Friday, November 28, 2014

Small change, big impact

In Bolgatanga town centre you will find a small but enthusiastic group of craftswomen. The shared characteristic that has brought them all together is physical disability, but it is not disability which defines this group. It is the way they have reacted to this disability which is most impressive in a country where too often the focus is on what the disabled cannot achieve rather than what they can.

The women all suffer from disabilities which affect their legs or lower body movement; they are either wheelchair bound or walk with sticks. The women have perfect use of their hands however and their dexterity with a needle and thread has enabled them to create a small but thriving cooperative where they sew clothing and other items such as chair covers and door mats. The women use local tie and dye material which is joined using crochet thread to form instantly recognisable designs which are unique in Bolga.

Whilst their shirt designs are easy to spot on people around town their shop was not such an easy find. We discovered that the women suffered from a lack of passing trade as they had no way of displaying their products outside; in fact it was hard to tell the premises were a shop at all when walking past!

Felicia supervising the construction
We sought to make a simple change to remedy this situation by helping the women to purchase a wooden display stand for their items. We engaged carpenters to provide quotes and agreed to help the women buy the stand on a shared contribution basis, this meant the group would pay what they could afford and Trade  AID would cover the remaining cost. The shared contribution aspect means that the women have ownership of the new stand and feel proud to have put something towards improving their own situation.

George the carpenter nailing
together the wood

 Whilst it can be tempting to think of big ticket items when considering the  impact we can have in our communities as volunteers, this story has        reminded me we must never neglect the small items. Whilst it may not  sound like a huge or newsworthy achievement to have done this, something  like a simple wooden stand can have a massive impact on people’s lives.  We hope the passing trade the women gain now will help them increase  their sales and provide them with a more stable livelihood. Many people  simply need a small helping hand to improve their situation; they are not  looking for vast amounts of aid or donations, just a way to make their lives  a little bit easier.

And it is thanks to this simple addition that I am able to feel confident in telling you that now, without having to look carefully you WILL find the craftswomen’s shop in Bolgatanga.

Samantha Sergeant (UK team leader)

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