Ibrahim enters the room wearing a warm cardigan and for the first time ever
I see him wearing socks. His gaze settles with amazement onto the makeshift
display of workshop items I've set up in the corner of my mothers back-room.
"Wauw!" he says. He hasn't seen how a few days ago I spread all our products
out onto the bottom of our four suitcases, covering them with a thin layer
of clothing to disguise the amount of items I'm bringing over, for customs.
He kneels down on the floor to watch the power-point presentation, offering
a beautiful show-and-tell of what we are doing in Ghana. The popular Tamale
song "Tiyumba", which serves as background music to the many colourful
pictures that are flipping onto the screen, resonates through the room.
I look outside through the window and suddenly realize it has been a long
time since I actually saw a window...What happens behind it, for me
definitely aren't daily occurrences anymore, but I have lived here for 40
years so at least they aren't foreign to me...just different than 'normal'.
On the other hand, for Ibrahim everything is new and he observes this novel
world alternately with wonder, surprise and suspicion...sometimes in silence....sometimes
he voices his observations with funny, indignant or curious comments.
I pass behind him and rearrange a few things so they stand out a bit more;
shortly we shall be receiving some people who wish to help Tuma Viela. We
will meet to discuss ideas and the future of this very special project. We
are so proud that we can show all of this! The whole team in Ghana has
worked so hard the last few months to produce a variety of items that form
the basis of our work. I straighten out a stack of schoolbags and can see
sister Fawzia before me under the scorching sun, she worked hours on
these... Latif, next to her, always so serious, putting together the
beautiful large, colourful storage bags, his face so earnest...The colourful
raincoats now hang on display here complete with a hat and shoulder-bag and
it makes me think of Rahinatu who finishes an order of 35 raincoats on a
weekly basis...a huge job because it doesn't just entail the stitching of
the coats, but also the producing of the material! Hopefully the rain season
has started in Ghana and the coats can finally hit the streets!
Bright orange articles jump out at me and I think of Sumaya who makes them
using the new orange 'Energy drink' sachets. "For Holland" she says every
time, beaming at me, more than satisfied with the pretty result, even though
it is a bit more of a challenge using this softer plastic on her hand-driven
sewing machine. The red-orange-yellow 'screams' at me when I come across the
garbage in the streets of Tamale, but the end result of this addition to our
line of products looks very happy and vibrant next to the blue of the water
sachets so it works out well!
This bright novelty has also drawn the attention of the kids and as a result,
these new sachets are offered by the hundreds on Saturday mornings at the
Next to all these extra items we have made to show in Holland, we also had
to continue meeting the demands of all the people in Tamale. So many things
we had to make and such a increasing stack of sachets! Until the very last
day I've kept track of what we have produced from the 1st of January 2010
through to June 10th 2011...you can find those numbers under the heading "results".
We've also been able to catch up with our backorder and for the children who
want a schoolbag, the process once again is a simple as handing in sachets
and going home with a bag straight away. The same applies to the pencil
cases, hats and caps, of course this is not only fun for all, but it also
has the most stimulating effect! For raincoats there is still a 3 week
waiting list and for the oh so coveted sailcloth, people are going to have
to be patient...the waiting period is up to 3 months! It is a shame and we
are going to work hard to shorten that time for our customers!
I find comfort in the knowledge that, as I spend 6 weeks here in Holland,
the Tuma Viela team in Ghana continues the "Good Work". I have full
confidence that things will work out and should problems arise unexpectedly,
we shall use them as a learning tool. While they are sewing away on their
machines, I am going to try and give more publicity to the project. There
are a variety of activities planned so keep an eye on the website! I am
ready to exchange the yams for potatoes for the next couple of weeks....the
early sunsets for long summer evenings...long work days for maybe nothing at
all for a little while...
The phone rings. It is sister Fawzia asking how I am doing. I am pleasantly
surprised and ask how everyone at the workshop is doing and how things are
"Don't worry, everything is going on well!" You see...! Fantastic!
Then the doorbel...here come the men...everything is going to be alright!