If you have been reading our “voices from the field” series, than you have gotten a small glimpse of the everyday work that our 2011 Winter Fellows completed during their time here in Ghana. You’ve seen how they built polytank stands, danced with the children in their villages, distributed safe storage containers, held village meetings, performed water quality testing in the lab, trained local women how to make water from their local sources safe to drink, and even sampled some traditional Ghanaian food!
The day-to-day work is fun, but sometimes slow; exciting, but often exhausting, and sometimes, its easy to get lost in all of the small details of the project. Looking back over the past 5 weeks, the bottom line is this: the 2011 Winter Fellows provided permanent sources of safe drinking water for over 4,200 people! That is pretty amazing!
Of course none of the Fellows’ work could have been possible without your support! We’d like to thank all of the parents, teachers, friends, neighbors, churches, community groups, local businesses and everyone else who supported the 2011 Winter Fellows – without all of you, the fellowship teams could not have made such an amazing impact during their time in Ghana! THANK YOU!
This afternoon, Shak, Peter, TJ, Wahab and I (Kate), said farewell to the Session 2 Fellows, who are off to spend some time exploring the Ghanaian coast before heading back home. Tamale seems very quiet with all of our winter fellows – we already miss you guys!
For their farewell dinner, our whole group headed to one of our favorite spots in Tamale, Luxury where we enjoyed pizza, mac and cheese, and calabashes of”pinto” (home-brewed beer provided by Shak)! We had a great time reflecting on the entire Fellowship Program.
Sarah, Pranav, Lina, Karla, Annie, Hannah, Sanita, Fabiola, Rachel, Sam, Shalyn, and Eleanor – We have had such a wonderful time working with you in Ghana this winter. Our team was constantly impressed by your determination, perseverance, passion and pluck! Your cheerful presence alone has already changed the lives of the hundreds of people in your villages – the clean water that you have provided makes your impact even greater. I particularly enjoyed your insight during our daily debriefs and based on those conversations, I know that each and every one of you will do some pretty amazing things in the years the come!
Saturday was the big day for Team 7! We finally opened our CWS water treatment center in Chongashe! The other two teams opened yesterday so we were anxious to finally see ours in action and it was a HUGE SUCCESS!!! Every household in the village eventually came to collect water.
We set our alarms for 5:30AM so that we could get to our village, which is almost two hours away, in time for early morning water collection. We think that it was the first time this whole month that we’ve actually left on time – “Ghanaian time” is usually at least half an hour behind schedule. We were on the road before 6 AM even though Rachel slept through her alarm and Sanita had to wake her up…
After days of dreaming about it, we finally stopped at a food stand for egg-bread sandwiches to get a protein boost before the big morning!
We arrived in Chongashe and greeted our welcoming committee, AKA a group of 50 children who swarm our truck jumping and clapping whenever we drive in. People brought out drums and we all headed towards the center, the truck loaded with kids and buckets to be filled with water.
Once we got to the center, we still needed to scoop some water from the blue drums and add Aquatabs to the polytank so that we would have as much clean water as possible. Mata and Wasseela, the two women who we had trained to run the center, handled the process as if they had been running it for years. After emptying the blue drums they filled them up immediately and were quick to stir in the alum too. It was great to see that our training sessions were so effective!
While we waited for the chlorine in the Aquatabs to kick in, the crowd of women holding their new safe storage containers grew and grew! TJ entertained everyone with his awesome drumming, and the music led to a big dance party giving us a taste of traditional dancing!
By the time the center was ready to open, there were already forty buckets ready to be filled. We were so excited by the big turnout! Since we had distributed our safe storage containers in large groups, we were worried that our message hadn’t gotten across to everyone, so it was very encouraging when so many people in the community turned out over the next few hours. Many families even brought cups to wash out so that they would have designated drinking cups that wouldn’t re-contaminate their new clean water.
The long line of buckets got hectic at times, but we reassured the ladies that it wouldn’t always be so crazy. There was also some confusion about which bucket was whose and a few problems with leaky buckets, but it all got sorted out in the end. Within a few hours all of the buckets were filled and we were proud that all of our hard work setting up the water treatment center paid off!
The next day we had a day off, so Rachel, Sanita and Eleanor went with TJ and Wahab to the Kintampo Falls for a relaxing and awesome morning.
Then we hurried back to Tamale to finally catch a soccer game in the Stadium. We’ve been waiting all session to see a game there – and even though it took us until half time to figure out which team was Tamale, we were still pumped about the experience.
Tyte Tyte Tyte: The Adventures of Team 5 in Zanzugu
Our day in Zanzugu began with twenty dust-covered kids piling into the back of the jeep to help bring bags of cement and concrete blocks to the dugout for the Polytank stand. We got down and dirty with the kids and mixed cement with our hands, guided by our expert mason, translator, driver, food connoisseur, mechanic, and Ghana’s number one freestyle rapper, Shak. After a long day of work, we were glad to see the first step of our project come to life.
The next day, we mixed gravel, sand, and cement to fill in the Polytank stand. Sarah got to try her hand at off-road trucking and successfully made it back in one piece, much to our relief. In true Ghanaian fashion, Lina and Pranav carried buckets full of dirt on their heads.
After we finished the final layer of plaster, we all wrote our names in the wet cement, officially making our mark in Ghana.
While Pranav was off playing with the boys, the ladies got to spend some quality time with Fati and Hazara, the two women chosen to run the treatment center. We rolled alum balls together and swirled them in the blue drums full of dugout water. Aluminum sulfide is a coagulant that causes dirt particles in the turbid water to flock together and sink to the bottom. Finding the right balance of alum is important because too much can lead to sickness and not enough will leave the water turbid – it’s a learning process for all of us. Fati and Hazara scooped the clear water into the Polytank and added Aquatabs (chlorine in tablet form) to rid the water of E. Coli and other microbes. We then taught Fati and Hazara how to set aside the correct amount of money to purchase more Aquatabs and alum in order to maintain a self-sustaining business.
The last and most hectic step before opening day was distributing the safe storage containers. Initially, we didn’t think distribution would be difficult, but with nearly fifty households in the village, it proved to be a daunting task. At first, we went household-to-household and talked to people individually, which worked well because we had two translators with us. The next day, while we were assembling the containers, villagers formed a crowd around us so we experimented with a new approach. We trained villagers in small groups at the center of the village, speeding up the process but adding an element of chaos. This new method put our management skills to the test, but once we got ourselves organized the rest of the training went smoothly.
Overall, we had few setbacks but recently two of our members fell victim to Fufu-itis. Even though Pranav and Sarah have experienced fever, stomach cramps, dehydration, and light-headedness, they just can’t stop running.
But no worries, they are in the safe hands of Dr. Kate and a strong regimen of Cipro.
Our adventure begins…As we start construction of our water center, and all of our planning is becoming a reality, we are getting even more excited about our project. Our first meeting with village Gbashe did not go according to plan. We initially thought that they had six bio-sand filters for the entire village of approx. 85 households, which were provided by another non-profit, ensuring a CWS system was necessary. By the end of the visit we found out that they had six water filters for the chiefs palace alone!! Realizing they already had a great clean water system, we moved on to another village that had reached out to CWS a year ago – due to funding constraints, transportation, and distance this project had been put on hold. So we rose up to the challenge, with Peter (our translator), Small Boy (our fearless taxi driver), and Bone Shaker (our “trusty “station wagon). It wasn’t too long into the trip when we were blanketed in dirt, looking like we had just survived a spray tan catastrophe in a cheap Las Vegas salon.
Finally we arrived at Chanaayili, our new village and home for the next two weeks. We had a very successful meeting with the chief, who is da’ Bomb Diggity. He shared his wisdom with us…”When you have a load that is too heavy to carry by yourself, it is only with the help of others that you can finally lift the load.” With his wise words and welcoming attitude, we knew we had found the right village. We arranged a meeting with the entire village for 8am the next day, and with high spirits we headed back to Tamale.
The next day, after a 5am wake up and a successful meeting with the village elders, we headed to town to gather supplies (cement, sand, and 25 cinder blocks) to start construction. Only a few miles away from the village, we experienced our first “bump” in the road, with the truck’s shock system suddenly dropping off. The chief, made aware of our situation, sent a few motos to retrieve us from the bush. An unanticipated situation turned into an incredible bonding experience with our village. We…
• Played games with the kids, including drawing mustaches on them with charcoal and losing to them in foot races.
• Exchanged games and songs and made the kids giggle at our attempts at speaking Dagbani
• Practiced our corn grinding skills with the women
• Tried rubbing alcohol/ hand sanitizer, I mean “gin” packets
• Ate delicious yams and meat stew provided by the chief’s wife
• Witnessed the slaughtering of a goat to complete the funeral for the chief’s son
• Road motos to the nearest village, to get picked up by Shak!
After an epic day, we finally arrived home safely around 10pm, with our tribal faces still in tact.
The following day, we started construction of the stand for our water treatment center. Lots of men, from elders to kids, gathered to lend a hand and watch wide-eyed as we built to the beat of American pop songs. Wahab, our translator, entertainer, and building director, used calls to his forefathers to school us all in building and dancing. Over the next couple of days the construction will be finished and we are looking forward to finally providing clean water for Chanaayili. We are ready to embrace any future bumps in the road and any experiences that come along our way.
The Session 2 fellows started off their third day in Tamale with a great presentation by Foster Soley from unicef, who spoke about the work his organization is doing both here in Ghana and around the world. Foster is a WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) officer at unicef, who we have been working with in our unicef-cws partner villages in Central Gonja. His presentation was interesting and relevant, and the fellows asked some great questions!
After lunch, the teams headed out on their first trip to the field to visits some CWS sites! Team 5 went to went to Zanzugu and Gilanzegu; Team 6 checked out Chani and Nymaliga, while Team 7 when to Yipela and Nyanguripe. The fellows had a great time seeing our water treatment centers in person for the first time, and (as the pictures below show) seemed to assimilate with the villagers quite well!
The next day, the teams hit the the road bright and early so they could be at the villages in time to see people buying water. After an hour or so at the water treatment centers, they then performed random household visits where they could see how the water we provide is actually stored and used in the home. They took water samples at each house, which they brought back and tested in the lab to make sure the water wasn’t being re-contaminated.
After a long day in the field, the fellows and I were definitely ready for a good meal. Annie’s family friend invited all 17 of us (12 Session 2 fellows, 4 Session 1 fellows and me!) over to their house for dinner and dancing. The meal was delicious (and of course the dancing was a blast!) It was an amazing experience that none of us will forget!
On Wednesday night, the entire 2011 Winter Fellowship Program headed to our favorite restaurant in Tamale, Swad, for a little goodbye party for the Session 1 Fellows. 28 Fellows + 4 translators, + 4 taxi drivers + Kate and Vanessa = one large dinner party! It was so great to relax together as one big group – of course the night ended with a big dance party! Our friends at Swad kept the restaurant open late for our group, and we were so appreciative of the extra time to spend together!
Lauren, Heather, Luke, Mira, Jim, Cam, Marlene, Kathryn, Allie, Catherine, Nate, Kevin, Elsie, Hannah, Chris, and Sarah – we have all been so impressed with your positive attitudes and incredible work ethics. It was a joy to have you in Ghana these past three weeks and we are lucky to have you all as a part of our CWS family. Not only have you provided safe drinking water to over 3,000 people who were in desperate need, you also brightened the days of almost everyone that you encountered during your time here. We can’t wait to see the amazing impact that you all will undoubtedly have on the world!
While we are sad to see the session 1 fellows leave Tamale in a couple days, we are excited for our fellowship adventure to continue with our 3 Session 2 teams! Their program officially began on Monday morning with their first day of orientation. We spent the morning reviewing our schedule or the next few weeks, getting to know each other through some fun team-building games and discussing the Global Water Crisis, Waterbourne Disease, and the different kinds of water treatment interventions that are used around the world. We then sent the teams off on the now-traditional CWS scavenger hunt through Tamale! The fellows had a blast learning the city, but unfortunately, they still haven’t found any Coke Lite for me (Kate)! It remains on the top of the list of most difficult items to find in Northern Ghana!
The Fellows started off Day two with a quick lesson on how to roll balls of alum, which is one of the products that CWS uses to treat water in the communities we work in. They spent the rest of the morning learning more details about the history of Community Water Solutions and going over the village implementation process. The teams then practiced using the alum that they had rolled that morning in a sample of dugout water and finished off the day in the CWS lab. Its been a great couple of days and we can’t wait for the first day in the field tomorrow!
On Saturday, Team 4 opened the new water treatment center at the village of Zanzugu. The team was led by its trusty translator, Shak, and was prepared for hectic day after hearing the tale of Team 1’s opening day. Upon arriving at Zanzugu after their daily 45-minute ride in Shak’s trusty Nissan Suzuki, the team had their daily meeting with the chief. The chief promptly expressed his excitement over opening and quickly mobilized the community to meet the treatment center. The team was assured that once the drums sounded, the village would flock to the shiny new Rambo 100 Polytank to fill their safe storage buckets and to quench their thirst.
Upon the team’s arrival at the treatment center, the two women chosen to run the center were already scooping the alum-treated dugout water from the glistening blue drums into the polytank. Three Aquatabs completed the simple but powerful recipe for clean water and the tap started flowing. Bucket after bucket arrived. The chief and the elders of the village overlooked as family after family approached the tap, paid their 10 pesawas and collected their clean drinking water. All of a sudden, a band of drummers gathered villagers by the central tree and organically a dance circle came to fruition. Even a few leaky buckets could disrupt the rhythm of the line as the team efficiently monitored the opening sales and fixed any minor mishaps. A controlled chaos swarmed the polytank as about 58 families fetched their water.
Though unforeseen circumstances kept a handful of families from receiving clean water, the women were more than happy to reopen the treatment center the following day, excited to fully own and run the sustainable clean water business. The team would like to thank their excellent translator Shak, who skillfully led them through each step of the process and made implementation in Zanzugu a success. Additionally, the team is grateful for all those donors who made this treatment center possible through their support and generosity.
Team 4, Marlene, Kevin, Chris and Allie with our trusty translator Shak!
Chani is a small and quiet village. The chief, supposedly 150 years old, has been sick for a few days so we had been unable to meet with him until yesterday afternoon. He gave us a short blessing and thanked us for working there. The other villagers were extremely receptive and helpful as we built the center and distributed buckets. Selamatu and Muneera, the women running our center, are diligent workers; they learned quickly and are proud of their role managing the center. Everything pretty much went off without a hitch as we prepared for the big morning.
Immediately upon our arrival a few men approached asking to purchase additional buckets. There was also a fancy-schmancy educated man who had been in town the day we distributed so he was eager to get his safe-storage container. As we waited for Selamatu and Muneera, children and women crowded around with their buckets; everyone was clearly super pumped for the “pure wata.” Down at the center we were quickly surrounded by blue buckets and people, more of a mob than a queue. The children and a few fellows were clapping and making music which added to the festive mood.
Once the water started flowing it became apparent that many of the buckets were leaking at the tap. This caused a slight delay – which could have been debilitating at a larger village – as we retightened all the taps with pliers provided by the villagers themselves. Along with the inordinate number of people who wanted to buy additional buckets, the tap tightening was our largest hiccup. The villagers, of course, were chiller than FanMilk – they couldn’t have cared less about the pause. Patience and a constant willingness to lend a hand seem to be the pervading Ghanaian virtues.
Wahab, our awesome-sauce all-star translator extraordinaire, was equal parts assistant and leader. He was darting back and forth between problems, often translating two different conversations simultaneously. What a baller. The concrete stand he built is enormous and crafted to perfection, fully blowing those of other villages out of the water (pun intended). Wahab takes an obvious pride in his work.
We thought the stand was perhaps a wee bit too gigantic but it ended up coming in handy when the women decided to put the tubs on top of it as well (right next to the Polytank) to avoid the swarming hordes of ants discovered beneath them.
To exterminate them, a nearby dude instantly lit some grass on fire and started brushing it over the former colony. We were a little thrown off guard by the flames but not a Chanian batted an eye; it was as though fire was the instinctual solution to the problem. Ghanaians are so bad-ass.
Walking back to the taxi, reflecting on our efforts of the past few days, we all felt an overwhelming sense of fulfillment. The work has been, without a doubt, one of the most gratifying of all possible experiences. Like Mike said, the world seems to smile on days like today. Awesomeness abounds for Team C.L.E.A.N.