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As part of my six week stint in the Gambia this winter I've been working together with The Travel Foundation, Sandele Eco-Lodge and Rupert & Lynne (our craft experts) to promote a brand of jewellery, crafts and textiles that will be recognised by customers for its commitment to natural products and to a fair working ethic for the producers involved. During the last 12 months everyone has been working very hard here in the destination to develop new innovative designs and products that will meet all customer's needs and pockets. The 8th December was agreed as the launch date of the 'Guaranteed Gambian' products and we were generously offered promotional space at the beautiful Gaya Art Cafe. A range of buyers and other interested parties were invited to the event, resulting in some fabulous feedback and interest for orders. Following the launch, myself and Rupert met with Anna from Top Shop who has shops at three popular hotels, she has become our first Guaranteed Gambian customer and is placing orders for all of our items within the catalogue.
I also met with the Sales and Marketing manager for the Sheraton Hotel, she is looking for corporate gifts and is interested in seeing the Guaranteed Gambian catalogue that Rupert is currently putting together. She attends trade fares 6 times per year and if she was to become a customer this would have a huge positive impact on combatting the seasonality issue.
For many of the producers of our crafts, this is going to be the first time that they've ever had any kind of real employment and opportunity to make a decent living from tourism. The respect that will come from having this opportunity is something that I can't even put a value on for them...instead of bumstering their wares on the streets they now have 3 confirmed outlets for their work. With next year's work focussing on marketing and building brand awareness of Guaranteed Gambian I know that the producers will really feel very proud to be part of it and to say that their work is sold under this label. It guarantees a fair wage for their products and the time that they have put into making them. The story boards of the producers will help to tell the story to the customer and bring life to the brand as well as awareness raising of sustainability as a whole. We'll be able to fully report on stats this time next year to demonstrate the difference this has made to the income of the producers.
I remember when I met a marabou (fortune teller) here the first time I came to do H&S 5 years ago, he told me that I would always come back to the Gambia and that I would bring wealth to people of the destination, I never believed a word of it, as far as I was concerned I was doing a one off trip there and never knew that I'd even come back. As soon as we got the Top Shop agreement it struck me that this could be exactly what he was referring to all that time ago! Scary that someone can know these things so far ahead of time
Of everything that I've done so far in this job, this is probably the highlight and the most amazing achievement yet. There's a lot of special people working on this project here and it's such privilege to be part of it. I just wanted to share the good news!
Graduated in 2011