G-lish Foundation is a non-profit organisation from Ghana, West Africa, established in 2010 by Godwin Yidana (Ghana) and Gayle Pescud (Australia). G-lish Foundation develops sustainable, income generating projects to reduce poverty in rural communities in Ghana. These projects have important social, economic and environmental impacts.
As of August 2015, G-lish now pays over 80 producers for handcrafted items using recycled materials, the cornerstone of G-lish's work.
G-lish Foundation undertakes projects that:
G-lish does this by:
G-lish Foundation envisages a world in which rural Ghanaian families will be economically independent, where their children have educational choices beyond primary school, and in which the natural environment enables healthy and prosperous development.
'Income generation, re-generation, next generation’ summarises this vision. The ‘G’ in G-lish stands for Generation, Ghana and Green: the G-lish philosophy.
To help achieve economic independence, G-lish uses a fair trade model to pay higher than fair trade prices to producers. This provides economic security. One of the things the weavers most comment on is the relief of knowing they WILL be paid, and they will earn more than they do from any other basket making or economic activity they could otherwise undertake.
G-lish hopes to show that creative solutions to sustainable development can break the cycle of poverty.
How does G-lish work to achieve its vision?
G-lish staff collect recycled drinking water sachets from businesses and schools in Bolgatanga. G-lish pays the collectors by the sack. We deliver the plastic bags to villages where specific workers clean them in preparation for cutting. Then staff deliver these to “cutters” who open the plastic bags and cut them into strips. Staff deliver the strips to twisters who twist the plastic into twine the same way they traditionally twist straw. While this is happening, G-lish staff also collect recycled cloth from seamstresses, also paid. Staff deliver cloth to cutters who cut the cloth into strips. And then staff deliver the cloth to twisters who twist it into twine.
G-lish staff deliver bunches of plastic and cloth twine to the artisans, who select colours based on their vision. They usually use around 400 pieces of plastic twine (which is 400 plastic bags), and around 3 yards of recycled cloth, per art-work. The artisan weaves the plastic and cloth together in alternate rows in an under-over, tight weave. You can see the “handle” or “signature” in their pieces.
Each basket uses 270 plastic bags and 2-2.5 yards of recycled cloth. How do we know this? In late 2012 while undertaking the art work component of the Australian High Commission funded project, we undertook a number of timed and measured experiments on basket weaving, including both straw and G-lish baskets. As part of the recycled G-lish basket experiments, for the first time ever we used full pieces of batik cloth to make baskets in order to know the precise measurement of cloth used. By measuring length and drop before cutting, and then recording how many twines were made per yard, and then recording how many of those twines were used to make a basket, over several baskets and several yards, we were able to calculate how many yards were used in a basket. Almost the same number of twines were made in each yard of cloth, even though cutting the cloth to make twines is not a precise art. But the cutters were so used to handling material by this stage, they cut quite evenly and produced almost the same number of twine per yard, =/- a couple of twines. When it comes to baskets, skilled basket weavers weave the plastic and cloth twine into baskets using traditional weaving techniques.
Fast forward 2 years and G-lish recycled baskets are displayed in Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts exhibition: Basketry: making human nature, which brought together traditional and contemporary basketry from Western Amazonia, North America, Oceania, Africa, Japan, South-East Asia and Europe. The exhibition revealed the extraordinary uses of basketry technology and asked us to consider the place of basketry in human culture. http://www.basketry.ac.uk/exhibition
G-lish Foundation weavers create high quality and high value products that generate above fair trade levels of income. 100% of income (and any profit after costs) from sales is reinvested in G-lish to reach more people in need. The main area of growth has been to create more income earning opportunities by recruiting more weavers and recycled materials workers to produce more baskets and new products. This includes expanding basket production to more villages and training traditional weavers to work with recycled materials. Scroll down for more images.
Awards, Partnerships, Media
G-lish recieved a SEED Initiative award for sustainable social enterprise in 2010—supported by the UNEP, UNDP and IUCN. G-lish has been featured on various online blogs and websites, including
Italian Vanity Fair's blog by Gaia Segattini!
In Lloyd Told George, the amazing lifestyle blog.
Textile Fibre Forum Magazine, Australia, September 2014 edition 4 page feature.
In The Design Hunter's opening night - check out that in the background!
Creative City of Sydney during our Pine Street exhibition.
Thank you for your support and learning about the work of a small social enterprise making a difference in Ghana, West Africa. You can buy G-lish baskets and art work online. Please email us if you have any questions.
Godwin interviewing weavers for the fair market project. Meeting under trees is more culturally appropriate than expensive hotels. In this context, people feel more comfortable talking about difficult issues in places where they're most comfortable and familiar, rather than inside an air-conditioned, sealed room.
Getting ready to plant seedlings with kids of weavers and from the local primary school back when we purchased them from parks and gardens in 2010. After that we raised them ourselves.
Girls from the local junior high school helping plant seedlings.
More interviews with weavers under a Baobab tree late 2012.
Edna holding the first art piece finished (the top circle in the picture above).
Gayle holding the second art piece ever made (second circle in the picture two above)
Planting our own raised seedlings in the village in 2012.
Julie with a huge basket experiment in 2012. Only Julie could do that!
Another experiment with Ms P. She also made the second art work above!
Some of the kids in the Green Clubs working on action planning. Part of a program to help young people develop goals and achieve them.
More sampling in 2012! The "window" basket.
The weavers during the quality control workshop. Not so excited....
Mama weaving her first ever art piece. She said she didn't think she could do it. We convinced her to give it a go. This piece found a home in Sydney during the exhibition at Pine Street in February and Mama was paid the equivalent of about 3-4 months income for that work. She's since sold 4 pieces.
Godwin with all the small art pieces grouped together at the Pine Street exhibition in February 2014. Mama's piece (above) is the one sitting on his head.
Gayle's first ever visit to Bolga, Aug 2008. Looking like a tourist even though she'd been in Ghana for 3 years by then. That's our default Mum and photobombed by kid who'd become our little shadow whenever we did work in the village.
Godwin beginning the workshop with weavers on fair prices. That's a bundle of LONG straw though with some missing as it was being used by the weavers present who continued weaving their baskets while we did the interviews.
Two of our producers - cloth cutters and twisters - harvesting nutritious greens used to make the local soup staple.
Gayle eating her first ever tuo zafi (TZ) at the best eatery in Bolga. The stew is made with the leaves above, among other things (lots of peanuts, also grown locally). The white sticky plate is ground maize (a bit like grits) which is dipped in the stew and eaten. That's a guinea fowl leg sticking out. Yum.
The other half of the group who participated in the QC workshop. Weaving as they go.
G-lish at The Rocks Pop Up shop in Sydney in August 2014! If you visited, thank you for visiting!
The daughter of one of our weavers pumping water at the bore hole in Dulugu. This is daily life in our village where most people depend on bore water to meet their washing and cooking needs.
The G-lish kitten, Dude, resting on twisted recycled plastic and cloth awaiting delivery to weavers.
The second G-lish art work shop with weavers in Dulugu!
Floods in 2011 made life difficult, to say the least. A lot of people lost houses and equipment. G-lish was lucky to be out of the worst of it.
From adversity comes beauty and change: Vida and the G-lish shoulder bag.