cannot also engage in unfairness of trade of the goods, services, dignity - dignity of ourselves.

While this may seem "gloom and doom" as they say, it is with the belief that we must look at history, not only to enjoy the upcoming holidays with our families or alone, but also to wonder in a meaningful way if we as people are choosing a better future for the generations on the horizon? And should we be responsible? From Ghana, the town of Elmina, I wish you happy holidays.

Monday, December 18, 2017

A Recap of 2017 | Giving Thanks

Dear Friends of Alaffia,

It is my wish that my letter finds you and your family in good health.  
The primary reasons for my writing this evening are to express to you, and on 
behalf of us all at Alaffia, our gratitude for the hand you continue to lend us such 
that our mission may continue its journey, and to wish you and yours a most 
joyful holiday season.  I believe that we are all held together by the humility 
 and love embedded in each of us to create heaven on earth for all people 
and our surroundings. You have continued to support Alaffia in ways you know 
best, and together we are reducing the pain of the innocent. 

Simply put: I can only say thank you.  Going forward, I would like to ensure you 
that Alaffia’s journey of servitude will continue and your contribution is everlasting.  
Because of your support, since our beginning we have collectively achieved the impact 
below through our empowerment projects.

Alaffia Shea Butter Cooperative, Sokodé. August 2017.

Maternal Care:
  • 4,832 Maternal Healthcare Recipients
School Construction:    
  • 12 Schools Built
  • 2,311 School Benches Built        
  • 36 Restrooms Built for Students
School Supplies Distribution:    
  • 34,640 School Supply Recipients             
  • 59,775 Trees Planted
Bicycle & Eyeglasses Distribution:
  • 8,253 Bikes Distributed 
  • 25,588 Eyeglasses distributed

Clip: Opening Ceremony of Nadagou School, Togo 

Still, numbers cannot capture the full magnitude of the impact; you must imagine 
the many lives behind these numbers.  For example, a month ago, we finished 
the construction of a school in Nadagou, Togo as you will see on this video. 
Because you have helped build them a school, students in Nadagou will not 
unnecessarily lose their lives trying to cross the river to go the neighboring school.

Before the new school was built and during raining seasons, students have 
drowned crossing the river just to get to school.  It is inconceivable to me that in this 
same world, where a school bus picks up my children every morning and 
brings them home every afternoon, a child across the world can drown simply 
trying to get to school.  When this was brought to my knowledge, I could not stand
by without taking action. To me, nothing is worth more than a human life. It is one of 
the reasons why I fundamentally believe simply claiming fair trade is not enough 
for our motherland, we must go beyond label claims to achieve human dignity. 
In other words, we all must work to offer a noble existence for all people.

In addition to the new school, the children of Nadagou received
 bicycles from Alaffia to use for daily transportation.

Because you are part of the Alaffia family, I would like to share with you 
our outlook for 2018:

We will continue Alaffia’s mission both here in our great State of Washington, 
as well as our communities in West Africa. In the following images you see that we 
 are supporting a local social enterprise in Eastern Ghana to construct a traditional 
soap making facility. Not only will this provide additional economic opportunities, 
but it will expand our gender equality initiatives in Ghana next year. 
Also in Ghana, we will add another 1,000 women to the 5,000 strong basket weavers 
currently under contract with Alaffia. Last month, I was in Bolgatanga, visiting 
Alaffia’s weavers, and the women told me they want nothing more than the opportunity 
to weave baskets to support their families.

In November, I met with Alaffia basket weavers near Bolgatanga, Ghana
to hear their experiences and collaborate.

Building facility for traditional soap making in Kede, in the eastern region of Ghana.

To continue our moral obligation of empowering the voiceless, both economically and 
socially, we must continue to expand Alaffia’s current market base and diversify our 
retailers and product innovation offerings. Therefore, next year, we plan to introduce
a series of new products into new markets. Every space on every shelf is an 
opportunity to empower humanity and create economic justice. Every time a shelf is 
stocked at night, when many of us are sleeping, it is a chance for a baby to be safely 
born. We all contribute in our own ways.

On another note, many of you know that Togo is going through some political uncertainties.
Although some may say we should retreat, we believe this is exactly the time to 
economically support the poor -- to continue to create jobs -- by growing Alaffia in 
the USA. Please rest assured that due to our expanded sourcing in Togo, Burkina Faso 
and Ghana, we have access to the materials we need to make our skincare products. If anything, this gives us an opportunity to empower more communities, and gain access to new
and exciting ingredients. We do however pray that peace rains upon Togo soon.

We are updating our packaging throughout 2018.
Our refreshed packaging will focus on three main elements:

Preview of Alaffia branding alignment in 2018

1) Brand unification

2) Coherent communication

3) A re-emphasis on our moral obligation to continue to be the most ethical
supplier of traditional, handcrafted shea butter in our market.

Rose, our daughters and I are heading to Togo and Ghana in a couple days, both for work 
and to get some family time. I hope that during these holidays you, too, get some time 
with your family. Finally, I hope you have recognized the crucial role you play in the
Alaffia mission, and I can only thank you with all my being.  
Here’s to a joyful and healthy 2018.

Peacefully yours,


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Alaffia's New Shea Cooperative

Dear friends of Alaffia,

It is my sincere wish that this note finds you and your family in good health.  Six weeks ago, I promised to update you on Alaffia’s progress in establishing a new cooperative in northern Togo near the village of Djapak.  A couple of weeks ago, I returned from working with our team in Djapak and put together this brief video as an update on the cooperative and to give you a sense of this difficult area.  As you can see, while fair trade is important, it is simply not enough to raise our communities out of extreme poverty. I will keep you posted on our progress in the months going forward. To me, Alaffia’s new cooperative in Djapak is only possible because of your continuing support, for which I cannot thank you enough.

On behalf of all of us at Alaffia, please accept our deepest gratitude for your care and support.  Your individual actions contribute to the betterment of lives of individuals in our most impoverished communities.

I wish you a peaceful and happy spring.

Peacefully yours,