It’s officially fall! For those of us in North America, the days are shorter, the leaves are turning, and we are cracking the books again. For those of us in Northern Ghana, the rains are slowing, the roads are drying out, and we are gearing up for big re-openings of Saha water businesses. If you’re like us, you’re feeling a bit of nostalgia for summer now that it’s gone. So why not
to summer 2019?
Just announced: our next Global Leadership Program will take place in Tamale, Ghana from May 28 to June 18, 2019. We will not be running a program this winter, in order to allow our team to focus on opening more water treatment businesses. Your next opportunity to pitch in will be Summer 2019.
Description: Come join a scrappy team on a mission to get the cleanest water to the poorest people. Since 2008, our three-week Global Leadership Program has trained hundreds of volunteer Field Representatives to help us launch women-owned businesses that provide clean water to an entire rural community in northern Ghana. If you’re passionate about clean water, global health & community-centered solutions, we can giving you the training and support you need to get clean water to hundreds of people currently doing without.
*covers all in-county expenses, including water treatment business materials, food and lodging but not the flight to Ghana. Most Field Reps cover this fee through fundraising, grants, or scholarships, which we’d be happy to discuss with interested folks!
Questions? Check out our FAQs or email us. We can’t wait to meet you.
This summer, Sahayili continued to work hard to make sure our water businesses are working well. One way we have approached this was by pursuing empowerment of all of our team to have a solid baseline of financial training. If we expect our entrepreneurs in the field to know how to set a price to the water they sell and the plan for the aquatabs they buy, we have to make sure we are sending monitors who are excellent with finances!
This was one of our first experience in conducting a full-staff training “in-house”. Overall, it was enjoyable and valuable and the team felt that it was definitely worth missing one day in the field to strengthen our own skills. Our training was a mixing pot of learning about core concepts, math, design, and general professional development, facilitated by our fearless math leaders Rhiana and Kathryn. But enough of the overview– let’s get into the details of the day!
The first part of our workshop dealt with this big question of “why do we set up water businesses” and we had a great conversation where staff was able to relay a deep understanding of how finances relate to sustainability. Staff shared out that business are are important so that the women who run them can earn money and buy materials, cover the cost of the treatment process, and that by not just giving a Saha treatment center as a gift, we are actually empowering these women to have ownership of their water centers and motivating them to care for their own communities in a real and tangible way. We waded into the hard stuff and identified current challenges that our team is having, took a baseline quiz to see where we could all improve our understanding of Saha’s model, and ran example calculations of prices that we need to be able to do in the field.
For upcoming new Saha hires having a serious case of FOMO, have no fear! This session was so successful that we will continue to lay the same foundation with all new members of the Saha family.
After we thoroughly refreshed with some snacks and stretching, we did some math. We have to commend the staff members for sticking it out and doing something that was unfamiliar and rather long. They approached what could have been boring content with full excitement and were engaged the whole time. We did a “pair and share” method of doing some math calculations with a teammate because we all know there is strength in numbers and sometimes you just need to talk the problem out.
We ended the day with a really fun design challenge, addressing the question of how we improve our entrepreneur’s business skills when we meet with them to check in. We brainstormed and no ideas were off limits. We were encouraged to think about physical tools we could create, digital mockups, and acted out skits with our new ideas. We look forward to doing more exercises like these in the future!
Today we would like to highlight a special member of the Saha Family for his years of dedication and service with Saha: Ibrahim Shakool! Shak is leaving the Saha team after 9 years of amazing service. He has worked for Saha since 2009 and has help build our organization what it is today. We are so excited for Shak’s future endeavors and also want to take some time to share some of our favorite memories from the past 9 years.
In the early years at Saha, Shak did it all – from opening new water businesses to finding Saha’s first office in Tamale, to teaching us everything we needed to know about life in northern Ghana. Everyone in Tamale knows Shak and once someone figures out that you are a “friend of Shak” they will help you with anything. This is because Shak has helped so many people. He will do anything for his friends and family, and you become his friend the moment he meets you!
Throughout the years, Shak has really done a little bit of everything to help Saha. He started as a translator when we were a small but mighty team of 3 and quickly moved on to help implement and monitor villages on his own. He then helped to launch our solar program and became our resident solar expert. He was a translator for countless Global Leadership Programs and a favorite face for many Field Reps. For a short time he served as the Director of Ghana Operations while juggling full time monitoring! He would take on every task we asked of him and did his best to get it done. No task was too big for Shak.
For many years, Shak would be the first face that our Field Reps would encounter as they exited the airport. His excitement and enthusiasm were infectious and the perfect introduction to the inviting hospitality of Ghanaian culture. So many of our Field Reps say that Shak’s big, friendly smile made them feel right at home. From Dagbani lessons to leading lost field reps to opening a water center, his passion for the work he does always shines through.
This past year Shak has supported our new batch of monitors to grow and shine. He also opened 5 new water businesses, bringing clean water to almost 3,000 people. In between implementations, he would step in when we needed to visit piped villages, get a metal stand replaced, or monitor villages when when a colleague was sick.
What are next steps for Shak? He is excited to see the new generation of Saha staff grow. Meanwhile he has grand plans of being a yellow-yellow driver and opening up his own restaurant in Tamale. We are trying to convince him to name the restaurant “Shak’s Shak,” but it is still in the works.
To say that our team at Saha is like a family is an understatement. We care about each other as much as we care about the work that we do. The dedication that our term puts into their work is outstanding and an integral part in the success of any Saha Water Business. Shak will always be an important part of our Saha family! Shak – Thank you for your years of service to Saha. You will be greatly missed and we know you are going to do great things!
“Chew and Pour” refers to the teaching method typical in most Ghanaian school systems that focuses on repetition and memorization. It is the difference between a lecture versus a hands-on activity. In the past year, we have been trying to focus our interactions with the community away from lectures and towards conversations. Instead of lecturing about the importance of clean water, we have been emphasizing more on the conversation around clean water and allowing our communities to come to the same conclusions. “You should ____ ” and “Stop doing that” have turned into “Why do you ____?” and “Do you think ____? ” . We’ve learned that it is a more effective way of sharing an idea or concept if they are able to draw their own conclusions through participating in an active engaged dialog. This month, we tried to take this technique of conversation and curiosity and apply it to the way we talk about children’s education. So, this year is the start of our Children’s Education Month!
This years Children’s Education Month ran from June 20th to July 26th which is the last day before kids (kindergarten, primary, and junior high) children go on break. We kicked off the month by introducing a Children’s Education and Parent Discussion Handbooks to our staff to start trying out in the field. It included key concepts to go over and suggestions for types of questions to help encourage participation in the conversation. The goals of these conversations was to learn about the challenges that parents and children face in having clean water available for children/getting children to drink clean water, how to promote good WASH habits, and ways Saha could help support the effort to have children drink clean water. The children are the future of all our communities, so it is important for us to help encourage these good habits and understanding at an early age, so they could continue to on to a strong adulthood.
This year we were able to do Children’s Education for 16 Villages: Nekpegu, Tohinayili, Kalinka, Baiyili, Dawunyili, Sagbarigu, Lambo, Juni, Yendanyili, Jagberin, Tijo, Tindan, Bamvim, Wambong, and Warivi. In the classrooms, we printed out “Commitment to Clean Water” posters where students pledged their commitment to clean water.Some of the Children’s Educations happened in schools some were done informally with a collection of kids in a village. Education can happen anywhere, not just in the classroom! (I would argue that most learning happens outside of the classroom anyway.)
In addition to the formal gathering of children, we also encouraged monitors to talk to kids and parents in their households while they conduct their normal monitoring visits. When I went with Nestor to Sahanaayili, we talked to each household about children having access to clean water. Every household we visited had a clean water cup/container just for their kids. The parents would watch over the children to make sure they were taking care of their cup/container properly and not recontaminating the water. It was so great to see! The children were also excited about it. We talked about one of the challenges that many households face: Children playing with the tap. The households in Sahanaayili each said that they would serve the children what until they were old enough to learn how to use the tap properly, then they would be shown what to do and what not to do. The older kids were helpful in making sure the younger ones used it properly. This hope is to help communities who are struggle with advice from those who have been doing well.
One of the challenges we learned that children face with regards to drinking clean water is that sometimes they have a hard time telling their parents that they should have clean water in the household for fear of it becoming disrespectful. So, even if they knew that they should be drinking water, they couldn’t always because their parents wouldn’t get the water. This insight reinforces our efforts to talk to parents more and frame more conversations around the children and their health. Additionally, Wahab (who was the one who had this conversation with the kids) also made a great point saying if your parents were to walk on a hole and potentially break their foot. It is okay to bring up things that are good for their health. Approaching children’s education from both angles (parents and kids) has been a great tool to encourage children to drink clean water.
Several Saha staff signed up for an online course called Prototyping 201 hosted by Acumen which overlapped with Children’s Education Month. We used this coincidence as an opportunity! For our first practice of prototyping, we took an idea and made physical prototype out of it and our inspiration was Children’s Education Month. So, we brainstormed ideas on how to talk about drinking clean water with children in 3 situations: at home, in school, and in the community. The team was able to come up with fantastic ideas! For the conversations at home, Seidu, Rhiana, and Kathryn prototype stickers for children to indicate good and bad WASH habits. In the schools, Simply and I prototype a coloring book called “Healthy Hadija helps Silly Sana” where a little girl helps her friend learn how to keep clean water clean in the home. For the community conversation, Theo and Sita developed prototype for a microscope to help kids, parents, and everyone see what is really in their water so they can learn that clear does not mean clean. It was an incredibly fun exercise and amazing to see the creativity of the team! Hopefully these creative ideas keep going and eventually turn into new (fun!) ways of communicating our ideas to our communities.
The biggest thing we’ve learned this year is to just talk about it! Incorporate these questions about clean water for children in our everyday interactions in the villages. Engage with the children. Engage with the parents. There is a lot to learn from them when we get them involved in the conversation. The hope is not just to have these conversations one a month, but every day!
Oh what a month! I would like to thank the team for their input on the handbooks an going out and having these school educations and these conversations. Thanks for all your hard work this month.
I’ll end with a quote from my favorite song in preschool, why this was my favorite song as a preschool is beyond me, but young Heidi was very wise “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.”- “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston
2018 has been incredibly busy, but in all the best ways! We are more than mid-way through this year, so it is the perfect time to look back and assess our accomplishments. Amidst the busy pace of the Global Leadership Program, our full time staff continued business as usual in our Ghana office (where business as usual is working extremely hard and doing amazing things). The skies have become cloudier, the days cooler, and the roads wetter as rainy season starts to pick up here in Tamale. This is a perfect time to pause and reflect on the year so far and the incredible things the team has been able to do.
During this time of muddy shoes, wet roads, and once-dry dugouts brimming with water, we have decided to put implementations and scouting on hiatus until the start of the dry season. Businesses during rainy season are understandably very slow in many communities because any family with a tin roof is collecting rainwater at this time and doesn’t need to buy additional drinking water as frequently. We found that it is best for new businesses to start off strong during the dry season, when demand for clean water is much higher. Additionally, during the rainy season the roads can be difficult or impossible to traverse (especially the unfamiliar ones that our scouters venture on)! For scouting new villages, the rainy season makes it a challenge to accurately assess access to clean water, since there is an abundance of water right now. So it makes the most sense to take a little break from implementation and scouting. Fret not, we still have plenty of other activities for our staff to work on during this time: Annual Surveys, Updated Household Lists, Children’s Educations, Research & Development, etc. There is never a dull day in the Saha world and there is always more to be done! Continuous improvement!
First, I’d like to have a shout out to the Scouting Team. Without them, we wouldn’t have found the villages we implemented in this past year. Our goal was to scout 100 potential villages this year and we are at 93 already! We’ve scouted and mapped nearly every village within a 3-hour moto-drive-radius from Tamale. Incredible! Coming out of the rainy season, we will see if there are any ‘hidden’ villages out there yet to discover!
With our Implementation Team we are able to implement new businesses in more villages at a faster rate outside of the Global Leadership Program. Our slogan for this year is “18 for 18!”, or in other words, 18 Saha team-led implementations for the 2018. For anyone keeping track, with 10 GLP villages that will bring us to 28 new villages this year! In the first half of the year, this mighty team has implemented 9 new water businesses, half of our goal!. Since this is our first time having an Implementation Team, we are still working out many details and it can only get better with each iteration. We developed an Implementation Handbook for the team to reference during their implementations. There is a lot to remember, especially for just one person.
Some lessons learned so far in our first year of implementation team:
Having someone come to help during distributions helps a lot! The days can be long and we want to make sure that Implementers continue to have the same energy and enthusiasm in household 1 as they do in household 101.
The implementation book is helpful to remember all the little details that goes into implementing. Always check at the end of the day if there was anything you’ve forgotten to do. The larger pictures in the handbook are a favorite feature for pitching the idea to the community, and the laminated pages make them more durable.
We can take our time training the women. If we don’t think they understood it the first time, it is okay to go over it again, and again if needed. We aren’t in the time constraints of the GLP, so we have the freedom of a more flexible schedule.
For larger communities it is okay to have more than one opening days! It’s better to plan ahead for them, so people don’t show up and leave with empty buckets.
Below is a summary of all the new communities implemented by our team this year and the women entrepreneurs we’ve introduced to the Saha Family!
Who are the entrepreneurs?
1 Feb 4, 2018
Naana and Asana
2 Mar 12, 2018
Salamatu, Mariama & Nafidah
2 Mar 12, 2018
Rukaya, Zenabu, Ayishetu, Abibata, & Sadia
3 Apr 12, 2018
Samata, Arahanatu, Barikisu and Zenab
3 Apr 23, 2018
3 Apr 27, 2018
Fusseini Fusseina,Issahaku Asiya,Mohammed Zainabu and Sulemana Fatima
4 May 25, 2018
Samata, Adishetu, Fatima and Asana
4 May 28, 2018
Rashida,Ayisha,Asana,Rabi and Maina.
5 Jun 19, 2018
Memunatu1 , Memunatu 2,Rahama,Adija and Mariam.
5 Jun 2, 2018
Ibrahim Atika,Haruna Salamatu, Sulemana Amatu,Baba Fatima,Abdulai Agatha,Kpanalan Awabu, Yussif Sanatu,Aku Amina, Mohammed Hawabu.
Here are some photos from the past 7 months of work by our Implementation team:
Now these communities are being monitored weekly by our Monitoring team who is helping to provide additional support and training for the women entrepreneurs and communities. There have been small but impactful improvements from the Office that has made managing all three teams more, for lack of a better word, manageable! To updated expense reports to gas cards, all these little things add up to big changes and allowed us to be able to have the capacity to do more. We are currently preparing different workshops to help build our team’s knowledge and skills sets: Financial Training, Human-Centered Design, and Lab Training. These are the ones we’ve already gotten started, and there are still more in the pipeline.
I am so impressed by the hard work of the team and how much we’ve been able to accomplish in this half year alone and I look forward to even more we can do in the second half of 2018!
It’s been just one week since we said goodbye to the 2018 Summer Field Reps. Thanks to this awesome group students and young professionals, Saha was able to partner with with 6 more communities in Northern Ghana to open new water treatment businesses. Because of them, 2,356 people now have the ability to drink clean water each day. 26 women entrepreneurs are able to provide potable water to their friends, family and neighbors through community-supported small businesses. And Saha is able to welcome 24 new faces to our global Saha family!
Can you believe it? We sweat through taxi breakdowns and laughed through luggage pepperoni foibles. We rolled alum balls on the porch and rolled with the punches more generally. We navigated the market and the ins and outs of a new-to-us culture. Most importantly, we found joy and success in the surprise of the unanticipated. Though not every moment was easy, all the (literal) blood, sweat and tears certainly paid off.
It was such a pleasure to work with all of y’all, and we consider ourselves lucky to count you as part of Sahayili! As you head off to your next adventures, please don’t forget
Dalibila, Jegun, Kpalkore, Nafarun, Zakariyili and Zobogu
and all of us here at Saha, and let us know what we can do to further your missions.
Life is often measured by how much someone has accomplished. Whether that be an accumulation of wealth, brains, or talent. These are the three main things people mention when being asked about what they want out of life. Does that necessarily equate to happiness? Happiness is something that is found within someone’s being. The people of Zakariyili exude pure happiness. The kind of happiness that we should all strive to fulfill by the end of our physical time on earth.
This all began on our first day in the village of Zakariyili. Ben, Abby, Jack, and me had answered the chief’s palace in hopes of having them open a Saha water business. The moment we entered the room, all the pepped up fear of how the meeting could possibly go, went out the window! The chief and the elders of Zakariyili held the kindest of spirits. Although our translator and our hero Sumaya was there to translate everything between the two groups, it felt as if we were speaking the same language. Their smiles, their love, their laughter, and their compassion became one with ours. The children were reserved yet willing to help in any way possible. From schooling Abby in soccer, to Sharifa being attached to Jack’s hip, to every kid having an instant connection with Ben. This lovingness that the children of Zakariyili hold is one that has been learned from their elders within the community. The Zakariyili men and women hold this love and compassion that everyone in this world could use.
This communal feel is one that is established by the women specifically. Women like Abiba, Awabu, and Amina carry a strength that is unprecedented. They essentially carry the community on their backs. Both figuratively and literally. I have never come across a group of naturally strong women who walk a mile’s worth to collect water for their families. There is something so beautiful and admirable about watching them fetch water and carry these heavy buckets on their heads… Effortlessly. During alum training, we had to step back because they did not need our training on how to use their hands. They were cranking out 3 alum balls for every half an alum ball we were producing.
Zakariyili will forever be in our hearts. The distance means nothing when a group of people have taught you how to care and love others without borders. Something that is not necessarily taught in a classroom. This is something that is within their essence. Their love, care, and compassion are by nature. It is a reminder that no matter where we are in the world, we are all running the same race together called life. The key component to this race is to learn from one another because that is what makes the race worth while. The people of Zakariyili taught us a valuable and memorable lesson. Laughter, love, and compassion are universal. There is no language for it. As a global community, we should try to incorporate these three key components into our everyday lives and maybe then, we will be able to grow together.
Within our first couple days spending time in Jegun, Ariel, Dai, Muriel and myself (Lindsay) had completely fallen in love with the patience, capability and kindness the Jegun women as we began our journey of building a clean water treatment center. Our days spent in the market were hot and sometimes tested our own patience but perseverance pushed us to strive for the best so we could help bring clean water resources. During our time in the market we decided that our direction for creating a unique water treatment center was to make it as colorful and empowering as the women we worked with. From that point on we would jump at the chance to add any color that Mariama, Bibi, Rahama and Adamu would love to incorporate within their business.
As we finished building the center, and added our own flavor with the help of our amazing women entrepreneurs, we took a step back and gazed upon the beauty of a new wave of improving Jegun’s health. A Color of Hope signifies more than just clean water for this team and women entrepreneurs, it ensures a future for this village. The hard work these women put in every day will pioneer the success and future of this village even further. A future all of us hope to return and see one day. Our experiences and interactions with the Jegun people have filled our hearts and there is nothing we would trade that for, except maybe a lifetime supply of mangoes ;).
Today marks our team’s fifth day in Zobogu, Northern Region Ghana! During our first visit in Zobogu (pronounced Zog-bwow) on June 4th, we had a truly surreal experience. When our team pulled into the village after a short drive from central Tamale, the first person we met happened to be the Chief’s linguist or official right hand man. We spoke briefly with Zobogu’s sub-chiefs who warmly allowed us into their village. Within 20 minutes we were able to meet with the Chief! During this meeting we asked if we could take a water survey, and speak to a couple of households in Zobogu about the water they use for cooking, cleaning, and most importantly drinking. We found that almost every person that we spoke to had an understanding of how detrimental dugout water was to their health, and emphasized that using the dugout was their only option.
We immediately agreed that Zobogu would be a perfect place to launch a Saha water business. That day we had a proposal meeting with the chief that went exceptionally well. June 4th was the mark of a blooming connection between our team and the people of Zobogu that has only gotten stronger. The next day we met with the community women and were able to choose our women entrepreneurs immediately. The women were so excited by the advent of clean water that Azaratu, one of our Saha entrepreneurs, jumped up and volunteered herself to be a part of the team. Our four dynamic entrepreneurs are Azaratu, Afeshetu, Abiba, and Adamu.
Our dope translator Eric and multitalented driver Gaff have helped to deepen and establish our relationship to the people of Zobogu.
As a result, our team has been able to make rapid progress even when mildly impeded by challenges. Saha’s unofficial motto is “What can go wrong will go wrong” and we have been able to breeze through everything that has “gone wrong” (having to re-clean the drums that we use to treat the dugout water in the blazing sun) because we have established a true partnership between our entrepreneurs. They are trusting of the information that we share with them and in turn, our team has learned from these strong, wise, and intelligent women who are passionate about improving the health of their community every day.
“Fula-what?” we all thought on the first day. Kathryn, Rhiana and Amin were in the midst of explaining how village operations normally work while we were still in Accra and dropped something new on us: the Fulani people. The Fulani are a group of nomad cattle-herders located in most villages across Ghana. They all travel by foot all around Western Africa (Cote D’Ivoire, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina Faso) in order to find land for all of their cattle to graze. Financial status among the Fulani is determined by the sheer size of their flock and how developed the cows appear. Since they’re nomadic, their homes within their village are only temporary and normally located far away from the village center, which means they have to walk the farthest to the Water Treatment Center and coincidentally are our best customers!
Our first encounter with the Fulani was on our second day of working in Dalibila, at the community meeting. During this meeting, we were able to get a list of all of the people in the village. From then on, our group worked to construct the Water Treatment Center, train our entrepreneurs and endlessly entertain the Dalibilian kids.
In the days that followed, our team worked hard to purify the nasty dugout water. On the day that we did alum and chlorine training with Azara and her team of 3, the kids also brought out a ball, the first ball we’d seen since we’d gone to work 3 days earlier. The makeshift ball was made out of tape, plastic and leaves, but nevertheless the kids had themselves a day playing Who Can Kick the Ball Hardest and a hearty session of Taps. While Mary Reade was killing it doing the financial training, Sam and Griffin were helping scoop the alum water into the poly tank, and Corey was demonstrating how to roll an alum ball, the kids, worn out from tape-ball games, ran to the dugout, passing our soon-to-be-clean water source and stuck their heads into the dugout water, drinking until quenched. We were speechless and ready for these innocent kids to have something healthy to drink.
Team Amina (Corey, Griffin, Mary Reade and Sam P.)
“Ghana is a Cool Place to Be” a poem by Corey Castellanos
Day one was rough
Ants entered the pants
The battle with him was tough
And his bites had me in a trance
Next day was better
We were off to our town
Dalibila is the name
And a place where no one likes to frown
Actually that’s a lie
Because there is a grumpy baby
You’ll never hear him cry
He just looks at us like were shady
The other children watched
Some of them confused
Thankfully there was a tape soccer ball
That ignited an interactive fuse
Amina is the best
She is our translator
Her attire will always impress
We all get sad at “see you later”
In the village
They only speak Dagbani
And down the way
There are people called Fulani
The love of my life is there
But she does not want me
Seeing the dugout water
Sometimes makes me sad
But it really makes me happy
Knowing that some people give a damn
Alum is the key
It makes the dirt become clean
It works just like magic
Acting like a non-hot steam
I love all the smiles
They make me feel wild
Its crazy that all these small steps
Have added to a mile.