March 31, 2016

My Experience in Togo, Africa with Whole Planet Foundation

This past fall, Papyrus-Recycled Greetings employees Melanie and Tony took a trip to Togo, Africa to support our partners at the Whole Planet Foundation. Here, Melanie recounts some of her favorite moments of the trip and reflects on what she learned. 

"I had the distinct privilege of attending the Whole Planet Foundation International Impact Trip to Togo, Africa in October 2015 to represent Papyrus-Recycled Greetings as the founding member of the $100k Fund. The purpose of the trip was to learn about Whole Planet’s mission to alleviate poverty through funding microlending programs in communities where Whole Foods Market sources product and to witness firsthand the work of one of the microfinance institutions they support.

We met with Entrepreneurs du Monde, a microfinance institution that provides loans to women in Togo and were educated on the structure of their business, financials, and their clients. I was astounded to discover that more than half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day, & that the average first loan size is $187.

We had the pleasure of attending a client repayment meeting where the women would sing and dance every time someone made a payment on their loan. They were so excited to have us there and pulled us in to celebrate alongside them. I was blown away by the hard-work, industriousness, and entrepreneurial spirit that permeated their personalities and way of life.

We were hosted by Alaffia, a natural beauty care company that was founded to alleviate poverty and empower communities in West Africa, and who like PRG, is a donor to the Whole Planet Foundation. Their founder, Olowo-n’djo Tchala shared with us cultural traditions, such as how to make shea butter (while singing and dancing, of course), as well as demonstrating the impact of their mission in Togolese communities. The focuses of their empowerment projects, which are funded through the sales of Alaffia products, are on education, maternal healthcare, FGM eradication, eyeglasses, and reforestation.

I particularly enjoyed spending time with the women of Togo who allowed me to work in the kitchen with them, where at one point, the guinea hen that would later be dinner was flying around and we were trying to catch it.

My experience traveling to Togo introduced me to an entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic that will forever inspire me, and has reminded me to always remember that we are all one people sharing one planet. I'm grateful to have spent this time with such amazing people who fully welcomed me into their culture, and to Papyrus-Recycled Greetings for presenting me with this opportunity."