Monday, November 7, 2016

Alaffia Family

The reality today is that families are spread out across the world, thousands of miles apart, with each of us living separate lives.  We get caught up in our own struggles and routines and forget the bonds we share. However, as the holidays get near, we begin to think of those close to us, through blood or love, and we feel an urge to come together to remind us how important it is to have each other. This urge seems to be something truly cross-cultural, as strong here as it is in Togo and other far reaches of the world.

As families come together over the holidays, they put aside their differences and work toward a common goal. Even if the goal is as simple as putting together a warm meal and giving thanks for the opportunities and events of our lives, the goal is reached by everyone contributing what they can. In many ways, the unity I see in families during the holidays reminds me of how our cooperatives and women’s groups work every day in Togo.

In fact, the women of Queen Alaffia are a great example. At Queen Alaffia, the goal is twofold – give women an opportunity to support themselves and their families with the skills and knowledge they have accrued during their lives, and also, to create beautiful and creative products for others to enjoy.  Neither goal would be attainable without the women working together.  Like a Thanksgiving dinner, a Queen Alaffia bag is made of several parts contributed by many people.  One woman may sew the strips of fabric together. Another woman cuts the bag, and others will sew, press, and finish the bag. Each piece is a combined effort with a common goal.

If I look beyond Queen Alaffia to the greater Alaffia family, I see the same pattern – with each of you bringing your “dish” to make the Alaffia goal a reality.  The Alaffia family spans several continents, multiple cultures, beliefs, and ways of life. However, we all have a critical piece to contribute, and, united with the goal of empowering the less fortunate, we are truly making a difference.  During this season of reflection, we thank you for being part of our family and look forward to what we can accomplish together in the coming year.

Wishing you a peaceful and cooperative holiday season,


Friday, March 4, 2016

Ladies of Togo Tour

Three members of the Alaffia Togo Team will be visiting the US during March. They will tour retailers throughout the country, sharing their stories, traditional knowledge, and answering your questions. Learn how your Alaffia purchases support our fair trade initiatives, alleviate poverty, and empower communities.

Join the ladies and Alaffia founder, Olowo-n'djo Tchala  at the following events:

  • March 8, 10:00AM: WFM Chambers Bay (3515 Bridgeport Way W University Place, WA 98466)
  • March 8, 4:00PM: WFM Chambers Bay (3515 Bridgeport Way W University Place, WA 98466)
  • March 16, 6:00PM-8:00PM: African Dance Class; World Beat Cultural Center (2100 Park Blvd. San Diego, CA 92101)

  • March 24, 1:00PM-2:30PM: WFM Ponce de Leon (650 Ponce de Leon Ave NE Atlanta, GA 30308)
  • March 24, 3:30PM-4:30PM: Sevananda Natural Foods Market (467 Moreland Ave NE Atlanta, GA 30307)
  • March 25, 1:00PM-2:30PM: WFM West Paces (77 West Paces Ferry Road NW Atlanta, GA 30305)
  • March 25, 3:30-4:30PM: Nuts ‘n Berries (4274 Peachtree Road Atlanta, GA 30319)
  • March 28, 11:00AM-12:30PM: WFM Brooklyn (214 3rd Street Brooklyn, NY 11215)
  • March 28, 2:00PM-3:00PM: Perelandra Natural Food Center (175 Remsen Street Brooklyn, NY 11201)

  • March 28, 4:00PM-5:00PM: Westerly Natural Market (911 8th Ave New York, NY 10019)
  • March 28, 6:00PM-8:00PM: Fairway Market (2131 Broadway New York, NY 10023)
  • March 30, 7:00PM-8:30PM: The Wedge Table (2412 Nicollet Ave Minneapolis, MN 55404)

Abidé Awesso is Alaffia’s Director of Community Support for the Kara and Savanna regions of Togo. Abidé is a licensed midwife and joined Alaffia in 2012 as Maternal Health Coordinator for central Togo communities. In 2014, Abidé advocated for the expansion of the maternal initiative into the Kara region, as her research had shown the need was even greater there than in the central region. In 2015, Alaffia expanded efforts into the Savanna region and Abidé now manages both maternal and education initiatives in these two regions. Abidé is from Kara, north of Sokodé.

Mawulé Houmey is the Manager of Traditional Oil Extraction at Alaffia Village, Sokodé. Mawulé is from Aneho and first joined Alaffia to oversee coconut oil extraction at our Alaffia Coconut Cooperative in Klouvi-Donnou in 2012. She moved to Sokodé in 2015 to train and manage our cooperative members on traditional coconut oil & shea butter extraction.

Ahoumondom Bamassi is the Manager of the Togo Artisan Center in Sokodé. Ahoumondom has been with Alaffia since 2011, when she joined the Community Support team as the Education and Environment Coordinator. As Coordinator, she managed Alaffia’s Bicycles for Education, School Supply and Reforestation initiatives in the Central and Maritime regions. In 2015, she moved to Alaffia’s  newly created Artisan Center to manage the Queen Alaffia prostitution rehabilitation movement.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Love Your Beautiful Curls Contest


We want to celebrate you, your natural beauty, and your Beautiful Curls! 

Enter the Love Your Beautiful Curls Contest by creating a video about your favorite Alaffia Beautiful Curls product.
Contest Rules:

1. The video must be between 15 and 30 seconds long, posted on Facebook or Instagram.
2. Tag Alaffia and include the hashtag: #LoveYourBeautifulCurls.
3. Show at least 1 Beautiful Curls product and tell us how you use it & why you LOVE it.
Have fun! We are looking for creativity and passion for BEAUTIFUL CURLS! 

Questions? Comment below or visit us on Facebook or Instagram.

(The contest is open in the US only February 14-March 14)

Friday, February 12, 2016

2015 Thank You

Alaffia Friends,

I first would like to wish you a healthy and joyful 2016. Equally important, Alaffia families here and abroad would like to express their gratitude for all you have done in supporting Alaffia in 2015. It is my clear belief that each of you brings a critical contribution to Alaffia, and I owe you an overview of Alaffia's achievements this past year and our vision and commitment for the immediate future. Your continuous contributions are a safety umbrella allowing us to move the vulnerable members of our communities out of poverty. I spent the last seven weeks of 2015 in Togo, and below is a summary of what I witnessed.

Visiting Tamongue High School with my daughter, Yemi; Existing straw structures (above) and new Alaffia school under construction, Tamongue, Tandjouaré region, Togo. December 2015.

During 2015 we built more schools than any other year since Alaffia's birth. Last year alone we built five schools: two schools in Essovalé (central Togo), two high schools in the Tandjouaré region (northern Togo), and a kindergarten in Adjengré. Also, we distributed 782 bicycles and have another 500 being distributed at this moment. Furthermore, 902 mothers and babies were guaranteed safe births because Alaffia covered the costs of their maternal care. We planted another 10,500 trees and collected 8,500 eyeglasses with the help of our sales representatives and retailers. Moreover, we constructed the first ever commercial biogas digester in Togo, which we believe is fundamentally the most viable and clean source of energy.

Surveying the newly constructed biogas digester, as shea nut byproduct enters the underground diester chambers, Alaffia Village, Sokodé, December 2015.

On the immediate economic side, our collective members (the women who provide Alaffia with shea nuts, grass, baobab and neem), rose from 4,000 in 2014 to over 7,000 in 2015. The increase is due in part to our growth here in the United States and it means more families in Togo with additional means to send their children to school. In the Alaffia cooperative centers, we added 100 members in Togo, and have a strong 2,000 basket weavers in Bolgatanga, Ghana. Additionally, in June 2015, we established Queen Alaffia - creating batik and fabric accessories with the sole objective of getting our young sisters in central Togo out of prostitution. We went from nine young women in June to 60 by the end of December.

Queen Alaffia seamstresses with Alaffia USE sales managers at the Alaffia Artisan Center, Sokodé. December 2015.

Here in Olympia, WA, we now number in the 90s and have implemented a retirement program in addition to the comprehensive health care system put in place in 2014. Our most lasting contribution to the US economy is the increase of our domestic packaging use from 80 to 85%. Packaging is the third biggest expenditure for Alaffia, and despite this, we continue our commitment to purchase US-made packaging even though it is more costly than sourcing oversees because it helps to create and maintain American jobs.
Our world is a volatile place and sadly many parts of it continue to witness human suffering due to poverty. As we are one human family, we must continue to band together to create peace and justice for all. While the work of Alaffia may be draining and challenging, it must continue. It is poverty and a sense of worthlessness that breed terrorism and civil unrest. Providing our vulnerable communities with jobs, education, and healthcare for our mothers is a moral duty, and I shall continue to dedicate my life for this just cause.
Sewa Kpatchiné, Alaffia Maternal Health Care recipient,
é, Togo. December 2015.

Nothing in life is more rewarding than the opportunity to save a human life. While in Togo this past December visiting communities receiving Alaffia empowerment support, we made a home visit to Sewa Kpatchiné, one of Alaffia's maternal health care recipients. I cannot express to you in words the depth of the poverty conditions in which Sewa lives. Sewa and three of her children live in Bitchabé, a small village near Ghana on the western border of Togo. Her husband had been ill and unable to work for several months, and she also cares for her blind father-in-law. Since Sewa and her husband moved to Bitchabé from Ghana, they do not have their own land to farm, and only eat once a day. I was touched by this visit and thought of this family often.

Then, on Christmas Eve, I received a call from Abidé Awesso, Alaffia's Director of Community Support in Bassar. Abidé told me that Sewa's husband had died, and Sewa herself was in need of urgent care in the regional hospital or she too would die, as well as her unborn child. I ordered an immediate evacuation to the larger hospital and authorized Alaffia to cover all charges. By January 5, Sewa was released from the hospital, and the survival of both her and her child was well worth the $300 in medical bills.

Since I returned to the United States, every day I think of Sewa, and the disparities that exist within our human family and how every bottle of lotion we sell can add up to save lives. Once again, you give me the strength and ability to continue this journey, and for that I am forever grateful to each and every one of you.

Peacefully together,

Olowo-n'djo Tchala
Alaffia Co-Founder & CEO