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From Field Rep to Full-Time Staff

Two leadership programs down and two weeks of monitoring under the belt – wow, life in Tamale is different when there aren’t 60 salamingas running around town. As I settle into this new lifestyle, I am starting to reflect on the differences of being a Field Rep and working as a staff member in Ghana.

As a field rep, my mind was set on the end goal of beginning a water treatment business in Sagbarigu. There were definitely problems along the way, but we were able to find quick and easy solutions to each problem we faced. We left in June 2014 confident that the skill sets we gave the women entrepreneurs were enough to keep the business running.

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Now I am back two years later as a full-time staff member. Yes, Sagbarigu’s water treatment business is still running well. But, I have already learned in my short time here that there are many gray areas to the success of these businesses. It’s not just about the incredible team that implemented these businesses. It’s also about the incredible staff members that work hard to monitor in these communities. Every day, we visit 3 communities to check on the center, sales, successes and challenges of the water and solar businesses. I am learning quickly that each business has its unique challenges that I could not have imagined as a field rep. As I sit in the solar center of Chandanyili with Wahab and the 4 women entrepreneurs talking about money management, I can see a concrete difference in the way I solved problems as a field rep and the way I solve problems now.

Instead of wondering, what can be done right now to solve this problem, I ask myself: What is better for the sustainability of this project? Should we use the easy solution to get the center back up and running now? Or talk with the women, encourage them to hold a community meeting, and let us know their final decision on sales? Do we lead these business owners towards the answer we want to hear or do we let them find solutions to their problems that best fit their community? Will their answer end up being the same as ours?


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I may not know the answers to all of these questions now, as they are sure to be different with each unique situation, but I have learned so much already from Eric, Wahab, Amin, Peter and Shak. Eda and I continue to be thankful for their patience, willingness to answer any [silly] question, and the constant laughter (usually relating to our most recent marriage proposals). We’re excited to see what this year has in store for us!

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Voices from the Field: Team Sharifa

“Despa! Despa!” The children shouted, running after our car as we drove up. Today was our sixth day working in Sagbarigu; we finished construction of the solar charging center, held our community meeting, and installed the solar panels.

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The community we’re working in is very small, located about an hour outside of Tamale. They already have a Saha water business, and the owner, Sanatu, has been taking good care of things for the past year and a half.

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The initial chief meeting went well, so we started building on Monday. Most of the women in the community were traveling for the first few days, so we didn’t have a chance to meet with the whole community until today.

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We started off by going over the details of the business model, making sure to emphasize that the entrepreneurs are the owners, not Saha Global. Then we passed around a lantern and showed them its functionality, explaining the procedure for renting batteries and charging cell phones at the center. They had mentioned getting a television yesterday, so we mentioned that the charging center is expressly not for large electronics.

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Near the end of the meeting, we opened the floor for questions. They asked how much everything would cost, whether they could buy extra lanterns, and when opening night would be. We told them that prices were up to the women running the business, but that they could buy extra lanterns from them later on if they needed to, and that we are scheduled to open next Wednesday!

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-Sarah, Sienna, Ali, Michelle and Sharifa

Introducing Saha’s Operations Coordinator Eda & Programming Coordinator Katie

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From left to right- Shak, Eda, Hailey, Victoria & Jacob, Eda’s team members during her time on the Global Leadership Program in the Summer of 2013.

First up, Eda Reed. Take it away…

Ghana, it’s been too long – but I’m coming back! Nicaragua, same goes for you! This June will be three years since my time as a field rep in the village of Vogyili, and I am more than excited to get back to Ghana and explore Nicaragua as the new Operations Coordinator!

In May, I’ll graduate from Colby College with a bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental science, with a concentration in the environment and human health. I’m passionate about the health of humans, wildlife, and the environment, and how they interact (aka One Health). I believe that we need to focus on all three of these stakeholders in order to make improved global health a reality, and that’s why I love Saha Global’s model! The clean water and solar energy businesses focus on solutions to improving human health that are local, sustainable, and ultimately beneficial for more than just the immediate village impacted. My time in Ghana was the “aha” moment that sparked my passion, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to go back!

Me with Mary & Fusiena
Eda with Vogyili’s water entrepreneurs Mary and Fusiena

I think there’s great potential for Saha’s expansion to Nicaragua, and I can’t wait to find Saha’s niche. I spent a few weeks near Managua in the west of Nicaragua in 2014 teaching environmental science and implementing environmental health projects. Everyone I worked with there were as welcoming and friendly as Fuseina and Mary from Vogyili, the two women managing the clean water business I helped set up. I’m convinced the northeastern region of Nicaragua will be no different! It will be challenging to find what pieces of the Saha model work or don’t work in a new country, but I’m confident Katie and I have what it takes! I can’t wait until we begin our new adventures in Ghana and Nicaragua.

-Eda

And now we will hear from Katie Spruill. (And yes we know this makes a Kate, Kathryn and now a Katie on the Saha Team). Katie will be helping us lead this Winter’s Program as well! Without further ado…

I am excited to be Saha’s Programming Coordinator  beginning in June 2016! Since

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Katie & Mariam

participating in the Leadership Program in May of 2014, I have wanted to be a part of the Saha team. I graduate from Virginia Tech (Go Hokies!!) in May of 2016 with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Systems Engineering and a Green Engineering minor. I have always been interested in international development and from the moment I learned about Saha Global’s leadership program, I knew I needed to apply.

Ana, Katie, Nestor, Alex, and Nicole (From left to right) on their final day in Sagbarigu.
Ana, Katie, Nestor, Alex, and Nicole (From left to right) on their final day in Sagbarigu.

In my first few days in Ghana, as a Field Rep, I experienced a roller coaster of emotions. I was very excited to be involved in helping so many people. At the same time, however, it was heart breaking to see these beautiful kids drinking contaminated water. Working with the women entrepreneurs, to build the water treatment center, was an incredible experience. We didn’t speak the same language, but I could immediately sense their enthusiasm for the project and their sense of community during our many meetings with the village. I will always remember Sanatu, one of the women entrepreneurs,  grabbing my hands on our last day and asking me to never forget her.  Forgetting her was never an option, she had made a bigger impact on my life than I could ever have made on her life.

Needless to say, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to serve as Saha’s programming coordinator.  I am ecstatic to get back to Ghana and I cannot wait to start our work in Nicaragua!

-Katie

Voices from the Field: Team Nestor!

Our first visit to the village was more successful than we thought it would be! We thought that we would have the chief meeting and it wold be more business-like and they would tell us that they wold think about working with us. To our surprise, after the elders of Sagbarigu and some of the women warmed up to us, it felt more like a gathering – hanging out with old friends!

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Katie gets handed off a baby! He looks a little unsure about the whole thing!

During the meeting, the elders continually told us how excited they were! They decided that they wanted to talk to their village and gather questions for the community meeting the next day.

Ana gets a baby on her back!
Ana gets a baby on her back!

Following the meeting, a woman led us to their stream while a bunch of kids followed behind. This stream is where the village is currently fetching their drinking water. We quickly collected samples of water from the stream and then got to see the village’s borehole that produces salty, undrinkable water. The remainder of our time in the village was spent getting to know the villagers. Nestor, our translator, brought his drum and we had a lot of fun taking pictures and dancing with the women and children! The kids really enjoyed having their pictures taken and Ana even got to back a baby!

– Team Nestor

(Alex, Katie, Ana and Nicole)

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After a the chief meeting, Nestor starts up a beat on his drum for a dance party!
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To no surprise, Nestor jumps in the middle to break it down