Musing and longing

Newsletter January 2016
New Cooking Bag

A dear friend gave me the chance to stay with my mother in the Netherlands for a few days. When I arrived, my mother's village in the Dutch province of Groningen was virtually cut off from the rest of the world because of glazed frost, and children were ice skating in the streets. Now, the rain has driven off the cold. The Christmas tree has been taken apart and put back in the attic, my suitcase is half packed already and I reminisce about the passed year. I have so many wonderful memories!

The New Cooking Bag was a huge success. We could never have dreamt the Ghanaians would love it so much and we would get so many positive reactions. I remember the day I spoke about the New Cooking Bag and our workplace in front of a full room at a two-day conference in our country capital. After some other interesting but rather difficult speeches about business models, advanced technology and marketing I held a passionate plea for the native kapok tree and our workplace, where normal, local and yet extraordinary women produce a beautiful thing that has so much impact on people as well as the environment. On both conference days I then promoted our product like a true market trader, my story getting more wonderful all the time. A mass of people gathered around. On the second day, I was suddenly tapped on my shoulder by a man. He asked if he could have a go. Hesitantly at first but then with ever more confidence, he told everyone he had bought a NCB the day before, that he had used it to prepare delicious rice the previous evening and that it now served as a fridge in the back of his car, keeping his tins of soda cool for hours. Excellent! I sold all my New Cooking Bags before I knew it. Women embraced me, one man gave me a brand new pair of handmade flip-flops and to this day we get orders from people who then heard for the first time about what Ghana can do in the field of renewable energy.

I think of Dini van Dockum, a woman who offered to start making New Cooking Bags in the Netherlands. For every NCB that is sold, 10 Euros will go to our workplace. Instead of kapok she will use wool, which has the same excellent insulating qualities as kapok. I will keep you informed over the coming year!

A film crew from South-Africa filmed us for two days. They were making a documentary about green and local projects and the influence these projects have on people working there. Hamdia was the centre of attention, it was the leading part she really deserves. I will let you know as soon as the documentary is put online.

I smile as I think back of all the great reactions I got after my call for people to help me start a new project in Ghana: to produce washable nappies (diapers) in the workplace. Examples were sent to me by post and useful tips by e-mail, and I was invited to come to a demonstration. It feels great to be challenged to do something new.

I wonder how Selma is doing. She's a young girl suffering from severe epilepsy. She has finally gotten rid of the label 'crazy' now. By informing her fellow workers and her own family what her fits really are and by taking the right medicine she has become a whole new person. She functions perfectly, enjoys herself, has much more confidence and has a future ahead of her now.

Will Lizzy be back after her visit to her mother? Will she still have the short dreadlocks that look so great on her, or will she have cut them short out of impatience? I look forward to giving her her new shoes. Her dearest wish! And to drive to the workplace on our moped together again, counting schoolbags on childrens backs along the way.

I also look forward to seeing Fatawu again. He's a ten year old boy with Down's syndrome whose mother works with us now. He's discovering a world that once was unavailable to him. To make money in the market place, his mother often had to leave him locked up in their hut as she went to work. By giving her a job, a whole world opens up to Fatawu. We hope that in a while, when his mum is working with us, he'll be able to go to Special School. He's such a sweet little lad.

Will Haruna hug me again, a little clumsily and too hard, and ask me, in a soft voice and very straightforward, if I brought him a tin of snuff from the Netherlands?

Will Rahi be back after her compulsory 40 days at home after giving birth? Will she be breastfeeding her son while working on her sewing machine, making raincoats?

Will all the workers ask me, one by one, how my trip was and how my mother is? How my sisters are, how my whole family and my friends are, so I can answer again and again: 'Fine! Fine! Fine, they are all fine!' I know they will all pinch me wherever they can and laugh and say “You’ve grown fat!”

My musing has become longing. It's been nice, here. In fact, it's been wonderful. But I'll be going home now.