|left to right: Rebecca, Emmanuel and Callie|
Ghanaian nonprofit use environmental waste to empower people
Emmanuel T Quarmyne is a co-Founder and Director of ABAN, a nonprofit organization based in Ghana that is jointly founded by himself and two Americans. ABAN stands for A Ban Against Neglect. It currently seeks to end the cycle of poverty among young mothers in Ghana and empower them toward the restoration of themselves, their communities and environment. Quarmyne talks more about this nonprofit and some of the other things they’ve been up to recently.
1) What is ABAN and when did it start?
A Ban Against Neglect (ABAN) is a non profit that started as a class project in the summer of 2008 at the University of Ghana Business School in the “Management of NGO’s” class. There is where I met Callie Brauel and later Rebecca Brandt and together, we as part of course requirements created a mock nonprofit that turned plastic waste into recycled products. After volunteering with two nonprofits that improves the conditions of street children, we all decided to use the plastic waste the children were surrounded by to empower them. Today ABAN successfully provides these kids the opportunity to earn a fair wage by recycling the plastic waste into hand-sewn products and thus making it marketable sill.
2) Why was the need to begin an initiative like ABAN so important?
Over 30,000 impoverished youth and children roam the streets of Accra, the capital city of Ghana. Half of them are mothers under the age of 20 with babies who live in the streets filled with trash which includes over 60 tons of plastic water bags that are discarded daily. We felt the need to tackle the problem and today ABAN is unique because it turns around the environmental problem to help destitute people.
3) Besides the women and children, who are other beneficiaries of this initiative?
ABAN targets mostly women because it is easier to transform them when they are cooperative and intend to positively affect their communities which also help prevent a second generation of street children. Men do have a role to play as well because we currently provide employment for men through the ABAN Community Employment program (ACE). These men are mostly tailors who earn a living sewing our unique products mostly for export.
4) What will you say are some of the difficulties you encounter today?
Unfortunately over time beneficiaries begin to develop an entitlement mentality which defeats the purpose of the project. With the charity model the women in the program deem it their right to be catered for. ABAN however wants to empower its beneficiaries and make them independent. We are currently shifting to a social enterprise model where beneficiaries would be taught business and life skills to enable them fend for themselves.
5) Have you or are you considering partnering with any environmental awareness organizations or women empowerment groups whether in or outside Ghana?
In Ghana, the Catholic Action for Street Children (CAS) and Street Girls Aid (S-Aid) have supported ABAN. United Way Charity which, an international non profit also has a partnership with ABAN. Resource persons from the HopeLine Institute (a financial NGO) as part of their agenda to empower women also offer business solutions to our beneficiaries. Other organizations have also helped with the cause and we are always interested in useful partnerships both in Ghana and abroad.
6) Talk about some of your success stories and the kind of reception you have received within the community you started in?
One of our many beneficiaries is Rose and her baby Theo: We thought we lost Rose when she abruptly left the ABAN program a mere 5 months prior to graduation. But it turned out to be a mere hiccup on her journey. As our teenager-selves can relate, Rose felt a little lost and soon fell into the peer pressure of bad company. After some months back on the street Rose attended her peer’s ABAN graduation and as we celebrated their achievement she humbly asked for a second chance.
Today Rose is the first beneficiary employed by ABAN today, she’s an excelling seamstress with our ACE program who uses her natural creative talent to sew ABAN products that contribute to the ABAN mission and pays her salary. While her path may not have been conventional, it surely has been transformational.
The Chief in the Aburi community where we are physically located is excited about our program and continues to champion our project. We’ve also had visits from Members of Parliament and other public figures who support our program. In December 2012 the Vodafone Ghana Foundation made a donation to support the project and the then CEO Mr. Kyle Whytehill followed up with a visit to the compound. Over the years also we’ve received hundreds of visitors from all over the world, all of whom have contributed to our success story.
7) Are there other things out there that proceeds from your sales go into supporting?
Apart from supporting the girls and the program, proceeds indirectly help other projects we are involved with. We’ve had clean up campaigns, painted a small school in our community and donated school supplies to deprived public schools in the region. Children of the Light (COTL)——another non profit we are affiliated to——also receives periodic gift donations from us as part of a reward system for their beneficiaries who collect plastic waste in the community to be recycled by ABAN.
8) Talk a bit about long term objectives for ABAN and how others can help achieve them?
The plan is to expand the project to be able to cater for 50 to 70 girls at a time. We have plans of building a permanent facility to make this possible and we have gone ahead to purchase a 6acre parcel of land in the Aburi-Dumpong area for this purpose. We can only achieve this if you support the project by buying our products and contributing to a worthy cause. You can also make donations on our website at www.aban.org