Ghana, The Victoria Basket, and the trip that changed my life
Since I began this business I always said I was creating something that helped people in a very important way. I always knew that my business would do this. But after my visit to Ghana, now I really KNOW.
As I packed my things I had a bit of anxiety because I was entering a space I knew very little about and I understood that I was going to be way out of my comfort zone... well that was one hell of an understatement, more on that later.
Mid afternoon on June 2nd I flew from Miami to Lisbon arriving at 5 am the next day. I left Lisbon at 10 am and 5 hours later I was in Accra, Ghana. From Accra I took a 2 hour flight to Tamale where upon landing I went on a 4 hour car ride to Bolgatanga where I spent the night in a guesthouse. The next morning I rode on the back of a scooter for 2 hours on muddy roads and in a skirt to reach the village that was way into the outsides of the town.
Finally, I was there.
The makers of Victoria Baskets were in front of me, all of them familiar. After so many photo exchanges via WhatsApp and email, I was finally able to see them with my own eyes and vice versa. It felt like a mirage.
The level of poverty in which these people live is astounding. I’ve heard many times the statistic about people living on $1 per day. But now, I saw and understood what that meant. Not to sound like some Sarah McLachlan commercial, but it was very difficult to wrap my head around the absolute basics they lacked and how little it takes to dramatically and profoundly improve their lives.
(Anyway... more on this later... I do not want to focus on what they don’t have, instead I want to focus on their incredible crafts and how they can pull themselves into a better way of life with a business opportunity like Sonder and Holliday.)
When I think about my life and where I was a year ago on that day, back then I never would have imagined that a year later I would be in Bolgatanga, Ghana on a journey that blew me into my calling and changed the way I conducted my business. Sonder and Holliday now had a solid spine. And now I understood why I was put on this planet.
7 billion people in the world and the Universe decided to put me in front of this group of people in a place I only knew of because I looked it up on a map about 2 years ago.
The odds of this invigorated my motives and desire to build Sonder and Holliday into a successful brand because now, more than ever, I understood that if I became successful, they too would succeed. And after this trip, it was no longer only about me. It is about them and the shift I felt moving my focus from my personal desires and wants to ensuring their basic needs are met gave me so much clarity, especially in terms of how to move my business forward and how to grow it appropriately.
I was finally aligning my life's purpose with my business goals and everything started falling into place almost effortlessly.
Funny how that works...
I took some color pencils and paper with me so that I could draw the designs with the weavers. While I was drawing, I noticed that a little boy, Samuel, about 9 years-old or so, kept following me. Realizing he was interested in the coloring, I handed him the pencils and paper and told him to color in the designs.
He began blending the colors. He meticulously drew in the lines and made the designs stand out, almost in 3D. I was shocked! This kid has some major art skills! I turned to his mother and showed him what he did.
Turns out she never knew her son had this ability because he never had color pencils before. A little boy’s talent and potential has gone unrealized because of something as small as not having crayons or colored pencils, something children on my side of the world have access to before they can walk.
Samuel kept the color pencils, a sharpener, and loads of paper. I told him that when I returned I wanted him to help me create new designs so that the weavers could produce something cool and unique… and designed by Samuel.
This is just a small example of the realities the folks in this village face daily. I will be blogging about this another time because this needs to be discussed. Plus, I am going to do something about it, and with your help, kids like Samuel will be able to realize their full potential.
We have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of things we need to fix and clarify. There is a lot of stuff I know, a lot I know I don’t know, and plenty I don’t know I don’t know. I am not entirely sure how to do it right now, but I know I’m on track, and I feel the excitement of the progress.
I hope that this blog has given you a far new appreciation for our Victoria Baskets. Being there and witnessing the process definitely made me proud to own them and sell them.