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  

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Empowerment Tour - Week #6

Olowo-n'djo with Kimberly at Whole Foods Mt. Washington.
This week the tour entered the North East region, traveling from Pennsylvania to Maryland to the Big Apple. It was busy; the tour crossed over many state lines and met many friends, both new and old. One of the tour highlights has been reconnecting with many of those who accompanied Rose and Olowo-n’djo to Togo last December. Last week brought reunions in Maryland with Kim at Whole Foods Mt. Washington, and in Pennsylvania with Robert at Whole Foods Jenkintown. Thank you to Robert for hosting the team at your home, and for the wonderful West African dinner with friends from Togo.
Olowo-n'djo and Robert at Whole Foods Jenkintown.

Celebrating ten years of empowerment with the team at Whole Foods Jenkintown. 
New friends from Togo.
 “That’s what empowerment is about, seeing people in a different setting, people I only first met in Togo, then in the US, 8 months later, being able to visit them, or visit their homes and be at ease with them and see how they live too. More importantly to see how they reflect back on Togo; I feel they feel what I feel. Until you can go to Togo, until you can experience Alaffia, it’s difficult to understand what it’s really all about.  Now these people understand what I’m thinking, they can see what I’m seeing, and that’s a very beautiful thing. Looking at the American side, or looking at Togo, looking at America together, I can see they are seeing similar things—how do we take care of each other, and also, they see the value of Togo, and the people there, that they have value to contribute. Now the people that came to visit Togo are going above and beyond, it’s a beautiful thing to see people you’ve spent time with and now are like part of the family. DC has diversity, people from different backgrounds. I also met some young Togolese, it was nice for all of us, I don’t get to meet that many Togolese on the west coast, it was refreshing to me to speak their language, our languages, and also to meet people from different backgrounds of the African diaspora, ultimately that’s what we need to do is reach out to this great diversity, and certainly on the east coast there is that diversity, and we are happy to be part of it.”

The warm welcome from the team at Earth Origins Easton.

The team at Roots Market Clarkseville. 

MOM's Organic Marketplace

The Tour headed to New York City from Pennsylvania for a couple of action packed days in the big city. The time in New York was marked by stirring presentations and times of discussion. There were two widely attended dinner trainings which proved to be perfect opportunities to view the new Alaffia documentary.
Dinner training attendees.

Thank you to Kristyana for orchestrating such purposeful events. 

Many thanks to Barry for his hospitality in the City. 
“New York is a very overwhelming city, it’s massive, but it’s also nice to see from the small town to the mid-size town to one of the biggest cities on the planet, that people still care about the very same things, people in Olympia care about making a better future, people in NY care about making the future better, and people in Kamboli, my home village, all care about making the future a better place. We are all caring people; it doesn’t matter where we are. I think that’s what I take away from NY.”
Wrapping up the East with a few stops in Upstate New York, The Empowerment Tour van is ready to put a few more miles on the tread and head to the Midwest.

“You can feel the sincerity and belief in what Alaffia stands for and how that matches with their own beliefs even from the many people who have not visited Togo. It was in some ways good for us, the people who had non-stop tears during our visit; they show us that it’s important, what we are doing, us being in the car, driving nonstop and being in unfamiliar places. It’s nice that people feel how important this is beyond just what Alaffia is, it’s just another example of people on the road that will be in my memory for time to come.”

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Empowerment Tour - Week #5

The tour left the welcoming diversity of Louisiana and headed straight for the coast of Florida. The team hadn’t seen an ocean beach since leaving San Diego and they made it just in time to catch the sunset over the Atlantic. Florida was filled with stops that were characterized by beauty and truly wonderful conversation.

“The Discussion at Earth Origins in Clearwater was really nice because we broadened the conversation beyond Alaffia. In general, as we move further east, the discussion is often not solely about Alaffia, but more about the world, and how Alaffia, and all of us, tie in.”

The tour crew made one last stop on their way out of Florida at Earth Origins in Gainesville where they had a beautiful walk around display and served what is rumored to be THE BEST homemade apple cake and pecan pie!
Earth Origins Gainesville 

The 11 hour drive out of Florida to Tuscaloosa was long, but provided several high points.  “I was very touched by the fact that a woman drove over a hundred miles to see us in Tuscaloosa just to visit for a few moments, and to give us encouragement to go forward.” In Tuscaloosa, Olowo-n’djo was a guest with Jim Lawson of WMXB, along with Earl, the co-owner of Manna Grocery and Deli. 

 “The radio show with Jim Lawson was a high point of the trip. We were able to converse about where we are and where we were – the history of Africa over the last 800 years – and I gained an understanding on how this is viewed from an African-American perspective. It was another step in understanding the common difficulties that communities face, and finding a way to move forward.”
After the interview, the tour visited Manna grocery before heading to Atlanta to make a quick stop at Whole Foods Briarcliff, whose team was buried in year-end inventory, but not too busy to set up a beautiful black soap end-cap. Thank you for being a part of the tour!

“The hospitality people have shown in the Southeast is amazing. The conversation, the sharing of food, getting to experience regional foods, and people sharing their homes and letting us into their lives has been really nice. I am being exposed to and learning about the diversity that exists in the US from state to state; this understanding will help to serve Alaffia. There is so much warmth from everyone wherever we go – it helps to propel us forward.”

Thank you Green Goddess for such a meaningful stretch of the tour.
Many thanks to Natalie for her hospitality and kindness in Florida!