Time is moving so quickly now. I have been packing for my return to Senegal West Africa, looking over what I have, what I need, and what will fit into my luggage. It always comes down to the last weigh in on the scale that the final decisions are made and the last items are strategically packed into my bags. I’ve been so lucky to have donations of soccer balls and basketballs, sports uniforms and flip flops to travel back to Senegal with. I always wish I could take so much more, but extra bags are so expensive and what I am finding now is that more and more items are becoming available over in Africa.
I have had so many offers of clothing and shoes, and I appreciate the offers, but what I have found over the past years is that there are so many clothes being shipped over to Africa….mountains of clothing and endless “bales” of clothing waiting to be purchased.
At first I thought it was such a good thing and I’m sure, if there was some sort of balance, it could be a great thing, but what is happening is the used clothing market is killing the local industries and leaving that many more in dire situations and the piles of clothing and shoes shipped from all over America and Europe keeps growing. Somewhere in this mess are a few people making some money here and there, and the wealthier people are getting richer. I visited some of the clothing markets on my last trip. The little stalls went on for blocks and blocks with each stall selling a variety of used items. Some clothing sells for as little as $2CAN. Some items are of good quality, but many are well used item. I had hoped to purchase good brand name athletic wear to provide clothing for the boys at Son of Africa, but wasn’t successful in finding those items at a good price. The best items, brand names, are quickly bought up by local merchants and resold in shops at a higher price. There are entire shops that sell only a certain “name”, all purchased through the used clothing market. Africans are proud people and dress with care and style. What is happening now is that most of the better clothing is requires paying a higher price as it is being bought for resale, and the excessive amount of used clothing shipped has caused the local manufacturers of clothing to have to charge more per item to cover the expenses of business operations. It just seems like a big circle spinning out of control while piles of clothing continue to be shipped into Africa. There are literally mounds of clothing piled at every corner and clothing kiosk. I’m somewhere in the middle on all of this. Son of Africa will teach the boys life skills in the African way and that means they will be encouraged to dress in their tradition and take pride in their African heritage, but also dress in non-traditional wear. Adidas is king for the boys since the majority of the boys role models are famed soccer stars. Donations of any form are so much appreciated, although I have to keep in mind shipping charges vs buying over in Senegal. I will always leave a corner in my luggage to take back boys Adidas anything, and I know with early morning visits to the clothing market I will be able to find good clothing at a decent price. As for traditional African clothing, I also am sure I will find a tailor with a fair price. I’d encourage you to read the article, “What really happens to your donated clothing?”, and then find someone in your own neighbourhood, town or city that could use a gift of donated clothing. For now, I think Africa, or at least Senegal, has enough to last quite a while.