When new volunteers arrive in Cameroon, one would expect the volunteers who have been here for a while to help answer questions, show the ropes, and be a support system for the ones just arriving. But, Shaun and I have a different idea; use the new volunteers to expand the market of one of our friends in Nkongsamba! When you arrive in Cameroon, you are very excited to be here, curious about all things Cameroonian/African, and you actually have a decent amount of spending money. Peace Corps pays a relatively generous living stipend during training, and given that there is nothing to do in the town training is held, you are comparatively rich. Given all of these factors we are hoping to take slight advantage of the trainees ‘newness’ to start a small ‘savings’ account for our tailor.
We know from experience that when you arrive in Bafia for training you are excited about pagne, the traditional African fabric, but haven’t quite figured out the French to purchase any, let alone get an outfit made. We decided we would have our tailor make pagne clutches to sell to the new trainees, marking up the price a bit so that she can begin to save.
When we presented the potential business idea to our tailor, she was all for it and eager to get started. After making about a million purses for my mom to take back as gifts, we had tons of “scraps” of all the fabric. We purchased some linen to serve as the base of the clutches and commanded 20 clutches to be made. The clutches have either tan/black linen, with pagne on the flap and back side, there is a zipper pocket on the inside, and they clip shut. They are great!
Shaun and I fronted the costs of the linen and paid the tailor the normal price for her time
to make the bags. Each bag costs about 2,000CFA ($4) to be made, and we are going to sell them to the new volunteers for 4,000CFA ($8), leaving a profit of 2,000CFA ($4) for each bag sold going to the tailor. This $4 profit is on top of the profit she made for doing the work. Any bags that don’t sell we will keep as gifts for people when we get home – so don’t be surprised if you see one of these again one day!
A good friend of ours, and post mate, will take them to the training site when he goes to facilitate sessions. While we are fully aware, and carefully explained to our tailor, that this cannot be a constant revenue stream but we all agreed it seemed like too good of an opportunity to not try to sell the clutches. If it works, there is another group of volunteers arriving again in September, and it would provide another opportunity to sell the clutches.
Keep your fingers crossed that the new volunteers are excited about them, buy them, and that this small opportunity becomes a way for our tailor to begin a savings account for her family. And, we will gladly take orders if anyone is looking for unique Christmas presents!