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Field Rep Voices: A learning experience like no other

Julie is a sophomore at University of Pennsylvania who is working on dual degrees through the Jerome Fischer Program in Management and Technology. She’s also the founder of Peerlift, a nonprofit that helps high schoolers find college scholarships. 

If her story inspires YOU, apply to work with us in Ghana this summer: sahaglobal.org/gotoghana

Our 2nd Round closes this Sunday, March 17!

 

Why did you decide to apply for the Global Leadership Program?

I want to make sure whatever I’m doing helps people and makes an impact. I’m really interested in technology and business and where they come together and play.

A club at my school sent out an email about the Global Leadership Program around this time last year. I did a lot of research, and Saha checked all of the boxes for me. They really care about the communities they serve and are committed to sustainability.

What did you take away from the experience?

I learned so much from being in a new environment and working with people from so many different backgrounds. Visiting the villages and seeing the water businesses first-hand helped me learn things I never could have gotten from reading a book or watching a video.

One of the translators, Jonathan, and I connected over our common interest in technology. I learned so much from his experience and take on how to solve people problems. He shared how many children in northern Ghana lack access to computers. But when they do get a hold of technology, mostly through computing centers in the major cities, they often participate in scamming schemes to collect money. Jonathan has created a nonprofit to help these kids put their talent to use in a positive way by teaching them computer skills and, hopefully one day, programming.

With the nonprofit I started to connect high schoolers with scholarship opportunities for college, I’m trying to solve a different problem with different skills, but my passion and goal is similar — to improve access to education.

What was your “Saha aha” moment?

On our last day in the village there happened to be a big celebration, and we were included. There was music and dancing and kids running around everywhere. I felt so proud that the women we worked alongside invited us to be a part of something that was special for them. We didn’t just build a business and leave. We made some incredible connections with the community.

How has the Global Leadership Program influenced your work with Peerlift?

Twenty four hours after I got home from Ghana, I packed up again and left for San Francisco to go work on my start up. Everything I learned was so fresh and clear, from how to teach a skill or pitch a business to setting prices or choosing a location or person to run a business. The core basics of Saha Global’s model brought me back to the importance of always putting the people you serve first.

What advice do you have for future field reps?

Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. The experience is super rewarding, and you will learn a lot about yourself. I think it’s something everyone should try.

Keep an open mind, and take everything as it comes. Things will go wrong. Take a step back from the situation and work with your team to figure it out together.

And don’t forget to bring a lot of snacks!

If you think you could help Saha bring clean water to a new community this summer, get your application in now!

You can still make our “Second Round” Application Deadline: March 17th.

Let us know >> Apply Here!

 

Field Rep Voices: Laughter is Universal

Alexis is a senior from Long Island, New York who is getting her Bachelor’s Degree in Public Service & Administration at St. John’s University.

If her story inspires YOU, apply to work with us in Ghana this summer: sahaglobal.org/gotoghana

 

Why did you decide to apply for the Global Leadership Program?

Whenever my family would go on vacation, my parents made sure we gave back, especially in places where we have roots, like Guatemala, Argentina and Ecuador. So instead of going to the beach, we’d go work on a farm. That’s where my passion for partnering with people in developing communities began.

I heard about Saha Global from my friend Kayla who was a field rep in 2016 with the solar program.

What did you take away from the experience?

Going to Ghana with Saha Global was life changing for me. With everything that’s going on in our country it was a reminder that we are all human. If we aren’t willing to work with one another, who is? That was something very important I brought back home with me.

I got very attached to my community, Zakariyili, especially a little girl named Charisa, the chief’s granddaughter. She was with her mom (one of the entrepreneurs) every day. I could see that one day she would become part of the water business, too.

Even though we didn’t speak the same language, we formed strong emotional bonds with people. Our translator was great. She helped us communicate with everyone. And laughter is universal. The entire experience just left a place in my heart.

What was your “Saha aha” moment?

On my last day in Tamale I heard the women in the kitchen singing. The song was written by my church back home. In that moment, everything came full circle.

I gathered all of the things I wasn’t going to bring back — clothes and bug repellant — and gave them to the women. They were so happy that they were crying, and then I was crying, too. It’s not just about the communities you’re working in every day. You can change how people feel about their day through a simple gesture.

How has the Global Leadership Program influenced your career plans?

I’m really, REALLY passionate about social justice, especially systemic racism in our country. The program pushed me to look even deeper and understand my interest in social justice. I’m interested in finding work in Flint, Michigan after graduation (their water is STILL dirty). I never would have considered that before going to Ghana.

Someday I want to start my own nonprofit, so it was really awesome to see the inner workings of Saha and learn how to fundraise.

What advice do you have for future field reps?

Bring a first aid kit. My mom got me a traveler’s first aid kit with everything under the sun — ointment, Advil, aspirin, even a thermometer. I ended up using a substantial amount of it.

I wish I would have brought more stylish clothes. The women in the village were dressed so beautifully and I was wearing athletic gear the whole time.

Most of all, take it all in. The experience goes by pretty quick and you don’t think it will. Soak in every day and make as many connections with people as you can.

If you think you could help Saha bring clean water to a new community this summer, get your application in now!

You can still make our “First Round” Application Deadline: February 24th.

Let us know >> Apply Here!

 

Field Rep Voices: That time a humble tree nut closed the culture gap

Abby loved our program so much she did it twice! First, as a freshman, then as a junior. She is getting her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and International Studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  

If her story inspires YOU, apply to work with us in Ghana this summer: sahaglobal.org/gotoghana

Why did you decide to (re)apply for the Global Leadership Program?

I just fell in love with Saha’s approach and having the opportunity to take on a project and go in a direction your team thinks is right. We would come across challenges in the village and talk about how to overcome them together. That sense of ownership was really appealing to me. Seeing the impact of the water businesses firsthand was rewarding, too.

What did you take away from the experience?

Participating in the Global Leadership Program gave me more confidence. After my first field rep experience I got involved with Engineers without Borders. Now I’m president of my school’s club and am leading a multi-year water supply and distribution project in Ecuador. We’ve had to deal with politics, financial concerns, and monitoring challenges. My experience with Saha helped prepare me.

What was your “Saha aha” moment?

On my team’s first day in Zobogu, we sought out the chairman to request a meeting with the chief. The village is located right off the road, and we learned the community is accustomed to outsiders coming in to pitch projects. But the chairman was surprised to learn we brought kola nuts as a gift for the chief, a symbol of respect in their culture.

As a society, we know how to clean water. Technical skills and knowledge are important, but Saha taught me that working within the local culture is every bit as important. That really hit home for me when I saw all the signs for failed water projects at the village entrance.

Has the Global Leadership Program influenced your career plans?

Definitely. As a civil engineer major, I learned so much seeing the human side of the equation.  My Saha experience inspired me to look for other international development opportunities, particularly around access to clean water.

What advice do you have for future field reps?

Keep an open mind. Everything will be new and unexpected. There’s no way to know what it will be like until you get there.

Talk to someone who’s done the program before. That really helped me when I was going through the application process. Saha can help get you connected with a past field rep.

If you think you could help Saha bring clean water to a new community this summer, get your application in now!

You can still make our “Early Bird” Application Deadline: January 28th.

Let us know >> Apply Here!

 

 

Field Rep Voices: Team Emma, Caitlin, Simply, Solum& Zach

Goose, Goose, Goose

The trick to teaching a bunch of kids who don’t speak English how to play a new game is a lot of hand signals and aggressive smiling. So that is exactly how we went about showing twenty-odd kids in the Dagbani speaking village of Larigbani how to play the time tested, kid approved game of “Duck, Duck, Goose”.

We started out sitting in the dirt outside of the chief’s village, in as much of a circle as the four of us field representatives could make, motioning to the kids to come and sit with us. The bravest by far were the girls, who marched up with little siblings on their backs, plopped down with a burst of dust and stared at us with curiosity and the sort of humorous trepidation you’d imagine you’d feel whenever finding yourself sitting in a circle with four wildly gesturing, wide smiling salamingas who wandered into your hometown for the first time only the day before. A few more kids trickled in, and after calling over our translator/BFF Simply to help explain our foreign blabbering to the kids, we were off.

The game started out slow as everyone got familiar with the in’s and out’s of Duck, Duck, Goose, but quickly ramped up. Before we knew it we had a crowd of both adults and children watching our game, yelling out encouragements to the Goose’s and hooting with laughter each time one of the kids picked a field rep as the goose (they mostly forgot the word “duck” pretty early on, so we had to judge who they were picking as the goose by how forcefully they said it. “Goose, Goose… Goose, Goose, Goose… GOOSE!”) and we had to hoist ourselves up, sliding on the loose ground as we chased the little darts around our now sizable circle.

Eventually we had to call it quits to get to work, leaving our circle of brand new teeny tiny friends for the track to the dugout, but had those stubborn, cheek picking smiles stuck on our faces for the rest of the day.

-Team Simply

Field Rep Voices: Team Amin, Brian, Gaby, Henry and Jessica

If you can believe it, we’re mid-way through the process of setting up our clean water business here in the outskirts of Tamale!  Over the past two weeks, there have been far too many experiences to recount in full, but one of the most memorable of the bunch has been finally getting to know our women entrepreneurs and training them on how to set up, manage, and eventually take over the clean water business.

 

Our team works in a tiny village called Lambo, with just 10 village households and 17 Fulani households.  It’s tucked away in a verdant grove, and is very much off the beaten path, leading to a scenic drive there but also lots of difficulties for our villagers when it comes to accessing basic resources.  In particular, their water situation was notably worrisome when we first arrived.  They are currently drinking out of a very shallow dugout nearby town that may dry up shortly if the rains don’t come.  As a result, the water quality is very poor – it is heavily silted, covered with a light layer of scum, and our tests came back showing that it was full of E.coli and other dangerous bacteria.

 

Fortunately, meeting with the chief and the community went smoothly – everyone was quite receptive to the idea and asked some great questions before welcoming us into their village to begin building the center.  The two women who were nominated to run the center are named Fuseina and Awabu, and both are strong in both body and spirit, incredibly attentive, and very much committed to the well-being of their families.

The process of training our women partners turned out to be relatively simple, as they have been dealing with household water their whole lives and intuitively understand the need for providing their families with clean water.  First, they fill our three 200L jerry cans with dugout water using their garrawas, the large buckets they use to fetch water, helping one another hoist them over their heads and pour them expertly into the cans.  Even with only two or three women filling the cans, we were shocked at how rapidly and efficiently they were able to move that much water around so quickly!  A true feat, as anyone who has attempted to lift 50 pounds worth of water over the heads could attest.

 

Once the jerry cans were full, we showed Fuseina and Awabu how to use alum, our flocculant of choice that helps the sediments in the water clear and settle to the bottom.  Many people in the North have used alum before in order to clear the water they use for laundry.  As a result, the women took to the task instantly, rolling alum into tight balls and barely needing any guidance on how to swirl the golf ball sized chunks in the cans with care.  Finding the right amount of alum to use is a bit of a tricky process – use too little, and the water doesn’t clear, but use too much and the water has a bit of a funky, chemical taste – so we urged our women to err on the side of caution.  As it turned out, the first go around wasn’t quite enough, so we had to add a little bit extra the next day, but no harm done.

 

Once the water had settled and cleared, and we’d lugged our big, 1400 litre polytalk out to the village and mounted it on the stand, the water was ready for purification!  Using smaller hand buckets, Fuseina and Awabu delicately scooped the clear, sediment-free water from the top of the jerry cans and poured them into the polytank.  We gave them a bag of starter chlorine tablets to use for the time being, and briefly explained to them that they only should add 1 big tablet for every jerry can of water that gets added to the polytank.  The two of them listened intently, nodding and making small comments to one other, before getting right to business.  Sure enough, the water came out clear and sterilized once poured from the polytank and tested, so we should be good to go for our opening day tomorrow – a huge achievement and a great testament to the hard work of our female entrepreneurs.

 

In all, it has been a delight to get to know the women who will be at the helm of our business, and we only have the highest hopes for them and their commitment towards providing their communities with clean water.  There may be some challenges and road bumps ahead – once the current dugout dries out, we’ll have to relocate the center to a different one nearby – but if the perseverance we’ve seen in our villagers thus far sticks around, they should have no problem getting the center up and running again.  So here’s to a future of clean water for Lambo!

  • Gaby, Jess, Brian, and Henry

Meet Our Field Reps: Jeremy Lakin

Jeremy picMy name is Jeremy Lakin and I’m originally from Reading, PA. After graduating from high school in Lancaster, PA I moved to NYC to attend NYU. I graduated in May 2015 with a BA in politics and Romance Languages. While I was lucky enough to be introduced to the water and sanitation through an internship at charity: water I really wanted to get first hand experience working with populations affected by a lack of access to clean drinking water. I found Saha on a whim when I was looking for jobs after college and immediately fell in love with Saha’s mission and model, particularly its dedication to monitoring.

I went with this past winter group in 2015-2016 and worked in a village called Futa, about 45 mins away from our home base in Tamale. One of the moments that I will never forget is visiting this one household a few days after we opened the clean water business. The woman that lived there told us that she recently had a visitor from Tamale visit her. When she offered him water he turned it down at first, but when she showed him she had clean, safe drinking water he was amazed. The smile on her face and the pride she expressed is something I’ll never forget. It really put the water crisis into new perspective for me. It isn’t just a health crisis, but a crisis of dignity and pride, and Saha addresses all of these needs.

I’m so grateful for this opportunity because it gave me invaluable field experience. All the reading and classwork can’t prepare you for being the first foreigner a child meets, or how to react when your polytank springs a leak. This experience affirmed my desire for a career in international development. I recently finished a six month internship with Global Health Corps. I’m a finalist for Global Health Corps’ highly selective fellowships and have been accepted to SIPA at Columbia thanks in great part to Saha Global.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions about the Saha Global Leadership Program at jdlakin4@gmail.com. You can also learn more about me and check in to see what I’m up to now here!

Meet Our Field Reps: Lilly Prince

LILLY_bioHello everyone! My name is Lilly Prince. I am 26 years old, originally from Orlando, Florida, but now I currently living in Boston, Massachusetts. After graduating from University of South Carolina with a BA in Public Health, I journeyed to Ghana with Saha Global in the summer of 2013. I was a part of the first team to implement water businesses in the Salaga area. My team worked with the lovely people of Kideng village!

I was inspired when I discovered Saha Global and researched their mission and model. As an aspiring public health professional, I quickly took the opportunity to work in the field on a health problem I’m passionate about, to experience NGO program implementation first hand, and to immerse myself in a different culture. Saha Global is a sustainable, economically sound organization that is simply a facilitator in rural Ghana’s goal toward healthier communities. Learning more about the global water crisis through the daily lives of Ghanaians in low resource settings helped me become a better, more understanding public health professional.

My favorite memory while in Ghana was when our team held a big community meeting right in the middle of Kideng village. Almost all community members were present: children, mothers, teens, but most impactful to me were all the elders—men and women—sitting in the innermost circle. They listened intently as we made our water business pitch. (Yes, you have to convince your village that implementation will be beneficial to them!) The people of Kideng were enthusiastic and genuinely interested in what we had to say. This was so memorable for me because I know that this eagerness does not always happen; and our team was lucky to be working with a village that sincerely wanted to make a change to improve their overall health.

Although I graduated with a major in Public Health, Saha Global really opened my eyes to the urgency of health on a global scale. Participating in the Global Leadership Program allowed me to face and overcome many challenges that are common in global health work. I was able to take what I had learned in the classroom, and practiced those skills in a real-world setting. It was because of Saha Global that I decided to continue my education and pursue my Master’s of Public Health. Now, I graduated in May from Boston University School of Public Health with my MPH! (And looking for employment!)

I am very passionate about the impact Saha Global has on the people of rural Ghana and the impact on the Field Reps who implement. I would love to talk with anyone who is interested in becoming a Global Field Rep, already accepted and gearing up for the trip, or just curious about the organization! Do not hesitate to contact me at lilly.prince.go@gmail.com. Also feel free to keep up with me here.

Meet the Field Reps: Sean Dikdan

Sean Bio PicMy name is Sean Dikdan, and I participated in a Saha Water Project in Winter 2016. I was born and raised in Saddle Brook, NJ. I graduated Boston College in 2012 with a major in Biology and a minor in Sociology. I am enrolled as a dual MD/MPH student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and Rutgers School of Public Health. Right now, I am finishing up my Fieldwork on Community Health Needs Assessments and preparing for my fourth and final year of medical school. I will be applying for residencies in the New York area in Internal Medicine this fall.

Saha Global stood out to me as an organization that took simple, proven solutions and applied them to complex problems. Their community businesses are elegant and effective, and their creative approach is what initially drew me in. In Ghana, I really enjoyed implementing the business and exploring my village of Komonaayili. Speaking with the community members, I heard stories about waterborne disease such as cholera, which up until that point was something I had only ever heard about in lectures and textbooks. Knowing this gave me an added sense of pride in our work there. Practical, clean water for them meant liberation from diseases that had truly harmed the community.

I also loved my time with Saha because the program attracts a diverse group of field reps from all backgrounds and disciplines. Working and learning with these people was a highlight of my trip. Some of my favorite moments were staying up late with everyone on our porches talking, playing the ukulele, discussing the work we were doing, and just really engaging each other. I am looking forward to staying connected with this talented group for a long time.

As I look forward, I want to continue my work with international health, and my experience with Saha will be a springboard for me to begin this. Adequate healthcare is lacking all over the world, and as a clinician and public health student, I want to play a part in resolving this.

Please feel free to email me at sean.dikdan@gmail.com! I would love the opportunity to talk to anyone about Saha Global. You can also keep up with me here.

Introducing Our 2016 Advisory Board

The Saha Global Advisory Board consists of some of our top Field Rep alumni. After participating in the Global Leadership Program and implementing a Saha business from the ground up, these people really know what we are all about! We truly value their input and feedback. We know that they have the skills, experience and passion that we need to continue to drive our growth and expansion!

The main focus of our board over this next year will be fundraising and Field Rep alumni engagement. We are excited to have their input and ideas!Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 10.56.46 AM

Our 2016 Advisory Board Members:
Brianan Kiernan
DeLaine Mayer
Kayleah Griffen
Sean Dikdan
Signe Lindquist
Bryant Foreman
Jeremy Lakin
Lilly Prince
Stacey Cussen

Over the next few weeks we will be posting bios about each of the members so you can get to know them a little better, stay posted!

Meet the Field Reps: Katie Rumer

Katie Rumer picShortly after graduating from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service with a degree in International Politics, I participated in the Summer 2013 Saha Global Leadership Program. Traveling to Ghana from my home in Philadelphia that summer was enlightening and rewarding in many ways, and my experience with Saha has continued to stay with me through my current work.

During a career fair on campus, I was intrigued by the Saha Global table that Kate Clopeck, Saha’s founder, was manning. When I spoke to her about the program, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to both give back and to participate in hands-on development fieldwork. I was excited about the idea of taking part in the founding of a sustainable small business in a developing economy: something I had studied in the classroom, but had not yet seen in practice.

After my team worked with the female entrepreneurs in our village to open the clean water business, we visited the local school to teach the students about the importance of clean water hygiene. The school was buzzing with kids who were intrigued by our presence, and the excitement was contagious. After teaching our lesson under a tree outside, my team and I visited several classrooms. In one of the older classes, one student asked me to take a photo of him drinking clean water from the blue bucket in his classroom. This is one of my favorite memories from Ghana. At that moment, I felt like my team and I had achieved our goal of getting the people of our village, and especially the younger residents, excited about the importance of drinking only clean water.

One of the biggest takeaways from my experience in this program is the ability to form connections across cultural and language barriers. Even though we communicated with the members of our village through a translator most of the time, I felt like my team and I developed meaningful bonds during the time we spent with the people who live there. The resilience and hard work of the women in our village was also greatly impressed upon me during this program. Women are not only the caregivers in this society, but they also work on their farms and fetch water, all of which are extremely physically demanding tasks. The women who run the water business in our village do so as one of their many daily duties, and their diligence and sense of responsibility to their community was very powerful.

The Saha Gobal Leadership Program also helped to strengthen my desire to work in the international development field. Currently, I work at a large international development bank, where I see development occur at a high level. Having had field experience, I am able to appreciate my work here even more, since I have witnessed the positive results that development and access to resources can have on a micro level.

Today, I continue to stay involved with Saha Global through the alumni group, by following Saha’s evolution into solar businesses, and through tracking the water sales updates from my village when they are published.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions about the Saha Global Leadership Program at katierumer@gmail.com. You can also learn more about me and check in to see what I’m is up to now here!