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EveryDay Shea Helps Togolese Communities

Read on for a chance to win a gift basket filled with Alaffia body care products. I would like to begin by first expressing my gratitude and thanks to Whole Foods Market and her customers.  At this same time last year, I wrote an overview on how Whole Foods support of our EveryDay Shea line has positively impacted our disadvantaged communities in Togo. I am pleased to report that the impact continues, as was evident during my recent three week trip to Togo to visit our shea butter cooperative and community project sites. However, this trip was also a vivid reminder that we must do more. When I think of the current issues that my continent faces, it is debilitating. All economic indications point to the fact that the continent is deteriorating.  Since my last visit, I can see firsthand that Togo follows this trend: trash and plastic are pervasive throughout the landscape, deforestation and other environmental issues are now more serious than ever, economic disparities are widening, and cost of living is increasing while incomes remain stagnant or decline. In spite of these issues, just as we were the day we founded our organization, we remain determined that the overwhelming issue of poverty cannot intimidate us from honestly attempting to mitigate human suffering in our communities. This leads me to why I am writing to you in the first place – to share with you what has happened during the past year because of your support of EveryDay Shea.  In addition to maintaining the new cooperative members recruited in 2009 and 2010, we were able to collect and distribute over 500 bicycles to encourage young women to stay in school and build our first biogas system to reduce fuel wood use. In addition, we were also able to plant 1,000 trees, and set aside enough funds from sales of EveryDay Shea in 2010 to propagate and plant another 4,000 trees this year. Furthermore, we decided to increase the number of women in our maternal health project from 100 to 400. This means that now 400 women will not become part of the 280,000 that die each year in West Africa from complications due to pregnancy and childbirth.  Finally, we now have recruited another 18 women to join our shea butter cooperative. Because of the extended family structure in Togo, over 200 people will be supported on this income.  All of these accomplishments are a great encouragement for me to continue our efforts. During my trip to Togo, I also had the opportunity to visit with some of the women that joined our cooperative last year and talk with them about changes in their lives since joining the cooperative.  The following are excerpts from our discussions. Zebera Tchagoumi: “My name is Zebera Tchagoumi. Joining the cooperative last year has relieved my worries about how to support my family. I was planning to travel to Niger to work and save money for my children. Now, I don’t have to worry and all my five children are in high school.  I enjoy working at the cooperative, and I like all the different things I get to do each day.  And on market day, I see my friends who are still struggling, and they see a change in me and wish they could join the cooperative as well.  I am very happy to be able to tell all of you how much I appreciate your help, and I hope our efforts become even stronger – to bring more bikes and have more women join the cooperative so they can benefit as I have.” Selifa Ganiou: “My name is Selifa Ganiou, and I joined the cooperative last year.  Before my integration into the cooperative, I moved to Benin to work in the capitol city and was without my children and my husband.  Now, since I am at the cooperative for the last year, I thank God that I find it possible to support the needs of my family. For example, I was able to save the life of my older brother thanks to the money that I make.  I have seven children; four are presently in school.  When the other three were school age, I was not able to live with them and did not have the means to keep them in school.  I would like to thank everyone who supports our cooperative and encourage them to take a strong hand to live happily with their families, like I am able to now that I am with the cooperative and no longer have to travel to find work.” Agnanetou Kadiri: “My name is Agnanetou Kadiri. I have been with the cooperative for over a year now, and have seen a positive change in my life.  I do not have to suffer too much to gain enough for my daily bread.  Before joining the cooperative, I had a small stall at the market, but was never able to save any money. For the last year, thanks to my work, I am able to send my two children to school and each month I add to my savings account at work and save some at home, too.  I am also able to support my mother, who is very old and requires a lot of care.” Ramatou Djelilou: “I am Ramatou Djelilou and I am happy to talk with you.  With the money I earn from the cooperative, I am able to provide for my needs and those of my four children.  Since I began work, I notice that I have more respect from my husband. Thanks to my work, I can pay for my oldest two children to go to school; the other two are not school age yet.  I thank all of our friends in the United States, and hope they continue to support Alaffia so my children can have bicycles to go to school.” In summary, once again I would like to extend my gratitude to all of you; your support has made all of our 2010 accomplishments possible. During this trip, I was often asked if it wasn’t naïve of me to believe that the optimal road for African communities to rise out of poverty is to rely on our traditional knowledge and participating in ethical trade. Many of my fellow Togolese feel that we must follow the footsteps of emerging economies like China and India and rely on heavy industry and technology. In addition to the fact that the earth cannot sustain both the social and environmental degradation the conventional economic model creates, my response has been to show examples of what we have been able to do, and also show the sense of self-worth individuals and communities have from accepting and valuing our cultural heritage and resources. To me, it is more important in the long run that communities and societies can sustain themselves than individuals have quick profit.  In the end, consumers in Western societies, through their choices and consumption patterns, can have great impact on poverty alleviation in producer communities.  I am pleased to say that the past couple years have shown me that our customers and retailers care about alleviating poverty, and this care will ultimately lead to a safer world – not only on the continent of Africa, but in communities around the world. For a chance to win a gift basket filled with Alaffia body care products, enter a comment by February 22nd telling us how you use your purchases to help change the world. One comment will be selected at random to receive an Alaffia gift basket.

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Comments

Zoryana Popken says …

Shopping at Whole Foods gives me a better opportunity to help the world, since so many of their products are eco-friendly, locally grown and using fair-trade. I love to help people who care about this planet, and also I shop with my children and teach them the same, to shop with wisdom!

Caron Goode says …

I buy local, eco-friendly and fair trade items whenI can, even driving 30 minutes to the store in my area (Whole Foods) which carries such items.

Abby Jeans says …

I purchase items that adhere to the green concept and packaging that can be recycled. When I use the items I know that I am contributing to a better world. Abby Jeans

Flamingogurl says …

I have always believed in the power of numbers, and this is proof! I know that my one little purchase is not much, but add up mine and everyone else's, and you can certainly see the benefits. This story warmed my heart and makes me feel great about being a tiny - but important - part of the big picture :-)

Sheryl Snow says …

I fell in love with Shea butter a few years ago while making my own soap. I have since watched the women and children of Africa process the Shea butter by watching videos on YouTube. I plan to share the products with my children, grandchildren and adoptived nieces and their children. I appreciate the work and spirit that go into a community venture.

Dana Stacy says …

"It takes a village" has taken on global connotations. We all have to work together to ensure that everyone has an even chance and enough to not just live or survive, but to thrive in life. To be able to help support a community to thrive without heavy industrialization is an honor. And the smiles and joyous dignity on these women's faces are absolutely priceless!!

Erin Roy says …

I try to buy chemical free fair trade and local products whenever possible. I also look for products that donate a portion of their revenue to worthy causes. I feel investing in Women, is investng in the future. Women, through motherhood shape the next generation; its morals, values, and beliefs. Supporting mothers ensures a brighter, healthier, safer future.

Jeslyn Hamming says …

I believing in living by example so I try to live a simplistic life. Knowing each choice I make about my purchases has long term consequences, I try to make choice which will have the best positive to negative ratio. Reading stories like the one above serves as inspiration to continue and reminded that my choices do make a difference. Also when I am complimented on an item (such as my basket) it opens the door to have a conversation with someone new!

Nicholette says …

I think about my purchases a lot more. Is this good for my body? Is this good for the enviornment? Is it local? Is it fair trade? I purchase items as true to nature as possible. I also love sharing what I have learned about health and the enviornment with other people. How can you go wrong shopping at Whole Foods?

Freda says …

We are all sisters and brothers so that I think that its very important to purchase products that are fair trade. I make an extra effort to locate the symbol on coffee, hair and body products that are from abroad.

Amanda says …

With so many problems in the world it can feel overwhelming trying to think of ways to help. We forget that simply buying from responsible companies who give back, pay fair wages, and support social justice can make a huge difference. Where we spend our money is a powerful yet easy way to speak out!

Lisa Gruen says …

By purchasing products from eco-friendly businesses, I believe that I am supporting people who understand the global importance of values and respect. Hopefully by supporting ethically responsible companies, I am enabling them to grow and flourish. I want these businesses to prosper because their methods directly impact the earth in a positive way. When my friends see the beautiful no-waste lunches that I pack for my children, or the beautiful organic soaps in my bathroom, they ask where they can get the same beautiful products. This is where the chain reaction occurs and the impact becomes greater and greater! If "strangers" compliment my re-usable bags, I give them one. I figure that's one less plastic bag that will be used! :)

Haley M. says …

I buy from local farmers and shop seasonally. I also try to remember to bring my own bags when I shop.

Belita says …

Because I use these products everyday, I love knowing that what I am putting on my body has a positive energy and positive story behind it. These products affect my whole well-being and are not just a thing I use but how I see the world.

Christine says …

I believe that there is power in the personal choices you make. No matter how small. Every action can be considered a political action....which can effect social change. I choose to spend my limited funds on quality cruelty free products. Additionally, I make sure that these products do not have toxins or carcinogens that harm the environment or our bodies. I had not been aware that Everyday Shea was a product of and helped this Togolese community. I sampled it at Whole Foods Store and loved rich shea texture and vanilla fragrance....and it is fantastically reasonably priced. I will be sure to continue purchasing this product and be happy to know that it is helping someone in the world.

Grace says …

Hooray for Whole Foods! ...always doing the right thing, while educating the general public about why we should consider all aspects of the products we use.

Christine says …

I shop local and organic and on a budget, and then show the people in my community how affordable responsible purchases can be. I like to encourage people to know where their products are from, and to remind them they are what they eat.

Dawn Takagi says …

I try to vote with my dollars and support local farmers markets when I can, look for items with reduced packaging waste, buy organic and natural. I love that this product can help a whole village. It really makes your dollar stretch farther when you can also help others with your purchases.

Veronica Arauz says …

I've recently joined PETA in an effort to be a better role model for my 10 year old. We've tried doing the veagan thing but it's really pricey, so we are now focusing on veggies only. We both feel better knowing that we're helping the earth and taking a step into being healthier. Organic foods are the best way to go! Veronica

DeeAnn Gillispie says …

I go out of my way to buy products that are fair trade (and organic). This supports not only good trade practices for the employees of the companies, but also sustainable farming practices. Every little bit helps!

Shana says …

I try to help make a difference by purchasing items that are locally grown, as well as those from developing economic communities.

Amanda S. says …

I try to support businesses that are doing good around the world!

jo evans says …

I have three friends whose hearts are sold~out to loving Africa. Lori, Lynne and Meredith. I would share these products with them!

Taryn Alverson says …

Even as a college student with a very tight budget, I try to buy organic, local produce to help support my surrounding community and I try to buy organic products in my local grocery store to help keep the environment free of pesticides and other harmful substances. I also try to recycle whenever possible and not buy drinks in plastic bottles but fill up my own Camelbak with drinks I purchase in bulk so as not to add to the ever increasing waste in landfills.

Sonceria Wheeler says …

I am new to Shea Butter itself, but I can't stop. Everything softens with just one use. I like this brand in paticular because you can get a behind the scenes look at where our products come from. It is really comforting knowing that buying the Everyday Shea Line helps people just with my purchase.

Maria says …

I am a big fan of locally produced food. I also like to travel out east with my family to buy food from local farms. Its a way to teach my family how to be kind to the environment while supporting local farmers. I try to shop for things that benefit the less fortunate because sometimes we forget that we are blessed and others are not!

Cecilee says …

The first time I discovered the body wash was in my mom's shower! I "borrowed" it, and have been hooked ever since!

Juliann Goldman says …

Reduce, reuse, recycle. Support local farms and businesses. Trying to educate my kids that it is never too early to think about how we affect the world.

T. Barber says …

I believe that we have to evaluate the items we purchase as much as we can. I try to purchase as much organic and pesticide free food as possible. I also like to purchase local grown/made products as to help support the community. Certainly companies that choose to take portions of profits for donations to help others is a great thing to support. I hope that these and the many other donations that are made will help poor communities become more self sufficient and prosperous and that one day they in turn will be able to help others.

charity says …

By buying local you can make a big difference in the community around you. If everyone affected their communities, it would change the world. Also, supporting projects and companies like this one, you are helping to support countries and families in need.

ashley says …

I have always tried to converse to help the environment. I have always tried to stay away from any product that was tested on animals. I have recently decided to swap out (as I use them) all of my cleaning products with organic ones because I no longer trust what corporations are putting in these things (not to mention I would prefer to support small businesses).

Vivianne M says …

I try to buy local, environmentally friendly products. Although I'm just one person - every little bit counts. So if I can support products that are positive and do good for others then that's a step in the right direction. And if I tell friends and family about it and convince them to do the same... well we're on the right track!

Jennifer Suehs says …

I think everyone should purchase products that in turn give back. The best way to keep this going is to spread the word about the products and introduce them to your friends and family. Let them know that it's not only a great product but what you are giving back to the people of Togolese communities.

Lesline Colden says …

Sometimes in just everyday life when watching the news or reading the paper you feel so helpless. You want to help the world but you just don't know exactly what to do. Now after reading this article & knowing that my simple purchase is helping someone across the world to better healthcare, is helping them have a job that can sufficiently support themselves & their families, etc. feels so good! It feels as good as the Alaffia Shea Butter!

Jamie H says …

I love the shea conditioner, it makes my hair feel wonderful and knowing that I am helping that help a whole community makes my soul feel wonderful as well.

Penny says …

We recycle as a family. We reuse things in our house before disposing of. We shop thrift stores for good, usable, clothing and household items. We use reusable shopping bags for shopping trips. We try to walk or take mass transit for most all our errands. We pay bills on-line and opt in for paperless billing. I think the most important thing we are doing is raising our children to not be wasteful, to be considerate in their shopping habits, and to reuse and recycle so that this will be a way of life for them as adults.

maryann says …

I always strive to purchase only locally grown, fair trade and organic health and beauty products as much as I can. In doing so I feel as if I can do what I can to help support the communities that are producing these products.

susan says …

Alaffia products are amazing for the social/economic change they provide, as well as the product themselves. The Moisturizing Body Lotion was one of the few products that I felt comfortable using while I was pregnant due to the purity of the product. I am always conscious of how my role as a consumer effects others here and around the world, as well as the environmental impact that it has. We are all responsible for being aware of how our daily decisions effects the lives of others.

Sharon says …

When I shop, I pay close attention to the origin of the product. I conciously shop with geographical origin in mind, as well as how many ingredients are in the prepared foods that I buy. One college summer I interned for a young woman in NYC who imported items produced by women-only cooperatives in developing nations. The experience changed the way I shopped from that point on. It gave me a wider viewpoint of the global business arena, and how to support people that were not afforded the simple luxuries of life that I take for granted on a daily basis.

Kristina Kemp says …

My purchases help to change the world because as a vegan, I believe in the sanctity of all life and believe that harmony cannot be a product of violence, greed, or conflict, and that everyone should do their part to care for eachother as a community no matter what race, religion, or ethnicity and be respectful of one another and our planet. Because of this, I purchase most of my clothing and materials made from recycled material, I buy only green eco friendly products for the home and office, eat only a strict vegan diet, and contribute to charities like Coexist Foundation, and the International Foundation for Education and Self Help (IFESF).

Kathy O'Brien says …

Helping those in need brings a lot of happiness into my life... If all of us team together imagine the world records we could break by lending a hand, or donating! Feel from the heart and not the head in helping out, and you will be surprised how well you feel after...

Dianne Bruce says …

Just reading the comments from the women in the Togolese communities really made me think how blessed I truly am. I also felt shame for not doing my share to help others. I feel that when we are blessed beyond measure we should share our blessings with others. I am thankful that Whole Foods Market takes such a great part in the love and compassion of humanity, and I will be more aware of the help I may be able to offer. Thank you.

Natalia says …

I've been using the Every Day Shea line for some time now. I love this product and how it supports the comminity in helping those in need. It's a pleasure to read/meet the women who make this product.

deborah says …

wonderful work! The arts are what communicate universally to produce human connections in the most positive light! JFK said to never forget that the arts are not propaganda but the highest form of human endeavor.

Keith says …

What a great story, and testimonies of transformed lives. Affecting positive change via purchases from such suppliers is the one of the main reasons I shop at Whole Foods. I have joined a great community of folks at Whole Foods, and am glad that company policy promotes unity and betterment of community at the local level. Blessings to all ...

sharon daniels says …

I try to buy locally grown products.

Emi says …

Our desire to fill our homes with and bodies with cheap goods creates poverty around the world. When we simplify our lives and decide to spend a little more even if it means buying a little less (in quantity) by buying fairly traded and environmentally responsible goods, we ate taking steps to create a world everyone, everywhere, will want to live in.

Stephanie Collins says …

my husband and i purchase products whenever possible that are made by people in uganda. our hearts, finances, projects, sponsorships are very much for this war ridden country and it's people who have been under the effects of joseph kony for years (particularly children kidnapped into the LRA and need help recovering or making it home). so anything we see or can do that goes to help change their lives is for us!

Alyssa Devries says …

I just bought my first FEED bag yesterday!! The FEED 2 Kenya bag. I am a working singe mother going to school, and do not have the most money. But! I have enough, therefore I found it important to use my money wisely and help feed children in this world. Purchases like this make me excited about the future!

Pat Wade says …

If I can only do a single thing to help change the world, it is to be aware of the needs of people in poverty and to share my understanding of those needs. By puchasing products which provide support and encouragement to sustain these people, I contribute to ongoing well being.

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