Thistle Farms has been both a source of inspiration and support for ABAN from our very beginning. ABAN started as a class project by three university students: Emmanuel, from the University of Ghana, Callie, from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, and Rebecca, from Concordia University. Since the original idea in 2008, the organization has continually transformed into the two-year program that exists today.
ABAN is an organization that works to end the cycle of poverty among marginalized young women in Ghana. Similar to Thistle Farms, we reach out to young women who have survived lives of prostitution, trafficking, addiction and life on the streets.
Part of ABAN’s funding strategy is through the sale of handbags and other accessories made from recycled plastic water bags. These plastic bags provide Ghanaians with pure drinking water, yet 60 tons of this plastic ends up on the streets every day due to inefficient trash collection systems. ABAN recycles 20,000 of these plastic bags every month and couples it with beautiful hand dyed batik to create purses and bracelets to sell.
Funds from sales are delegated to a holistic two-year healing program for the young women who enter ABAN’s program. The women are taught basic math and literacy, as well as business, savings and elective classes, which teach skills needed to pursue a job after graduating.
In our first year Becca Stevens visited our campus in Ghana. We forged a relationship, and since then Thistle Farms has purchased products from us for use in two of their kits. Currently, they buy handmade pouches and couple it with body products to create a Travel Survival Kit! They also buy bracelets from our newest venture for the Evening Survival Kit made from 100% recycled glass. Recently, we began taking discarded bottles from the streets, melting them down and crafting beads for the creation of jewelry.
Due in part to the steady revenue from Thistle Farms, we were able to expand ABAN to form a sibling organization, ACE, or ABANCommunity Employment. ACE hires seamstresses and tailors from the local community. This takes the product demand off our ABAN apprentices so that they are able to focus on their studies, as well as choose the career they desire. Before ACE, our apprentices spent their entire second year sewing products. Now, these girls are able to decide whether they want to pursue sewing, or choose a different profession such as catering, hairdressing, or bead making. ACE is also an opportunity for a steady job after graduation from ABAN.
In addition to financial support, we have looked up to Thistle Farms for inspiration from the beginning- our models are so similar, separated only by their 11 more years of experience and knowledge. We begin each day with Sister Circles, where the apprentices gather to sing, pray and start the day with a positive attitude. We have both a residential program and social enterprise that work together to create a community. And most importantly, we too are working to transform our current culture, which exploits women, and instead empower them with love and support.