November newsletter ......


Newsletter November 2011
Tuma Viela



Behind me I feel a pair of hands on my shoulders and my backpack sliding down my arms and being removed...I turn around, surprised...and look into the smiling eyes of Haruna...The Ghanaian courtesy is nothing strange to him!
"Goodmorning!" he announces, somewhat shy as he neatly puts my bag down in the workshop and looks at me questioningly. I give him 50 pesewa's with which he, trotting off on his short legs, immediately goes to buy rice, mixed with some spaghetti, beans and spicy sauce. He plants himself onto a stool, eats everything down to the last crumb, now and then commenting brightly on the day's happenings as the employees prepare the workshop for another day....

Haruna is our newest employee..around 30 years of age. He has Down Syndrome and has been dropping into the workshop regularly for a while now, on his daily rounds of the town. Every time he came by we would chit chat, I'd ask him to help me, gave him lots of positive attention and compliments but being as busy as he claimed to be, he would disappear swiftly with the promise of returning the next day..which he never did.....
One day he stuck around a bit longer and he excelled at cutting. He seemed to enjoy it! I asked if he wanted to come and work for us, told him we are so busy we could really do with his help! This time he said: "Okay!!!".
At first he was against the idea of us asking permission from his mother, he reckoned he could make those choices for himself, but after some gentle persuasion and logical argument, we were allowed.... His old mother was so so happy! She worried about him for so long, couldn't get him to commit to doing anything and had to let him go every morning with the question of when she would see him again....
A brother told us that Haruna went from funeral to funeral to beg and eat for free...He would often get drunk on alcohol provided by the musicians, to then be dumped in his families compound to sleep off his imbibed state.... Obstinate and stubborn as these people can sometimes be, he wanted to do not much else, up until now....A change is taking place in his life: he has a job!!! Such a wonderful character, such an amazing human being! We give him money for food twice a day. In the morning and in the afternoon. Breakfast only if he is on time and after having been 'confused' a couple of times, he is now at work on time. Aside from that, he gets 1 Gh.c. to do with as he pleases. (He enjoys the minty sniffing tobacco and likes chewing on Kola nuts, a true African tradition).
In addition to this, every Saturday we give his elderly mother 5 Gh.c. on his behalf..in the way a son or daughter would help their parents here. It is incredible to see how he's doing! He is smart and very social. He works all day, his only breaks are for going to pray in the mosque. He sees the various jobs he has to do on his own and can handle them very well. On top of all this he has a great sense of humour and brings everybody lots of happiness. He also relieves me of a lot of odd jobs. And that is why I can sit here and write this newsletter without any pressure in our beautiful shop! We hope he succeeds, that would be wonderful!

For more than three weeks we've had to recruit more help to sew together our ever growing supply of ice-cream sachets, something we couldn't get round to doing ourselves. An elderly gentleman, tailor by trade, fearful of taking on too much work due to his bad health, worked from home at times he was able to. He rested when he needed to and was able to be on time for his hospital appointments. He was very happy with this arrangement and able to make his hospital payments this way for a while! We were happy too because  these brightly coloured ice-cream sachets schoolbags are incredibly popular with the kids and we can now fulfill the demand!

Once again a film crew has gathered footage of what we do in the workshop. The national tv-station VASAT 1 had a lot of interest in the project and made an extensive documentary. Shortly we shall be able to watch it on the television and reach lots of people and introduce them to what we do and what the workshop stands for. At the moment we are not so rushed so we're able to process our orders at a normal pace after months of enormous pressure. However, we're preparing for a huge influx once the program has aired on national television...

Furthermore, we heard through the grapevine that Tamale has been voted Cleanest City of Ghana 2011! (Least polluted city would make more sense to me - though less positive, granted- since looking around you, you still can't believe your eyes at times and then imagine the state other cities are in...) Nevertheless, at the announcement of this news, the name of the Tuma Viela workshop was mentioned and this makes us incredibly proud of course! That we've been able to contribute! We are waiting for an official announcement, because there was talk of a reward...We will keep you posted!

Three of the five cutters, washers and folders are now very adept at using the sewing machine. The have a great joy in their work and it has become a lot more multi-faceted. The other two are still in training, but shall soon start to rotate and experience a more varied workday. The fact that all of us have become more all-rounders bears lots of advantages. We don't need to look for replacements and resolve the shortage ourselves. For instance when Ayisha had to go to Accra for a week to compete in the Ghanaian wheelchair-racing championships. She was able to leave without any concerns: Asana and Humu rotated their folding and washing duties with Ayisha's sewing duties, and maybe the peace of mind she had, knowing things could carry on without her, contributed to the fact that she ranked one of the best in the races! More than likely she will be able to compete internationally! Fantastic for Ayisha and if she needs to be away for a week here or there, a team-member can take over her tasks without a problem!

On Saturday morning we have another young and enthusiastic student behind one of the machines, trying to master the basics of sewing. It is the 14 year old Lizzy, my daughter, who together with her brother Faruk, is allowed to help in the workshop on this day. It has kind of become their Saturday job. Lizzy loves writing the names in the big book and with this creates a lot of curiosity and admiration from the children coming to pick up their items. As she is in a wheelchair and on top of that is deaf, just like her brother Faruk. This means that people are quick to label you as someone who can't do much...But when the children give me their names, I translate it to her in sign language and she writes them down flawlessly. She then jots down the item they want when she sees me make that particular gesture and also the amount of sachets that have been handed in...Our secretary!!! Faruk is battling a little bit with Haruna because both like to cut but Faruk is also extremely adept at folding and sorting the sachets..something that has proven to be more challenging for Haruna. Also, when Lizzy can independently operate the sewing machine, Faruk also wants to learn, which will give him a skill at a young age, something that is very common here! Last week they had their vacation and helped us more often, which earned them each a new schoolbag!

And all of a sudden she's is standing here in front of me again...the girl of the past...She is on the opening page of our website and in our brochure with a box of water sachets on her head, flanked by her school friends in bright school uniforms. This time she has put the sachets in a bucket, one which her stretched out arms can barely grab...I recognize her immediately, but to be sure I show her the brochure and she squeals as she sees herself. I've checked and on the 19th of February of 2010 she handed in her sachets for the first time for a schoolbag and today, almost 2 years later, she is here again. Her bag is worn and together with her friend is bringing us 250 sachets for a new bag. I LOVE this so much! I wave her off with a smile, her new bag around her shoulders and with the brochure in her hand she waves back....

 

Newsletter pictures