12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18…. That’s it!
The elderly lady looks smart and is immaculately dressed. She looks pleased.
Her shy granddaughter of about ten years old quietly looks on. Last week the
elderly lady came to hand in water sachets, as she did many times before.
She briskly puts the 18 school bags in the sack she brought and gives it to
the child to carry. She gets up and tells me, in perfect English: 'Right.
These will be going to Gambaga, the village where I was born. What a mess
that place is. I put the children to work and today I will reward them.’ She
pushes her glasses up with her finger and leaves, walking straight up, her
face held high, with a satisfied smile on her lips. Her granddaughter
I look at Hamdia and we think the same thing: 'A woman with a mission.'.
Hamdia sits back down at her sewing machine, I go back to my laptop and I
Immediately after that word, which seems like a good title for the latest
newsletter, from the corner of my eye I see a child coming to my table. He
starts talking to me in Dagbanli.
I move my reading glasses to the top of my head and am enchanted as I watch
the child that is completely wrapped up in its story, even though I don't
understand a word. It's a pleasure just to watch his passion as he's trying
to make something clear to me. When he's finally finished, he looks at me in
anticipation. I look over at my colleague Lamanatu, who rephrases the whole
story in four words: ‘He lost his paper.’
Ah. In that case, I can guess what he's been trying to tell me. I've heard
all the different explanations for the disappearance of their 'receipt'
before, one story even more elaborate than the other. Highly imaginative and
interwoven with a few white lies, and always with the same conclusion: it
really was the other person's fault... A hint of drama, nervously wriggling
fingers and a tense look in their eyes that always ask the same question:
Will she believe me?
'That always happens to me, too', I tell him cheerfully. 'I can be so messy
that I keep losing things, not remembering where I left them. Just the other
day I had left an important piece of paper in my trouser pocket. I didn't
think when I put it in the washing machine so the piece of paper came out
crumbled up and totally illegible. I've had to throw it away, it was
completely useless.' I laugh at my own silliness. As the kid watches me, he
A moment later, when he runs out of the workshop with his brand new
schoolbag on his back, I can guess what he's thinking: 'Mission accomplished!'
I'm a little distracted by this nice encounter. I close my laptop and
quietly look around in the workshop. My working spot all the way at the end
of the workshop is a great place to see all these hard working people.
Take Ma humu over there. She started washing sachets, but now works full
days behind the sewing machine, proudly sowing the sachets together as an
And Gafaru and Gafaru, the two young men who started cutting sachets. They
now master and carry out processing the sachets from start to finish. They
step in when necessary, show initiative, and feel responsible.
I can just see the little feet of Mardia en Radia from where I'm sitting.
They are Asana's twin, sleeping soundly on a mat under the table, to the
rhythmic rattling of dozens of sewing machines. I admire Asana for her
organizational skills. She combines being a mother and working her job so
Haruna manages holding a pair of scissors and neatly cutting open the
sachets while at the same time holding his beloved snuff between his thumb
and forefinger. I'd like to see anyone try!
In the mean time, children keep coming and going from my view, holding
sachets, putting a brand new schoolbag on their backs or standing straight
up with Rahinatu who takes their measures for a rain coat. A child with a
child on her back, sitting next to Ayisha who quickly sews a pencil case:
Ready while you wait! When I peek out of the window, I see children in small
areas of shade counting and organising their sachets for the last time
before handing them in. A boy coming to pick up a piece of canvas for his
mother, a girl with a torn schoolbag that needs repair...
I keep watching it all for a while. This is just how I wanted it to be! A
workshop full of life and energy, a place where we are really trying to make
With a sigh of satisfaction, I open my laptop to continue work on 'Mission',
when from the corner of my eye I see 5 new messages in my mailbox.
The first is a confirmation from Angelique. We will be sponsored to give
three women with a physical disability two years of working experience in
our workshop. Great news!
Mohammed of ADOM-TV lets us know we were on television last night!
Primary school De Rietzanger in Eelderwolde, the Netherlands, tell us that
their exhibition 'Litter / Recycling' was a great success and the sale of
their Garbage Art brought quite a few pennies in the kitty.
Then there's an e-mail without a body, just an attachment. It's a photograph
of Daan, the chairman of our foundation, holding up a symbolic cheque with a
broad smile on his face. It's the check we received after our lecture with
The last message is an e-mail from airline company KLM that I've been
waiting for: it's my airline ticket for the 5th of June.
My thoughts go to the Netherlands. I can just see myself sitting in a deck
chair on my mothers patio, having nice meals, visiting friends, meeting the
board, reading, walking, catching up and refuelling. Now that's an excellent
And with all of that to look forward to, I write this newsletter in one go.