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SOURCE Olowo-n'djo Tchala
OLYMPIA, Wash., March 20, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Olowo-n'djo Tchala of Olympia has been selected to receive a Washington State Jefferson Award in recognition of his mission to advance gender equality and alleviate poverty in his native Togo, West Africa. The Jefferson Awards for Public Service is considered the United States' "Nobel Prize for community and public service," and was created in 1972 to recognize, inspire and activate volunteerism and public service in communities, workplaces and schools across America.
Tchala's dedication to his communities began in 2003, when he decided that he must do something for the women in Togo – women like his mother who were denied education as girls and opportunities as adults. He recognized that these women have something unique to offer; their traditional knowledge of handcrafting shea butter, and that by telling their story and bringing their product to the world, shea butter could generate enough income to support these women's families and communities.
With this vision, Tchala organized a women's cooperative in Togo to produce shea butter and created Alaffia to produce and market shea butter skin and hair care products, returning sales from the products to the cooperative and to community empowerment projects in Togo. Ten years later, the shea butter cooperative is the biggest private employer in central Togo with more than 400 members and employees. In the U.S., Alaffia employs more than 60 people in Olympia. In addition, Alaffia has sent more than 4,500 used bicycles from Washington to Togolese girls to enable them to get to school, planted more than 10,000 trees and saves the lives of 1,000 mothers and babies each year through their Maternal Health Program.
Tchala looked within his community for a unique solution to poverty and inequality and has created a way for the skills and knowledge of a disadvantaged demographic to bring about self-empowerment. He has discovered how communities across the globe can work together for a common good, and his success brings encouragement to other disadvantaged young people, showing that they too can make a difference.
Tchala believes that the opportunities he was given make him responsible to bring opportunities to others, and this drive is bringing huge impact to his communities in Togo and Washington State.
"I am deeply humbled to be given the destiny of empowering others. I strongly believe that together we are marching forward towards a common goal of achieving human dignity and equality for all," said Tchala.
On March 18 Tchala's story was featured on a King 5 Evening Magazine segment. Statewide voting will select one Jefferson Award winner to represent the state of Washington at the national level in Washington, D.C. Voting is open to all Washington residents from 7:30 PM March 18th to midnight, March 25th. Voting can be done at http://www.king5.com/on-tv/evening-magazine/193905271.html or by calling (206) 682-7395 or (866) 257-5533.
CONTACT: Lanessa Inman // 360-866-0080 // Email
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