Olowo-n’djo Tchala has distributed nearly 10,000 bicycles to young women in Togo to help decrease dropout rate in grade school. (Courtesy photo)
Olowo-n’djo Tchala has distributed nearly 10,000 bicycles to young women in Togo to help decrease dropout rate in grade school. (Courtesy photo)

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A beauty company seeks not only to bridge West African heritage, but to also help those in the African Disapora.

Alaffia, co-founded by Olowo-n’djo Tchala and based in Olympia, Washington, uses products that are handcrafted, fair trade, organize and merges indigenous recipes with modern science.

Olowo-n’djo Tchala (pronounced “Oh-loe-in-joe Cha-la”), who grew up in Togo, a country that borders Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso, also seeks to expand help to those in his native West Africa.

“I am profoundly excited about the future to see us starting to build a bridge together,” said Tchala, whose company has received awards for social enterprise, including one from the U.S. State Department. “From what we are experiencing today, that bridge will only continue to be built because we need that.”

Besides its beauty products, the company inspires to become a productive global citizen through community service efforts.

It has built 15 schools, planted 90,000 trees, funds maternal health, donates thousands of bikes, eyeglasses and school supplies while keeping their ingredients whole and unrefined.

In addition, Alaffia employs more than 14,000 women worldwide.

Its goal: build communities to reduce poverty and increase attendance of young Togolese girls in grade school.

“Knowing that a company gives back to our community and supports women definitely makes me want to buy the product more,” said Alaffia consumer Janan Saalakhan. “Anyone that takes an active role in bettering the community deserves to be supported wholeheartedly.”

With some store shelves absent of certain items, consumers such as Halima Dark of Prince George’s County shop online for natural products.

Dark has ordered online goods such as shea butter and coconut oil-based products for more than 10 years out of convenience and because she believes organic is better for the body.

“I order essential oils like Egyptian Musk online and use it as a deodorant. Every once in a while, if I feel like I’ll be sweating a lot, I may dab some Secret under my arm but for the most part, I stick with all-natural,” Dark said. “I’m particular to what I put inside and outside my body. I like to recognize the ingredients and know that I can restore moisture to my skin without the use of harsh chemicals.”

Even though the pandemic has closed some borders, Alaffia continues to produce high-quality products and support the African community.

“We use traditional ways to handcraft our ingredients working in a group/family setting,” Tchala said. “Corona made us have to reorganize how we traditionally do business because of social distancing which is the opposite of our entire setup.

“My mother [Agbanga Ina] inspired me to start the product line. She is the anchor of this enterprise,” he said. “It was of utmost importance that her sons grew up to respect women, community and learn hard work by pulling your own weight.”

To find out more about Alaffia’s social enterprise model, projects, or shop for beauty products, go to www.alaffia.com.

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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