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The Seasons They are a-Changin’

CWS Tamale staff wishing this nice truck was ours! Sadly it's just the landlord's...
CWS Tamale staff wishing this nice truck was ours! Sadly it’s just the landlord’s…

First week back in Tamale and Hamatan is in full swing! Hamatan is when a dry-dust wind blows in from the Sahara. This happens from late November until mid-March all over West Africa. This Saharan wind engulfs the city of Tamale every year with a thick orange cloud of dust, leaving us with chilly nights and burning hot days.

Shak tastes the borehole water in Buhijaa
Shak tastes the borehole water in Buhijaa

What does this mean for CWS? Well for the staff it means that we finish our days with an orange dust facemask and dirty feet. For CWS project manager, Peter, it means he comes back from the field with a carrot colored beard. For our 47 communities, the Hamatan wind does not affect water sales per se but the seasonal changing of weather has a big impact on where people get their water.

During Hamatan, it gets drier and drier in and around Tamale. This means that water sources like manmade wells; boreholes and dugouts start to dry up. In many of CWS’ villages, the community water sources change, which creates challenges for the entrepreneurs who run the water businesses. This has several implications. Some women have to close their centers for a few weeks as they transition to treating water from a different source, some have to pay donkeys or motor kings to bring them water to treat and some move their water treatment centers multiple times… All the women are unique in their approach to dealing with seasonal transitions and CWS ensures that they are coming up with a plan that’s right for them.

Fati and Amina aka “Samlenna” or TZ seller are the women who operate the water business in the village of Gbung. When it rains, the women move their center from the dugout to the market in the middle of town and treat collected rainwater. In the Hamatan season,  the people who live in Gbung get their water from a few different places. They get it from a nearby stream and from a closer but smaller dugout that dries up for half the year. No one is collecting household water at the dugout where the polytank initially was built. So for the time being, Fati and Samlenna are paying a motor king to bring them water. The women are working on adjusting the price of water to reflect the increase in water treatment costs. The center is still running despite these seasonal challenges!

Children hanging in Libi
Children hanging in Libi

In nearby Libi, Cheriba and Ramatu closed their center for a month for a number of reasons. In December, the path to their stream where the polytank stand was initially constructed was still muddy and overgrown. Cheriba told CWS field staff that her fellow community members were getting water from a number of sources. Some people got it from manmade wells, some got it from smaller dugouts and some had stored rainwater. She said that if she opened for business nobody would come. She wanted to wait until people started going back to the stream to collect household water.  Ramatu and Cheriba will be opening for business this week!

The well in Tacpuli
The well in Tacpuli

Tacpuli was the lowest performing CWS village in October 2012. Lasinche, the woman who runs the water business in Tacpuli was having a hard time getting people to come to buy water post-rainy season. Many people had rainwater stored in their houses and did not want to make the muddy trek to the dugout to buy clean water. Lasinche tackled the problem on her own and moved the water treatment center to a well that was closer and more accessible for the community. Lasinche kept the center at the well for all of December and for the beginning of January. She moved the center back to the dugout and sales are going well for her!

Memouna and Damu - The women entrepreneurs of the newly implemented Tindan (not to be confused with the Tindan implemented in October)
Memouna and Damu – The women entrepreneurs of the newly implemented Tindan (not to be confused with the Tindan implemented in October)

Weather patterns, climate change and seasonal challenges all play a major role in determining where people get their drinking water and the amount of water that is available year round to treat. In Tacpuli, Gbung and Libi, three villages that are very close in proximity to one another, these factors all affect them in different ways.  After working in these communities for a few months, I’ve noticed that the best solutions are formed organically from the entrepreneurs or the community members themselves. As Shak, the CWS assistant project manager always says, “We are not the ones getting our drinking water from the village.” He makes a good point. While CWS works its hardest to make sure all 47 water businesses are running effectively, we will never be able to control the weather and we are not the ones drinking the water. The women and the people who live in these communities need to be the decision-makers for seasonal problems that arise throughout the year. And this goes for all development projects, not just water.

-Brianán

 

Voices from the field: Team G (Gabi, Katie, Jane & Jakob)

Hi Everyone!

DSCN0365Team G here (Gabi, Katie, Jane & Jakob). Today we went to our village, Kulaa, to conduct monitoring of the villager’s safe storage containers. Jakob stayed home with an injured foot (who is now fully recovered) but we had Sam with us, which really helped to get us through an otherwise very hot day in the village.

We started our day on Ghana time (aka slightly later), but we stopped along the way to pick up egg sandwiches, which are heavenly, they consist of scrambled eggs, tomatoes, onions, and Panini bread, all for the price of 1 cedi and 50 pesewas (75 cents) for a two-egg sandwich.

Once in the village we intended to conduct safe drinking water discussions with the children at the school, but everyone was still cleaning the school building since it was the first day back after the holiday break. Instead, we coordinated with the teachers to conduct the safe water discussion tomorrow, and we went household-to-household for monitoring for the rest of the afternoon.

We were very pleased with our monitoring as all of the households had clear water, and everyone exclaimed how they loved the taste of the clean water and would continue to drink the clean water from the polytank.

DSC03715The children continued to follow us as we made our way through the village; each child always tries to cling to each limb/hand/backpack string. One baby in particular is the child of the Queen Mother (basically the older woman who is in charge of the women/children), and this baby is a round little girl with pierced ears, eyeliner, and a belly that says she eats very well! Jane placed one of the children in the open pocket of her backpack (similar to a baby carrier in the US—see picture below). Gabi cleaned and treated a number of gashes on the limbs of the children—we are hoping to teach them to clean their wounds before they become infected. Katie has been attracting many suitors, including one young man, about 20 years old, who approached Katie while she was holding one of the babies and said (Ghanaian accent), “Hello. I want to be your friend (touches her hand). I want to call you at your hotel.”

IMG_0335We all love our village, and the villagers in particular are extremely warm, welcoming, and helpful with everything we bring to them. Tomorrow will be our last day in the village and we plan to shower them with candy, clothes, water bottles, and toys. We will greatly miss our village and everyone in it, but we are confident they will maintain this water business for years and years of good health.

 

XOXO

Team G

 

Voices from the Field: Team C (Emily, Lauren, Sarah and Priya)

Picture1Team C, aka Charlie’s Angels (consisting of Emily, Lauren, Sarah, and Priya), ventured into the school in Tindan today to teach students about healthy drinking habits! First, Sarah, Emily and Lucy (our photographer) went to the dugout and water treatment centre to collect materials for the games, and check on the women (Adamu and Maymuna).After a couple days of distribution and monitoring safe storage containers, the kids of the village were excited about learning healthy drinking habits!

The motto of our first activity was: clear does not always mean clean! We had the kids gather around while Emily and Priya presented them with three water bottles, filled with polytank water, a salt-water solution, and dugout water. We asked them which one(s) they would like to drink, and the two clear solutions were chosen. Needless to say, Abrahim, a little boy of the village, was shocked that the salt water solution tasted bad even though it looked clean. The kids laughed, and we taught them that re-contamination is not always visible, so they should keep their hands out of the safe storage containers.

Next, we played ‘healthy-habits tag’, where we taught the kids safe drinking habits. Three kids were “diseases”, who were “it” in the tag game and, five kids were assigned healthy habits, giving them extra lives in the game. Lauren volunteered as a “disease,” and the young Tindan kids outran her as we all played. At the end, the kids with the healthy habits cards (drawn by Priya!) remained standing which showed how crucial healthy drinking habits are.

Picture5Playing games while educating was a great way to introduce healthy drinking habits to the kids and excite them about their safe storage containers filled with clean water! We are sad to leave Tindan, but we have left the centre in the capable hands of Adamu and Maymuna, and we are confident that the children will practice safe drinking habits!

Voices from the Field: Team E (Linda, Vanesa, Alexa and Julia)

Team E (Linda, Vanessa, Alexa, and Julia) has spent the past week in Nekpegu, a small village of 26 households.

Prior to opening day, we had met with the chief and whole community and distributed 26 buckets to all the households. After only an hour on opening day, all buckets had been filled at the center. Our two women, Fatima and Ramatu, had made a profit of over two cedis—which is more than a weekly income for most people in rural Ghana.

What was best for us was really watching the women take charge, and see the village’s excitement. When the chief arrived at the polytank Ramatu was so eager to have him take the first drink from the tap. (The photo of him smiling is when he was asked what it tasted like… I thought it tasted pretty good, too.) The second they turned the knob and saw the crisp clean water, the whole line of 15 women and children started clapping.

During the first training session we had with Ramatu and Fatima, which Julia helped lead, Ramatu modestly accepted Julia’s notebook and pen and explained with a smile that she could not write. Seeing her pose with her notebook and pen, after learning how to tally the people who arrived, gave light to the empowerment that the CWS model brings to the women of these villages.

The next day, the polytank was empty and our women were enthusiastic to start round two and scoop their blue drums into the tank for treatment. On our last days we get to monitor and hear back from our households on how the center is working for them (and mostly just how the water tastes.) We will also be spending a day at the small school in our village and we are excited to get to help start the education process with our children—because, as our chief said to us, the kids will help enlighten them.

xoxox

Lexi Lee

Voices from the Field: Team D (Urooj, Casey and Ty)

Blog4Welcome to Kalinka! A beautiful village tucked in the northern region of Ghana, home to over 300 people. Our team is small: Casey, Ty, and me. Our goal is big, to implement safe, clean, and healthy water for Kalinka. Our process is simple but layered. Here we present a day in our journey, we hope you enjoy! It all began at sunset.

We awoke bright and early to begin our hour and a half drive to Kalinka, situated beyond the lull of the city, beyond a maze of potholes and dusty roads. As we waited for out trusty translator to come pick us up, we realized we were on American time and our translator T.J, was on Ghanaian time. Nonetheless, T.J arrived with our taxi, we all piled in the backseat, squashed together like a pair of sardines, a prerequisite of such closeness is you get to know your teammates very well. As we were discussing exciting anecdotes of our past and hopes and aspirations for our future, we were pulled over by the police. We handled it like pros, that is to say we kept our mouths shut and allowed the experts, our translator and driver, to handle the situation. After what seemed like hours, T.J informed us that our driver’s license had been seized by the police, much to his and our disappointment.

Despite the inconvenience we marched on, we arrived at Kalinka behind our scheduled time, but on village time. Once there, we finished day two of our training. Casey took lead, instructing the women on how to scoop the clear water into the polytank prior to chlorination. T.J and Ty excelled at handling the large polytank and making sure it was in top operating condition. I distracted the little ones with my camera and generally took pictures of everyone in awkward situations. One exciting moment was when Casey successfully balanced a scooping bucket on her head in an attempt to understand and emulate the difficulties of the women slugging water weight day in and out.

Blog1After finishing our water treatment duties, we commenced the community outreach portion. We returned to the village center and began to assembly the safe storage containers (picture on the left). Here you can see how passionate and ardent we were about assembling the containers correctly (Casey, T.J, and Ty were so intent on the task they didn’t even look up when I snapped a picture of them). Afterwards the women assembled in clusters and we all gave them a pitch about harnessing the power of clean water and using it to improve their quality of life. The women assembled, participated in the process with gusto, and hit on all the key points. Some concerns that arose in this process were access to extra containers for larger families and the water treatment process. Here I glow with pride, as my team handled all the questions very very well. We were hot, tired, thirsty, but we had a sheen (and no this was not from the red dust but a glimmer of pride at what we had cultivated in this village: a relationship).

Tomorrow the fruits of over labor will be evident, as tomorrow is our opening day. We are extremely excited and looking toward the future, and expecting smooth sailing all the way

-Urooj

Voices from the field: Team B (Caroline, Amanda and Iyi)

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Team B

We were so thrilled see such amazing community involvement!  Our village’s was named Toyinahili, about 1 hour outside of Tamale. There are approximately 100 households in the village and many adorable children.

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Azabel (red shirt) hands the mason a tool to make the cement.

The turnout to build the Polytank stand was predominantly male and everyone pitched in to help.  It was nice to see the whole community come together to help the implementation process.  Each person played an intrigal part of the stand: the son of the chief, Azabel and Shak (our translator) took control of the build and a mason came and did the cement work for free. Children goofed around and lounged the in shade – once spotting a crocodile in the lake and rushing over to see it. Our Polytank spot is wedged in between two trees by the dugout and is a beautiful spot for clean water.

DSC05981-1After the stand was finished we headed up to the center of the village and gathered the children around to brush their teeth. The day before, we had given each child a toothbrush and a toothpaste packet and taught them how to brush. For all of the children, it was their first encounter with a toothbrush. Amanda noticed when she first arrived that all the children had very white teeth but as age increased, tooth decay did as well. Watching them raise their hands proudly to declare who had brushed the night before was an amazing feeling for everyone on the team.

Happy Birthday Iyi
Happy Birthday Iyi

Today was also Iyi’s birthday 21st (January 6th)!  Shak decided to pour water on Iyi to help him celebrate.  A special celebration is planned for tonight!  Our translator Shak can do just about anything as he is a “jack of all trades”.  Whether it would be fixing his truck on the side of the road, or helping transport and build the parts of the water purification business, he always is calm collected, and nonchalant.  This is because Shak has worked with CWS for a few years now, and he is always prepared for whatever the day brings.  Our purification drums were held to the car solely by long strips of elastic, which was tied down securely by “do-it –all “ Shak.  The cement work took about 2 hours however since a good portion of the community was there, many hands made light work.   When the cement work was done everyone, Shak, Amanda, Caroline, and Iyi signed the cement so that the entire village would remember us for generations to come.  Tomorrow we will begin training the appointed women to run the business on how to make the balls of alum and their role in the water purification business.  Everything is running smoothly.  Tohyinayili’s opening day could be easily as early as Wednesday, January 9th, 2013!

–Caroline, Amanda, Shak, Iyi

Voices from the Field: Team F (Saja, Chris, Rachel and Corrine)

Chief and elders inside the grand room where the meeting took place

An hour and a half drive along the rough and dusty roads to the northwest of Tamale lies the village of Kasuliyili. With around 400 households (estimating about 3,500 people), and education-levels ranging from elementary to high school, some electricity, and a dugout the size of a lake, this village holds the title as the largest that Community Water Solutions has ever had the opportunity to work with.

Team F with the chief and elders (pic taken by a kid, hence the heads cut off)

The grandness of the village made it somewhat difficult to believe that they did not already have access to clean drinking water, but the results of the test of the dugout water in Kasuliyili – rife with E. Coli and Coliform – were testament to the fact that we a had a tremendous challenge ahead. We rolled up our sleeves, layered on the bug spray and prepared for the weeks ahead!

Today we had the honor of meeting with the village chief, who is an educator and nothing short of a visionary for his community. Our team met with “Chief Patience Moves Mountains” (awesome name, right?), the village elders, the women leaders and other community members. Collectively, we discussed the different aspects of the CWS concept. We covered the importance of healthy drinking water, the building of the water treatment center, the training process with the women to run the business, educating the children in the community, and the ongoing monitoring of the business.

DSCN2944After laying out the details and answering the questions from the elders and community members, it was now the chief’s time to speak. When he told us how important access to healthy water was for the village and accepted our offer to help, we couldn’t help but be heartened by his comments. When he gifted us yams and a Guinea Fowl, we were even more moved.

Before arriving in Ghana for the fellowship, we each knew that we would meet with the chief and elders about bringing clean water to their village, but we did not know how amazing and important this would be. After the meeting, we asked our translator and longtime CWS employee, Peter, what he would write in the blog post if he had the chance. His response was simple: “it was the best chief meeting I have ever had.”

We are incredibly excited to be a part of such an incredible project in Kasuliyili, helping to move forward Chief Patience Moves Mountain’s mission to bring good health to village over the next two weeks.

-Saja, Chris, Rachel & Corrine

Voices from the Field: Team A (Jordan, Josh, Kara and Lindsay)

Jordan, Kara, and Josh building their Polytank stand

The A Team, minus Lindsay who was feeling under the weather (but is back in the field today!), started building the treatment center today in our village called Bogu (pronounced something like “Bwauw”)! Our village has 40 households and two different dugouts. Their main and closer dugout dries out during the dry season. There is a school in the village, which we’ve not yet seen open, but some of the villagers speak a little bit of English.

Lindsay (and translator Mohammed in red jacket)carrying water on her head.

The busy morning consisted of us picking up a whole drum of sea sand and making a detour into villages alongside the road to avoid the massive speed rounds. Half of our bricks were already in the village, along with our cement. Bricks, here, mean cement blocks by the way (made of sand)! Our taxi driver, Hustler, got the other half of our bricks while we started building. We cleared an area in the center of town near the chief’s hut and our mason mixed the cement, sand, and dugout water together to make the mortar. The men of the village did most of the work on the construction, while we “supervised” the children.

Josh and Jordan playing duck duck goose with Bogu’s kids.

We played football (soccer) with the kids for a long time, teaching them tricks and learning tricks from them. We also taught them duck-duck-goose which they pronounce “dush, dush, goosh.” The picture on the left is of Jordan and Josh playing that game with kids. We tried to teach them to play rock, paper, scissors, which didn’t work out so well! They tried to teach us a game where you jump, clap, and kick at the same time, and we’re going to have to work on our rhythm before we master that one.

Kara holding the dead bunny

Some of the kids got a fruit from a nearby tree, which we think is called a Bauba tree. Of course, we tried it! It had a sort of sweet taste but very dry. They also happened to find a dead bunny which our translator Mohammed made all of us hold, not excluding the vegetarian, Jordan. She was forced. Kara was captured looking not too happy in a photo in this post. We’re also learning to carry buckets for water to the dugout on our heads.

We are all very excited for the rest of our time in the village to start training the women and distributing the safe storage containers to the community!

– Jordan, Josh, Kara, and Lindsay

 

 

 

First Approaches to Villages

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Saja, Rachel, and Corrine, from Team F, labeling their lab samples

On Wednesday, the fellows traveled to previously implemented CWS villages to practice household monitoring with their translators. It was the first time fellows entered the homes of the people and had one on one interactions. The visit also enabled them to see the successes of CWS; most of the households possessed clean water in their safe storage container and explained how happy they were to have clean water!

Emily, Sarah, Priya, and Lauren, from Team C, preparing their samples.
Emily, Sarah, Priya, and Lauren, from Team C, preparing their samples.

In the afternoon, the fellows practiced their chief meetings with their translators. This meeting is the most important step in the CWS implementation process, because in many villages this is meeting will be the first time that they have heard of our organization! We make sure teams have plenty of time to review the CWS pitch before this meeting and practice working through a translator.

The fellows also completed lab rotations to learn to use our lab equipment. Our water testing lab allows us to measure the bacteria in the water, both from individual households and the village water source. The fellows practiced working in the lab by tested the water they collected during household monitoring.

Today, the fellows all visited their villages for the first time! All of them had success when speaking with the chief and the elders. Some will return tomorrow for an official chief meeting, while others will return for a community meeting! The fellows are super psyched to get working in the field and bring clean drinking water to 7 new villages in Ghana!

Best,

Kristen