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YES Alumni Grant: Embracing Impact in Process

A group of people sitting outside on plastic chairs

By Sarah Bibbey (YES Abroad 2012-2013, Michigan, hosted by AFS in Kumasi, Ghana)

Through YES Abroad, I had the opportunity to live in Kumasi, Ghana for one year from 2012 to 2013. The experience changed my life, and through it I built connections in Ghana that have lasted to this day.

After my exchange year, I returned to Ghana several times and continued to build connections. In 2015, I met Matilda Lartey, an artisan and mother of a child with a disability. Matilda is also the director of Matilda Flow Inclusion (MFI) Foundation, an organization that employs artisans affected by disability to make one-of-a-kind fashion and accessories. After developing a working relationship with Matilda, I co-founded Make Fashion Clean (MFC), a U.S.-based non-profit that supports the MFI Foundation.

A man standing behind a camera, next to a woman in a wheelchair

Through my work with MFC, I learned about the barriers that persons with disabilities face in finding work in Greater Accra. In 2019, I co-led a YES Alumni Grant project supporting artisans in learning fabric beadmaking. In 2020, Matilda, the MFC team, and I received a YES Alumni Grant to continue this work and to film a documentary about MFI Foundation’s impact, especially the community outreach work they lead in rural communities.

Originally, the plan was to host events in both Ghana and the U.S. where we screened the documentary and displayed products created by MFI Foundation. Due to COVID-19, we had to adapt this plan many times. Both limitations on in-person events and decreased team capacity challenged us to rethink the kinds of impact our documentary could have. Rather than being focused on the outcome, the impacts of our project were instead centered on the process. While filming the documentary, MFI Foundation donated 2,000 cloth masks to community members in Greater Accra and provided health screenings to hundreds of local people. These masks and health screenings became our primary impact in the conditions we were working in.

The documentary turned out beautifully, and our team hopes to sponsor public screenings as we rebuild our capacities.

Thank you to the YES Program, AFS, and American Councils for International Education for supporting my work over the years, especially in the form of this grant. The project was made possible by the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of State and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.