Building Communities in Ghana with Shea Yeleen

Rahama Wright, founder of Shea Yeleen

Rahama Wright, founder of Shea Yeleen

I am all about a good and worthy cause, especially when it's within our own community. Sisters helping sisters. Marcus Garvey once said, "there is no humanity before that which starts with yourself".

Shea Yeleen is a social enterprise dedicated to empowering women in West Africa and the United States through the production, sale and use of Shea Butter products (one of my favorite products!). Coconut + Concrete chatted with Rahama Wright, who started the brand which is now available online and in Whole Foods

High quality, organic, fair trade skin care products

High quality, organic, fair trade skin care products

Congratulations on your partnership with Whole Foods, that's major! How did Shea Yeleen first begin?

I started Shea Yeleen after serving in the Peace Corps. During my time volunteering at a community health center, I noticed the financial limitations of many women who couldn't afford medicine. I began to research income-generating activities for women and learned about Shea Butter and its connection to the lives of women in the Sahel region of Africa. After learning the disconnect between traditional women, Shea Butter producers and the global marketplace, I decided to create Shea Yeleen with two specific goals: 1. Assist women to generate living wages from their labor 2. Ensure customers are getting the highest quality Shea Butter products for their body care needs.

I love how your company is working in partnership with women in Ghana. How has this affected the community there?

There are so many definitions of empowerment. The definition I use for my business model is creating living wages for women. I believe this is important because when women have access to more income and are financially secure the entire community and families change for the better. Shea Yeleen accomplishes this goal by paying Shea Butter producers in Ghana five times their country's minimum wage. This means going from making less than $2/day to $10/day. As an example, the cost of living to send a child to school cost about $3/month, access to a health insurance card costs $15/year, average transportation costs .50/day.

WOW!! That is truly amazing. Do you travel to Ghana often? If so, what is something a visitor MUST do or see while there?

I travel to Ghana 2 - 4 times. For anyone going to Ghana, you must travel outside Accra the capital and head to Cape Coast to visit the slave castles. It is about a three-hour drive from Accra. Trying local foods is a must. My favorites are fufu with a light soup, rice and beans served in a banana leaf with plantains, and rice with okra stew. I'm getting so hungry thinking about these.

Sounds so GOOOOOD. Now, I'm sure there are several but what is Shea Yeleen's one MUST HAVE item?

Our top seller is our lavender honeysuckle shea butter cream, which is sold on our website and in select Whole Foods Markets. However, my personal favorite is the unscented shea butter balm. This is shea butter in its purest form and is excellent for dry skin. I use it daily.

We also recently launched a spa line with MGM Resorts and the top seller is the Bourbon Citrus Body Cream. It is heaven in a jar!

It sounds heavenly too!! And last but not least do you have any plans to expand or open up a store?

No plans to create a storefront. But, our expansion plans include securing more retail accounts, especially with our spa line. I see a lot of opportunity working with boutique spas.


Sooooo exciting!!! Many great things are on the horizon for Rahama and Shea Yeleen. Make sure you check out the brand online and in your nearest Whole Foods. Stay tuned here too because we'll also be working in partnership with this amazing brand. Giveaway coming soon, make sure you're following us on Instagram @coconutandconcrete.

Major thanks to Rahama and Shea Yeleen for taking the time out for us!

I DID IT... Toddler's First Flight

My son is two years old and no, as much as my husband and I travel we've never taken him along with us on any of our trips. Mainly because he is a very rambunctious, spunky and very LIVELY boy and our getaways are just that - getting away. In my pre-motherhood days I've often rolled my eyes at the sound of crying babies and annoying kids on past flights and I refuse to be "that" parent on the plane; baby crying, screaming, kicking. Basically doing everything except sleeping. But when my mother reached out to me asking if I'd like to go visit my sister in Ohio, I thought, sure why not - it's a short flight, how bad could it be?

My little one loves music, dancing, sports-like activities and Mickey. I made sure I had everything he needed: snacks, juice, tablet and headphones, books, plus all of the other toddler necessities. I always try to be as prepared as possible when it comes to this little guy. 

Fast forward to our flight. He cried during take-off because he didn't want to stay in his seat. I would say about every 45 minutes he needed to move around. He wanted to go across the aisle to my mom, he wanted to go back and forth. When I made him sit, he screamed. He kicked the seat in front of him. Then, he cried during landing. He doesn't like anything restraining him so he was constantly trying to wriggle out of the seat belt. 

Upon our return back home, it was pretty much the same EXCEPT this time our flight was delayed. So instead of leaving at 6:45pm we were scheduled to leave at 8:50pm. I immediately thought, this is where the nightmare begins. My rambunctious boy and I walked and raced around the Dayton International Airport in the hopes that he would K.O on the flight back. Nope. Didn't work. After countless times ascending the stairs and descending the escalator, this kid wasn't tired at all. The lights were off on the plane, I snuggled him in a blanket, and all he wanted to do was watch and sing along to Bruno Mars' "That's What I Like" on his tablet while others tried to get some shut-eye (myself included).

Overall, my mom gave him an "A" for his first flight. Me, I gave him a "C". Remember - I used to be that person who cringed at the sound of a child crying on a plane. I am the parent of that child now. 

Dreamers 4 Change: A Chat with Founder, Derrika Hunt


Many of my students have never traveled outside of Brooklyn.

This is one of the main reasons why I share my travels with them. They need exposure to the world, and not just the world around them. I show them living conditions, schools, roads and people from other countries. I LOVE seeing their interest peak; their level of engagement soars as well as their level of questioning.

Education is so much more than just reading and math. During a recent professional development training we had to speak about keepsake items that we hold near and dear. I spoke about my passport and how it is worth far more than my student loans. Travel is truly an invaluable experience; eye-opening and humbling to say the least.

I first learned about Dreamers 4 Change through Rachel Travels. I reached out to Derrika immediately to learn more and see what I could do to help.

Please tell us about Dreamers 4 Change! How did it come about?

Dreamers4Change Foundation is truly a reflection of it's name. It literally all started as a dream. In fact, I often joke about how when I was younger, my mother would constantly chastise me for daydreaming too much. Well I guess all of my daydreaming has somehow paid off. Ever since I was younger, I hated seeing anyone going through difficulty. I would find myself daydreaming and imagining what it would be like if we had a world with no suffering. As I continued to grow up, I kept asking myself "what can I do?" whenever I saw hardship or anyone struggling. In high school I did a lot of community service in my local community. I graduated with more than 1,000 community service hours. While attending Florida State University I found out about The Center for Leadership and Social Change. It helped me continue my commitment to service. At the Center I participated in programs geared toward preparing future leaders; I was especially struck by the Center’s conviction that every good leader must also serve their community. That thought never left me. After graduating FSU, I saved up to create my own community service projects. I’ve said all that to say: Dreamers4Change Foundation has always been in progress, I just finally did the formal process of getting it recognized as a non-profit.

This year your girls went on their first trip with your organization. What was that like for them?

Yes! This year D4C launched ‘Passports4Change’ in the United States. Passports4Change is one of the initiatives of D4C. I started it after having the privilege of traveling the world I felt a deep desire to make sure other youth like me had the opportunity to travel. I feel like travel is one of the most insightful learning experiences one can have. When I was younger, I never really had the opportunity to travel. I don’t even think I really knew that people could leave the communities they were from. Perhaps it’s because I associated traveling with having money- something my mother didn’t have a lot of. When I got older and had all of these opportunities to travel, my mind was blown. I was so fascinated with learning how other people live and most of all, I was fascinated that I, a little Black girl from the rungs of poverty could actually travel the world.

My first trip was a study abroad trip to Japan. From there I wanted to travel as often and as much as I could. And that’s exactly what I did. Though as I was traveling, all I could think of were girls like little me; girls in my old neighborhood who often had to spend their time overcoming the pangs of poverty and trying to survive (travel just wasn’t a real option for many of them). I kept thinking of how deeply moving it could be for these girls to have the opportunity to see something else. I truly believe that where you are born should not dictate where you can go- and all too often it does. But Passports4Change wants to move beyond poverty and disadvantage to literally make the world more accessible to these youth.


So fast forward to this year: 2017. My dreams of launching Passports4Change finally paid off. We took our first official trip with a group of youth from South Florida. We went to Trinidad and it was such a beautiful experience. All of the youth participating in our trip had their passports sponsored and their entire trip sponsored. This is especially important because we wanted to make sure that no youth were turned away because of finances. Each of the youth had also never been out of the U.S. and probably would not have had access without our program.  The best part was the fact that this trip had a lot of ‘firsts’ for many of the participants: first time staying in a dormitory on a university campus, first time getting on an airplane, first time trying Trini food and tons of other firsts. It was so exciting to watch our youth in action in a new country. Each of them took ownership of their experiences and made it their own. I’ve included a few pictures below for you to see! This was our first trip and it was truly just the beginning.


What are your ultimate hopes and dreams for D4C? What would you like to accomplish through the organization?

My ultimate dream is for the organization to continue to grow and expand our reach with youth all over the world. I have also been fortunate to do some work in India, Haiti and Rwanda. I’m hoping to expand the breadth and depth of our impact globally. We honor each participant we work with and will not lose sight of why we started this work. All too often non-profits lose sight of the values and become all about money or numbers and I really want us to be different- to always focus on our impact and what we can learn from the communities we are serving/working with.

You recently spent some time in Brazil. What was your experience like there?

I had a beautiful experience in Brazil. It truly exceeded my expectations. I truly hope to do a Passports4Change trip to Brazil with some youth from here. It is quite an interesting place with so much rich history. I was most moved by the Black diaspora in Brazil and how connected we all are around the world.

For those interested in helping D4C or wanting to learn more, how can they contact you?

Please email me at or visit our website We need help in so many areas, not just financial support. I’m always looking for mentors to actually attend our trips and to partner with organizations to establish a P4C chapter and work with you in their local communities. I’m truly humbled and grateful for any and all support we receive. I’m especially grateful to you Wesley for your kindness and support. It’s not every day that someone will reach out to support in all the ways you have. It means so much to me and our organization that you have contacted us. I look forward to building a long-term partnership. Thank you so much for this interview.


Thank you so much Derrika!

Coconut + Concrete will be donating a portion of the sales from our Flip Flops + Lip Gloss tees to Dreamers 4 Change. We hope to sponsor as many girls as possible! Click here to get your tee

The Life of a Teacher and Traveler

Many people think that teachers have all this extra time to travel. We really don't. Yes, many of us have the summer to get our trips in but what if your best friend is getting married in Morocco in the middle of March (Teachers have no days off in March)? And yes, this is really happening - Next March to be exact. I am forced to use my FIVE personal days. Days I may have to use if my son or I becomes ill. Or if it snows really bad and school doesn't close. The life of a teacher isn't all about the amount of days we have off. If someone plans a celebratory birthday trip during a time that I don't have off, 9 times out of 10 I won't be able to go. People don't think about that. Teachers tend to miss out on many life events. 

I won't turn down Morocco though. I've already notified my principal that next March I will need to take those days off. I don't know if I'll ever have a chance to visit Morocco. I've never been to Africa, I've never even been to that part of the world. As a traveler, I HAVE to go. I always prepare a PowerPoint presentation for my students on my flight back home (and I can't wait to show them Marrakech!). They end up loving my trips just as much as I do. They often have questions (more questions than they'd ever ask on a given text!). This shows me that they're learning and gaining world knowledge. And I can't complain about that.

What are some travel limitations you might experience in your line of work?