In 2016, Toolbox Travel took a group of six women to Senegal to participate in the distribution of tools. They were so moved and inspired by the people they met they created a special component of the Toolbox Initiative called the Gazelles, a fund that responds to unique circumstances in ways that can literally change the lives of jewelers and their families. Perhaps the best way to describe the program is through two examples.
Ahmadou Bamba Cassé
On our first visit to Senegal one of the first people we met was Bamba Cassé, a jeweler with a big heart and a warm smile. On a recent visit he invited us to his home where we met his parents, his two children and his wife, Karim. We learned that she is a seamstress but her sewing machine was broken. We asked how much it would cost for a new machine and the answer was $300. In other words, for this relatively small amount, a one-income family could become a two-income family. Private funds appeared and a week later we received photos of Karim with her new machine along with this message:
“I am so glad to meet and know this wonderful team named Toolbox Initiative which gives us tools, knowledge and so much more. My wife has received the machine from their last visit to Dakar. We are very glad for them. Here is the new machine with my darling Karim. Thank you Toolbox.”
On the first Toolbox Initiative visit in 2015 we met a jeweler named Djibrilla Akalo. He and his brother shared a small cardboard space about eight feet square outside Dakar. He invited us to visit and in the usual manner, gave us tea and peanuts as he showed us what he was working on. The few tools we gave them more than doubled the studio equipment.
When we returned a year later Djibrilla had moved into the city to a small workshop a little closer to potential customers. He is a shy, friendly and quiet young man—you’d like him. It was only after several visits that we learned that he has a family in his native Niger, a country about 2000 miles away. More than that, he has a one-year old daughter whom he has not seen. He came to Senegal because there are no customers for jewelry in Niger, but of course he misses his family. His goal is to make enough money to go back to Niger, reunite with his family, then bring them back with him to Senegal.
He has spent a year building up inventory and was considering selling this at an extreme discount to raise money to go home. This would set him back a year and lower the value of everyone’s jewelry. We asked how much that would cost and learned that he needed about $1500.
Using money donated by Gazelles, Djibrilla returned home a few weeks later. He sent us this message: “Thank you for being you.”
Are you a Gazelle? If you would like your donation to go into this program, just let us know.