Agnes used to worry about her son, seven-year-old Kevin. A single mother, she wasn’t earning enough from her small-scale trading to provide for her child.
She explains, “The market was bad for the items I was selling, which made life challenging. The products were seasonal, so my income was unstable.”
But Agnes is now a rising business star, thanks to an innovative VSO ICS project. Young volunteers from both the UK and Ghana have trained Agnes in making bead jewellery.
Brought me out of hardship
“I used to make about 70 Ghana Cedis (roughly £14.50) profit a week at peak business times – but now I can make about 250-300 Ghana Cedis (roughly £51-61) per week from my jewellery-making business.’
The extra income has made a huge difference to her and Kevin’s lives.
“I am now able to pay all bills including electricity and water, school fees and food for my son. The jewellery-making has saved me from seasonal hardship and suffering.”
And it’s not just the financial aspect which attracted Agnes – she has always wanted to work in fashion.
Train a trainer
As her business grows, Agnes isn’t just stopping at jewellery.
The ICS volunteers provided additional training in soap making and tie dying. Agnes used what she’d learned to design her own cloth, which she combined with her beading skills to create intricate beaded slippers.
In fact, things have now gone full circle, as Agnes is now a training facilitator herself, teaching other women from her community how to make bead jewellery, as well as new volunteers on the ICS programme.
And she has even volunteered to host some of the young ICS volunteers in her home.
‘Don’t sit around waiting for manna from heaven’
From a single mother struggling to provide for her son, to a successful entrepreneur with a full house, Agnes is a shining example to others in her community.
She urges other women to take the opportunity to get involved with the project and learn valuable skills: “Get the training and start your own business! Don’t sit around waiting for manna from heaven.”
Agnes is one of over 200 community members from three communities in the West Akim district of Ghana, who have been given skills training in bead jewellery making, tie dye, flip flop decoration and soap making.
The ICS programme in West Akim is a livelihood programme that contributes to an already-existing VSO programme called Cocoalife.
It seeks to reduce rural poverty in areas that have traditionally relied on cocoa-growing, by providing training to women and young people.
The training allows women and youth to gain practical skills, as well as knowledge of business development and marketing.