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#sahappy2behere – Reflections on the 2017 Winter Global Leadership Program

It’s crazy to think that less than a week ago we were saying farewell to the 2017 Winter Field Reps. Thanks to this group of awesome, driven individuals, Saha was able to partner with with 9 communities in Northern Ghana to open 7 new water treatment businesses and 2 new solar charging businesses, which provide jobs to 21 new entrepreneurs. 1,664 people now have permanent access to safe drinking water and 752 people have access to reliable, clean solar electricity. Additionally, 5 of our water entrepreneurs have now been trained to run solar businesses, increasing their earning potential!

Alex C, Alex K, Ann, Becky, Caleb, Caroline, Celine, Elijah, Erin, Joanne, Kalin, Kevin, Laura, Lexie, Louis, Matt, Maureen, Micah, Mona-Mae, Morgan, Nikita, Olivia, Qingyi, Sarah, Shaminika, Shane, Shanelle, Shannon, Terynek, Tess, Walker, Wyatt, Yu and Zulean,

We can’t believe that just under a week ago, we packed our bags and loaded up in front of GILLBT for the last time! We are so grateful for the excitement, enthusiasm, hard-work and positivity that you brought to team Saha. Because of you, thousands of people are living their lives with more opportunities for health and happiness. 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 impactful adventures, please don’t forget your community and all of us here at Saha, and let us know what we can do to further your missions. 

With gratitude,

Amin, Eda, Eric, Kathryn, Morganne, Peter, Shak & Wahab

And now … for the jumping pics!

Eric, Iddrisu, Erin, Qingyi, Sarah and Shane in Chihigu

 

Elijah, Kalin, Ann and Wahab in Defisa

 

Wyatt, Caleb, Joanne, Shanelle and Shak in Jagberin

 

Celine, Laura, Olivia, Matt, and Nestor in Juni

 

Terynek, Micah, Shannon and Becky in Labariga

 

Morganne, Mona, Simply and Alex in Kpumi

 

Walker, Shamanika, Sita, Lexie and Tess (not shown) in Parishenaaya

 

Louis, Alex, Caroline and Maureen in Tuya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Field Rep Voices: Team Erin, Qing, Shane, Sarah and Eric

Members of Chihigu gather around the solar charging center for opening night

As we first arrived at the Chihigu Village for opening night, there was an immediate tension in the air, so thick one could cut it with a knife (or a machete ;)). There was an obvious buzz going around the village because tonight was the night that the lights were going to be turned on, thus forever changing the way of life for this community. Even the animals were excited as Despa (Shane’s village puppy) ran after the car as we pulled in; the dog then broke Shane’s heart when he ran immediately up to Qing instead as the team exited the vehicle.
The women were all ready to go -eager, anxious, excited – and the villagers felt the same. We arrived with about half an hour left until kickoff for the light show, so we made the most of our time and began painting the solar charging station. Erin, as always, played some jams on the Bluetooth radio our group brought and the opening ceremony for the lights turned into a party. Adults and children alike were dancing along to the beats while Team Eric and Iddrisu painted the solar charging station. Once 6 PM came around, the women were manned at their station ready for battle! Due to the amount of people ready to purchase batteries for their lanterns, we decided it best to sell them out of the window rather than try and cram all these people into the charging station. Pretty soon the line to purchase the batteries looked like a Chic-Fil-A drive-thru on a Saturday evening (It is closed on Sundays thus making for an even more hectic drive-thru line).

Qing works with the women entrepreneurs on opening night

The women in charge of the charging station didn’t skip a beat! They essentially formed a leadership-powered assembly line as one woman rented out the 3 batteries to a customer, another replaced those batteries on the charger and the third woman tallied the purchase in their notepad. This process continued long into the night until the entire village could successfully use their lanterns! As night settled and the moon rose, it was obvious (and a little scary) how dark things got after the sunset. That was until the villagers began turning on their lanterns for the first time. You could see, one by one, households being lit up and people using their lights as they traversed through the community. It was a remarkable chain of events as you could literally the see difference being made in these peoples’ lives. All the hard work that was put into this project by Team Eric, Saha Global and the community proved to be worthwhile and we know that the village will forever be grateful!

Erin gets all of the kids involved to help paint the center

Field Rep Voices: Team Alex K, Mona Mae, Morgan, and Simply

Top 5 Experiences on Opening Day

In honor of Saha Global opening it’s 100th water business, here’s a list of five things that were unexpected and simply beautiful for us on opening day in Kpumi.

1. You might be terrified of passing women by on opening day, but keep in the back of your mind that garriwas filed with dugout water serve the purpose of cooking, cleaning among other things.

2. You might be nervous that nobody is going to show up to get water from the center. But hold your horses, when one comes, they all come. The excitement is real. Really real.

3. It’s going to be hectic, no matter how prepared you are. With excitement comes chaos, but it definitely is part of the process. But, never worry! A hectic opening day where everyone wants water at once is a one-time thing.

Safe storage containers lined up and ready to fill!

4. The beauty of seeing the young kids drink the water makes you see how much of an impact the water center can have.

One of the kids in Kpumi enjoys clean water!

5. You can find joy in watching the Fulani and the Dagomba people interact and continue to foster community at the opening of the business.

Kpumi gathers at the water treatment center to get their first taste

 

The excitement is real really real. And the beauty of clean water is unlike no other. Cheers to Saha and their 100 water businesses!

Field Rep Voices: Team Caleb, Joanne, Shanelle, Wyatt and Shak

A view of the farms in Jagberin

Today was our second day of distributing lanterns to the more than 45 households in the beautiful village of Jagberin.

About two hours outside of Tamale, Jagberin as a village is on the larger side and rather spread out.  It seems like there are almost two separate parts of the village with several minutes of driving between them.  The part that we were familiar with, where the solar center was built, was where we passed out a little over half of the lanterns yesterday.  Today we got to explore a new part of the village and even meet some new members of the village.

Interestingly, the slightly smaller section of Jagberin that we visited today was much denser than the main part of the village.  From where we had been so far, only a handful of households were within eyesight of each other.   This new part of the village, on the other hand, had more than 10 households within a couple hundred feet of each other.  Because of this, we were able to talk to a lot more people in a shorter amount of time!

As this was the second day we were passing out lanterns, everyone seemed to know we were coming and even had their money ready.  Despite being separated from the majority of the village, word must have spread quickly because these people were even more excited and willing to help.  This gave us more time to just talk with them about what they think of the village and get to know them a little better.

After we finished passing out the rest of the lanterns, we used the rest of the day to finish training the women who will run the solar business.  We reviewed and quizzed them on the technical training that they had been learning in the past couple days and they did everything perfectly.  They were even charging batteries ahead of time in preparation for opening night!  Next we worked on some of the business training like saving money and recording sales.  Since they were already running the water business, they quickly picked up on almost every sale.  The one thing that we did notice them struggle with was keeping tally of transactions.  They had no trouble counting, but it’s not often that they use pen and paper.  Not only that, but the tally method of counting was new to them, but they caught on quickly!  All in all, the women entrepreneurs and the entire village are showing a lot of enthusiasm and looking ready for opening night tomorrow!

Joanne trains the women entrepreneurs before opening night 

Field Rep Voices: Team Lexie, Shama, Sita, Tess and Walker

Team Sita here,
So far we have had an amazing two weeks in Tamale, Ghana. We learned a ton about the Ghanaian culture and language during the first few days of orientation. We then visited a water business that was set up earlier in the year to see what the community thought about it. We heard nothing but positive feedback, such as: “Our stomachs do not hurt anymore;” “We love the taste of the water;” “It is soooo clear!!!We love it!!!” We were also all pleasantly welcomed by the community especially by the children. I can speak for the group when I say that we definitely didn’t have enough fingers for all the little hands that wanted to hang on. That experience certainly helped us build a vision for starting our future water business.

The team with Parishenaaya’s polytank stand

Fast forward to today, we worked from 7:30am-2:30pm out in the field with our two female entrepreneurs, our translator Sita, and of course one of our village’s babies, who we promptly named “angry baby,” came a long to watch us. We began the day by filling up our Poly Tank with our three 200mL drums. We treated the drums yesterday with alum and let them set overnight. It was crazy to see all the settlement and dirt that collected at the bottom of the drums. The women always love to comment on how clear the water is. The other day we were touched by how the women reacted when we had to dump out some of our newly purified water to start a new cycle. They were upset because the water was so clean, so they decided to collect the rest of it and bring it back to the village with them to share with their community. After we added in the water to the Poly Tank we purified it using three chlorine tablets. We then helped the women fetch water from their dugout to refill the three drums and treat them with alum again.

Alum work with the new entrepreneurs

I then tested the women on how to fit the tap to the buckets and they did a great job after a few tries. Next, Shama taught them how to fix the red button on the tap so they were good to go to help their community with any problems they may face with their safe storage containers. We then walked back to the village where Walker, Tess, and Sita went to thirteen family units and talked them through how to use their safe storage containers so that they do not re-contaminate the clean water that they buy. Because I was working with Shama today, I can go more in-depth about what it was like for us keeping the kids occupied and learning more about the villagers. The first hour or so we played around five games of Duck Duck Goose, which consisted of a lot more than just simply running around the circle. During one of the rounds it was only Shama and I with one of the girls left and I was going around and decided to pick Shama. I took off running in the opposite direction because I knew she would have been able to just reach around and catch me because of our small circle. I took off into the field with Shama right on my heels and Parishenaaya’s kids and elders laughing hysterically in the distance. Needless to say both Shama and I got our workout in for the day!

Shama, Tess, and Sita with the polytank

After Duck Duck Goose we taught them how to play Down By The Banks where you sit in a circle and hit the hand of the person sitting next to you until the end of the song. It was funny to watch the kids try and guess when the song, which they have never heard before, was going to end so they knew when to pull their hand away. We were even able to get one of the older men involved with our game but he was just as confused but joyful as many of the children were. We then played some volleyball with a soccer ball which marks the first time any of us have seen “angry baby” smile. Walker claimed that “angry baby” was the cutest out of all of the children in the village, yet he feels like this baby in particular hates him the most. We have tried tickling him, making funny faces and even faking our own deaths a few times now; however, nothing but a soccer ball can make that baby smile. We hope that in addition to the soccer ball that clean water will also make him crack a grin, were not asking for a smile…just a grin would be a success in our book. Overall, we had a really productive day and look forward to continuing to distribute our safe storage containers tomorrow so that we can hopefully open up for business on Wednesday. We are all so excited to finally see our business come to life because we and the village have put in a lot of time and effort to see this business through.

Team Sita’s favorite “angry baby”

This has been an eye opening experience for all of us and we would definitely recommend it to everybody looking to make a positive and long lasting difference in the lives of so many. Our community, Parishenaaya, is made up of 30 different family units and on average those households can hold up to eight people so having clean water will definitely change our community for the better.

Cheers,
Lexie, Shama, Walker & Tess

Tess cleans the polytank

Field Rep Voices: Team Alberta, Kevin, Nikita, Yu and Zulean

Zuro to Hero!

Our time in Ghana is flying by, and we couldn’t be happier than to say that we’ve been spending our time in the amazing village of Zuro in Ghana’s  Northern Region. Zuro is a small village of just 13 households, but the people are extremely warm and friendly and have accepted us with open arms! Our first day in the community involved our team (with the help of our lovely translator Alberta) meeting with the  village’s chief and getting his permission to start our business.

Team Alberta with Zuro’s Chief

With his blessing, we moved forward step by step, and over the past  few days we have successfully completed tasks like painting our polytank stand, assembling our safe storage containers, installing our drums and polytanks, and testing our dugout water as well.

(Don’t tell anyone but of course there have been a few surprises and snags along the way, but #WhenInGhana you learn to roll with the punches!)

Every day has lead to new progress for our team,  and we have  continued to forge new bonds with our village, especially with our incredible entrepreneurs Sakina and Abbiba, who couldn’t be more helpful and gracious.

We are constantly being surprised by the similarities that we all share, and how we can still communicate and work together, no matter the barriers, be they cultural, linguistic, or social, and achieve our goals.

As we quickly approach the opening of our water business later this week, we couldn’t be more excited than to continue to forge new  connections and bonds with the citizens of Zuro as we go from household to household distributing safe storage containers and explaining the benefits of drinking the clean water we  have worked so hard to provide. It’s crazy to think of how far we have come, from  having ZURO clue what we were doing in Ghana, to assimilating into our village and successfully creating a clean water business from  the ground up! More to come! 🙂

-Team Alberta FOREVER

Field Rep Voices: Team Becky, Micah, Peter, Shannon and Terynek

A meeting to remember

As the Winter 2017 Saha Global field representatives have completed orientation in Tamale, each team recently went out to their assigned villages for the first time. In this blog post members of “Team Peter”, named for their translator and long-time Saha Global employee, reflect on their first encounter with the community of Labariga.

Becky: The implementation process so far has been a lesson in perspective. I was the team member to lead the community meeting a few days ago at Labariga, with the help of Peter translating. While the content I presented was similar to the material I told the chief and elders, the experience was vastly different. Looking out onto all the members honestly took my breath away. Gathered under the shade of a large and old tree, I explained why we were here. As I explained the difference of dirty and clean water, I saw understanding dawn on men and women to my left and right. I passed around tests that showed the presence of E. Coli in the water from their stream and then clean water samples. It was such an honor to be able to share with this community that we came to give them access to fresh, clean drinking water and to watch their faces as they learned this. To have my words be the ones that brought about this new opportunity was so profound, and I don’t think I’ll forget how it felt to be fully in that moment. From the outside looking in, it was a circle of people looking at these strange salamingas (foreigners). From my vantage point, it was a group of friends learning and growing together. But regardless of perspective, it was a moment that our entire community at Labariga will always remember.

Shannon: The most memorable moment for me was meeting the whole village for the first time. Seeing the faces of every man, woman, and child in Labariga connected me to the mission of Saha in a whole new way — it became personal.

I’ll never forget how they welcomed us into their community, literally bringing us into their circle as we talked about the water treatment center. Even though we could not speak the same language, I believe everyone could feel just how special that moment was. It was the beginning of a new chapter for us all.

Micah: Sitting on the edge of a circle with the whole Labariga community provided a glimpse into the nuances of their village life. As Becky spoke to the community about their water, I watched the people around us for hints about their customs. Some things were obvious: men and women sat on opposite sides of the circle; older people were given chairs while children sat at their feet and the young men and women stood behind (demonstrating a level of respect for age that often seems absent in the United States); all of the village elders sat around the chief. As the conversation continued, it became clearer and clearer that each of these community members understood some sense of a code of conduct, the intricacies of which escaped me.

When given the chance to ask questions, it seemed as though the whole community waited for one of the older women to speak before raising their own inquiries. Was this woman given such respect because she was the oldest, or perhaps because she was married to the chief, or perhaps because she had some special role to play in providing the community with water? Which woman was the mother of which child? It was nearly impossible to tell, as each kid moved seamlessly between the women, congregating now around one and then branching off to another. As I watched the people around me, I was increasingly aware of the fact that the people of Labariga were all operating under a nuanced set of roles which I could only guess at — out of everything we have done so far, it was the simultaneously the clearest and most mystifying look into the culture of our community.

Terynek: Everything I have encountered I have captured on camera. The emotion, I think, translated through visuals is more than words can express, and being able to capture special moments on camera is a lasting memory no one can take from you. You will always remember the exchange that you experienced.

We can’t wait to work with our entrepreneurs to get this clean water business up and running!

Team Peter enjoys some coconut refreshment!

 

Team Peter (and then some!) meet Moya’s entrepreneurs

 

Micah, Shannon, Becky and Terynek monitor a household in Galinzeigu

 

Shannon finds a new pet?

 

Becky discusses the proposed water business with Lagbariga

 

The painted polytank stand!

 

Terynek makes a new friend

Field Rep Voices: Team Alex C, Caroline, Louis, Maureen and TJ

Throughout our short journey so far with Saha, the chief meeting seemed to be one of the more intimidating things on our agenda. If it went well, then you could proceed to work on your team’s mission of building a fresh water or solar business. If it didn’t go well then it would be very disappointing for your team and you would have to find another place to go. Thankfully, none of the teams had to do this.

Alex, Louis, and TJ ask questions about Tuya’s dugout

Team TJ went to a village named Tuya and I was chosen to be the spokesperson to the chief. We basically had to pitch a business proposal which included what we would be doing, how we would be doing it, and what part the village would play in the business.

The day started by arriving at the village and finding the chief and elders to ask for a meeting with them. We knew there was a possibility that the chief would be away and that we would have to schedule for another day, so we started by asking some people if the chief was there. We were happy to find that he was there and we were told to wait where we were.

An elder approached us as we were waiting and we greeted him by squatting and greeting him. He said that he would call the others together for the meeting. Plastic chairs were brought out for us and there were benches available for the chief and elders to sit on. The whole village started to assemble and the chief meeting quickly turned into a community meeting. This put a little more pressure on the situation, but being in the presence of the people we would possibly be working with gave me the energy to present the business plan as well as I could. Seeing the faces of the children, the mothers, and the chief and elders made me realize how excited I was to be in Ghana working to make their lives better.

The team with members of the Tuya community!

The elder who approached us before sat down with some others and our translator, TJ, asked if the chief was coming. To our surprise we found out that he was the chief. He hadn’t told us earlier when we first met him and seemed to laugh about it as if he had tricked us quite well.

I started the meeting by greeting the community and thanking the chief for allowing us to have a meeting with them. I explained to the community that the water they were drinking was very harmful for their health. They laughed at this because they knew that the quality of their water could be so much better. I then explained more about the business. The chief and elders said “naa” or “mmm” throughout TJ’s translation of the business proposal. It was so interesting to hear this as their version of agreeing with what I was saying or approving of it.

At the end of the presentation the chief thanked us for bringing our plan to them and that they were so excited for this opportunity. They believe that healthy water is so important. They agreed to pick two women, make a household list, and meet with us the next day. We then presented the chief with cola nuts and passed it around for everyone to have a bite of. It was an interesting moment to witness the customs of the Dagomba people, and it was deeply humbling to be welcomed into the community with such open arms. They even gave us community names: ti pag ya, nassari, tadadi, and wumpini (spelling on these may be incorrect). What had seemed like an intimidating assignment of meeting with the chief had turned into a great success and we left with an overwhelming feeling of joy and excitement to get started with the rest of our project.

Tuya's dugout

Tuya’s dugout

TJ helps Louis translate information about the blue drums

Kids of Tuya with Maureen, Alex, and Caroline