Friday, September 27, 2013

The Empowerment Tour - Week #4 Recap from Olowo-n'djo

Spanning four states and covering more than 1,500 miles, week four of The Empowerment Tour covered more ground than any other week yet.
Olowo-n’djo and crew wrapped up their time in Arizona and New Mexico amidst new friends and old: “It was great to reconnect with old friends in Arizona and make new friends. So many people are there for Alaffia, with a sense of pride in their role and happiness for Alaffia’s continued growth. New Mexico added another layer to the momentum of the tour because of the excitement from the reps and retailers. The dinner visit was wonderful because it was about people from different stores coming together to share and learn how Alaffia supports the world with their help.”

Dinner Training at Il Vicino.

One of the great stops in Albuquerque.

The team at Whole Foods Austin Gateway.

Whole Foods Market Austin Lamar

Whole Foods Market Metairie

Another highlight of New Mexico was the visit to the Petrified Forest National Park. “Visiting the Petrified Forest National Park in New Mexico was a vivid reminder of the power of nature and the passing of time. To go to a place that was once a forest kingdom, but now is just rock is a reminder that we are not immune to extinction, and that we need to be very conscious of how we deal with the world and think about the future.”
Taking in the Petrified National Forest

Texas also proved to be a memorable stop. Olowo-n’djo was given the opportunity to show the documentary at Whole Foods Corporate Offices in Austin. “I want to express my deep appreciation for everyone that came to the documentary presentations in Austin. And thank you very much for the goodies for the road! We were happy to have Rose and the girls come to join us on the tour in Texas—it helped me so much to see my family.”

The Tchala family with the team at Whole Foods Houson Montrose

One the road out of Texas, the tour made a late arrival into Louisiana, but was warmly welcomed by friends of Trevor who graciously hosted the team. “It was so wonderful to come “home” to delicious late-night Jambalaya made by our New Orleans hosts; the flavors reminded me of Togo.”
Late night Jumbalaya dinner

After weeks on the road, the team isn’t immune to the wear and tear of the journey, but they remain in high spirits because of the kindness from everyone encountered along the way. “I feel good that the tour team is working together well and getting along, it helps a lot that we are mutually supportive. But it is a challenge to be on the road because I miss my family terribly. I also realize the weight that Rose carries by not only taking care of the family but also wearing so many hats at Alaffia while I’m away on the tour. Yet despite the difficulties and sadness I feel even stronger in the knowledge that we aren’t in this alone. Every new mile finds more people ready to contribute to Alaffia’s journey. This makes me even more committed to continue in our efforts.”

A "Soul Collector" the team met in Austin. He traded his cd's for some black soap and said a prayer for the journey.
After an authentic 'Nawlin's' dinner at Jaques-Imo's cafe in New Orleans.

A quick po'boy stop on the way out of town.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Empowerment Tour – Week 3

Week three found the tour crew saying goodbye to the sandy beaches of SoCal and heading to the painted deserts of the southwest. The first city stop out of California, Las Vegas, got a special treat: Rose flew down and joined the tour. The day in Vegas was packed with positive visits, but special thanks must be extended to Whole Foods Las Vegas Blvd. for organizing such a fun and inspiring few hours! Thank you all for the extra effort your team put in to organizing the event, from the delicious food to the drummers and demos. 
(The addition of the massage chair was a touch of genius!)

Serving up the spread at Whole Foods Las Vegas Blvd.
The event soundtrack.

The MUCH appreciated moment of relaxation.

The tour exited Nevada and came into the Grand Canyon State in high spirits, taking a detour past the Hoover Dam enroute to Phoenix. Visited by over one million tourists per year; the giant expanse of concrete arching across Lake Mead is one of the top 10 construction achievements of the 20th century. Amidst controversy, it stands, in Olowo-n’djo’s words, as “evidence of what humankind is capable of, but also a reminder of how we have the ability to alter and potentially destroy this world.”
Olowo-n'djo at the Hoover Dam.

View of the Colorado River.
As the tour progressed through Arizona, the team became equally acquainted with the unique desert scenery as with the extreme heat that accompanies it. 110 degree heat notwithstanding, Arizona was filled with reunions with old friends and the meeting of many new ones.

Breakfast with new friends, Kathy and Seffa in their sustainably built solar powered home made from shipping crates. 

Thank you both for opening up such a beautiful space for the crew!

As always, we wish to extend gratitude to everyone in Nevada and Arizona who opened up their homes or came to an event, as well as to the stores that hosted and the reps who planned.
All the stores we have visited are ready and waiting for us. They understand what the tour is about. There are a lot of supporters. We are grateful to the many families that have prepared us food and provided us with a place to stay. They go above and beyond. I'm fired up to go!" –Olowo-n’djo

This must have been a good story!

Olowo-n'djo and the guys from FreshE!, thanks for organizing a great tour through Nevada and Arizona! 

Olowo-n'djo and Lisa Ann.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Empowerment Tour - Week Two

Week one wrapped up in Northern California and took the tour down the coast by way of San Francisco and Santa Cruz.
Heading up to the Vantage Point.

The Golden Gate!

A visit to the Whole Foods Sebastopol provided an unexpected reunion with Amber, one of the team members who accompanied Alaffia to Togo last year. (Watch the video from the trip here)
Reunion Hug

Catching Up

The days from San Francisco to San Diego were filed with store visits and dinners with friends. Olowo-n’djo was given the opportunity to cook traditional Togolese fare for many of the store events, highlighting Red PalmOil. Olowo-n’djo was grateful for the opportunity to cook for so many, as a way to express his appreciation to all who have supported Alaffia and the Co-ops for the past ten years.
Chef Tchala at Whole Foods Fairfax.

Serving up the Togolese cuisine!

The Eager Crowd

One of the many viewings held of the new Alaffia documentary.

Each of the events was memorable, and we can’t thank all those who helped to orchestrate them enough.
Plenty of raffle baskets loaded with Fair Trade Alaffia products were awarded down the coast, and Olowo-n’djo was more than happy to offer the baskets to the winners.
The Lucky Winner at Mother's Market in Santa Rosa.

Basket: Claimed at Mother's Market Costa Mesa.

With one final stop at People’s co-op and a trip to the fuel pump for a tank of Bio-diesel, The Empowerment Tour was off to Sin City for the next leg of the Tour. California, and all who became a part of the Tour through store events, dinners, and places to stay, thank you!
It has been special to reconnect with retailers that have worked with Alaffia since the beginning over 9 years ago. There is a lot of goodness and positive energy around the whole trip. People are going above and beyond!” –Olowo-n’djo

Sushi with friends in Costa Mesa.

Lunch Break at Whole Foods Stevens Creek.
Olowo-n'djo, prepped for a beach run in Santa Monica.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Empowerment Tour - Week One

The long awaited Empowerment Tour is officially underway! Olowo-n’djo and crew pulled out of HQ at 3:30 on Monday en route to their first stop in Crescent City, CA after a morning of packing and saying some final farewells.

Last minute tech details with Sam.

Fully loaded and ready for the tour.

The drive to Crescent City was long but filled with beautiful stops along the rugged West Coast.

Photo op on the 101.

A quick stop with Paul and Babe can't be passed up-

Upon arrival in Crescent City, the team was warmly welcomed by Lawrence Batterton who had a busy but exciting first day planned, full of visiting stores and sharing the Alaffia vision with both new friends and old.
Before the last stop of the day, the tour took a diversion past the Carson Mansion in Eureka. Named for the logging magnate who owned it, the house is a towering mix of many Victorian architectural styles, and the most photographed Victorian house in California. Carson himself was known for his philanthropic nature and had a reputation for fairness with his employees. He paid a decent wage, reduced working hours and was respected in his community.

A collision of style: Carson Mansion, meet Alaffia.

The Carson Mansion was a fitting stop on the first day of The Empowerment Tour, as the next two months are dedicated not only to celebrating the empowerment that comes through Fair Trade, but also to celebrate the strides of Empowerment made throughout history.

Thank you Lawrence for the tour and history lesson, the tour is off to a beautiful start!

“Today was a joyful day. In each store we visited, from small co-ops to larger markets, we got a sense of the care people have for the world and for Alaffia. The tour is developing its own life and we are now ready for the next day.” –Olowo-n’djo Tchala

Monday, September 2, 2013

Empowerment Tour Farewell

On a national level, empowerment is the topic of conversation. This week, we celebrate many triumphs in gender and racial equality. Monday was Women’s Equality Day, marking the ratification of the 19th amendment, and commemorating the struggles and triumphs of the Women’s Suffrage Movement led by Susan B. Anthony. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his groundbreaking “I have a dream” speech 50 years ago this Wednesday. He spoke out against the racial inequality in the nation. Though he did not see the change in his lifetime, today many are enjoying the freedoms he campaigned for.

And for Alaffia, we celebrate Empowerment this week as well. Today we held a farewell ceremony for Olowo-n’djo, to send him off on the Empowerment Tour with blessings and warm regards in the Togolose tradition.
The Alaffia team
Operations were shut down and the whole Alaffia family gathered in the warehouse to receive Olowo-n’djo and offer him gifts. A representative from each department wished him well on his journey. It was a memorable moment for all.
Adam from production wishing Olowo-n'djo well.

Alex from shipping saying a few words.

Rose wrapping up the well-wishing.

Though we will miss having him in the office, we are excited for the tour, and know that Olowon’djo is looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones.