Friday, December 27, 2013

New Year's Eve Traditions

2014 is almost here, and that means it’s time to celebrate. In America that usually means spending time with family at home, going out with friends, or catching up on sleep.  In Togo, however, they bring in the New Year a bit differently.

Coming together as a village is an important part of celebrating
New Year’s Eve in Togo doesn’t have the same fanfare as it does in many countries; New Year’s Day is when the celebrations start. From the city to the farm, families gather to cook a special meal. Instead of simply eating as a family, everyone ventures out, and goes house to house sharing the celebratory meal they have prepared. Family, friends, and neighbors come together as a community to bring in the 2014, to give thanks to each other, and to rekindle the special relationships that strengthen society.

After eating, families go to open-air bars for drinks and brochettes, similar to a kebab in the States, to listen to music and dance, and to wish each other either Bonne Année (French) or, in Olowo-n’djo’s home town, “Odun’kou-n’do” for a Happy New Year.

Traditional Togolese Brochettes 
Family, food, music, and coming together to welcome in a New Year, as in Togo and many other countries, shows that,culturally, the world isn't that different.

From us to you, “Odun’kou-n’do!”

Friday, December 20, 2013

What is in a symbol?

Alaffia recently introduced a brand new logo that represents what we are working to achieve as a company. Our logo contains three elements: the Eban symbol, Alaffia, and the words equality, empowerment, and beauty. The Eban symbol is a West African adinkra symbol representing protection, security, and love. Alaffia is a traditional central Togo greeting meaning peace, health, and well-being. The words equality, empowerment, and beauty are what we strive to bring to both our customers and communities across the globe. Empowerment through our various community projects, equality through fair trade practices, and beauty to our customers from  sustainable skin care products.

Rest assured anytime you purchase a product with the Alaffia logo, you are joining an organization committed to alleviating poverty and empowering communities. However, we are more than a company, we are a movement, led by our customers, and by communities in West Africa striving to create a better future. Thank you for your continued support toward working to achieve what we all know is possible, universal human dignity.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Local Outreach

Olowo-n’djo and Rose started Alaffia in 2003 as a way to correct an imbalance they saw in the world. Botanical Ingredients, which Olowo-n’djo helped harvest as a child, were undervalued; women that had a rich knowledge of the local flora were not being paid a fair wage; and communities in need were lacking a way to end the continuous cycle of poverty. However, they also understood empowerment isn’t simply an African issue; it’s a global issue.
Alaffia seeks to empower more than just communities in West Africa, we also support communities in the United States. Our mission to empower people starts with fair trade business practices and includes a commitment to community empowerment projects.
Our commitment to fair trade focuses on supporting local businesses, and we try to work with as many businesses within the community of Olympia as we can.  In instances when that’s not possible, we try to maintain a minimum three state radius for procuring resources. This has translated to over 90% of our packaging coming from domestic sources instead of China - where a lack of standards is creating a human rights and environmental tragedy. Because we put an emphasis on buying locally and domestically, we are lowering our environmental footprint and creating  financial strength in the community we reside.

Alaffia is also committed to supporting local charitable organizations that support and empower the underprivileged. We have been long-time supporters of The Other Bank and SafePlace Olympia. These organizations were founded with the goal of supporting abused women and children.   Recently we formed a new partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Thurston County, and were able to donate 25 bicycles to underprivileged kids for the holidays. These alliances are a part of our growing commitment to all communities, and the recognition that empowerment everywhere can make an impact. Alaffia will continue to support local businesses and create meaningful partnerships that impact societies in both the United States and West Africa. Alleviating poverty and empowering communities is a global issue and Alaffia is committed to lending a helping hand.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Alaffia Facebook Giveway #Fillthebasket

Alaffia is celebrating the holiday season with a fair trade gift basket giveaway.
The gift basket will contain 5 pre-selected items and 7 items voted on by you, our Facebook friends.
Each day for the next seven days two items will appear that can be voted on via comments. Pick the product you enjoy most and the winning product will be included in the final gift basket.
The winner of the basket will be drawn December 18th.  Three additional runner-ups will also be drawn to win a set of 4 new limited-run Alaffia Eban buttons.

Official Rules:

  •          Must be 18 years or older and provide a shipping address within the United States.
  •         Contest runs from December 11th, 2013 1:00 PM PST - December 18th, 2013 1:00 PM PST.
  •          Every comment on a post related to the giveaway is an entry into the drawing for the previous stated giveaway.  Max of one entry per post (one comment).
  •          Posts open to voting on products will be posted once per day (December 11th, 2013 – December 17th, 2013) at 1:00 PM. Voting will remain on each post until the end of the voting period (December 18th, 2013 at 1:00 PM PST).
  •          Names of those who comment on voting posts will have their names placed in a pool of names. Winners will be selected at random. Participants may only win once.
  •          Winners will be contacted via Facebook message within 24 hours of the end of the contest.  The winners will have 24 hours to respond to being notified of winning.  If no response is received within 24 hours, a back-up winner will be selected, and will be notified.  The same process applicable to the original winner will apply to all back-up winners.
  •         There will be one winner selected for the basket and Alaffia product. There will be three winners drawn to win 4 – Alaffia Eban buttons.
  •         The 5 pre-selected items include: 1 – 2 oz. Africa’s Secret, 1 – Red Palm Lip Balm, 1 – Shea & Vanilla Mocha Lotion, 1 – Dead Sea Bar Soap, 1 – 5 oz. Red Palm Oil.
  •          The 7 voted on items include: EveryDay Coconut Body Lotion vs. EveryDay Shea Body Lotion Unscented, 16 oz. African Black Soap Mint vs. 16 oz. African Black Soap Tangerine Citrus, EveryDay Shea Foaming Hand Soap Vanilla Mint vs. EveryDay Shea Foaming Hand Soap Lavender, EveryDay Coconut Shampoo vs. EveryDay Shea Shampoo Vanilla Mint, EveryDay Coconut Conditioner vs. EveryDay Shea Conditioner Lavender, Babies & Up EveryDay Shea Bubble Calming Lemon-Lavender vs. Babies & Up EveryDay Shea Bubble Bath Comforting Eucalyptus-Mint, EveryDay Shea Fair Trade Shea Butter Tangerine Citrus vs. EveryDay Shea Fair Trade Shea Butter Passionfruit.
  •          All items will be placed in an Alaffia Market Mini Basket.
  •          Prizes will be shipped within 24 hours of receiving winner’s address.
  •          Current Alaffia employees and family members are ineligible to win.
  •          This promotion is in no way affiliated with Facebook and Facebook is not liable there above stated giveaway

Friday, December 6, 2013

Human Rights and Dignity

On Tuesday, December 10th Alaffia will celebrate Human Rights. Leading up to this day the world has been taking a stand against gender violence in a variety of ways including wearing the color orange. Across Facebook and Twitter people have been using #iwearorangebecause , #16days, or #orangeurworld to tell their friends, and anyone listening, that violence against women has become an epidemic across the world that must be stopped.  Alaffia has, and always will, align itself and support people and organizations who champion the empowerment and equality of women worldwide.

The mission to empower women is so fundamental to Alaffia that it is ingrained in to the company’s business model.  Alaffia believes that, as a company and community, it is possible to eliminate the barriers to success in the lives of those who are less fortunate, and give them the dignity they inherently deserve by providing education, giving gainful employment, and providing maternal support.  Alaffia’s bicycles for education program has taken a dropout rate of 90% and reversed it to a 95% graduation rate among participants.  Alaffia’s Co-ops in Togo provide full-time work to over 500 women and thousands of jobs to women seasonally.  Alaffia’s maternal health program has saved the lives of hundreds of women and babies by providing comprehensive care through the entire gestational process.  These three programs have been and will always be a part of Alaffia’s mission to give dignity to all people.

By working together we can create a world where each person is valued for their individual uniqueness. Alaffia and Olowo-n’djo have worked towards this for the past ten years, and -while it may be a long journey- we are committed to dedicating our lives to the fulfillment of this ideal.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Statistics of Violence Against Women and 16 Days of Activism

On December 20, 1993 the United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Following this declaration the General Assembly designated November 15th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The United Nations has always sought to bring light to gender equality and the violence perpetuated against women through the Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW). The Commission met for the fifty-seventh session in March 2013 and stated that though progress has been made since the founding of the organization in 1946 the Commission: “recognizes that women’s poverty and lack of empowerment, as well as their marginalization resulting from their exclusion from social and economic policies and from the benefits of education and sustainable development, can place them at increased risk of violence, and that violence against women impedes the social and economic development of communities and States.”

Alaffia has been working to alleviate poverty and empower women for the past ten years. We are encouraged in our mission when we read statements like these made by the UNCSW. We believe that working towards empowering women can also protect women from violence. We also whole heartily agree that marginalizing women in society damages social and economic development not just for women, but for the entire nation. By providing a fair wage, a safe work environment, and community projects to empower women in West Africa we know we are playing an active role in ending the cycle of violence against women.  We will continue working towards a future free of not just violence against women, but any act that keeps women from being fully engaged both socially and economically.

To bring awareness to this grave issue, and to honor those who have suffered, Alaffia  has donated hair and beauty products to Olympia’s Safe Place. Safe Place is an advocacy agency that offers a confidential shelter to those who have been a victim of domestic abuse. Over the next several days, Alaffia will observe the United Nation’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence that leads up to Human Rights Day with stories highlighting how empowerment and fair trade are combating gender violence. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Maternal Health and Dr. Susan

The Hospital that Dr. Susan Picotte founded.
On Monday we highlighted Dr. Susan Picotte, a pioneering woman who was the first Native American to become a physician. Dr. Picotte grew up on the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska. After graduating from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania she returned home to open her own practice on the reservation. She worked tirelessly to provide health care that her reservation desperately needed. Her path began with her father, also the tribal chief, who always encouraged her, and other tribal members, to pursue education. As a child she saw and experienced the injustice and inequality that existed around her. Later in life she cited an experience of watching a woman die, because a white doctor refused to treat her, as inspiration for her pursuing a medical degree. Her life’s goal was to open a hospital in the reservation town of Walthill. This was finally realized towards the end of her life.

Rose and Olowo-n'djo at a maternal health clinic
founded by Alaffia
Olowo-n’djo also grew up in an environment where health care was not readily available to everyone, and even the clinics that did exist were consistently under-staffed and under-supported. Like Dr. Picotte, Olowo-n’djo has made it his life’s mission to correct these inequalities and create an environment where all people can grow up healthy and pursue their dream of a better life. Both were spurred by death and suffering they witnessed around them to push, provide, and keep fighting to offer health care to those who need it most. The Alaffia Maternal Health Program provides care to over 1,000 women every year and is constantly growing in its capabilities and its reach. As Alaffia grows, so too does its ability to meet Olowo-n’djo’s dream of providing women a safe place to bring  new life into the world.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Power of Dance

Across the world there are universal practices that bind communities and cultures together and remind us how similar we are. Dance is a universal practice that can be found in almost all cultures. From traditional tribal dance in Togo, to ballerinas of Paris, each culture has found a way to express emotions rhythmically.

Earlier this week, Alaffia honored former prima ballerina Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief. Not only was she the first prima ballerina of Native American descent, but also one of the first American prima ballerinas. Throughout her life she actively fought stereotypes and misconceptions of Native American people.  She is a shining example of an individual who fought to break down stereotypes to pursue her passion.

In Togo dancing styles are as diverse as the people who call Togo home. Styles include Agbadza, Kamou, Soo, Tchimou, Djokoto, Kpehouhuon and many others. Dance becomes more than just movement of the body; it becomes emotional, social, and spiritual. Even though each different stylistically, they are tied together by power of movement and the joy it brings.

When Olowo-n’djo returns yearly to Togo, he is met with joyful singing and dancing. Members of Alaffia Co-operatives in Togo express the joy of having a living wage, and the positive impact our community projects have on their country. However, the joy isn’t just felt in Togo. During the Empowerment Tour Olowo-n’djo was moved and overjoyed with the positive energy he received from customers and stores, and he too was moved to dance. At Alaffia we hope to continue giving people reasons to dance and express joy through the power movement.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Inspiring Life of Eliza (Lyda) Burton Conley

This month Alaffia acknowledges and honors the contributions, achievements, and sacrifices made by Native Americans, specifically women, and celebrates their heritage with the rest of the Nation.

Eliza (Lyda) Burton Conley

Eliza (Lyda) Burton Conley (1869-1946) was born a member of the Wyandotte Nation in Kansas. She was one of three sisters, all raised to pursue an education at a time when women were not encouraged to do so. She was the first woman admitted to the Kansas State Bar, as well as the first Native American Woman allowed to argue a case in front of the Supreme Court. Her case was instrumental in the protection of the Huron Cemetery, a Wyandotte burial ground, one of the last pieces of tribal land not incorporated into the Kansas City sprawl.

Students in Togo enjoying new school benches
Lyda was a forerunner for empowerment through her insistence on respect for repressed Native cultures, as well as her strides made for women by refusing to adhere to the accepted gender roles of the times.  The Huron Cemetery, now known as the Wyandotte National Burying Ground, stands today as a testament to the dedication of Eliza Conley, as well as a federally protected parcel of Wyandotte legacy. Lyda embodies the same spirit and tenacity exhibited by the women at our co-ops in Togo.  In Togo we view each woman we empower as the beginning of a cycle that is passed from one generation to the next. Women who, without our support, might drop out of school are emboldened to change Togo and the world for the better. Through Alaffia fair trade and community projects we are helping the next generation who will have the ability to fight for the respect of all people. The power of education has the ability to change not just an individual’s life, but also the community they reside as well as the world. What will the woman empowered with a bicycle accomplish now that she can complete her education?  What will the child safely brought into the world grow up to become? At Alaffia we are inspired by the potential we see in future generations.  Stories like Eliza Burton’s remind us of our purpose, and inspire us to continue our mission.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Fair Trade – From a Different Angle

With October being National Fair Trade Month, there is, expectedly, plentiful conversation had around the tenets of Fair Trade. What is the quality of the products being made? What is the compensation offered to the producers? Are the working environments safe for those doing the work?
Alaffia Basket Weaving Coop in Ghana
Sokode Shea Butter Coop

In all of this necessary conversation, a piece of Fair Trade that often goes without mention is what the products are packaged in. Plastic packaging is everywhere, global production of plastics has doubled over the past 15 years (2008), and only in the recent past has a dialogue opened up about the toxicity levels in this popular form of packaging.

A few of the more toxic ingredients used in the creation of plastic are BPA, PVC, and Polystyrene. The dangers of these are relatively well known, yet they are still widely used. Each are known to leach cancer causing properties into whatever they contain, and in the case of beauty products, this then becomes absorbed into your bloodstream within seconds. We include Fair Trade in our packaging process as well. We source the majority of our packaging from local manufacturers, who work to create non-toxic packaging made from post-consumer waste. By using packaging from our surrounding states, we are supporting our local US based economy rather than outsourcing to factories in places like China where the welfare of the workers is in question. In many of those factories, the workers face serious long-term health risks, including multiple types of cancers and lymphomas. Additionally, by sourcing in majority from California and Utah, we are working to reduce our carbon footprint by forgoing the expense of international export.Our packaging supplier routinely inspects their domestic and international facilities to ensure that employees are working in safe and non-toxic environments; the well-being of the workers is a focus.
Sorting Shea nuts at the Sokode Coop
Part of the Shea butter making process

Alaffia products in the making at our Olympia headquarters

Safely packaged, finished product. 

At Alaffia, we feel that Fair Trade should encompass the entire production process from harvest to shelf. From providing fair wages to those who harvest our raw ingredients in Togo, to those who formulate and create our products here in Olympia, Wa. to the bottles those products are filled in. We strive to maintain transparent relationships with all who contribute to the creation of an Alaffia product.

Sources drawn from:

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Empowerment Tour - Appreciations and Refelctions

With its final stops in Montana, The Empowerment Tour came to a close this week. Each week we have heard from Olowo-n’djo and seen the tour through his eyes. As a final closing to this incredible eight weeks, made possible by so many different people across the nation, we asked to hear from all of you who were a part of the tour on the road. Thank you all for sharing you appreciations with us, we value knowing that so many of you were able to share in the experience of The Empowerment Tour, and that it left a lasting legacy with those we visited.
“I was honored to meet you today and hear your story again and understand the purpose for what you do so I can share with others who buy your product. It is indeed the Hope for Humanity… Peace, Olowo-n’djo and Rose and all of the people in Togo, and the world that live in harmony and love. Thank you-”- Kathleen L.M.
“Thanks for coming to Albuquerque (and everywhere else)! Such a treat.” – Susan T.
“Thank you to the Empowerment Tour team and Olowo-n’djo for sharing your adventures with us around the country. It has been fun traveling with you via your updates, photos, and blog. Alaffia!”  –Jen L.
Olowo-n'djo and Lawrence, day two of the tour in the Redwoods. 
Taking in a roadside attraction or two.

Olowo-n'djo at the Hoover Dam. 

Alaffia meets Cadillac Ranch. 
Bio-fueling up, en route to D.C.

Taking in some monuments.
One of the 19+ state signs passed along the way. 

“Thanks to Mr. Tchala, the film crew, and team members for making The Empowerment Tour a huge success yesterday! It was an honor and pleasure to meet the founder of Alaffia and to hear first-hand about all of the community empowerment efforts his company pioneered” – The team at Whole Foods Carmel
“I met Olowo-n’djo at Sprouts Supermarket today. Just wanted to say… what a really nice man! Best of luck to you, if you ever see this message!” – Heidi and Bruce
 “Still riding the energy ‘high’ from your visit yesterday. The time that you invested to include us was not without purpose and the energy will trickle outward long after… there was great conversation late into the night around the bonfire that was all triggered by your visit, your purpose, your passion, and all that has yet to be accomplished. Thank you for investing in us and allowing us to invest in you!!!!! You are generating many smiles in the world!!” – Kate R.G.
Friends met and made along the way

Dinner Training in New York City
Dinner with buyers in New Mexico
Meeting with Whole Foods Corporate in Chicago
The Empowerment Tour Team with Morgan at Whole Foods Global Offices in Austin

The first of what would be many radio interviews
Olowo-n'djo with one of Alaffia's most dedicated supporters 

Drummers became a theme along the tour route

“I attended the Empowerment Tour at the Hennepin Whole Foods. I was very impressed with the positive message of empowering women by providing jobs, schools, bicycles and promoting good health. From a poor country, something positive can happen.” – Kim F.
“Thank you, Olowo-n’djo Tchala and Alaffia, for visiting us to talk about your fair trade body care products and how you’re empowering women and children in your home country! We are honored to have your products in our store!” – The team at Whole Foods Edina
 “Yesterday I got a chance to meet the amazing founders Olowo-n’djo and Rose of Alaffia (one of the companies I demo rep for)! I’m so excited and constantly amazed and inspired by them, this fair trade company, and honored to be a part of Alaffia’s team here in Chicago.” – Anna V.
 “It was such an honor to host Olowo-n’djo and the Alaffia Empowerment Tour at Community Pharmacy this week. We are all so inspired by the vision and efforts of Olowo-n’djo and Rose, and are proud to be a part of supporting their cooperatives in Togo and all the projects they create, from delivering bicycles to schoolgirls to supporting maternal health.” Julie N.
The first of what would be many reunions with members of last year's Togo trip. 

The Togolese cuisine along the way was a big hit

Radio Friends in Charlotte
Organic Marketplace in Gastonia

Presentation at Sunrise Natural Market
Thank you to all of the reps who gave of their time to plan these events, to the stores who hosted, and to the friends, both new and old who have opened up their homes to Olowo-n’djo and the team. This was an unforgettable experience for so many, and it is a direct result of so many people working together across 19 states and countless cities. After 58 days of Empowerment, Olowo-n’djo ends his journey on a high note, encouraged by the immense support offered across the nation.


Friday, October 18, 2013

The Empowerment Tour – Week #7:

This Week the tour began the two week long journey back to Washington by way of Upstate New York, and many stops throughout the Midwest.
The tour spent a few days getting well acquainted with Mid-West Hospitality through Indiana and Ohio. This stretch of the tour was full of store trainings and opportunities to share the vision and mission of Alaffia. Many were impacted and their support of Fair Trade and its ability to change our world was strengthened.  “We continue to see people who are taking an active role in participating in making the world better. It feels like there is a strong desire to do something about improving things, and it’s great to participate in these discussions.”
The Empowerment Tour welcomed by Wisconsin

Store training at Sunrise Natural Market.

Many thanks to MaryAnn for a wonderful time in Indiana and Ohio!

Chicago received a special treat; Rose flew out and joined the tour for the three days in The Windy City.
“As the Empowerment Tour entered its final week, I had the opportunity to join Olowo-n’djo in Chicago. For ten years, we have given our entire lives to Alaffia and our journey towards empowerment, social change and poverty alleviation for our communities in Togo. One of the things that has kept us going throughout these years is the knowledge of the trust and support we get from everyone involved in this journey. Sometimes, though, when preoccupied with the day to day necessities of keeping this organization moving, I lose sight of just how much we depend on this and how grateful I am that we have it.  At each and every store that I visited with Olowo-n’djo, I was reminded of the kind and great efforts that people make to help us.  The experience is very humbling and has given me renewed energy and excitement for what the next ten years may bring. I am sure I speak for Olowo-n’djo when I say there are not words to describe how much we appreciate all the hard work our representatives and retailers have put towards ensuring the success of the Empowerment Tour and Alaffia’s journey.”

The team at Whole Foods Lakewiew

Regional Meeting at Whole Foods headquarters downtown Chicago

The team at Dill Pickle

Whole Foods Market Kingsbury

With just a few stops left, The Empowerment Tour is drawing to a close, and we would like to, again, thank everyone for the excitement, generosity, and good will that they have built into this tour. “Every mile we move I become more convinced that we can do something for the greater good; there are many people around the nation that do care about the world.” – Olowo-n’djo