2011 Summer Fellowship Program: The Impact

The 2011 Summer Fellows on their last morning in Tamale! (Not Pictured: Chris Sweeny who took the bus that morning)

One week ago today, the 28 CWS Summer Fellows packed up their bags and left Tamale. This summers’ program was a huge success, largely due to the incredible determination of each of our Fellows! Working in the field is not always easy, but each Fellowship team persevered through a variety of different challenges and were able to reach their goal:  bringing safe water to a entire community of people who desperately needed it. Thanks to our awesome Fellows, over 3,300 people in 7 different villages in rural Ghana now have access to clean drinking water; over 14 women now have new jobs, running the CWS water businesses, which in most cases leads to a 100% increase their families’ income; and more than 1,000 children under the age of 5, who were previously at risk  dying from waterborne disease, are now drinking safe water. Thats pretty amazing!

Kendra, Javier, Kelsey, Jess, Hudson, Chris, Ianthe, Sharifa, Meaghan, Will, Abby, Alyssa, Nate, Ben, Christine, Annie, Abena, Steph, David, Matthew, Christy, Karina, Matt, Nadiah, Heather, Xi, Christina, and Cassie – We are so proud of the work that you accomplished during your time in Ghana. It was a joy to work with each of you and watch you grow into incredibly patient, hardworking, and plucky leaders. We are lucky to have you as a part of the CWS team and can’t wait to see the amazing things that you will achieve in the future!

Voices from the Field: The Village Elders!

Hey there from the Village Elders,
We and our translator T.J. opened our beautiful new water treatment center at Gbanteni this past Friday and have since then been making trips to our village to check up on them! We’re lucky we implemented when we did because with the rainy season coming and the precarious spots on the rocky dirt road, travel to our village will soon be nearly impossibly (unless you swim). On the up side, since it is so far out in the country, it is one of the prettiest villages and we loved working there! Here’s what we’ve seen over the past few days:

We have been around to talk to all of the households to inspect their buckets to ensure that they are full of only clean water, there are no problems with the buckets, and they are happy with the new water. We’ve seen all of the usual suspects: broken and leaky taps, people who haven’t filled their buckets, people filling ‘illegal’ buckets (aka unclean buckets without a lid and a tap), and people hesitant to buy more water. However, after 3 days of thorough monitoring, we believe we have ironed out all of the kinks. We were proud when our chief suggested and our village agreed to implement a flat monthly fee rather than a pay per fill fee in order to solve some of these problems! We are hopeful this system will work for them. People have even bought extra buckets so they can have clean water when they are out at the farm for extended periods of time. Everyone’s been raving about how much the new water has made them feel better already! Word about the water has gotten out and a neighboring village has come to check it out and wants it in their village too; they were quickly added to the CWS list of villages and will hopefully get clean water soon!

Kendra hard at work in the field doing household monitoring!


T.J. and the team fixing a leaky tap

We are confident that the women selected to run the center will do a wonderful job. They are respected in the community and were familiar with the use of alum (one of the chemicals used to clean the water). They have successfully been treating the water since opening day. They seem committed to working at the center and are even stronger than the man in our group; they can carry 30L buckets on their heads and Javier couldn’t quite master that one… In fact, one of the women managed to fill all 3 of the 200L buckets today by herself!

The women filling the polytank!

Even the children are learning a lot about clean water! While somewhat shy when we first arrived a few weeks ago, they now run to the car when we arrive and follow us around the village wherever we go. It was also customary at first to see them drinking dugout water but there is nothing more exciting than seeing them drink clean, clear water from the center out of a water bottle we gave them. Just yesterday, we saw a girl with a bottle of dugout water and we disciplined her in English and although she couldn’t understand our language, between the gestures and the kids understanding why we are there, the group of kids told the girl to dump out the dugout water. They really are beginning to understand the importance of ONLY DRINKING CLEAN WATER!

Some of the familiar faces that have been following us around

Today was a bittersweet day. It was our last visit to Gbateni and while we are ecstatic that they are becoming self-sufficient regarding clean water, it was very hard to leave these people we have come to know so well over the past few weeks. When we first arrived the chief said “I would offer you some water but we only have dugout water.” We left them today knowing they have a clean, safe, sustainable source of water for their community. The chief, his wife, and everyone who saw us off were beyond grateful. We took some final photos by their brand new CWS sign! We gave them a few photos and small gifts and plan to mail even more! It was wonderful to work with a village that was so enthusiastic about clean water and health and we will definitely be tracking the progress of our village in the future.

The team with Chief Kasullan Fuseini and the new sign in front of Gbateni

-Kelsey. Javier, Jess and Kendra

P.S. We’ll also miss T.J. tons. His singing, dancing, smiling, tardiness, and willingness to eat all the time (particularly bread with us on the road!).

Voices from the Field: Team Sixey!

Hello from Team Six, better known as Team Kasi or Team Sixey. We have been working for the past couple weeks in Kudula, a fairly large village of just over 100 households and two schools, about a half hour away from Tamale. So far we’ve had a pretty smooth ride, except for a few days where the villagers were at the market or the farm. This caused us to have to push back our opening day to Friday June 10th as opposed to the original Thursday celebration. However, since we were already ahead of schedule it wasn’t a problem. Our team faces the challenge of reaching out to every household in our particularly large village, but luckily we have Lukeman, our wonderful translator, and our fantastic taxi driver Hamza who also happens to speak English to help us along the way. When we opened yesterday, we only saw about 30-40 buckets being filled out of our 100+ that we had distributed, so we went to the village today for our first day of monitoring and household visits ready to do some sleuthing to find out why only some of the village came out.

We were very pleasantly surprised today to see that all the households that we visited had filled up their water containers! It turns out that most of them came in the evening after we had left. Kudula is officially a success! The houses that we visited were all very pleased with the water taste and very grateful for the work that we had done in Kudula. We will be back tomorrow to fix a few leaky taps and do some more random household checks. In each household we took water samples to bring back to the office to test for coliforms.

Nadiah and Christina testing the samples at the CWS lab

Sana and Abibata are our two women who run the station. They’ve been doing a fantastic job and seem to really be catching on quickly to everything we’ve told them. We have full faith in them and their abilities to continue the station after we leave!

A group shot of Team Sixey in front of the polytank stand. From left, Hamza, Nadiah, Sana, Abibata, Matt, Lukeman, Karina, and Christina.

It’s amazing how quickly the polystand goes up! Just a few days ago it looked like this:

Matt, Hamza, and Lukeman take a break from working on the polytank stand before it was finished.

During our down time in the village we’ve really gotten to know the kids and their individual personalities. They have endless energy and are so fun to be with. We will miss them so much when we go!

Christina hangs out with some of her buddies outside the chief’s palace
Karina with lots of the Kudula kids chilling on the taxi

We even got to try our hand at the local method of carrying water-on top of your head!

Nadiah learns from the pros

We look forward to seeing more results of all of our hard work when we continue to do more household visits and monitoring in the next few days.

Voices from the Field: Team Nothing but Net

Due to some technical difficulties this post is a few days late, but here is team 2 (“nothing but net”)’s story about training the women in Kushini to prepare for opening day (which happened on Thursday!)

Today, we performed our second day of training for the women. To this point, they have already fetched the water from the dugout and have used allum to separate the dirt from the water. Today, they moved the separated water into the polytank and added aquatabs (chlorine) to kill the bacteria and other harmful agents in the water. The women are not only exceptionally responsible, but catch on to the training extremely quickly. Often before we could finish explaining the process to them they were able to finish our sentences. After preparing the water in the polytank, they also refilled the blue drums and treated them with allum so that we could have even more clean water for tomorrow’s opening day.

Hudson and Shak training the women in our village

We also performed our final round of distributing clean water storage buckets for households in the village. When we first arrived to the village it was monsooning (of course, we forgot our rain coats at home), but once the rain cleared the entire village was able to gather and be trained on the proper water safety requirements for the clean water buckets. Sharifa spent a lot of time giving advice to the women (with Shak translating) while Hudson, Chris, and Ianthe worked quickly to assemble buckets for the masses. Training the women was a detailed process – Sharifa went over everything from how and where to get clean water to proper placement of the buckets in the home to how to respond to contaminations. The women took the process very seriously and echoed what the Chief had already told us: “We know that the dugout water is unhealthy, but we have no other option for drinking water.” In all the experience was really touching to see how seriously the village is taking this process and we’re really excited for opening day tomorrow!

Shak translating while the team assembles and distributes safe storage containers.


Voices from the field: Team 3!

June 9

Today, Team 3 ended their morning in the village with the grand opening of the Community Water Solutions water treatment center in the Kpalguni Village.  Being a relatively small village with a focus on farming yams, most of the children arrived promptly and proudly to fill their family’s blue buckets.  The team left with an undeniable feeling of accomplishment, and they are excited for the next few days of monitoring the village.

CWS Safe Storage containers all lined up at the water treatment center ready to be filled with clean drinking water!
Clean water!
Meaghan and the cutest little girl at the water business on opening day! The whole village came out!
Heading home with a bucket full of safe drinking water! Such a successful opening day!

But one day earlier….

June 8

5:00 am: The team awoke only to find gloomy clouds looming over Tamale.  The team was weary about departing, but Team 5 along with Sani and the translators decided we should give the drive a shot.  Due to “Ghanian time”, the van did not depart Gilbt until 6:30 am.  Midway through the two-hour drive to both villages, the rain began.

7:45 am:  A large pond of water in the middle of the bumpy dirt road approached the van, and, in seconds, the van halts to a complete stop.  The teams found themselves stranded in the middle of the Ghanian forests without cell phone service.  Villagers begin to watch as the teams wander around looking for rocks (which they are unsure as to why they need them).  After about thirty minutes, the teams begin to push the van out of the pond.  It doesn’t seem promising; however, after the spectators joined the effort, the van finally emerged.  The sun’s rays appeared from behind the fading clouds.

Teamwork at its finest
Abby, Alyssa, Stephanie (from the Pinapple Express Team) and Meaghan in the mud pond.

9:30 am:  Team 3 decides the make the walk to their village. When they arrive for a brief visit to teach the women how to treat the clear water and distribute clean water buckets, the village is not prepared.  Handing out the buckets was a stressful event.  All of the villagers gathered into a tight circle and began to talk very loudly over the team.  While the frantic, loud gathering was clearly caused by the excitement of the opening of the center, it did not make the day any better.  The team was lead to more disappointment when it was apparent that turbidity remained in the water.  Clear water wound not enter the polytank that day.

Stressful discussion about safe storage distribution. We knew everyone was excited for opening day, but this was still tough to manage!
Our translator Ayesha trying to teach the crowd how to correctly use the tap on the safe storage container.

12:30 pm:  Team 5 began to approach the center after hours of waiting at the van only to find that Team 3 was finally wrapping up their work in the village.  Both teams walked back through the village down the bumpy, muddy road to the van.  Even though the afternoon just began, both teams were exhausted and bummed about the series of events of the day.

Luckily, all team members found humor of all of the parts of the day, and grew closer with the hope that both teams would make it to their villages the following morning.

-Will, Meaghan, Abby and Alyssa

Guess who’s here?

We’re taking a brief time-out from our regularly scheduled programming to make a very exciting announcement:

Kathryn is here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kathryn arrived in Tamale on Monday and we are SO happy to have her here! For the next week and half Kathryn and I will be working together to get her all prepped and ready to run the show once I leave in mid-June. I know she is going to do an awesome job! Stay tuned for her first post as Ghana Country Director.

Voices from the Field: The Salaminga Snails!

Hey there from the Salaminga Snails! You might be wondering how we got our name. Salaninga is the local word for “foreigner/white person” and then snails because we make everyone look so slow! Our trip to Ghana has been great so far, we have been working in the village Tacpuli and loving every minute of it. This past week we have been working on setting up our treatment center and preparing it for our opening day on Wednesday. We bought our Polytank, blue buckets, and all other necessary supplies, fitted them on our beautifully crafted Polytank stand and just started the first treatment process today.

The Salaminga Snails: Annie, Christine, Nate and Ben
Peter translating for Annie at our village meeting. She did an awesome job!
Leaving our mark on the polytank stand!

We spent the morning training the two women who would be running the center, Mariama and Laseechey (forgive the butchering of the spelling) who are awesome. They had already used alum in their water before, so the first half of the training was super easy. Afterwards we began distributing buckets to individual households in the hottest part of the day under the blazing African sun. Needless to say every member of our group came out of the field with some pretty gnarly sun burns. We managed to distribute 31 buckets, nearly half of our 68 household village, and look forward to an early morning distributing the buckets tomorrow (a 6:00am wake up is totally worth it to beat the heat). We’re also excited to keep working with Laseechey and Mariama! Tomorrow we will show them how to take the alum-ized (new word?) water and treat it with chlorine.

Christine training Mariama and Laseechey how to use alum to remove turbidity from the dugout water
Peter translating for Annie, Ben and Christine during water treatment training

We also should mention that we have the best translator in CWS history, Peter Biyam. Peter also happens to have the greatest sheep in all of history, “Don’t Forget,” which we purchased from our very own Tacpuli as a way of thanking him. He promises to take very good care of her and we like to know that he will not forget us with Don’t Forget!

Brining "don't forget" home in the truck

Overall the Salaminga Snails are having a great time in Ghana! We’re loving our village, loving our translator, loving our team, and are super excited for our opening day on Wednesday!

Awesome kids at Tacpuli!


-Christine, Annie, Ben, and Nate

Voices from the Field: The Fu Fu Fighters!

Team 7-also known as the Fufu Fighters- has been busy beginning the implementation process of their water center; however, we had an interesting start to our process.

The Fu Fu Fighters: Heather, Cassie, Christina and Xi

We began our implementation process in one village, but ended up switching to a different village to actually implement in. Unlike the other teams, we had two chief meeting experiences that were completely different from each other. The first one was in our first village and it was very informal with just the chief and the chairman. The second one was in our new village and it was very traditional with the chief, chairman, elders, and any men who happened to wander into the chief’s meeting hut at the time of our meeting. By witnessing these two meetings in two different villages, we got to see how different some governmental systems are within any village in Ghana.

Our first village actually had a rain water collection tank set up by another NGO and the chief mentioned in our meeting that it was very difficult to find someone to run that operation in the village. He told us his people were stubborn and that they wouldn’t want to put in the work at our center to have clean water when they already had a rainwater collection tank. When we asked about the use of the rain tank, the chairman told us they only use it during the rainy season, which leaves them with the dugout water during the dry season. This meant that a CWS water center would still be very helpful in this village.

We left the first day, intending to come back the next day to get a decision from the chief. When we came back the next day, there happened to be a funeral going on, so we were unable to talk to the chief; however, we did talk to the chairman and he told us that the chief was not very supportive of our system simply because he didn’t think his people would take to it well. The chairman was telling us the opposite in his opinion. He said he talked to some people in the village and they were all onboard…which meant we had a slight problem. It seemed the village really wanted us to be there, but the chief didn’t. Also, the chief was refusing to let us talk to his people, so we had only communicated with himself and the chairman at this point.

Our experience in this village was SO different from what all the other teams were going through. They had enthusiastic chiefs and community meetings…so it seemed our process wasn’t going as planned, which worried me. When we reported our concerns back to Kate, she assured us that it would be possible to implement in a village with a difficult chief, but we’d need to work really hard and overcome many roadblocks along the way.

After a team meeting and a thorough evaluation of the situation, we decided that our water center would probably be more successful, at least at this time, in a different village. We figured since rainy season is just beginning, it would be hard to compete with the rainwater tank anyway. It seemed to make more sense to implement this village in the dry season when they are running out of rainwater. So, CWS is going to keep this village on their list of villages to visit later when: 1. It’s dry season and 2. The chief’s more supportive. Hannah went back to that village and told the chairman our decision, as well as encouraged him to try to get the chief onboard for when CWS does come back.

So, after this slight set back, the Fufu Fighters worked hard to make up for lost time. We ended up having a great chief meeting at our new village-with a chief who is very, very enthusiastic about the project-as well as a meeting with the community about the center. In fact, the chief said something that basically embodies everything CWS stands for. He said, “Clean water is life. And every person deserves life. Since you are bringing clean water, you are also bringing life to this village.”

We’ve been working hard, and getting dirty, for the past two days building our polytank stand. Our new village is really excited for the center and we feel very welcomed by everyone. I think I can speak for everyone on my team when I say that we had an unusual beginning, but ended up catching up and making a great decision in terms of switching villages. The community support as well as the chief’s support is very important in order to make a CWS water center successful. We feel as if we have the greatest support in this new village-hopefully, in time, the other chief will be influenced to support a center for his people as well.

Some of the men from the village who helped us build the polytank stand
Heather, Cassie and Christine smoothing out the gravel in the polytank stand while the awesome kids from our village watch in awe
Leaving out mark on the polytank stand
Christina, Cassie and Xi posing by our finished polytank stand


-Christina, Cassie, Xi and Heather

Voices from the Field: The Pineapple Express!

So our team, Team Pineapple Express, started off our Tamale adventure really strong, winning the scavenger hunt with a prize of pride, but hey, we also found Barack Obama underwear, which is a prize in itself.  Our team is Stephanie, David, Matthew and Abena and we all come from different backgrounds and came to Ghana for different reasons, making our team a really interesting and dynamic grouping!


David posing with a Djembe for the CWS scavenger hunt!


Stephanie pounding Fu Fu - another scavenger hunt task!


Everything has been really great so far.  After visiting two different villages that already had worked with CWS, we were really excited to finally visit our own village, Jabrang (which we are still working on pronouncing).  Although its one of the farther villages, we’re really excited to be paired with this village, which has about 33 households and lots of enthusiastic members and adorable kids!  Our chief meeting went really well; he was really excited to have us and all the elders and other present members could not wait to get working and get the project off the ground.  The dugout water is really dirty and full of algae and bacteria.  We’re really happy that we can assist this village clean up their water.


Abena and Wahab checking out the dugout in Chani, one of CWS' newer villages

After our initial meeting with the chief, who by the way is awesome, we held a village-wide meeting the next day.  With the help of our trusty translator, Wahab, we explained to men, women and children who we are, what CWS does, and what our partnership would look like and how we are able to help them.  We explained in detail the implementation process and how the water business operates.  We also brought with us water samples, both clean and dirty, to help all the villagers visualize what we were talking about.  It is an understatement to say that they were all on board, excited, and extremely grateful.  They gave us a round of applause in the end and wanted us to start immediately!  We’re so happy to have a village that is so thrilled.  We know we can really make a difference in Jabrang!

Yesterday we started the building process: manual labor day one!  Fortunately for us, Wahab is a great mason and takes the polytank stand construction very seriously!  He requested a lot of pictures to be taken, mostly solo shots!  But he really did a great job!  We had a crowd of about 25 people, men and children mostly, watching the stand being built and just coming around to show their support and see if we needed any help.  It was great to see such a good turnout from the community.  The kids are also finally warming up to us!  Can’t wait to play!

Matthew helping to load the van with bricks for the polytank stand!


Our translator Wahab loading up the van with sea sand for our polytank stand
Wahab laying the first row of bricks for Jabrang's polytank stand
Another solo shot of Wahab and his excellent work!


-Stephanie, David, Matthew and Abena