Voices from the Field: Team 5

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.

Amin and Brittni sitting on top of the Jeep

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.

Masons building the Polytank stand

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!

-Brittni, Khadijah, Marwa, and Sarit