Monday, April 25, 2011

What is this bag project Ebben keeps talking about?

Ok, so after months and months of promising you all, I have finally sat down and put together a post about the bag project I am working on.

I am working with tailors in village to create bags and accessories from their left-over material. You see, here in West Africa, appearance is extremely important, so people spend a sizable chunk of money on clothing. (Some volunteers have found that families will spend upwards of 25% of their total income on clothing and accessories--needless to say, we need to design and execute a proper experiment, but I am pretty sure we'll confirm this estimate.) For the most part, these clothes are actually tailored, which is where my project comes in.

You see, the tailors tend to just throw their scraps out with the trash. Throwing stuff out is rather common actually, so I guess that's why the tailors thought I was crazy when I told them they are throwing money away. After spending a few months getting to know them and their businesses, I decided it would be  fun experiment to start mixing some of their scraps to make a patch-work item. I then had that patchwork made into a bag.

Big Bag...

After the tailors saw that you could make patchworks from their scraps, we started to run with it. I decided to ask Daddy Bell for a sewing machine and a little bit of cash for start up for Christmas so I could really dig in and learn the trade with the tailors. Turns out I may have been a little premature in that request. I didn't end up buying a sewing machine, but I did buy a great deal of pagne (colorful printed cloth used to make clothing) and made some kick ass contacts in the pagne world of my region. With that pagne, I then went to the tailors to start working on simple bags. We made at least 20 simple drawstring bags for a store in Ouagadougou--the capital city of Burkina Faso-- and ended up selling all bags in less than two weeks. With the money from that order, we were able to turn around, and do another order of about 15 items for another customer.Unfortunately, my camera was broken for those orders, so I don't have the pictures to show you the first simple bag.(The tailors know nothing about the start-up money, but it should be noted that all start-up money has been made back, and now we are dealing with shear profits for the most part.) Eventually, we will start buying pagnes to create coordinated patchworks.


The good news is, with those two large orders, the tailors started coming around. Here, seeing is without a doubt believing. With the third round of bags, we switched from the simple two-sided/two-pagne bag to a rice-lined patchwork bag. We also added a smaller, more city-friendly bag for women, along with accessories such as cell-phone covers, iPod covers, and mens wallets. Due to circumstances out of my control, I was not able to get that order to its intended buyers. That said, the bags are still selling! More than half the the order has moved, AND the store owner in Ouaga (short for Ouagadougou) has placed another order for the beginning of May.

City-friendly bag

Needless to say, I am SO proud of my tailors! Oh, I completely forgot! THE TAILORS!

SO, I am working with three men and two women"en ville". In addition to these motivated individuals, I am working with the Maison des les Femmes' sewing room which is home to 16 girls and one extremely talented and motivated instructor. The plan is to use the proceeds from the bags to help buy sewing machines for the Maison des les Femmes. We are also going to be buying blackboards, as well as repairing whatever needs to be repaired. We are then going to have people come from the local micro-financing institution to teach the girls basic business skills! I think this is what I am most stoked about! Not only are these girls learning the art of sewing--literally couture in French--they will also be learning how to be good business women! How empowering is that? Over all, it is my hope that all who participate in the project will then turn around, and help lead the charge for the development of the community of Pama.

Draw-string bag

I am sure I have left a million holes in this post, but feel free to hit me up if you have any questions. I am working on actually typing everything up nicely in a report form. Once I have more data and what not, I'll post it as a pdf or something for you all to read.

Well, it's late here. I just wanted to get this post up before I go back to Pama.

I really am interested in your feedback so PLEASE comment, and send this link off to any and everyone you know! We have some sick models and what not coming out in the next month or so, and I am working on figuring out how to get stuff to the states.

Till the next post,


What have I been up to since last post?

Hey guys,

Sorry it's been so long. I decided in January that I would update you all more often by typing up blog post while at site, and then posting them when I had the opportunity. Well, that totally ended up failing when my computer went on the fritz in mid January. In addition to my computer crapping out on, my camera also broke, so I really had no motivation to post anything. WELL, Momma and Daddy Bell totally went above and beyond the call of amazing parenting and hooked me up with a new camera, computer, and my BlackBerry! Needless to say, life in Burkina just got a whole lot better for me!

That's not to say life in country was miserable or anything--sorry if any of my letters or correspondence made it sound that way--it's just so easy to get frustrated here. My projects are all over the place for the most part at the moment because of student striking, and government worker striking and other random stuff that we--as volunteers-- have no control over. It's all good though, because things are back to life as usual, and work is starting to pick up again.

My main project is to work in the community to help lower the number of unwanted pregnancies. I plan on taking a multifaceted approach to helping achieve the community-identified need of lower the number of unwanted pregnancies. We will be establishing a school supply bank, as well as coming up with extra-curricular activities for the students to participate in. Hopefully, we will also be able to plan a summer camp for the kiddos. Summer here is something completely different than what we think of, so all I can do is hope that it works.

I will also be working with parent/teacher organizations to help improve the actual school grounds. We will be working on school gardens, school chicken coops, and things of that nature. I also have other kick ass projects going on, but I'll devote a whole post to that.

All in all, I must say, I have been very happy here in Burkina Faso. Yes, there are a great number of things that I miss from home, but those things a side, life isn't bad here. We are gearing up for another stage(training group) this June, so that is exciting, especially because I have been selected to work it! I really don't know what to write... I guess I now see my life as boring, because I have been here for so long.I'm going to go a head, and close this post, but if you have any questions what so ever, feel free to comment, and I will make sure to answer your question in another post.

Till next post,


Oh yeah, totally forgot... I created a Facebook album for all the random photos I take with the BlackBerry. I suck at loading pics and what not, but at least this way, you can see them as I take them.