I love Tamale I keep it clean ....

Newsletter Januari 2017
Tuma Viela


Jemilla slowly reads the words printed on the label of her new school bag, one by one. She looks at me as if she wants to ask me something, then reads the words again. A little quicker this time, so that the words become a sentence and their meaning starts to sink in. "What can you do to keep Tamale clean in this new year?", I ask her. “I will sweep”, she says. Salma is planning to throw her litter in the bin, Wunam says he will clean his house, Osman is going to pull weeds, Ismael promises to eat all his food and throw nothing away, Hamida wants to sweep too and burn her garbage, and I suspect Ziyaad cites from a school book when he pompously proclaims: “We should not throw rubbish on the street”.

As of 1 January 2017, all products from the Tuma Viela workshop carry a label saying 'I LOVE TAMALE I KEEP IT CLEAN'. It's an inspiring message, because the well know slogan 'Keep Ghana Clean' left room to point at others and leave responsibility with them. Our new slogan, however, says 'I'. That's about ME! The kids love it.

We ask every child who wants to wear the label what they will do to keep Tamale clean. We write their answers down in a big book. So far, hundreds of children have solemnly sealed their intentions by signing with their fingerprints. It gives us new hope for 2017!

Of course, we always have to wait and see if these plans will actually be put into practice. But at least the new slogan printed on the labels of all our products will be visible all over town, constantly reminding the children of their pledge.

We also hope that 2017 will be a year of collaboration with other environmental organisations and organisations for garbage collection and recycling. We can't do it alone and we don't want to either.

I often think of the story an old man once told me. He held a broom in his hand, made up out of hundreds of long, thin twigs. He pulled one out and snapped it in two without any effort. Then he took the whole bunch in both his hands and tried to break the whole broom, which was impossible. It's a wonderful way of saying that united we are strong. Which is exactly what we are hoping to achieve!

Mamuru, eight years old, quietly thinks about his answer when I ask him what he will do to keep Tamale clean. Then, bravely, he says he will sweep everything into the open sewer system until the streets are clean. I complete the picture in my mind: the pipes will become blocked and the water will become stagnant, creating a lovely, smelly breeding ground for malaria mosquitos, which obviously has serious consequences.

I smile at him and tell him it would be better to sweep everything up and take it to the nearest litter bin. He nods and looks at the schoolbag insecurely, as if his answer no longer gives him the right to own it. I give it to him with a big smile and say: "Good luck Manuru. Try your best. Keep Tamale Clean!"