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Meet Our Field Reps: Claire Cohen

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.50.58 AMMy name is Claire Cohen. I grew up in Rockville, Maryland. I study Psychology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. During the summer of 2014, I participated as a Saha Global field representative in Salaga, implementing a water treatment center. I was immediately interested in the idea of being a Field Rep after viewing the website and reading about Saha’s mission and the process that is carried out in Ghana. Working with great people and experiencing another culture was an amazing opportunity.

My experience in Ghana has allowed me to open my perspective, learn about international service work, and truly comprehend the importance of empowering women. While there, I was able to observe the genuine benefits of putting women in a position of power. The entrepreneurs that we worked with in Salaga were determined, curious, dedicated and kind. It was particularly rewarding to be able to establish interpersonal connections with such incredible people. The structure that Saha Global creates allows time for both work and opportunity to really get to know people. Mercy, one of the four entrepreneurs from the village of Sabonjida, hosted my team for a delicious afternoon lunch under the largest Mango tree I had ever seen. The meal fostered my appreciation for people, and also facilitated good discussion about the water treatment center.

The Saha Global Leadership Program has changed the way I understand NGO work. Saha Global provides transparent, authentic, thoughtful and effective service work that is sustainable. I am extremely interested in increasing my time in the international community and learning about other cultures and the simple technologies that can assist in solving the worlds water crisis. Saha Global has directly influenced my mindset when it comes to working with people and sharing a common goal. Since being home, I have consistently kept up with Saha’s facebook page to learn about the most recent developments. I hope to return to Sabonjida in the future as well as contribute to Saha Global’s expansion efforts. Serving as a Saha field rep has expanded my leadership skills and all around reinforced my commitment to the mission.

Want to learn more about Claire’s experience or have any specific questions? Claire would be happy to tell you more and can be contacted at crcohen@smcm.edu. You can also keep up with Claire is doing now here!

Meet Our Field Reps: Matt Sullivan

Matt bio picMy name is Matt. I’m 20 years old studying Industrial and Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech, and I was a field rep for the 2015 Winter Global Leadership Program.  Over my first few years of college I was pretty focused the pursuit of “success” after graduation, which I figured involved landing a job and making money.  I started doing web development for a consulting firm and things seemed to be falling into place, but by the time I started my senior year I had realized the path I was on wasn’t going to lead me to happiness.  I knew I wanted to make a change, but I didn’t know in what direction.  Enter Saha Global.  I found out about the Global Leadership Program by chance through an email on my major’s Listserv.  The program’s simplicity and elegance captivated me and I was amazed by the measurable impact it had in northern Ghana.  I knew that this was something I would truly find rewarding.

 
The experience was so much more than I expected.  I spent three weeks with my team in the village of Takpili implementing a solar electricity business.  We laid mud bricks and constructed the solar center by hand, trained four women to be self-sustaining entrepreneurs, and supplied all 80 households in Takpili with renewable energy and light.  But above all else, I value the relationships I built along the way.  My fondest memories are of playing soccer with the children of the village, riding bikes through Tamale with Peter (our team’s leader-translator-extraordinaire), and learning to drive stick shift from our taxi driver, Hustla.

 
One of the biggest things I’ve learned from this experience is how those receiving aid view the organizations providing it.  In Takpili, a village that already had a Saha water business, the village elders were completely receptive towards our propositions for implementing a solar business.  They trusted us because of the level of commitment Saha had already demonstrated in monitoring the village years after implementation.  In contrast, they expressed to us how they often see organizations come through and make promises of improving quality of life only to find that what they provided was extraneous.  There were remnants of projects that were started but unbeknownst to the village, got caught up in red tape and were never finished.  It really helped me appreciate the work Saha is doing, from the comprehensive village scouting and research beforehand to the five year post-implementation plan for village independence.

 
The Global Leadership Program shaped the way I think about my future.  I know now that I want to work in international development, ideally in a field that also incorporates my engineering background.  Currently I’m finishing up my undergraduate degree, looking to graduate in the spring, but I’m excited to stay involved with Saha in the future.

 

Want to learn more about Matt’s experience or have any specific questions? Matt would be happy to tell you more and can be contacted at matts@vt.edu Also keep up with what Matt is up to now here!

Meet Our Field Reps: Caroline Collins

Caroline Collins bio picMy name is Caroline Collins. I am a twenty two year old senior about to graduate from Connecticut College.  At Conn, I study biological sciences and anthropology. I am originally from Cohasset, MA which is on the south coast of Boston. I was lucky enough to participate in two of Saha’s global leadership programs. I first travelled to Ghana during my sophomore year for their winter program in 2013. I gained an incredible amount from being a Saha Global Leader and valued their program goals immensely. I was itching to return to Ghana, so when Saha announced that they had an opportunity for past leaders to return for the following summer program, I jumped at the chance! Saha was looking for Field Reps to help implement their water business model in Salaga, a new region for the organization.

 
My two experiences in Ghana were truly life changing and they have shaped my academic pursuits.  One of my strongest memories is from my first trip, when my teammates and Shak, our translator were educating our community’s school children about the importance of clean drinking water and the differences between clear water and clean water. Educating children about healthy hygiene is one of Saha’s initiatives toward creating a sustainable clean drinking water model. So after we had implemented the water business, my team and I spent a day in the school teaching the children songs about clean water to help them remember healthy drinking practices. I distinctly remember a group of about thirty children singing and dancing excitedly about their water. One of the kids came up to me while we were all singing the clean water song and told me that he used to have headaches every day, but after drinking the clean water for a few days he felt so much better and was thrilled to have energy to run around play soccer with his friends. This was one of the most influential moments of my trip, as it was a direct and concrete example of the benefits that the clean water system will bring to the community.

 
My biggest take away from being a Field Rep is the power of little changes to bring significant impact. Before traveling to Ghana, the thought of bringing a water business to an entire community seemed quite daunting, however as a Field Rep, I learned that the procedure is really simple and with attention to education and prompting clean habitats my teammates and I were able to create a system that the community ran completely independently and were proud of. When I left Ghana after the program, the women in charge of the business were excited to develop the system and I knew that they would do a tremendous job building a sustainable source of clean drinking water for their community.

 
My time with Saha has encouraged me to study the connection between human health and the environment. I am particularly interested in bacteria and what environmental factors lead to the proliferation of bacterial diseases that pose a significant public health risk to developing countries.  Saha gave me great experience in the field and has left my very excited to learn more about the prevention of waterborne diseases. I graduate from college in May 2015 and look forward to pursuing a doctorate degree in microbiology and environmental toxicology. Hopefully, this educational path will bring me back to countries like Ghana, where I can further study environmental health.

 
I have enjoyed staying in contact with Field Reps from my trip and my translators as well. There is an active facebook group where the Saha team and past field reps post about exciting things going on within the Saha network. It is great to stay connected with the incredible and inspiring group of global leaders as they go out and do interesting things around the world.

 

Want to learn more about Caroline’s experience or have any specific questions? Caroline would be happy to tell you more and can be contacted at ccollin1@conncoll.edu Also check up to see what Caroline is doing here!

Meet Our Field Reps: Iyi Okunlola

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Hello.  My name is Iyioluwa Okunlola, or Iyi (pronounced ‘E-Yee’) for short.  “Iyioluwa“ in Yoruba, a West African dialect and ethnic group, translates to “the honor of the Lord of the Universe”, and I try to live up to such a unique name that is frequently mispronounced, and thought to be of Hawaiian descent.  I am a 22-year-old North Jersey native who graduated from St. Lawrence University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Conservation Biology in May 2014.

Three factors really drew me to the Saha Global Field Rep opportunity.  Firstly I am of Nigerian descent, and I really have a passion for West African culture, and its well being.  One year prior to partaking in the Saha Global Leadership Program, during a holiday break from college I had the opportunity to travel back to Nigeria with family, which was a very humbling yet a irrevocable and memorable experience for me.  Finally, prior to working with Saha Global I thought I wanted to be a Physical Therapist, but after these life-changing experiences and my general passion for ecology and the natural world, I decided to pursue a degree in Conservation Biology with the intent of learning and focusing a career devoted to international development and mitigating environmental issues, which are often cruxes to developing countries.

My biggest memory from Ghana and the Saha Global Leadership Program would definitely be the camaraderie I was able to build with the village, Tohinayilli, and the Saha Global translators and staff.  When I asked TJ, a Ghanaian translator for Saha Global, what he liked most about his country, he told me “Ghana is Freedom and Peace”.  That really resonated with me.  For this reason I would say the biggest takeaway from this program would be the opportunity to work with like-minded individuals from all over the world.

The Saha Global Leadership Program has helped me develop skills such as research, fieldwork, water quality analysis, community outreach, teamwork, and donation soliciting, which are important for professionalism and my desired career path.  I was able to spend the summer of 2013 up at St. Lawrence doing a research fellowship with a professor based upon research I collected from my experience with Saha Global.  As a result of my favorable time with Saha Global, I hope to combine a graduate degree with Peace Corps through a Master’s International program in the near future.   As for now, I am happy to announce that I will be a tutor as part of the Great Oaks Charter School Urban Tutor Fellowship in Newark, New Jersey for the 2014-2015 school year.  Take a chance to get out of your comfort zone with Saha Global, and I am sure you will have an experience you will remember quite fondly!

Meet Our Field Reps: Camille Conner

Camille_Conner_Field_Rep_PhotoMy name is Camille and I was a Saha Global Field Rep in June of 2014. I’m 19 years old, but I spent 13 of those years living and studying outside of the US, where I was born. After coming back to the States to study biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, I was itching to get back into international work. I found Saha Global through the Engineers Without Borders club at my school and instantly agreed with their commitment to sustainability and women’s empowerment. The Saha Global Leadership Program encompassed so many things that are so important to me such as health education, water crisis awareness, and cultural exploration.

Through attending this program, I learned about the culture and people of Ghana as a resident as opposed to simply as a tourist. I worked in the village of Sabonjida for three weeks while living in a compound in the town of Salaga with seven other field reps and our leader. Shopping for groceries in the local market and spending long days by the shore of Lake Volta gave me a true understanding of how my colleagues in the village live. I can already tell that the skills I acquired while working in the Saha Global Leadership Program will be invaluable to me in the future: tolerance, public speaking, stamina, and culinary creativity are just a few.

I remember being shocked at first by our drastic cultural differences, but soon overcoming them to bond deeply with the women that we worked with. My favorite memory from the trip was when we were collecting the water for our first round of treatment at the center. My Saha Global team and I struggled carrying small buckets of water while the village entrepreneurs, Mary, Florence, Elizabeth, and Mercy, carried large tubs of on their heads without breaking a sweat. Though we could not speak the same language, the eight of us had the best time as the field reps attempted to keep up with the women we were supposed to be training. Since returning home, it has been comforting to be able to keep updated on the successes of the entrepreneurs in Sabonjida. This experience further intensified my interest in international development work and I look forward to following, and hopefully being involved in, future Saha Global projects.

Want to learn more about Camille’s experience or have any specific questions? Camille would love to tell you more! Feel free to email her at clconner@usc.edu Also take a look at what she’s up to now!

Meet Our Field Reps: Lucas Hilsbos

Lucas_Hilsbos_Field_Rep_PhotoMy name is Lucas Hilsbos. I am a 21 year old senior at West Virginia University studying Geography and Economics. I was born and raised not far from my school, in the beautiful West Virginia hills. From these hills, I have traveled to Ghana as a Saha Global field representative the past two summers. Last summer I worked on the implementation of a community based water treatment center, and more recently I had the opportunity to be a part of the first team of field representatives to implement a solar charging center.

Amid all the fun and excitement of the last two summers, there are some things that stick out. There are key moments where I learned something important about myself or the people I was working with. I’ve spent a lot of time considering how the lessons of my time as a Saha field representative will be applied in my future. Most prominent among them is one simple piece of advice: Do something that you love – that has you excited to wake up in the morning. People are capable of incredible things when they are passionate. That knowledge may not qualify as a marketable skill or belong on a resume, but I think it has enormous value.

Lately, my studies have led me to an interest in food security and agriculture. My future work in that field may closely parallel my experience with Saha Global.  I want to work with communities to solve the problems that are most important to them and I think my time in Ghana laid an important foundation for that goal. The cooperative nature of the work I did as field representative is what I will remember the most as the years go by. This was clear to me on the charging center’s opening night, when the whole village came together with drumming, dancing, and a lot of laughs. All of that enthusiasm is why I know the solar center in Yapalsi will be successful – and the people of the village were just as big a part of that as we were. We had to work together to achieve that kind environment.  That night was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life thus far and will truly never forget it.

It is hard for me to tell where I will end up in the next few years, but wherever I am, I’ll be talking to people about the opportunities that I’ve had with Saha Global and why they have had such a profound effect on what I want for myself and for others.

Want to learn more about Lucas’ experience or have any specific questions? Lucas would love to tell you more! Feel free to email him at lucashilsbos@gmail.com

Meet Our Field Reps: Sarah Pemberton

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After hearing about the Saha Global Leadership Program (SGLP) from a recent alumna, I was captivated by Saha’s seemingly simple solution to fundamentally better hundreds of lives.  I committed to volunteering when I learnt that Saha goes beyond just providing safe drinking water: it does so in a way that makes economic sense for the women that run them and supports the broader community by using local products.

My three weeks in Ghana were filled with experiences ranging from meeting every family in Tindan (the village that I was working in), to evenings relaxing with other volunteers who had traveled from around the world to similarly devote their time to helping others access clean drinking water. In particular, I fondly remember the day the water purification centre in Tindan opened for business: the village leaders led a prayer while solemnly taking the first sips of the Tindan’s drinking water, the village women queued up in the early hours of the morning to collect their first buckets, the village’s children eagerly followed us around trying to peer inside the containers and fascinated by how the water became clear…  Since coming home from Ghana, I have continued to monitor Tindan’s monthly reports via Saha’s Facebook page, excited to hear about the successes of the women entrepreneurs who safeguard the centre.

My biggest takeaway from the Saha’s Global Leadership Program was an impact-driven way of thinking about time: the experience of providing safe drinking water to hundreds of people in just three weeks incentives me to devote my time to causes that can create meaningful and measurable impact in peoples’ lives.  This mentality helped frame my thinking of future careers, prompting me to devote my time to similarly impact-driven organizations like Grameen Bank’s Bankers Without Borders and the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, which both focus on the role of private sectors’ skills and services in providing opportunities and connecting the poor to their potential.  Now, I am in my final year at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where I will graduate in 2015 majoring in Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA).

Want to learn more about Sarah’s experience or have any specific questions? Sarah would love to tell you more! Feel free to email her at pemberton.sj@gmail.com Also take a look at what she’s up to now!

Meet Our Field Reps: Janna San Jaun

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy name is Janna San Juan. During the Winter Program 2012, I was a 21-year-old student studying environmental engineering at Georgia Tech. Initially, when I applied to the Program, I wanted to be a Saha Global Field Rep because I wanted to experience first-hand the water crisis in Africa. The idea of going to that exotic continent excited me, even though I was almost scared to go; how many people are willing to travel to a place where it’s possible get malaria or be bitten by some strange insect? (In case you are wondering, this was easier to avoid than I thought.) By the end of the program, not only did I gain field experience with water treatment, I came back home with more friends, memories of playing games with the village children, unforgettable stories, and a great increase in confidence in what I wanted to do with my life.
Friends and family members gave many “oohs” and “ahhs” for how I was sacrificing my time, but this trip gave me more than I could have imagined. It gave me the Big Picture. It’s easy to get tied up in studying the calculations and intricacies in water treatment solutions in developed countries. With the simplicity of Saha’s treatment process, it was easy to understand the purpose of each step. Layering what I learned in my studies on top of what I learned about the treatment implemented in the Saha villages helped with understanding my schoolwork. Having this stronger foundation in the basic concepts overflowed into how I now contribute to my professional work. I now work for a drinking water treatment supplier/manufacturer near Atlanta, GA. It was my first choice of employment, and I have trouble imagining obtaining this job without having had such a fantastic learning experience with Saha.
A couple other ways the Program continues to live on in my life: I have stayed involved by participating in a competition hosted by Saha in 2012, and I have also kept in touch with friends who were either on the same Program or on a later one. My time in Ghana was less than a month, but it continues to be a positive influence on me years after my experience with Saha.

Want to learn more about Janna’s experience or have any specific questions? Janna would love to tell you more! Feel free to email her at janna.sanjuan@gmail.com Also check out what she’s up to now!

Meet Our Field Reps: Zander Rounds

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My name is Zander Rounds, I’m from Boston and I participated in the winter 2011-2012 Saha Global Leadership Program. I just recently graduated from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service with an international politics major. A couple years ago, having studied models of international development from a theoretical perspective, I was drawn to Saha Global. Their leadership program seemed like an ideal way to gain on-the-ground field experience and perhaps put what I had been studying into practice. To be quite honest, I also entertained a vague notion that I wanted to “help people” but did not quite understand what that meant.
My time with Saha Global exceeded my expectations, challenging my assumptions about the role I can play as a privileged outsider. In a word, I learned that, though I went to Ghana thinking that I was going to “develop” others, it was in fact I who was “developed”—by the superstar local staff and the energetic villagers of the village that I worked in. With the help of these wonderful people, I developed a more critical and nuanced understanding of the challenges and benefits of doing international development work.
In a sector of society that, in my opinion, is filled with people who with the best of intentions go out into the world to help only to inadvertently cause harm, Saha Global seems to do things right. I was so excited about the Saha model that I spent the following summer working as an intern in their US office, during which time I gained valuable insight into the inner workings of a dynamic and growing social business. Soon, I am off to China. I was awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct research on Chinese-African relations, an issue that I actually became aware while I was a Saha Field Rep. I am grateful for the knowledge and skills I gained through working with Saha Global and excited to take them with me on my newest adventure.

Want to learn more about Zander’s experience or have any specific questions? Zander would love to tell you more! Feel free to email him at zanderrounds33@yahoo.com Also check out what he’s up to now!