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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!

Meet Our Field Reps: Bryant Foreman

My name is Bryant Foreman. I am 26 years old and am currently working as a scientist in the field of agricultural, zoonotic infectious diseases. While I was finishing my Master of Science degree at Georgetown University, the concept of effective public health implementation and planning was a frequent topic of discussion during a number of my graduate-level courses. I opted to stay in my comfort zone and kept the majority of my research interests rooted in the areas of molecular biology and biosurveillance. However, in February I decided to step out of that comfort zone. I applied to the 2013 Summer Program offered by Saha Global. Several months later, I was on my way to Ghana to implement a community based water treatment center in a village in the Northern Region called Cheshegu.

Bryant with some kids from Cheshegu and Saha's District Manager, Wahab, on opening day of their water treatment center.
Bryant with some kids from Cheshegu and Saha’s District Manager, Wahab, on opening day of their water treatment center.

The Saha Global Leadership Program granted me the opportunity to interact first-hand with individuals who have been burdened with various diseases for years. Throughout the course of my education, I have studied a number of diseases within the capacity of a laboratory, but until Saha Global allowed me the opportunity to do so, I had never physically seen the hardships that these illnesses had on individuals. Since then, I look at my work a bit differently. I used to view the microorganisms with which I work solely through the scope of the environment. My experiences in Ghana allowed me to apply a lens of humanity that allows me to remember why I do what I do: to help keep others (humans and animals) healthy and safe.

As far as overall experiences are concerned, this trip would have to be my absolute favorite thus far. One memory that stands out in particular would probably have to be the very first day in Accra. I was trying to function on 3 hours of horrendously light sleep when my fellow field representatives Lucas, Jacob, Bryan, convinced me to explore the coastal city with them after breakfast. I was initially reluctant to join the impromptu excursion; however, after hours of walking in the city I had experienced more than I could have ever hoped for during my first day in Africa. After befriending some locals  who gave us a tour of the Nkrumah memorial, treated us to lunch on the cliffs of the Gulf of Guinea, gave us a tour of the coastal slums, and welcomed us with a traditional drum ceremony at their shop, I could certainly say that I had my first “welcome to Ghana” experience.

Once we were in the Northern Region working in our respective villages, I saw that this opportunity presented an atmosphere in which I felt I could thrive and make a difference. Additionally, this program has been developed to cater to a number of educational interests and disciplines. From aspiring civil engineers to International Relations majors, I saw individuals utilizing skills from different disciplines and putting them together toward one common goal.

I have encouraged a number of people who expressed any interest in my experience to look into Saha Global for themselves. After all, interacting and learning more from a fellow Alum is how I was led to the program myself. Additionally, I stay in touch with a few of the Saha’s District Managers. I was teamed up with Wahab and when heavy rains hit our village last winter, he kept me up-to-date on how the entrepreneurs were taking care of things and mitigating the situation.

Although my career has taken me in a different direction, I continue to support the mission of Saha Global as a member of the Advisory Board. Led by our chair of the Board, Samantha Reilley, our Field-Rep alumni continue to drive the growth and expansion of Saha by meeting on a quarterly basis to discuss Saha-related tasks and doing research for the expansion of this model. As a member of the Board, I was most recently involved in the Saha Challenge – a competition among Field-Rep alumni to propose an entirely new country for the expansion of Saha Global. After a series of presentations and a visit to Boston to pitch our final idea, former Field-Rep Lucas Hilsbos and I had proposed Nicaragua to which Saha would launch their next group of social enterprises for clean water and electricity. I am looking forward to being a part of the pilot program in Nicaragua and I am extremely grateful to be involved in this process of expansion into a new region of the world. I believe Saha Global will have the similar impact on communities in Central America when compared to those in West Africa – and I am excited to continue being a part of this expansion process.

Want to learn more about Bryant’s experience or have any specific questions? Feel free to email him at foreman.bryant@gmail.com You can also learn more about him and check in to see what he is up to now here!

Meet Our Field Reps: Caroline Awh

Caroline Awh picHi! My name is Caroline and I was a Saha Global Field Rep in June of 2014. I’m 22 years old, originally from Nashville, TN, but I’m currently living in Boston, MA, working as a research assistant and clinical research coordinator. I graduated this past May from Washington University in St. Louis with a major in Anthropology and a minor in Biology. I’m now applying to medical schools and have survived my first Boston winter!

As an aspiring doctor, I was motivated to work with Saha Global by the idea that by providing clean water, I was saving lives. I didn’t realize that just providing the clean water is not enough. I was blown away by the fact that the villagers had such a difficult time comprehending exactly why drinking the dirty, contaminated dugout water is bad for them.  Before the water business can ever be successful, the people must be taught (often repeatedly) to understand how dirty water can be harmful. Knowledge truly is one of the biggest barriers to good health, and that is a concept I will carry with me throughout my career.

I can’t even begin to explain how much I learned on the Saha Global Leadership Program about communication skills and teamwork. In just three weeks, four total strangers, armed with an amazing interpreter, are able to implement a clean water business in a village where you cannot understand more complex phrases than “Thank You” or “Good Morning.” I am confident that my work with Saha Global has immensely helped my non-verbal communication skills and my ability to work with others, skills that are invaluable regardless of what you want to do.

My favorite memory, though hard to choose, was probably when the chairman of Balamposo, Hannah, Julia, and sat cross-legged outside of his home, shucking corn. It was so wonderful, to be so warmly welcomed into their village and allowed to partake in their daily routines.

I had such an amazing experience as a field rep.  The feeling I had when we first saw clean, fresh water coming out of the spigot of Balamposo’s new water business was a feeling of relief, accomplishment, and hope I will never regret. I am currently organizing a letter-writing campaign to connect alumni with the villages they worked with, helping to keep alumni active and also to promote further adherence to drinking clean water.

You can reach me at caroline.awh@gmail.com with any questions about my experience as a Saha Global field rep. Also check to see what I am up to now!

Meet Our Field Reps: Brianan Kiernan

Brianán talks to water business owner Ma'Fulera about center sales in Kalinka.
Brianán talks to water business owner Ma’Fulera about center sales in Kalinka.

 

My sophomore year at Boston College I read “Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus,” a book about how Yunus founded Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. A bank that gives loans to poor people, predominantly women, to enable people to be their own change-makers. I read this book and thought this is what I want to do with my life. I want to work in microfinance.

About a year later, I went to an information session about the Saha Global Leadership Program. I was enthralled. The Saha model was similar to microfinance in that the micro-capital for a business is donated to women. But the Saha model seemed to go beyond just the money. Setting up a water business would bring a village clean water. I knew I had to be apart of this!

That winter 2011-2012, I traveled to Tamale, Ghana and implemented a water business in Kpachiyili. I was most impacted by working with Mariama and Azara, the two women who were elected to run the business. They live hard lives but are still resilient. My biggest take-away from the program was not to underestimate people. People can be their own change-makers.

In June 2012, I moved to Tamale, Ghana to work as the Ghana Country Director with Saha Global. I lived and worked in Ghana with Saha Global until August 2014. My most memorable day in Ghana was my third day on the job. I was out on the “motos” with Wahab monitoring the Tolon district Saha communities. We were caught in this massive, end of the world rainstorm. The streets of Tamale were flooded. We had to take shelter from the rain for several hours. We were so cold! Hot tea never tasted so sweet. I will never forget that day.

After living in Ghana and spending time with the Saha women business owners, I knew that I wanted to continue to work with women. I wanted to learn more about public health in low and middle-income countries. Time and time again the Saha staff and I witnessed and experienced health challenges such as lack of transport, high costs, lack of training, accessibility, lack of human resources, lack of supplies. The list goes on. I wanted to learn more about what is being done and what can be done to strengthen health systems in low and middle-income countries.

I am currently living in Dublin, Ireland where I am getting my Masters in Global Health at the Center for Global Health at Trinity College. Upon graduation, I hope to continue my career in project management within the global health sector.

Want to learn more about Brianan’s experience or have any specific questions? Feel free to email her at brianankiernan@gmail.com Also take a look at what she’s up to now!