Yesterday morning, our 23 Summer Fellows and their Fellowship Leaders boarded the bus to Accra and the 2012 Summer Fellowship Program officially came to an end. I know that I say this at the end of every program, but these 3 weeks truly flew by. It was such a pleasure to work with this amazing group of young people!
Alex, Zoe, Olivia, Kelsey M., Tyler, Leah, Bridgid, Jenn, Krysta, Abby, Evan, Meaghan, Cameron, Matt, Heidi, Megan, Brittni, Marwa, Khadijah, Sarit, Moriah, Mark, and Kelsey B. –
These past three weeks flew by too fast and Tamale already seems much quieter with the 23 of you gone. As a group, you guys were not only incredibly hardworking and inspiring, but also plain fun to be around! I know that there are many other things that each of you could have done this summer, but thank you for choosing to come to Ghana to work with CWS. Thanks to you (and the donors who supported your trip!) 6 communities and over 2,000 people now have access to safe drinking water. 2,000 people.That’s pretty amazing.
As you continue with the rest of your summers, school years, and/or careers, I hope that you continue to remember that impact that you have had here in Tamale, not just on your villages but everyone that you met and worked with while you were here – your translators, taxi drivers, leaders, Abraham, Emmanel, & Daniel, vendors in the cultural center, even the lady who owns the bar across the street! We all feel lucky to have gotten to know you. I am certain that each of you will continue to do amazing things and I can’t wait to see the change that you will make in this world!
Stay in touchand hopefully I’ll see many of you in Boston this summer!
Greetings from Tamale, Ghana! We are team 1, also known as team sparkles and we are made up of Alex, Kelsey, Olivia, and Zoe. Along with our fearless translator Wahab, we are working in the village of Garazigou (though we have come to find out there are numerous spellings of this village which made for an interesting time) . It seems like our weeks are just flying by here even though here in Ghana, as one of our fellow teammates put it, “It’s a Ghana (gonna),”mainly because here everyone takes their sweet time getting from place to place! However, we sped through the building process of the base for the polytank and then began to train the women who are going to be running the center how to make the alum balls that would be stirred into the drums and how to than transfer that water to the polytank where the water is treated with chlorine.
After we had a very long day of distributing those well-known blue buckets, we waited in much anticipation for one of the most important days of the whole trip…OPENING DAY! And thankfully the day was a huge success! We had a great time entertaining the children while the mother’s filled the buckets with clean drinking water which were all accounted for! We also learned later in the week that a baby from our village was born on opening day. It’s a great feeling to know that this baby boy is going to be able to have safe drinking water for the rest of his life in the village!
We are now focusing our sites on the last few days here in Tamale were we are beginning to monitor the people and make sure they are using the water correctly and getting everything else in order for the CWS staff to step in and take over. We have been overwhelmed with the amount of responses we have gotten from the villagers. Many to thank us for bringing them clean water and helping their children stay healthy. It’s when you hear replies like that make all the hot weather and pure exhaustion so worth it in the end.
Though our time here in the village has come to an end, we look forward to hearing from the CWS staff all the progress our village has made in its implementation process.
On Monday, our team had our opening day on which we unveiled our newly-built water treatment center to the Village of Gbandu. In the week leading up to opening day our team worked with some of the villagers to build a permanent stand that was accessible to the people of the Village. We had trained two women, Mariama and Abiba, to treat and clean dugout water to make safe drinking water for all the villagers. On Sunday, we had distributed safe-storage containers to every household (the blue buckets you see in so many pictures) and talked to them about the center’s opening the next day.
Our opening day got off to a slow start. Due to another group’s taxi driver being arrested that morning our driver, Husla, and our translator/ project manager, Peter, were running an hour and a half late. Perhaps because we were rushing, perhaps because Husla just wanted dinner, we ran over a Guinea Fowl on the road to our village. In the name of mercy (which Kelsey still contests), Husla and Peter grabbed Mark’s knife, jumped out of the car, and ran back to kill the Guinea Fowl. By the time Peter and Hulsa got back to the car, both Moriah and Kelsey were screaming at the top of their lungs—Kelsey about the immorality of roadkill, Moriah because she has a deathly fear of birds and did not want a dead one sitting on her lap. The rest of the ride our team debated about the rights of animals vs. children when it comes to being hit by a car.
The animal deaths that day did not end there— our team decided it was a good idea to bring a goat as a gift to the village and commemorate the opening of our water treatment center. In Ghana, though there are hundreds of goats running around, the slaughtering and eating of goats are very rare. Villages will do it only once or twice a year. Watching the villagers prepare the meal was a unique experience. Everyone on our team was affected by the sad noises the goat was making as he was tethered to a tree. He sort of sounded like a waling child to be honest. When they went to kill the animal Mark insists the goat sounded like he was screaming for help. We could choose to think of the experience as horrifying, but for those of us who are not vegetarians we found it was important to see exactly where our meals come from. Also the event was such a treat for the villagers, it is almost hard to feel bad for the death of the goat.
The Ghanaians have some incredibly interesting techniques that make the most of the meat they are preparing. We looked over once and it seemed as though a villager was sucking the blood out of the goat’s leg, but he was actually blowing the goat up through an artery. By doing this, the meat of the goat would separate from the skin and could properly be prepared. When they finished cooking the meat they separated it into three portions, one very small portion was for our team, one was for the men, and one was for the women. The men had a feeding frenzy where the man holding the bowl was jumped on and the meat scattered everywhere. The women were more diplomatic in their distribution- Mariama and Abiba were in charge of handing out portions. Mark and Moriah took small pieces and gave the big ones to our translator and drivers.
All in all the day was a huge success. Children seemed to pop up out of nowhere and clung to the closest Salaminga (white person) and we danced and laughed all morning. The women were thrilled, the kids were entertained and the men…well the men were stoic. There was some live music, we listened to drums (Mark tried but he couldn’t seem to find the beat) and everyone was dancing. We ended up filling 24 buckets of water one for every household in the village! Seeing the women walking back to the village with their baby blue CWS buckets on their heads is an image none of us will forget.
Soon after, everyone seemed to get the memo saying it was Market time and the crowd cleared out. We cleaned up a bit, bid farewell to our women and headed home. We ended up stopping at Swad for a celebratory meal. Nothing says congratulations on opening a water treatment center like some authentic Chicken Curry! We went with another team and it was great to just sit back and bask in the pride we all shared for our villages.
Following every team’s opening we rented a bus and drove four hours south to some waterfalls. It was really fun to finally be able to sit back, relax, and actually try to soak up some sun. The scenery was gorgeous! Yesterday we worked hard to monitor the households in our village, and found that many households understood the concept of keeping their buckets and cups clean. There are others that we have found still need a little work. We had a problem today with our stand, Mariama and Abiba had filled the Polytank without the water completing it’s twenty-four hour Alum process. The result was turbid water in the Polytank. Discovering this was frustrating, but it is exactly why we have a week here after opening day to look after our village. Now we will be able to tell households that need work certain things they can do to keep up cleanliness, and we can insure that the women know exactly what they are doing when they treat the water.
Over all Team Six has been having a wonderful experience together and cannot wait to get back to Gbandu tomorrow!!
Team #5 (a.k.a. Team Global Pack a.k.a. Team AWESOME a.k.a. All Girls’ Team!)
After about a week of learning more of what CWS is all about, and the important processes that we will implement in new communities, the team finally was able to visit the new village for the first time. It is called Djelo (pronounced like the tasty Desert treat, Jello), and is about an hour to the east of where we are staying in Tamale.
The first time our team showed up was both exciting and a bit nerve-wracking. In this culture, it is important to first talk with the chief of the village that you are visiting to introduce yourselves and ask if they are interested in working with you. This way you know that the villagers will accept the help, and know what is coming. In any case, we searched for the chief, but he was traveling at the time, so we talked to the assistant chief, who gave us permission to go to the dugout to test their current water source. We then set up a time to talk with the chief the next day more about how we can work with them to provide sustainable clean water.
Though we were all expecting a really formal meeting, when we arrived on the second day, we were surprised in a couple ways:
a) The meeting was much more casual than we expected! The kids put together a low chair for the chief to sit in, and benches for the elders. We were not inside the chief’s hut, and by the time we really got into the discussion, a lot of the community was standing around listening, and even jumping in at times.
b) Some of the children were hanging out with the elders during the meeting! Our team has noticed that the kids in the villages are brought up in much more of a community fashion than we are used to in North America. In other similar cultures, the fathers and other male figure-heads are not necessarily very involved in the upbringing of the children, but in this case they were very willing to play with them and keep them company even in the context of a meeting with the chief and another organization.
c) Though it is a given that in these villages the animals have free range, it was not expected that they too voice their opinions on the matters at hand. During our meeting, one particular goat had very strong opinions, and was not afraid to share them. As hard as we tried, we couldn’t keep from laughing.
Once we had complete permission to go ahead with the CWS model, there was a dilemma that still needed to be solved. At this village (and others in the area), there are two dugouts. One is much closer to the village than the other, but is also smaller, and sometimes dries up in the peak of the dry season, so the villagers then use the dugout that is farther away. This brought up the dilemma of which dugout to put the implementation center. We asked the elders what they thought, and here are some highlights of their discussion:
a) They could put the center in the village itself so that they could take water from either dugout. The chief had some concerns with that though, because it would be a lot of work for the two women that actually run the center. He was worried that they would tire from it, and then maybe not even do it at all, which would negate the whole purpose of the project in the first place.
b) If they put the center at the small dugout, they said they were also willing to pay for and build a second Polytank stand by the other dugout if they thought it was necessary. With these two points discussed, they came to the conclusion of putting the original stand by the smaller, closer dugout that is used more often anyway.
Though they came to a great conclusion, there is still an interesting factor that stems from the second dugout. If the women and children, and the rest of the community that come to get the water have a second, dirty dugout with no implementation center at it, how do we keep them from using it anyway? This is a problem that the team will discuss with the villagers in the coming days, but is something that is hard to monitor. It is not a huge concern, however, because of the initial excitement that the village expressed about finally having clean water. One interesting thing that the elders said was that they used to think that people were getting sick from the water because their enemies were mad at them. Once the Guinea worm was eradicated, however, they now realize that it is the water itself that is making them sick, and not their enemies. With this realization, they know they can take control of the situation, and using clean water will make a difference for their health. Knowing that they have this understanding gives our team confidence that they will choose to use the clean water for drinking even though they still have access to a source of dirty dugout water.
The day after we got permission to begin the process, we brought the materials for the first steps and began building the Polytank stand. When we went with the masons to decide a good place to put it, the chief actually came to help! This was another unexpected, welcome surprise because some of the other elders followed him there too.
This was really cool because they got to see some of the process instead of sitting back and remaining uninvolved. While the masons were building with our help and the help of our wonderful translator, Amin, they were also joking around with each other. It was great to see how they interact on a regular basis, and not just within the context of a meeting. We were all expecting them to be the officials of the village, and completely serious all the time, but it was great to see their personalities come out a bit in a more casual setting.
We have learned a lot as a team, and look forward to getting to know the women, children, and other villagers better as we work more closely with them in the next steps of the process!
Naaaaa from Ghana, if you don’t know what that is it’s the response to just about everything here in Northern Ghana. We are team 3, made up of Evan from Virginia, Abby from Maine, Meagan from Indiana, and Krysta from Ohio. We have been matched up with our translator, Mohammed and our taxi driver, Nkatey (pronounced like Cartier) to implement CWS into the village of Yakura. It is about an hour drive from our home at GILLBT to our village.
Our first day in the village was Monday, June 11th. As we drove into Yakura for the first time, we could see the apprehension on everyone’s faces as we passed. “Who are these people? What are doing they doing here?” We met with the chief and elders for the first time and set up a community meeting for Tuesday.
The community meeting on Tuesday was wonderful. The entire village was enthralled at the prospect of having clean water. Meagan was our point person to talk to the chief. She explained the importance of clean water to maintain health and showed them the difference in 3M tests of the dugout water and clean, boiled water. Her speech was respectful, informative, and gracious. After the meeting, there was a jubilation dance. Women started bumping their butts against one another and got Abby, Krysta, and Meagan to join in. A man invited Evan to shake it out along with him. They took us to the location where they wanted to build stand: under some shade, next to the deeper dugout, and raised above the ground to keep from getting wet. The children came out and walked with us hand-in-hand while skipping along. Earlier before the meeting, we were teaching them children’s songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and “Are You Sleeping.” Without asking them, the children started singing to Meagan with songs of their own. Communication extended beyond individual languages.
Wednesday we began building the stand for the polytank. In the morning, we could see a parade of men over the tall grass each carrying a block on their heads. There wasn’t a mason in the village and it was too expensive to hire one, so Mohammed mixed the cement and plastered them together.
Thursday we finished building the stand and collecting other materials. Soon we will start training the women and finish the building the treatment center. We hope to host opening day either Monday, June 18th or Tuesday, June 19th.
As a team we are excited to continue our progress and help the people of Yakura receive access to clean drinking water. Naa-oon-ni-tib-e-ow—God bless you.
We were super excited to start building the water treatment center today after there was so much excitement in the village of Jabayilli yesterday at the prospect of clean water. As we were driving in, a woman pointed at a water bottle full of clean clear water in Cameron’s lap and asked if she could have it for her baby. We knew that was a good sign!
As the villagers gathered around us and Matt began telling everyone what we were there for, their response was incredibly welcoming and receptive. After we passed around the results from the water samples we took from their dugout (pictured below), rumbling erupted among the crowd as they finally understood the reason they have been feeling so sick for so long.
Purchasing the necessary materials to build the water treatment center was quite an adventure; upon seeing a foreigner, the price mysteriously rose.
As the local stone mason helped us build the base of the water center, the elders managed and directed us from their comfortable seats on the hill, throwing in comments here and there on the strength of the women (apparently we would make excellent stone masons). As you can see from the photo below, Heidi was especially excited to be working with cement again after writing a 30-page lab report on the art of concrete.
We are all looking forward to tomorrow morning when we will return to our village to complete construction of the polytank stand.
The Fall Fellowship will take place from Oct. 10th through the 31st– an ideal program for any recent graduates or even young professionals looking for experience in international development! The great thing about the application is that it is rolling. Giving our fellows a unique opportunity to start their fundraising early! Get your application in today and be set with your Fall plans with an amazing experience in Ghana. Grow your skills in
Real world problem-solving
Working under pressure
Want more information? On Monday June 25th at 6:30pm and Tuesday June 26th at 2:00pm Community Water Solutions’ Director of US Operations & Development, Samantha Derrick, will be hosting a Webinar to give you more information about CWS, the fellowship program and to answer all your questions.
To join the webinar send Sam an email at firstname.lastname@example.org She’ll give you all the necessary info!
Over the past few days, the fellows have been finishing their orientation and are now ready to use their skills to bring clean water to six new villages. The teams practiced household visits on Saturday afternoon, then got to monitor real households in existing CWS villages on Sunday morning.
That afternoon, they practiced for their meeting with the chief and elders to gain permission to implement a CWS water treatment center in their village while continuing to run tests on water samples they collected from villages they had visited. Some of the groups had their chief meetings in their new villages yesterday, while the remaining groups will have their meetings today. All six teams report that their villages already seem enthusiastic about CWS building water treatment centers in their villages.
When Tyler, Jenn, Brigid, and Leah arrived in their new village, they saw feces and livestock drinking from one of the most turbid dugouts we’ve seen. Then, an old man came up to the dugout and began drinking water from it! If all goes well, this man and the other people in his village will be drinking clean water in just two weeks.
The teams will begin building the polytank stands today and tomorrow. Some teams have interesting dilemas to work out with their villages before they begin. Team 5 (Sarit, Marwa, Brittni, and Khadija) have to decide where to build their treatment center in a village with two dugouts, a closer one that dries up in the dry season and a farther one that always has water.
The dugout in Team 6’s village (Mark, Kelsey, and Moriah), which they share with Team 1 (Zoe, Kelsey, Alex, and Olivia), floods during the rainy season, so they have to help their villages decide where to place their center and if it might be more beneficial to build two stands and move the center during the rainy season.
We look forward to hearing more from each of our teams as they come back from the field each day, eager to share their experiences with the other fellows. Look for their own takes on the blog in the coming days!
Yesterday watched the fellows prepare to go into their villages for the first time. Armed with information from orientation about Ghana, the water crisis, and a deeper familiarity with the CWS implementation system and lab testing, their enthusiasm reminds me of my experience last year. It feels like the endless fundraising emails, plane flights and bus rides all lead up to the implementation process, and its hard to not feel some pressure to make sure that all the hours, dollars and energy has not gone to waste. Family, friends and the rest of our donors have put their faith in each of us to come into Ghana and change one small but essential piece of people’s lives. The challenge to seize the opportunity before us is an integral part of the CWS Fellowship program, and I wanted to share my experience in that it might give you an idea of some of the emotions hitting many of the fellows.
Almost exactly a year ago, my three teammates (Chris, Sharifa and Ianthe) climbed into our translator and friend Shak’s Jeep to set out for our village, called Kushini. I felt uneasy, although I didn’t betray my anxieties to the rest of my team. I felt like I was intruding on somebody else’s village, coming to inform them that what they were doing was wrong and how we would fix it. Even though I knew my intentions, the intentions of my team and of CWS as a whole were good, I feared what we were doing reeked of paternalism. I was anxious our village wouldn’t be receptive to our system – to us. As Shak’s Jeep slogged over the rain eroded dirt road leading to our village, the bumpy road only compounded my uneasiness in a physical way.
The first thing we saw pulling into the village was a goat perched on a log in the middle of a field of cassava. When the car pulled up, children peered at us curiously but excitedly. We approached a few older men resting in the shade who smiled warmly at us and insisted we sit down where they had been as they gathered more plastic chairs for themselves. We exchanged pleasantries, introducing ourselves and why we were there and after only a few minutes we learned that although the chief was not there that day, we would be able to meet with him and the village elders the next morning. We agreed.
The next morning we presented the CWS clean water system before a group of the men we had seen the day before – we noticed that they wore hats to signify their leadership positions in the village – and the Chief, a tall man who seemed to be in his early 50s who wore a patterned shawl, dark jeans and a small hat. He stared thoughtfully at Sharifa as she spoke, only shifting his attention to Shak for the translations and nodded affirmation after most of the passages. His reactions assuaged my fears, but his reaction took me back.
He told us that he knew the water the village was drinking was dirty and he knew that it made the village sick. He knew that it made his children sick. They had no alternative, he explained, but he recognized the opportunity that we brought and he thanked us for coming, considering it a blessing. We weren’t imposing our value systems on him or his village, we were simply giving them the chance to drink clean water, something he unequivocally and graciously accepted. The rest of the elders nodded as if to affirm the chief.
A few days ago, I returned to Kushini and had the chance to speak with the woman in charge of the water center. She told me through Amin, another CWS translator, that she had been well and that the water center was still open and supplying clean water to the village. A 4 year old I believed to be her son extended a bottle of clear water to me proudly. Monitoring and lab tests we took that day told the same story: Kushini was still drinking clean water.
Although I find it validating to see the system in Kushini being so successful and refer to it as “my village,” its not. The clean water system in Kushini is working, buttressed by ongoing monitoring and support from CWS, because its theirs. That local ownership is what makes CWS projects work.
With only another day before the fellows go to the field to their villages to begin implementation, the fellows (along with our late-arrival Zoe, who has fit in seamlessly) continued their orientation. They faced a variety of challenges from a rope course to the language barrier, each which they tackled with enthusiasm. I got to watch from the sidelines with my camera in hand.
Evan and Tyler wait to receive Meaghan from Krysta and Alex as they fit her through one of the small holes in the rope course. The challenge: if any of the fellows touched the rope, they would all have to start from scratch.
She fits as Abby helps give commands from above.
Our fellows always take the high road. Bridget leaps small ropes courses with a single bound (and a lot of teammates).
Jenn goes full Super Woman, soaring above the competition
Wahab gives Zoe, Alex and Kelsey a lesson in Dagbani in preparation for going into their village
Mark, Moriah and Kelsey digest the pronunciations of Dagbani phrases with the help of Peter
Sarit examines lab results of water samples – the yellow color indicates colony forming bacteria from dugout water samples.
Finally, the fellows watch a riveting performance as Shak, Peter and Kate simulate a typical monitoring conversation