It’s a bittersweet moment for Saha. We’re saying goodbye to 14 Field Reps in Accra – they’re hoping on planes and flying back home to school, jobs and family. At the same time, we’re excited to welcome 10 more entrepreneurs to the Saha Global family, in the two new villages of Kpanshegu and Moya, and two current partner villages of Djelo and Tacpili. We will let these numbers speak to the hard work of Field Reps past and present:
178 women have started small businesses with the help of Saha Field Reps.
They own and operate 74 Water Treatment Businesses which serve 39,534 people.
They also run 8 Solar Charging Businesses, serving 3,704 people.
100% of these businesses are in operation today.
We want to take this opportunity to congratulate Jake, Shak, Julia, Sofia, Marlena, Tj, Julia, Wahab, Jenni, Orlando, Peter, Allison, Marsha, Sarah, Amin, Kiana, Matt, Kristina and Paul for their hard work in their communities. It was such a pleasure to work with this dedicated group.
Zenabu is one of Saha Global’s newest entrepreneurs. She has been working alongside two other women from her community, Damu and Fuseini, to run the water business in Changyilli since June 2014. Before working with Saha, Zenabu was a farmer. Her favorite crop to grow is groundnuts (peanuts). She still finds the time to work on the farm for most of the day, opening the water treatment center in the early mornings and evenings.
Zenabu is a mother to eight children but sadly, two of them passed away when they were very young. She really enjoys being able to provide clean drinking water to the village of Changyili and thinks that it is very important for children to drink healthy water. Zenabu had a great time working with Field Reps Jeremy, Cara, Selana and Brielle last summer and frequently asks Shak, who monitors Changyili, to send her greetings to them!
My name is Camille and I was a Saha Global Field Rep in June of 2014. I’m 19 years old, but I spent 13 of those years living and studying outside of the US, where I was born. After coming back to the States to study biomedical engineering at the University of Southern California, I was itching to get back into international work. I found Saha Global through the Engineers Without Borders club at my school and instantly agreed with their commitment to sustainability and women’s empowerment. The Saha Global Leadership Program encompassed so many things that are so important to me such as health education, water crisis awareness, and cultural exploration.
Through attending this program, I learned about the culture and people of Ghana as a resident as opposed to simply as a tourist. I worked in the village of Sabonjida for three weeks while living in a compound in the town of Salaga with seven other field reps and our leader. Shopping for groceries in the local market and spending long days by the shore of Lake Volta gave me a true understanding of how my colleagues in the village live. I can already tell that the skills I acquired while working in the Saha Global Leadership Program will be invaluable to me in the future: tolerance, public speaking, stamina, and culinary creativity are just a few.
I remember being shocked at first by our drastic cultural differences, but soon overcoming them to bond deeply with the women that we worked with. My favorite memory from the trip was when we were collecting the water for our first round of treatment at the center. My Saha Global team and I struggled carrying small buckets of water while the village entrepreneurs, Mary, Florence, Elizabeth, and Mercy, carried large tubs of on their heads without breaking a sweat. Though we could not speak the same language, the eight of us had the best time as the field reps attempted to keep up with the women we were supposed to be training. Since returning home, it has been comforting to be able to keep updated on the successes of the entrepreneurs in Sabonjida. This experience further intensified my interest in international development work and I look forward to following, and hopefully being involved in, future Saha Global projects.
Want to learn more about Camille’s experience or have any specific questions? Camille would love to tell you more! Feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org Also take a look at what she’s up to now!
We began our solar journey by meeting with the chief and elders of the village to introduce the solar charging business. We brought along the batteries and lanterns to show and explain to them what they will be using instead of the harmful kerosene and torch lights. Without Amin, our cultural liaison, we would be unable to work together and communicate our ideas. Although they have never seen these lanterns before, they quickly grasped the overall benefit that these new materials would provide. It is good to know that these families will no longer be exposed to the hazardous materials they were used to using, such as kerosene lamps and lead acid batteries.
In 2013, Saha Global pitched a water treatment center to the chief and elders of Djelo (pronounced Jell-oh) in hopes of increasing access to clean water. Women from the community fill their water buckets twice a day. Jake and Marsha checked out the water dugouts and noticed that the women were doing a good job of maintaining past efforts. Due to their dedication and diligence, we were excited to introduce them to this new solar business concept. The community was very excited about commencing the project and quickly provided the necessary information to begin.
Day 2 consisted of building the solar charging center and getting our hands dirty! We really enjoyed this process since it did not require translation and we could all work together as a team. The villagers showed us how to build in their community, which was a novel process for us and we learned how to carry the bricks on our heads like the local villagers! However, we got the hang of it quickly and created what we think will be a great and long-lasting building for the business.
Day 3 & 4 have been our longest days so far. We hired a carpenter to do the roof, which gave us a lot of down time to play with the kids and to get to know the women a little bit better. Sarah and Jake had a great time playing football and other games with the children while Marsha learned how to swaddle a baby and even carried one on her back! Our team is truly enjoying the experience and getting to know everyone in the community.
Today was our 5th day in the wonderful village of Djelo. We are now in the process of building the solar panels and training the women on how to run the business successfully. It will be exciting to see the community use their fully charged lanterns in just a few short days!!!!!!
We are only a few days away from Opening Day and our days at Kpanshegu, our village of 71 households about an hour away from Tamale, have been eyeopening and fulfilling. Our community meeting went splendidly and we met Adamu, Jamila and Sikina who are the fabulous entrepreneurs at Kpanshegu’s Saha Water Project. Our first day of training included filling several buckets of dugout water into the blue water drums. Everyone pitched in and Aly even handled some on her head. We also taught the women how to roll the alum into balls. The villagers were naturals at creating these balls which are swirled in the blue drums. This process allows the dirt from the dugout water to fall to the bottom so that the water is clear, but it is not clean just yet! We let the water with alum set overnight to make sure ALL of the dirt, grim and ickiness settled.
The next day we arrived and could not wait to see if our alum had done its job…it was like Christmas Day!When we walked up to the blue drums and opened the lid…PRESTO…clear water!!! It’s basically chemical magic.It was great to see the look on everyone’s face to see the transition from brown water to clear water and it felt good to share that with Adamu, Jamila and Sikina.We then showed how to assemble the safe storage buckets (which we will distribute to each household) so they know how to remedy the situation if something breaks.The women who will run the business are complete rockstars.After Marlena demonstrated some of the problems that might happen with the buckets such as leaks, the women jumped in right away to participate.
Today was spend getting some last minute aesthetics together before we finish building the business.Sofia and Marlena painted the metal stand a beautiful blue hue and Aly wiggledinside the polytank to scrub it down.All of us, including the women, cleaned the rest of the polytank together while the painted dried.Tomorrow we will finish building the business and finish the last step in making the water safe for drinking…we are really pumped!
We are also super excited to attend the Kpanshegu Dambaa Festival tomorrow and dance like no one’s watching!
Today was our third day out in Moya with TJ. The village is smaller with a lot of Fulani families and lots of friendly kids. Our first two days we spent meeting with the chief and elders and the community to explain how we wanted to bring clean water to their village. Today we started training two of the community-selected women named Fatima, Fatimata, and the daughter of the third woman, Maria. The walk to the dugout is longer than in the other villages we’ve seen, and very dusty, but we were accompanied by a gaggle of children, some very bold, some terrified of the salamingas trying to pick them up.
Jenni took lead on the first day of training which involved showing the women how to fill the three 200-liter drums with the garawas and using the alum to start cleaning the water. The women are experts on alum-ball-making, so they sped through the process. We left the three blue drums full and treated with alum, so when we go back tomorrow the sediment will be settled out.
Back in the village, we went into the chief’s palace to say goodbye, and we were gifted with a chicken and yams, which are currently sitting in the trunk of TJ’s taxi. We are headed to the market this afternoon to pick up locks and other small things we need, as well as the large polytank in which the alum-treated water is treated with aquatabs to make it safe for drinking.
Yesterday morning, Team Peter woke up at 5:30 for breakfast. We had the usual – bread, eggs, and coffee/tea – before heading out to meet Peter (our translator and Saha team leader) and Hustla (our taxi driver) at the front of GILLBT. We left the compound headed for Tacpuli, but stopped on the outskirts of Tamale to buy cola nuts for the village’s chief (a Ghanaian tradition for important events). We were to pitch the idea of a solar charging center to Tacpuli’s council of elders.
The drive took a little over an hour; most of us napped along the way. We awoke as our cab veered off the main road onto the bumpy dirt path that lead into the village. Peter was well known in Tacpuli – he had been the Saha representative who lead the implementation of the village’s water sanitation business a few years back and had been periodically checking in with the villagers since. As we navigated between households towards the chief’s palace, we were greeted with smiles from those who recognized Peter. We waited briefly in the chairman of the village’s household as word of our surprise visit spread and the elders gathered at the palace. A crowd of awestruck and excited children gathered to watch us. When the elders were ready, we were lead into the compound where they had prepared benches for us to sit on. It was obvious that Saha Global was well respected in Tacpuli.
The meeting was as painless as possible. We explained that Tacpuli was selected for the solar program due to the great successes of their clean water business. We explained the dangers of kerosene and lead acid batteries and demonstrated the durability of the new lanterns and rechargeable NiMH batteries. Peter relayed our message in Dagboni to the chairman who spoke on behalf of the elderly chief. They expressed how eager they were to place their trust again in Saha, recognizing our persistent dedication to the well- being of their people, and asked when we wished to begin construction of the center. We will be visiting them again today to announce our plans to the entire community, and construction will commence immediately after.
On our way out, the chairman flagged our taxi down and had us return to his household. He had prepared a parting gift for us: 7 yams and a live chicken! We are all looking forward to getting to work!
After ringing in the New Year with an evening of fireworks and a cultural dance, the Field Reps started off 2015 with their first visits to Saha partner communities! Water Teams TJ (Kiana, Julia, Jenni and Orlando) and Wahab (Aly, Sofia and Marlena) headed out the water treatment center in Gburma.
Next the water teams headed over to Chani, to see their water treatment center as well! The entrepreneurs, Salamatu and Memunatu, were out at their farms, but the teams did get to meet the faces that were around that afternoon…
… including, of course, Salamatu’s grandkids!
District Manager Wahab showed the team a solar center in action – he helped set up both the water and solar businesses here in Chani.
Then it was back to Tamale to practice water purification techniques! Meanwhile, teams Amin (Sarah, Marsha and Jake) and Peter (Paul, Julia, Matt and Kristina) headed out to Wambong to see Saha’s first solar center and also check out their water treatment business as well! Salima, who runs the centers, greeted them and showed them the ropes.
The Field Reps were able to sit down with the Chief as well. Saha’s favorited grandmother, Fati, also made an appearance.
Back in Tamale, it was time to start learning the technical details of the solar business. Field Reps spent the afternoon assembling their arrays, to trouble-shoot and to become more familiar with their set-up.
We finished up the day with a presentation from the Saha District Managers about the importance of Saha’s continued support for these villages. They covered everything from scouting new villages to common problems to the importance of monitoring, so that the Field Reps would feel prepped for their fist day of household monitoring the next day.