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.
Every morning starts with an early wake up call, an hour taxi ride, and a warm greeting from the village of Kplakore! Our team, comprised of Fiona, Jean, Lexie, and Samantha, have been loving the experience of serving our village and implementing the clean water business.
It is so crazy to think that a couple short weeks ago, all the field reps were landing in Accra and just getting to know each other! After meeting and getting to know the field reps, we took an all day bus to Tamale to begin the real action. From the moment we arrived in Tamale, everyone hit the ground running and started working towards our goal of providing clean and safe drinking water. We are close to our opening, day and as it continues to get closer, the excitement continues to mount! We’re working with three members of the community as Team Kamil’s entrepreneurs: Hamdia, Salamatu, and Yahaya, who have been working hard to provide for their community and make important decisions about the business.
The experience of being in Ghana as a whole, meeting field reps from all different backgrounds, and working along the community members of Kpalkore has been incredible and absolutely life changing. Saha Global has provided the opportunity for the group of us to combine with our amazing translator, Kamil, and awesome taxi driver, Sadiq, to work towards the goal of providing clean water to our village, with so much fun along the way!
It’s that time again! Summer ’18 Field Reps, aka Group #SahaWaterWorks18, has been busy working in 6 new Saha partner communities. Up first to tell their story of their time so far in Nafarun is Team Evans, Céline, Chase, Julie and Michael. Take it away, Team Evans!
So picture this. It’s day three in the Nafarun village and our team is starting to fill up the three 200L drums. We have to wade into the shin-deep, murky dugout water to fill up our buckets. Our women entrepreneurs, Abiba, Ashetu, Rafatu, Hawa, Rukaya, and Nafisa, are gathered around us also carrying water, but mostly watching us struggle. The women laughed, asked for our buckets, and proceeded to dump out the water we got and fill it up with less-murky surface water. Julie decided to try balancing the water on her head and unsuccessfully sloshed water all over her. The women and children around us roared with laughter as she struggled to walk the small distance to the blue drum. Nafisa, the young women entrepreneur walking with her, held her (much larger) bucket with ease – and with no hands!
This moment was just one of the few incredible times of community, shared laughter, and learning in Nafarun. Whether our translator Evans was corralling the children to play a huge came of football (soccer) or our driver I.B. was bumping to Usher, our team loved to have fun while working in Nafarun. In one game of football, one 10-year-old boy kicked the ball at Michael’s head, giggled, and ran away. A few minutes later, the same boy hit Michael again and giggle-ran away again.
We’re currently at day four in the village, and so far we’ve set up our entire business and are in the process of training the women on money management, safe storage containers, and chlorine use. The chief meeting and alum training went really well, and the chief and elders were extremely excited to hear from us. Unfortunately, we had to dump out the water from the blue drums three different times as there was a layer of oil remaining from the drum sellers. Other than that, we are right on track for our community meeting and opening day!
Everyone in the village loves getting involved, from the children helping us clean, the men moving drums, and of course, the women running the business. We’re confident that when they open their business in a few weeks they’ll do a great job of keeping it open and bringing clean water to every household in Nafarun!
If you haven’t already noticed, there have been a lot of changes at Saha in recent months! I am so excited to update you on all of the improvements we’ve had. New staff, new reporting, new ideas!
The team has more than doubled since we last introduced new members. Here is a brief introduction of all our recent additions. Last February, we said a fond fairwell to Eda and Morganne who have served as Operations Coordinators for over a year here in Ghana. A month later, we said warm hello to the new Operations Coordinator Rhiana Meade who will be working with me (Heidi)! Rhiana was actually a field rep during our previous Winter GLP 2018. She helped open a center with TJ at Nyantag, little did she know that a few months later she would be returning to work full time with us helping implement even more villages.
Here is a brief introduction of Rhiana. She graduated from Reed College in Portland Oregon with a degree in Chemistry and went on to get her Masters at Tufts University in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Previously, she worked for a Field Operations Supervisor for a Cambrian Innovation, a provider of wastewater treatment services. She has been to Ghana even before her field rep days. Her parents lived and worked in Accra for a few years, during which she visited them, found herself a Ghanaian Auntie, and was able to tour around the country. She has works with passion and compassion and can make an amazing Blondie! It been great having her as my counterpart. She was was able to hold down the fort when I went on vacation 2 weeks into her arrival and orientation. We plunged her into the Saha life, and she has done well!
Next to introduce, is someone who took on a completely new role: Director of Operations. We welcomed Theo the same month Rhiana joined on. He was born and raised in Accra and went to Ashesi University to study Business Administration. Prior to Saha Theo worked with Delta and a Start-up called Laundry King – An on demand laundry service. Maybe we can get one of those here in Tamale? Theo is on the search for the best Wache in town, so any recommendations please send them his way. He will be taking over most of the administrative load from Rhiana and myself, so we can focus on optimizing the day to day management of our staff. It’s been helpful having an in-country representative to focus on community relationships and building up the organization for future growth. Since the role is still being formed, he’s been doing an amazing job rolling with whatever we need him to to. Currently, he is going out 3 days a week to get a true feel of how the business run and what Saha does. Since coming, he has been able to witness an implementation through it’s entirety, get incredibly lost scouting, and have difficult conversations with villages facing problems. Way to go Theo for taking on this role with bravery and openness!
Speaking of growth, did you notice, we hired on 5 new full time staff members? All the new staff were our Translators in our Winter 2018 GLP. Much like Rhiana, little did they know that they would become full time staff with us in a few months for the GLP. Now I can’t image the team without them. You can read more on their bios but here is a which overview of our newest members:
Abubakari Asita (aka Sita), she grew up in Tamale and started working with Saha back in 2014 implementing Balamposo. If she sounds familiar to you, you may have recognized her from Women’s week posts. She loves being an inspiration to little girls in the villages she visits.
Alhassan Seidu was trained under Eric who would often take him out in the field monitoring and implementing. Now he can do that on his own as a full time staff. Seidu always shoos away the goats that wander into the Saha Office. Outside of Monitoring, Seidu is a skilled electrician and helps us with any electrical needs we encounter at the office.
Ziblila Mohammed Taufik has been part of 3 Global Leadership Programs. His first implementation was Baiyili. Prior to Saha Taufik used to teach ICT, but now he enjoys seeing the clear water being scooped into the PT at the water centers.
Amenyeku Dzorsah started as a translator for GLP. His first implementation was Changbuni. Prior to monitoring, Dzorsah was a taxi driver in tamale. Now he gets work with the women entrepreneurs, talk to people during household visits about clean water, and drive a moto everyday instead of a taxi. I haven’t asked him which he prefers yet!
Sulemana Tijani has known and worked with Saha in its very early stages with Shak and Kate. His first GLP village was Yapei-Yipela. Prior to Saha he worked at Melcom (the Tamale equivalent of Walmart) and drove a taxi. Now he can bring clean water to his country and work with other likeminded individuals.
A larger team has allowed us to expand and focus! So starting in January, we divided up into 3 Distinct teams: Scouting, Monitoring, and Implementation. We divided up the team based on their interests, but there is the possibility of movement across teams if desired. For now, everyone is doing an amazing job in each of their teams. Because we have focussed teams, we can have more direct goals to achieve. For the scouting team, our goal is map our all the villages within a 3 hr driving radius around Tamale, start plotting Salaga villages, and determine “Yes” villages. Our Monitoring team’s goal is to make sure our current villages are getting the support that is needed and to find ways to improve our implementations and trainings. Constant improvement is our motto! Our Implementation Team allows us to implement villages outside of our Global Leadership Program, which means we can reach more villages each year. It also helps us use what we learn from the monitoring team, to refine and perfect our implementations and trainings. I have been so impressed with how the team has handled the transition.
You’ll see below, I’ve added a *Bonus* Team. These are our part time staff that also have been doing great work for us in the past few months. Blessing, a former translator for the GLP, is now helping us build relationships with the Districts, so we can connect our villages needs to gov’t bodies. Mutala is our newest addition to the team, he and Blessing have been doing research for Kathryn to help improve our knowledge of water consumption. Kathryn has big plans for the research team, look out for her update!
Scouting: Amin, Peter
Monitoring: Simply, Nestor, Sita, Seidu, Taufik, TJ
Implementation: Wahab, Eric, Shak
Bonus (part time) Teams:
District Liason: Blessing
The increase in staff was only made manageable by the addition of this amazing data organizing tool we started using called mWater. With mWater we are able to take surveys, plot points, and collect data all through an application on our phones. Once the phone is connected to the internet, this information is synced and can be stored and analysed online. We piloted it in November and fully launched it in December, however since we are still in the learning phase, there have been several iterations and updates to how we collect data. This has been a game changing addition to the day to day work. We can say goodbye to the endless amounts of paper used and manually inputting information into excel. I am excited to see what we can do with mWater and will update you more on this in a separate post!
Welp! If you felt like that was a lot to take it, it was!!! Thanks for reading through this “brief” update. If you want to hear about anything more in detail, leave us a comment!
This year for World Water Day, we welcomed women from 8 Saha villages: Chanbuligu, Kuchani, Defisa, Wovogu, Wovogumani, Nomnayili, Guma, and Kujeri.
Rain the night before made getting some of the women to Tamale more difficult, but everyone eventually arrived safely! While we waited, we played the simple but very fun “Stump!” a Saha original game.
Our team led a lively discussion with the women by posing questions that got the entreprensurs talking and sharing ideas. They talked about difficulties with dry dugouts and using motorkings and donkey carts to bring water from further distances during the dry season. When discussing marketing and advertising, one woman shared that she has told her customers that if they come with their child, and the child has a small container, she lets the child fill their container for free!
The women discussed savings strategies in depth. Saha does not pay the women they need to save any profit they make in order to buy any replacement parts if things break. Mariama from Nomnayili is working with a microfinance NGO and has been able to save a truly impressive amount of money in the three short months her business has been running!
Other topics included health and sanitation, community involvement with the businesses, and the larger picture of the Saha mission. After the discussions, we had lunch and the group socialized and of course, took some selfies!
Our goal for the day was to have the women meet and share ideas, show them some appreciation for their hard work, and have them leave with a better understanding of what a large community they are truly a part of! Some of our villages are very geographically isolated, so we want them know that there are literally hundreds of other women who deal with the same challenges they do!
Thank you to Sachiya and Samata from Wovoumani, Ishatu and Asana from Wovogu, Warihana and Sumaya from Chanbuligu, Mariama from Nomnayili, Mariam and Adisa from Kuchani, Abibata and Zeha from Defisa, Ayi and Maimunatu from Navali Guma, and Asana and Abuo from Kujeri for joining us!
It’s been just over 1 month since our #Saharmattan 2018 winter program businesses opened! We’ve loved getting to know our 16 newest entrepreneurs and chat clean water with new families! There have been highs, there have been lows, but we are committed to working in these villages for at LEAST another 119 more months, so we know this is just the beginning.
Click on the links below for a summary of how each new business is doing by the numbers, followed by our monitoring transcripts. Some of the January monitoring transcripts are missing, since we transitioned to a different survey January 20th and it took a week or so for us to work out the kinks!
Before you wade into the messy details of Saha data, here are some quick explanations of what numbers mean, how we collect them, and why certain things look the way they do. If you are a data viz wiz, feel free to skip right to the fun stuff.
Visits to the Village – this is just in the first month! More recent visits aren’t included in this summary.
Graph of Percentages of Households (HH) with Polytank Water (PT) – look at the Y axis! These graphs do not span from 0% to 100%. In Nomnayili, for example, the graph goes from 65% to 100%.
Savings – This graph charts responses to the question, “How much do you currently have saved for replacement parts?” So it can fluctuate based on expenditures or even who you talk to!
Kujeri – *spoiler alert* sadly, the dugout has dried out, but the women are working to get a motorking to bring water. This means they pay an off-roading tricycle to drive to another source of water transport water back in storage containers, for a fee. Of course, Saha will be there to help the business restart once it rains again and the dugout stores water. While difficult for the community, it’s not uncommon for dugouts to dry out as the dry season continues, and at Saha we believe we would rather people have clean water for as many months of the year as possible. And the good news is that, like in Kujeri, there are ways to transport water from other sources to treat (though this added cost and logistics management makes the business a little more difficult to run). You’ll see this reflected in lower percentages of households that have clean water, or empty polytanks – indicators to our team that operations are not business as usual. Ultimately, we find that once the rain fills the closer source again, it’s pretty easy to get the business back up and running again. Check out these blogposts on seasonal transitions to read more context.
Naviali Guma – *spoiler alert* sadly, the stream has dried out, but the women have moved the center to town and are working with a motoking and have increased prices to cover the cost of transportation. Read the Kujeri spoiler for more seasonal explanations. Saha will be there to help the business restart once it rains again.
If you have any questions, email our awesome Operations Coordinator, Heidi at email@example.com . We’re figuring out how to make it easier to check up on your village’s status, so stay tuned to our “sustainability” page.
It’s been just over a month since we said goodbye to the 2018 Winter Field Reps. Thanks to this awesome group students and young professionals, Saha was able to partner with with 4 more communities in Northern Ghana to open new water treatment businesses. Because of them, over 1,000 more people now have the ability to drink clean water each day. 16 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 15 new faces to our global Saha family!
Alexa, Amber, Amy, Annie, Bronte, Dan, Hadley, Jill, Juliette, Justin, Rhiana, Taylor, Tiffany, Victoria, and Yaa:
We did it! We powered through the unanticipated busses and breakdowns and survived the first hours of 2018. We rolled with the punches and found joy and success in the unexpected! Though not every moment was easy, all the (literal) blood, sweat and tears 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
Kujeri, Namvili Guma, Nomnayili & Nyantag
and all of us here at Saha, and let us know what we can do to further your missions. Stay tuned for 1st month business updates this week, right here.
Amin, Blessing, Dzorsah, Eda, Eric, Heidi, Kate, Kathryn, Morganne, Nestor, Peter, Shak, Simply, Sita, TJ and Wahab