Free Water for the Schools

Being greeted by some students at the Gbong school

Recently, CWS decided to provide free safe storage containers and free water to the schools in our villages.  Safe drinking water is so important, and we wanted to be sure that the children had access to clean water throughout the day. We also hope that by teaching the kids at the school about the importance of safe water and safe storage, that they will pass on the lessons to their parents and siblings at home. Here are some pictures from our water lessons in the Gbong school yesterday:

Shak explaining the safe storage container to students in Gbong
students in Gbong
New signboard at Gbong. Thank you iContact!

I took these next pictures in the lab last weekend and just had to share them with everyone. First, we have a water sample from the Gbong dugout:

Before: water from the Gbong Dugout

And here is a sample of water from someone in Gbong’s  safe storage container:

After - sample from one of the safe storage containers at Gbong
After: Water from a safe storage container in Gbong

Quite a difference huh? Remember, the “after” water originally came from the dugout – 24 hours later + alum and chlorine and it safe to drink. Pretty awesome!

And on a completely un-related note, I just finished the book Born to Run By Christopher McDougall, which combined both of my favorite pastimes in Ghana: reading and running. I was inspired to snap a few pics during one of evening runs:

After reading Born to Run I was tempted to try running barefoot! But then I chickened out and laced up these bad boys:

Tamale may not be as hilly as the Cooper Canyons in Mexico, but I still think the Tarahumara would be impressed by the Terrain:

(I love how the blurry iPhone photo makes it seem like I was running super fast!)

Meet Raffie

Meet Raffie, CWS’ new guard-puppy. Raffie used to belong to Shak, but his house is not surrounded by a fence and he was worried that Raffie would get hit by a car (her brother died this way a few months ago). The CWS office has a big yard and is fenced-in by a big cement wall – the perfect place for Raffie!

Raffie enjoys:

Rolling around in the grass

KenKey and Fish

Wachee (rice and beans) – but only if it comes from a street vendor and is covered in grease (my steamed white rice and canned beans did NOT go over well).

Biting ankles

Getting her belly rubbed

Jumping up on people

Raffie does not enjoy

Dog food

World Water Day!

Yesterday was World Water Day, and we made sure to celebrate this special day with our entire CWS Family here in Ghana!

We started our celebration bright and early by opening our fifth water business in Gbong! It was so much fun to open a CWS water business ON World Water Day, even though most of the people in Gbong did not understand what we were talking about when Shak and I kept cheering for WWD! We had an amazing turnout, with 94% of the village showing up to buy water. Fati and Amina, the CWS ladies in Gbong did a great job selling and treating the water! Here are some pics from the morning:

Shak recording which households came to buy water

Selling water on World Water Day at Gbong
Safe storage container filled with safe drinking water!

The one hiccup was a few dozen leaky taps – but Shak and I were able to fix them all by the end of the morning.  Thank you iContact for sponsoring the water business at Gbong!

Later that afternoon, we had a party for the entire CWS family here at the office. Shak and I cooked (well, I chopped veggies while Shak cooked!) while Peter went to pick up everyone. Everyone except Fati from Kasaligu was able to make it to the party. The ladies were a little shy at first, but once they got to know each other, they started to share stories and offer each other advice. It was such a great experience. For example, the ladies in Cheko mentioned that some people in their village don’t like the smell of chlorine in the water. Alhassan, from Jarigu, explained to them that the chlorine was the most important step in the water treatment center, and that in a few weeks, people won’t even notice the smell. He went on to explain his experience in Jarigu, and how the chlorine smell is the smell of “clean water” so of course it is going to smell different than the “dirty water” from the dugout. This entire conversation happened while I was in the kitchen helping Shak, and when I came back, Soufoo (who can speak a little english) told me about it. I was thrilled! We missed you Mike, Chuck, Vanessa and Peter A!

World Water Day Celebration!

Of course we had to serve water from a CWS Safe Storage Container!

Everyone was dressed to the nines! (sorry that the picture is blurry!)

Setting up Shop in Gbong

While Peter has been hard at work in Cheko, Shak and I have been working to set up a water business in Gbong. Gbong is a large village (about 800 people) located about 40 minutes south of Tamale on the Salaga road.

boys "doing laundry" at the Gbong dugout

As I mentioned in a previous post, our meeting with the Gbong elders a few weeks ago was one of the most formal village meetings that I have had in a while, and that formal trend has definitely continued.  For example, in most of our other villages, we will meet with the chief of the village a few times at the beginning of the implementation process, but once he gives us his blessing to work in the village we are pretty much given free range. We can come and go as we please and concentrate on getting our work done. In Gbong, however, we have to greet the chief every time we come to the village and say goodbye to him each time we leave. While this may not seem like a big deal, the time spent traveling to the chief’s palace (which is in the opposite direction of the dugout), then greeting/saying goodbye, definitely adds up. Many times we will also have to stop and greet another elder (who sits by the side of the road all day long). The formal-nature of this village also slows down their decision-making process quite a bit, which in turn slows down our implementation process. We had our initial meeting with the Gbong elders the same days as the Cheko elders, but we probably won’t open the water business in Gbong until Monday,over a week after the business in Cheko opened!

Even though all the greeting and good-bying adds time to our day, I do enjoy getting to know the chief of Gbong. He can speak english very well, which is really fun for me! The village has been very receptive to our team and seems really excited about their water treatment center. We are planning to open the center tomorrow, on World Water Day, and I’ll make sure to capture it all on film. Later that day, we are planning a party at the CWS office for the women working at all 5 of our water treatment businesses. It will be the first time that they all meet  each and we can’t wait! What a great way to celebrate World Water Day!

Here are some pictures from the past two weeks at Gbong:

Putting our truck to good use- building the polytank stand in Gbong!
Fati and Amina cleaning out the blue tubs and then filling them with dugout water
First day of water treatment training with Fati and Amina: Amina treating the dugout water with alum.
Day 2 of water treament training: Fati and Amina scooping the water (now clear from the alum) into the polytank where it will be disenfected using chlorine
Distributing safe storage containers. Peter came to help out me and Shak since Gbong is so big (almost 90 families!)

The water treatment center at Gbong is sponsored by iContact. Thank you iContact for helping us to provide a safe drinking water for over 800 people! Your contribution has really changed the lives of the people in Gbong!

Opening Day at Cheko

Today was opening day at Cheko and it was a great success – 80% of the village showed up to buy water! Out of the 7 households that did not come this morning, 2 of them are Fulani families. The Fulanis are a nomadic ethic group in the Northern Region of Ghana that move from village to village and takes care of cattle. Fulanis usually do not stay in a village for more than a year, but we always make sure that the Fulanis that are around get safe storage containers and have access to the water treatment center. We’re guessing the two Fulani families that did not come this morning were probably out in the bush with their cattle.

This week Peter will conduct household visits in Cheko. He will take water samples so we can make sure that our safe storage containers are doing their job of preventing the water from being re-contaminated in the home. During these visits, Peter will also chat with members of the community to see what they think of the water, the water business, and CWS in general. He’s going to be on the look-out for the 5 remaining households that did not buy water this morning and see if he can figure out why. I’ll keep you posted on his findings!

Unfortunately, I forgot to give Peter my camera this morning so we don’t have any pics from opening day. I’ll make sure that he has it the next time the water business is open so we can post some good pictures!


Both Cheko and Gbong, the two prospective villages that I blogged about last week, have not only agreed to work with us, but have been VERY excited about their water treatment centers! The entire CWS team has been very busy this week getting things set up in both locations and we are hoping to have both water businesses up and running early next week. I’ve decided to dedicate this post to the village of Cheko and will update everyone on Gbong this weekend.

Cheko is a small village of about 34 households (approximately 300 people) located about 35 minutes outside of Tamale and right next door to Jarigu (another CWS village). Like most other CWS villages, the only source of water in Cheko is shallow, stagnant pond (also called a “dugout” or “dam”) that fills with water during the rainy season.

Children collecting water from the Cheko dugout

Our Project Manager, Peter, has been in charge of implementing the water treatment center in Cheko and he has been doing a great job! Last week, he worked with our friend Soufoo from Nyamaliga (who is a mason) and some men from the village to build the stand for the polytank.

Soufoo hard at work

Over the past few days, Peter has been working with the “woman organizer”, Samata, in Cheko to select the two women who will be working at the center. They decided on two hard-working, dedicated ladies names Kukuna and Abiba. This morning, he had his first training session with these women. First, they collected the contaminated water from the dugout, and transported it to the water treatment center.

Transporting dugout water to the water treatment center. All the women from the village help the CWS ladies with this task.

Next, Peter showed them how to use alum – a locally available flocculant, to remove the particles from the water and reduce the turbidity. Tomorrow morning, Peter will return for the second training session with the women!

Samata and Kukuna treating the water with alum while Tuu-naa, the dam guard, looks on
Proud residents of Cheko by the water treatment center: Samata (the woman organizer), Kambona, and Dagbambina (two village elders).

In addition to running the water treatment center, Peter has been busy distributing safe storage containers to each family in Cheko. Tonight he told me that the water treatment center was the talk of the town! Many families had already heard about the safe storage buckets before he visited their houses and many of the women said that “their husbands have been telling them about the water business all week.” Peter also said that many children from Cheko followed him around all evening begging him to go to their houses next. He thought it was funny and promised them that he would get to every house eventually. The hardest part of his day? Explaining the safe storage containers, and the importance of safe drinking water to a “deaf and dumb elderly man who lives alone.” I really enjoyed listening to Peter explain how he overcame this challenge – its so rewarding to see how much he has learned in his year with CWS. Peter plans to finish up the distribution tomorrow and open the water treatment business on Monday!

CWS Project Manager, Peter, at the Cheko water treatment center after a long days work

The water treatment center at Cheko is sponsored by a good friend of  the CWS team who wishes to remain anonymous. We will be sending this sponsor frequent updates on the progress at Cheko, complete with pictures and videos from the water treatment center! If you are interested in sponsoring a village, please visit our website:

Thank you Village Sponsor for bringing us clean water!

Good News! You have 5 more days to submit your application to the CWS Fellowship Program!

Good News!  The deadline for applications to the Community Water Solutions Summer Fellowship has just been extended to MONDAY, MARCH 15th at 5pm EST. While this is the FINAL deadline for the applications, you may receive a further extension for your letter of recommendation if needed. Please contact, if you need more time for your recommendation.

What IS the Community Water Solutions Fellowship?

The CWS Fellowship Program is a three-week water education and leadership training experience in Northern Region Ghana. The purpose of the fellowship is to teach individuals about the global water crisis, and inspire them to become leaders in the field of international development.

Fellows are grouped in teams of four and paired with a rural community in Northern Region Ghana. Each team works together to raise the $10,000/team ($2,500/person) fellowship fee before traveling to Africa. During this fundraising period, CWS will provide you with promotional materials, event ideas, a fundraising website and fundraising guidance to ensure that your team is able to raise the money needed for the trip.

On the ground, teams will spend the first week visiting CWS’s current sites where they will learn about the CWS water treatment methods and how to perform water quality tests. They then spend two weeks in the field implementing and monitoring a CWS water business in their partner village.

Learn more about the program and download the application at

When will Fellows be Selected?

Although the application deadline has been extended, the final selection date has not changed. Applicants will be notified about the interview round on March 20th and the Fellows will be announced on April 1st.

Please contact if you have any questions!

Damba Festival

Shak, Me, and Peter all dressed up for the Damba Festival

This Friday was the Damba Festival in Tamale. According to Peter and Shak, during this festival “all of the sub-cheifs from the villages around Tamale march into town and then dance outside the central chief’s palace.” I tried to find another description of the festival online but didn’t really have any luck. According to

The significance of the festival is to commemorate the birthday of the Holy Prophet of Islam. Activities includes prayers and fasting and procession of people on horseback, amidst drumming and dancing.

Originally linked with Islam to mark the birth of Mohammed, the festival has gradually taken on a traditional rather than Islamic tone. The 2-day festival is full of pageantry and showmanship and is celebrated in the towns of Dagbon, Gonjaland, Mamprusiland and Nanumbaland

I didn’t see any more praying then was usual for a Friday, but there was a lot of drumming, dancing, firing gunpowder, and horses. I can’t figure out how to upload the videos that I took – anyone have any suggestions? For now, here are some pictures

crowded streets - everyone marching to the Tamale Chief's Palace

The Community Water Solutions House/Office

Here are the pics of the house that I promised!

The house
My Room (before)
My Room (after)
My Room (after)
Living room/office (before)
Living Room/Office (after) - still waiting on big dining table
Living room/office (after)
Hallway (before) - the first door on the right is the store room, the next door on the right is the lab, the door at the end of the hall is the kitchen
Hallway (after) - taken from the kitchen, the door at the end is to the living room/office
Kitchen (before)
kitchen (after)
Lab (before)
Lab (after)
Lab (after)