“Man on a mission”
How do you weave 25 baskets in a single day? Joseph knows. “We got the community together and told them of your desire to help us. Then we each wove our best basket so you will come back and order more. The community has a need and we are eager to work.”
~ Joseph, Master Basket Weaver, Northern Ghana
Joseph ended his schooling after high school so that his younger sisters could afford an education through his work as a basket weaver. When we placed our first order, he got his community of men, women, and teenagers to work together to weave baskets, fulfilling his vision of a community prospering with dignity and economic independence. We are currently working with a community of twenty five members, but Joseph hopes our partnership will provide income to the community and nearby villages – with a goal of reaching two hundred community members.
We were not going to sell baskets until we met Joseph. Joseph is a basket weaver… sort of, whose story inspired us. Basket weaving is a family tradition and he has been weaving baskets since he was 12 years old. He completed secondary school (the equivalent of High school in the US), but with an ailing and aging father, he had to put his educational aspirations on hold as his family could no longer financially support his and his two younger sisters’ education. He said, “I stopped school to weave baskets so my younger sisters could at least get a high school education, for a woman without education will not attract an educated man, which might lead to uneducated children.”
He took us to his home and showed us his family and his beautiful sisters who were all weaving baskets. “I don’t think I am a businessman,” he told us. He only wants to help his community gain economic independence, aspire to such things as getting an education and live with dignity. He commented, thinking aloud, “Maybe one day I can have my own store.” It sounded more like a prayer let out to God. I was curious to know how he would handle a big order and he answered with, “You see all those huts? We all have been weaving baskets since we were kids, God brought you to us, we will do it.”
Once back in the US, I called Joseph to order 25 baskets as a test before we had any orders just to see how all of this was going to work out. He called me the next day with excitement and breathlessly shouted down the poor reception phone line, “It is done!” Perturbed, I asked him how he could have woven 25 baskets in a day; how is the quality, are they all going to be same colors…? Patiently, he explained to me how he couldn’t possibly weave 25 baskets in a day even if he skipped sleep and he added, “What you asked for needs more work.” Rather, he got his community together and told them to each weave their best basket, because if the baskets turned out well then I would come back and order more. And if I ordered more, then the whole community would gain economically. He also informed me that the community working together reduces envy, promotes goodwill and creates varied and high quality baskets. “The whole community could use your help,” he said, and he sent me a picture he had taken to show me my new extended family.
Joseph always leaves you something to think about after every conversation and we will continue to share his story and his community with you.