Global Mamas Gives Back
Noted on July 31, 2012 by IE3 Student in
Written by Colleen Fulp: University of Washington student and IE3 scholarship recipient interning with Women in Progress in Ghana this summer.
My name is Colleen Fulp and I am a graduate student at the University of Washington, currently doing an internship in Ghana for 3 months with a fair trade organization called Global Mamas. Global Mamas works with women that own small businesses making crafts primarily batiking cloth, sewing, and bead making, as well as some shea butter production. I am stationed in Cape Coast, which is about 2 ½ hours from the capital city of Accra. It is a small city on the beach, so we enjoy a lot of great beach, wave, and palm tree views!
I would like to share with you some of the work that I’ve been doing for the past month since arriving in Ghana. I’ve been focusing on one project so far, working with another intern named Lauren. I will refer to ‘Mamas’ frequently in this blog, which are what we call the local women that Global Mamas partners with. In Cape Coast they are batikers and seamstresses, all own their own businesses and work with Global Mamas to sell their products on the international market. There are about 85 Mamas in the Cape Coast area. So, during a conversation with our supervisor in the first week of our internship, Lauren and I learned that Global Mamas started an annual service day last summer where they gathered about 50 Mamas to clean the local market. A service day had not been planned yet for this summer, so we decided to take on the task! We brainstormed and decided that we would like to work at the local hospital this year for the service day. In order to begin the project, we met with one of the local influential women that work with our organization and she helped guide us in our planning. We decided to gather the Mamas to do a cleaning day in the labor ward and children’s ward of Cape Coast District Hospital early in the morning on Saturday, July 21. Lauren and I went to meet the hospital administrator to inquire about this project. The hospital administrator is a ‘big man’ as you would say here in Ghana, meaning that he is very important. The first time that we went to meet him was on Monday, July 10, and we had one of our local staff members accompany us. It was quite a challenging visit, as he asked us all types of difficult questions about our organization. I was pulling answers out of thin air!! Haha. It seemed to go okay though, and he asked us to write a formal letter to the hospital stating our objectives and the items we would hope to donate. We headed back to the Global Mamas office and whipped up a nice formal letter. Tuesday afternoon we hand delivered it to him in an envelope, which are surprisingly hard to come by here! He said he would send our requests around to the wards, and we would hear back from him on whether they would like to work with us. I spoke with him on the phone on Wednesday, and Thursday, and finally Friday we were able to go back and visit! We met the head nurse, Betty, and she had us taken around to both the children’s ward and the maternity wards.
I am very excited about the opportunity to work in the hospital, due to my interest in global health and women’s issues. As Americans, we are so accustomed to going to the hospital to give birth, and having everything there that we will need for safety and comfort. Here in Ghana, even the district hospital lacks basic comforts like curtains between the beds. The expectant moms and recently delivered moms and babies lack privacy during this very important time, which seems so unfortunate to me! Many beds are lined next to each other, so the women are in close quarters. As of now there is no air conditioning, and there was only one fan for the entire ward, which has now rusted. I was surprised at first that the hospital would even allow outsiders to come in and do a cleaning! It appears though that this type of service project is pretty standard here and all of the Mamas seem to be getting on board.
Lauren and I are really dedicated to this cause, so we wanted to be able to make a donation that would benefit the hospital. We brainstormed with the hospital administrator and our organization and came up with the idea to donate curtains to the labor ward. We wanted to donate enough to cover all of the windows as well as hang between the beds. At the price of 4 cedis/yard, this project costs 554.40 Ghana Cedis. To be able to afford this we opened a fundraiser with our family and friends back home. We were able to raise $937 (1668 GHC)! We will also donate fans and some toys to the children’s ward with the additional funds. One of our staff members here will donate her time to sewing the curtains, and we will unveil them at our service day after the clean up, next Saturday, July 21. I feel so honored to be able to partake in such an event, and am so humbled by the great appreciation the nurses have shown towards our efforts already. Yayyy Global Mamas Service Day!!!
To fill you in on some of my travel in addition to my work, I’ll tell you about our most recent trip. Last weekend we travelled to Kakum National Park, which is about one and half hours north of Cape Coast. Here is some info- http://kakumnationalpark.info/1.html. We hired a driver for the day, Kweku, who is the same man that brought Lauren and I from the airport in Accra our first night. He is very nice, and has a car with air conditioning, so we were riding in style! 6 other volunteers that live in our Elmina volunteer house also went on the trip. Kakum National Park features a beautiful canopy walk through the jungle. We decided to leave at 7am to arrive before the crowds. When we got there, we were happy with that decision because there were about 200 Ghanaian military cadets waiting to go up on the canopy walk. We got to go up before them, phew! The walk consists of about 7 rope bridges tied between trees, with platforms in between. It was a bit scary to be walking on those rope walks through the top of the jungle canopy, but it was so peaceful and beautiful at the same time. I was proud of myself for not getting too afraid of the heights. We stopped on the way back at a place called Hans cottage which is a cute little restaurant on stilts. While waiting for your food to be prepared you can walk around the grounds and even pet a crocodile!! Apparently they feed the crocs plenty of chickens throughout the day so they have become docile, but it was a scary experience nonetheless.
The next trip that we’re planning will be to Volta Region, which is in the east. There is a large dam on a river there that created a large lake throughout the region, so I hear that it is very pretty. We plan to visit Wli Falls (pronounced Vli )which is the largest waterfall in west Africa, and perhaps stay overnight in Ho. From there, Lauren and I will head to PramPram, which is another Global Mamas site. Another volunteer lives and works there, so we will visit her and check out the batiking and sewing that happens at that site. I will also have the opportunity to interview some of the women for my masters research project, which focuses on women’s empowerment, decision making, financial independence, and goal setting. I’m looking forward to it!