Transformation in Action: My Visit to Linda's Bakery
February 14, 2018 // by Atul Tandon
In my professional circles, my colleagues and I often use the word transformation. For those of us working in poverty alleviation and development, this word is the big end goal—representing lives, families, and futures that are forever changed. Yet often, transformation can feel vague. It can become a convenient term, rather than what it really is: a person’s life story.
Transformation is my friend Linda in Ghana.
I met Linda last year when I visited Accra with Opportunity’s field staff. The local branch officers heard of my love for bread, so they took me out one morning to visit their favorite bakery. I had visions of fruitcakes and cookies, so I was surprised when they drove me into a difficult neighborhood full of tin sheds and low-slung concrete buildings.
We approached a single story building that was more factory than bakery, and my guides informed me that we had arrived. This factory—this plant—was Linda’s bakery (known locally as "Lindice Bakery").
Inside, I was greeted by heat and noise and men whose hands were twice the width of mine. They sweated and smiled as they picked up dough pouring out of a mixer, shaped it into a log, and then chopped it into pieces with a huge machete. Another group of workers picked up these newly-formed loaves and loaded them into tin containers that would then be transported to the industrial ovens that lined the room.
Her business was small, and she struggled to provide for her family—but she was determined to make a future for herself.
The baking ovens and the hot Accra sun made the room temperature inch well above 100 degrees, and the bustle of workers and machines made it hard to hear above the noise.
And into this chaotic scene walks a lady, who came right over to me and gave me a big hug.
This, I soon learned, was Linda.
We sat down and chatted, and she shared with me her story. I learned that a few years earlier, she had been selling a few bread loaves a day on the street from a basket on her head. Her business was small, and she struggled to provide for her family—but she was determined to make a future for herself.
She learned about Opportunity International and received a loan that she invested in her bakery, allowing her to bake and sell a few more loaves each day. Little by little, she continued to grow her enterprise—increasing her production and reaching out to new customers.
And now, as we sat in her busy factory, it was clear that Linda’s life and business had been transformed. Her business—bread—represents our very livelihoods. Bread feeds our children and our families, and Linda makes this bread available to all.
She bakes thousands of loaves a day, earning a steady income that allows her to care for her own family. Her customers take the bread home to feed their own children, and her many employees now have sustainable jobs so that they can be good providers, too.
Behind the factory, a group of women line up with baskets on their heads—just like the ones Linda used to carry. Instead of selling all of her loaves directly to customers, she sells them to these mothers so that they can start their own small businesses. They are her business partners, and while each of them may only sell to 5 or 10 customers, together, they are feeding thousands.
Linda’s transformation has ignited a ripple effect. Her success has created opportunities for dozens of her neighbors and friends, and fed an entire community.
As I left Linda’s bakery that day, I was followed by the sound of running feet. Linda chased me down to give me one last hug and tell me that she was just getting started. She had even bigger dreams ahead of her, and she was confident that she was going to achieve them. She even told me that she was going to visit me in the United States someday!
Linda reminded me of what we really mean by transformation. Her business, her family, and her very life have been transformed by a simple opportunity. And her transformation has sparked change for so many around her.
Atul Tandon is the Chief Executive Officer of Opportunity International.