480 more people have clean drinking water this month!

Just Tuesday all of our Spring Fellows returned safe and sound to the U.S. from an impactful month in Ghana!

With our first Spring Fellowship complete we were able to bring clean drinking water to 480 more people for the village of Sakpalua, including 100 children. Thanks to the hardwork of Chelsea, Nick, Rich & Colleen! Despite a few bumps in the road, literally and figuratively speaking, the Spring Fellows were able to implement a permanent drinking source for the people of Sakpalua! We are so luck to have you guys a part of the CWS Team and look forward to seeing the places you will go!


It is also worth mentioning that none of this would have been possible without your support! We would like to thank everyone who supported out 2012 Spring Fellows! Many thanks!

Success in Sakpalua

We arrived to our village around 9 am on opening day. Not many of the villagers were near the center when we first got there, but after the sight of our truck they began to show up in large numbers bearing their blue buckets. Lydia and Damu had the center well put together for opening day and things went off without a hitch. As people gathered in line we passed around a small bucket so that everyone could have a taste. The water was perfect and everyone was very eager to get their water home to their household. After 2 ½ hours we had filled all but three of the 59 buckets that we had distributed and called it a day. It was amazing to see how quickly the facility was able to get up and running, as well as how efficiently it was able to supply more than a village’s worth of clean water.

Treatment Center in Sakpalua
Treatment Center in Sakpalua

After such a successful opening day, we took the day off on Tuesday. Shak drove Rich, Colleen, and Chelsea to Kintampo Waterfalls for some much needed R&R. Nick, unfortunately, could not join us because he was sick, but we all had a great time!

After our day off, it was time to get back to work. We got a late start due to some technical difficulties with Shak’s truck, but made it to Sakpalua around noon to begin monitoring. We checked 21 households in all. Everything looked great. Every household we checked, with the exception of one, had adhered to the rule of keeping the storage container 6 inches off of the ground and all had used their container only for clean water. We were all incredibly pleased to see that going household to household to distribute buckets and explain to each villager how to properly use their safety storage container properly had truly paid off. Only 3 more days of spending time with the lovely villagers of Sakpalua and monitoring before we hitch a bus back to Accra. My how the time has flown.

Meet Brianan, CWS’ new Ghana Country Director!

This June, Brianan Kiernan will be joining the CWS Team as the new volunteer Ghana Country Director. We are so thrilled to have Brianan as a part of our team and think that she is going to do an amazing job managing our operations in Ghana!  For all you Bostonians out there, Brianan will be running the Boston Marathon today, so be on the look-out for her! GO BRIANAN!


CWS' new Ghana Country Director, Brianan Kiernan!

Let me just start off by saying that I am thrilled to join the CWS team in Ghana this upcoming June as the Ghana Country Director! It has been only three months since I participated in the CWS fellowship program and I could not be more excited to get back.

In May, I will be graduating from Boston College with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a focus in Economics. I have always had an interest in international development and social justice but was unsure of how I would fit into the mix.

After participating in the Community Water Solutions Fellowship program this winter, I realized that I belong in the field! In my studies, I have seen the statistics, read the theories and learned about international and non-governmental organizations. So it was amazing to finally get to see the application of development work that organizations like CWS provide and the positive results that come of it.

Opening day in Kpachiyilli, the village where Brianan and her team worked this winter

Working with the women, Mariama and Azara, from the village of Kpachiyili, reminded me of our common humanity on this one planet that we all share. On our last day in Kpachiyili, Azara left my team with some words of wisdom. She said that all of the work we have done for her village, Kpachiyili, has had great, positive results. But she added that we should not forget about Kpachiyili when we return home. We need to tell people of our experiences and about the people in this village. When we leave, we must remember.

Upon returning to Boston, Azara’s words have stuck with me in thinking about her village but also in thinking about the people in this world who do not have access to basic necessities like clean drinking water. This June, when I return to work with CWS, I am looking forward to ensuring that the CWS water businesses remain sustainable for the 20,000 people who have been given a safe water source. I am so happy to be apart of CWS and I cannot wait to get started!


Brianan with her Fellowship Team in Kpachiyilli this winter

Finally! A Word from our Spring Fellows!

Antire from Tamale to our beloved family and friends and our dedicated blog followers!

Nick with some Sakpalua kids!
The boys

We are all having an amazing time; thus far, the experience has definitely been one that we will always remember. Three days ago, we set foot for the first time in Sakpalua: our village that CWS Ghana Country Director, Kathryn, found for us. During our initial visit, we met one of the elders, with whom we spoke briefly about implementing the treatment center. He was well educated on the poor quality of the water his village was consuming and very receptive to the idea of us coming to implement a center. We were then escorted to the dugout by three teenage boys from the village- Olman, Abu, and Muusaa. When we got to the dugout to take a sample of the water, we noticed that though it is vast, the water level was low because the region is just now transitioning from the dry season to the rainy season. Sakpalua has proved truly unique thus far. Not only are the people great, but they are used to Westerners coming to the area. Remnants of past NGOs can be seen in the rainwater harvesting bins, local primary school, and library, all sponsored by a Presbyterian organization. After collecting a sample of the water, we went to leave Sakpalua and met the Chief. The chief was very soft-spoken and wore a kind smile. We set a time to come back the next morning to meet with him. We then all piled in to Shak’s truck to embark on the one hour drive, filled with “Salaminga, hello!” and people waving.

The following morning, we had our official chief meeting. Elders and many members of the community came out to hear about the project. Rich was in charge of leading the meeting. We began with a prayer, led by the village pastor James, then moved into introductions. Each of us took turns standing up to thank the community for welcoming us into their village and stated our names. Rich then began by stating that we were there on behalf of CWS, explained who CWS is and the approach. During this time, Shak walked around to show the villagers the samples of the dugout water that we had tested the day before at the CWS lab. E coli and other bacteria filled the small 3M test, indicating how contaminated the dugout water was. Everyone at the meeting agreed that we “must begin treating the water immediately!” as one of the women put it. We discussed further prospects for the best methods to move forward in implementing the center then set a time to come back the next morning to begin building the polytank stand.

Our Wednesday began around 8:00, allowing time for the shops to open. Shak picked us up out front of the Gillbt House and our first stop of the day was at the mason supply store. There we purchased thirty large concrete blocks, two bags of sandstone and a 40kg bag of cement. As we loaded the supplies in the back of the jeep, many of the local children gathered around to cheer us on and dance to the Bob Marley blaring from the radio. Our trip to the village this time around was a bit more interesting with the weight of the supplies bearing down on the axel. After some minor setbacks that Shak handled with ease, we arrived at our village, ready to begin the work. The elders had selected an ideal spot for the polytank center to be built, located in a well shaded area about 50 meters from the dugout. The first step of the process is to lay the blocks vertically in a tight circle, and begin mixing the sandstone and cement, slowly adding small amounts of water. We quickly apply the mortar and build the second layer of blocks with an overwhelming amount of help from the village men. It is great to see the villagers eager to help with the project because after another 10 days it will be left in their hands to maintain while we are away. The importance of clean water is not lost in the least and after an hour of work the day is done, allowing plenty of time for the cement to dry and harden.

Thursday begins in roughly the same manner, returning to the supply store and purchasing more sandstone for the polytank stand. Around 9:00 we roll up to the construction site and find many of the villagers already at work. The initial task is to rummage around the dugout area and dig large stones from the ground, which will later serve as filler for the center of the stand. Once the center of the stand is about ¾’s full, the women set to work retrieving a fine gravel to pack in around the stones. They carry the heavy weight with no problem, balancing large metal bowls on their heads as they trod from the center to the gravel and back several times. They make it look unusually easy, however after we each try our hand at the task we realize that it is anything but. As the gravel is being packed, we mix more mortar, adding additional cement to create a thick plaster to cover the exterior of the stand. Close to 12:30, the final touches are put on the stand and while the cement is still wet, Shak writes each of our names, the date and CWS in bold letters along the top of the stand, commemorating the time we shared with the village.

Treatment Center Action!
Treatment Center Action!

Rain Dance

Its that time of year again. The time where the storm clouds start rollingggg in, the nights cool off, and everything begins to go from brown to green. Of course the rains won’t begin in earnest for a couple months, but the dry season is definitely transitioning to wet. It couldn’t come soon enough.

This dry=>wet segue has its own unique set of challenges (remember some of our wet=>dry updates?). On one hand, as water levels get lower and lower, water quality gets more and more GROSS – we definitely see an increase in center sales at this time! Some ladies even buy treated water for washing and cooking.

Dugout water at Buhijaa

On the other hand, sometimes dugout water gets so low that there is not enough water to treat. CWS partners with communities that report having dugouts that don’t, or rarely, run dry; our work is most appropriate for these situations. However, this has been a drought year for much of Western Africa (check out a few international news articles here and here and here and here). For the first time in our operational history, we are having to deal with dry dugouts. Jagberin, Gbateni, Zanzugu Yipela, Yipela, Kushini, Kagburashe and Buhijaa have closed down center operations until the next rain (many reopened after a big storm yesterday) but until the rain starts again in full force it will be difficult for these communities to have consistent, treated water. Most are walking kilometers into the bush, or to other communities, for their water needs (Kagburashe actually gets its water from another CWS village, Chani – so treatment continues for those who want to walk!).

A little water left at Jagberin

Luckily the rainy season is just around the corner! A few big storms have blown through, giving staff the opportunity to talk to some of our newer communities about rainwater collection. Soon, too, communities whose dugouts become inaccessible (like Gbung and Libi) or who have water sources open up closer to home (like Zanzugu) will have to heave their polytanks back to town. We have also begun prepping our most remote communities, Chanaayili, Gbateni and Buhijaa, to be independent for a few months when large bodies of water start to block the roads. The ladies laugh and tell us to swim aquatabs across to them – we are going to need official CWS speedos!

Shak, the optimist, on the way to Gbateni

Basically, we are watching and waiting for rain.

And now, back to the fellows!


Easter in Tamale!

Easter started out early with a visit to Kurugu Vohoyili! The fellows were off on their own and excited to practice their Dugbani while getting to see the action at a water treatment center! It was a busy morning at the center, which is always exciting to see! After tallying up sold buckets the fellows proceeded to go around household to household. In their household visits they asked when they last filled at the treatment center, took a sample of the water to test back at the lab and were able to just have conversations with people about how they like the center and the taste of the water. All the households they visited were properly using their safe storage container and providing safe drinking water to their families! A successful day in Kurugu Vohoyili!

After a long day in the field, Rich relaxes for a little in the awesome hammock that he brought (summer fellows- maybe you should add this to your packing list!)

That night the fellows, Sam and Kathryn were off to CWS favorite Swad to celebrate Easter with a family dinner! Today is another exciting day for the fellows where they will be approaching their new village for the very first time! Stay posted for what the day brings!

The 2012 Summer Fellows with Sam and CWS Ghana Country Director, Kathryn, enjoying East Dinner at Swad

Chicken, Chicken, Guinea Fowl

After a morning full of orientation the fellows were off for a scavenger hunt around Tamale!

After a long journey up to Tamale, the fellows jumped right into orientation where they learned the nitty gritty about the global water crisis, water and disease, water interventions, and then finally about CWS! It was information packed morning with some great discussions. After lunch the fellows were sent off on a scavenger hunt around Tamale! No better way to get thrown into the hussle and bussle of the town! Two hours in the market, a collection of things and bundle of stories it was time to retire from the day! The next day held an adventure in the bush!

Our morning started off a bit delayed, but with lunches packed we were off for a full day to visit Chongashe and Chani’s water treatment centers! It was only a minute after our arrival in Chongashe that Chelsea started up a game with all the kids! After some translation and help from Shak, Chelsea had a large group of kids playing Nu, Nu, Bong– Translated to English: Chicken, Chicken, Guinea Fowl a Ghanian rendition of Duck, Duck, Goose.

Chicken, Chicken, Guinea Fowl!
Chelsea playing Chicken, Chicken, Guinea Fowl

We then went to their dugout to collect water to do the fellow alum training the following day. Next stop was Chani for a quick stop off for another dugout sample! It was a long and hot day in the field but nice to get out and see CWS in action!

Colleen hitches a ride to the dugout
Nick collecting dugout water

Home Sweet Home Away From Home

Trusty GILLBT Guest House - the Fellows' home for the next 3 weeks in Tamale!

After a thankfully uneventful, albeit long, 15-hour bus ride, the Spring Fellows have arrived in Tamale! They are all checked into our tried and true guest house, GILLBT. Incidentally, the Peace Corp is holding a big conference for their new volunteers at GILLBT for the next two weeks, so although this Spring’s program is small (only 1 team compared to our usual 7-9 teams), there will be plenty of awesome people around the guest house’s grounds for the Fellows hang out with during their downtime. Pretty cool!

Orientation starts tomorrow where Nick, Chelsea, Rich and Colleen will not only learn all about Ghana, Global Water Crisis, Water and Disease but they will also be learning the specifics about what CWS and other orgs like us are doing to try to solve this problem. Let the fun begin!

Now that Sam is at the office, our next post will hopefully be filled with lots of her pictures from orientation so stay tuned!


Let the fun begin! (Updated with a picture!)

All four 2012 Spring Fellows have safely arrived in Accra!

The Gang's All Here! Sam, Chelsea, Colleen, Rich and Nick at Chez Lien Guest house in Accra.

The group is resting up for their VERY early (4:45am) wake up call tomorrow! They’ll catch the first bus out of Accra and after 12 (ish) hours of fun, will arrive in Hot Tamale. After some downtime in Accra, the Fellows, Sam, and Shak are itching to get started on their Fellowship work. The rest of us at CWS are so excited for this awesome team!!


And so it begins!

The 2012 Spring Fellowship Program has officially begun! After a slightly delayed flight, our first Spring Fellow, Chelsea, arrived in Accra tonight and was greeted at the airport by our fearless leaders, Shak and Sam! Everyone is safe and sound at the guest house, resting up for the exciting three weeks to come!

Nick, Rich and Colleen all arrive tomorrow and after one more night in Accra, the whole group will hop on the bus and head to Tamale. We are so excited to get to work!