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, |
Bitchabé, 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.
Alaffia Co-Founder & CEO