Voices from the field: Team Shak

Jazmin training the Dundo entrepreneurs!
Jazmin training the Dundo entrepreneurs!

Desibah (Good Morning in Dugbani)!! Our names are Meghan, Bryan, and Jazmin, aka the Dream Team. We, along with our awesome translator Shak, were assigned to the village Dundo for the CWS water sanitation center implementation. Our first day was short: we entered the community, which is approximately 70 households, and introduced ourselves to the elders, and learned the chief was away traveling. The elders were rocking Ray-Bans and lounging under a tree, so needless to say we had a good feeling about the village. Bryan delivered a stunning proposition to the elders, telling them about CWS and gauging their interest in the clean water project. With a quick yes, we were on our way.

The second day we got to meet the actual chief, and we entered into his palace to introduce ourselves. He already had the down-low on the project, and gave us his blessing to start our work. In leaving, Meghan fell off the bench and into the arms of an elder, which she soon learned meant that he was now her husband. Things move quickly in Ghana, apparently. Afterwards, we headed to the dugout accompanied by the village mason to start building the stand for the treatment center. Other men jumped in, and the foundation was set in no time. Bryan attempted to help but ended up breaking two bricks instead, and was consequently sent to go play with the kids. An hour of catch and a few games of soccer later, and it was time to go.

The next day, we held a community meeting. Around 70 people were there, and each of the group members took turns explaining the project. This was met with many “Mmmmm’s” and we soon headed to the dugout. The men had already filled the foundation and the stand was ready to be plastered. The mason got right to work mixing the concrete, and used a trowel to spread it over the foundation. Bryan again attempted to help, and while tossing the plaster onto the stand ended up missing completely and nearly hitting one of the workers. He was once again sent away to play with the kids.

The next morning was a hectic search for all the items needed to start training the women. Shak led us fearlessly through the back alleys of Tamale, and after lots of bartering and getting pulled over by the police, we made it to Dundo. Jazmin took over with the training of the women, and helped them fill the blue drums and use the alum on the water to make the particles settle. She also mastered balancing a small bucket on her head, to the amusement of all the women carrying giant drums of water on their heads with ease. After the center was all set, it was time to distribute the safe storage containers. Meghan took over now to give instructions to each household, and with Shak they managed to hand out 20 containers. Thoroughly exhausted, the team headed back to Gillbt.

Next, it was time to set up the polytank and complete the water treatment center. Walking from the village to the dugout, a few of the braver kids decided to hold our hands. Shortly after, each of us had a kid dangling off each finger. We set up the tank and the two women filled it with the clear water from the blue drums, with the help of the other women whom they coerced. After that, Bryan and Meghan did more distribution, tackling around 30 households. A train of about 15 little kids helped carry the safe storage containers for us, and were slightly distracting when we were trying to instruct the women.

Today was filled with more training of the two women running the center and more distribution. They learned how to use the aquatabs, how to manage their money and profits, and more about the bacteria in the dugout water that makes them sick. We then distributed containers to the other side of the village and gave the chief his own container. The kids were all in school, so our lunch was very quiet, and we got to ask Shak all about polygamous marriages. Our taxi driver, Ibrahim is planning on having 4 wives and Shak is planning on having 23 kids, fun fact. After lunch we had nothing else to do, so we went home. Opening day is just two days away, and we feel prepared and excited for the villagers to taste the clean water from the treatment center!

Meaghan distributing safe storage containers with the help of some village members
Meaghan distributing safe storage containers with the help of some village members
After the community meeting Meghan, Bryan & Jazmin
After the community meeting Meghan, Bryan & Jazmin jump in for an awesome pic

Meet 2014 Winter Fellowship Leader Michelle!

I am so excited to introduce to you to our 2014 Winter Fellowship Leader, Michelle Butler. We can’t believe it has already been two years since she was a fellow in Ghana implementing a water treatment center in Kurugu Vohoyili. Michelle’s upbeat and fun personality will be a great addition to the CWS Winter Team! Michelle we can’t wait to see you in Ghana!
I’m a fourth year student at the University of Virginia (yes, we call students first through fourth years instead of freshman through seniors, and no, I do not attend Hogwarts).  I am finishing up my Foreign Affairs major and Art History minor.  I will be staying in Charlottesville next year to study International Law at the University of Virginia School of Law.  I love traveling and cannot handle the cold—needless to say, I’m counting down the days to return to Tamale.
I was a Winter Fellow in 2011 and have been absolutely dying to go back to Ghana ever since.  When I returned home, I signed up for a program that would alert me of the cheapest flights to Ghana, ignoring the fact that, as a jobless student, I was about $1,400 short of the best $1,500 ticket deal at any given time.  I also knew that I really wanted to go back to Ghana as a member of the Community Water Solutions’ team once again.  
Community Water Solutions has always been so appealing to me because it is clearly at the forefront of international development work.  I have studied many different development projects, as a Foreign Affairs major with a concentration in Africa, and am cognizant of the main problems most organizations face.  Community Water Solutions has built a model that is explicitly designed to overcome the pitfalls of projects that lack adequate monitoring, on-the-ground staff, awareness of the local context, accessible materials, and sustainable plans.  You, as Fellows, will be able to make an actual, lasting difference in the villages in which you work because of Community Water Solutions’ model.  30,000 people have already been served in the Tamale region with an incredible success rate, and you will help us add to this number!

2013 Campus appearance updates!

We are headed out onto campuses and into the classrooms these next few months! As we continue to get things scheduled we will continue to update you on our whereabouts! Come out and learn more about fellowship program and how you can be involved!

  • Nov. 5th 9:00am Wesleyan University Environmental Resource Economics class
  • Nov.7th 11:00am Colby College Natural Resource Economics class
  • Nov. 7th 8pm Colby College Amnesty International Meeting
  • Nov. 7th 1pm Grove City College Social Entrepreneurship Class
  • Nov. 7th 4pm Grove City College Info Session at PLC 115
  • Nov. 12th 4pm Wesleyan University Info Session, Allbritton Center; Room 004
  • Nov. 14th 4pm St. Mary’s Info Session, Location TBD
  • Nov.19th 4:10pm Lehigh Univeristy Info Session, Location TBD

See that we will be at your school but can’t make the event? We’d be happy to meet for coffee! Email Sam at


2013 CWS appearances on campus!


We are headed out onto campuses and into the classrooms these next few months! As we continue to get things scheduled we will continue to update you on our whereabouts! Come out and learn more about fellowship program and how you can be involved!

  • Oct. 22nd 3:30pm to 7:00pm Boston College Service Career Fair
  • Oct.24th 9:30am Colby College Developmental Economics class
  • Oct.24th 7:00pm Colby College Information Session, Location: Lovejoy 213
  • Oct.24th 8:00pm Colby College Amnesty International Club Meeting
  • Oct. 27th 11am-2pm Mount Holyoke – Information Table in the Blanchard Campus Center
  • Oct. 27th 5:00pm  Mount Holyoke Information Session at the Career Development Center
  • Oct. 29th 10:45pm American University Global Health class
  • Nov. 4th 1:15pm Trinity College Global Political Ecology class
  • Nov. 4th 4:30pm Trinity College Without Borders Meeting
  • Nov. 4th 7:00pm Trinity College African Development Coalition Meeting
  • Nov. 5th 9:00am Wesleyan University Environmental Resource Economics class
  • Nov.7th 11:00am Colby College Natural Resource Economics class
  • Nov. 7th 8pm Colby College Amnesty International Meeting
  • Nov. 7th 1pm Grove City College Social Entrepreneurship Class
  • Nov. 7th 4pm Grove City College Info Session (location TBD)
  • Nov. 12th 4pm Wesleyan University Info Session, Allbritton Center; Room 004

See that we will be at your school but can’t make the event? We’d be happy to meet for coffee! Email Sam at

CWS through a “Smitten & Hooked” lens

I met Lucy Parker Randall from Smitten and Hooked at my brother’s wedding. Her style, energy and talent can hardly go unnoticed! And when it came time for my wedding planning to begin, there wasn’t even a question of who would photograph it.

It was my wedding weekend, when Lucy told me “I want to come to Ghana!” A statement made by many, followed up by few. It was two months later when she called to talk dates so that she could mark her calendar and buy her flight! We were stoked!

This past Winter Fellowship Program Lucy donated two weeks of her time to come to Ghana and document CWS in the field. Whether it is the smiling face of a child, a simplistic picture of a safe storage container, the emotion on a woman’s face or the joy of someone drinking their clean water for the very first time, her photographs are truly works of art. We are so thankful for her donated time in Ghana to capture Community Water Solutions entrepreneurs, communities and fellows. The pictures are beyond beautiful and are now our main source for any picture we need.

Though we definitely have our favorite pictures, every time I go through the hundreds of pictures I stumble on another favorite. This year at our Third Annual Benefit we will be not only showcasing Lucy’s pictures, but you will be able to take them home with you! Discounted bird tickets are still available so click here to get yours today!


Voices from the Field: Team Wahab (Renee, Bryant & Dori)

Dori, Wahab & Bryant is corrdinating outfits on opening day!

Greetings from Team Wahab aka the Gideon Soldiers!  For the past week and a half we have been implementing CWS’s clean water treatment center in the village of Cheshegu.  After a big opening day we started to monitor the households in the village.  With such a large community (approximately 175) monitoring can take some.  However, our village is full of many supportive and progressively cooperative individuals who have made the process go smoothly for our team.

Our village is broken down into four neighborhoods…so that is how we decided to tackle the monitoring process each day.  Additionally, visiting more houses during each trip has allowed us to cover more ground, interview more families, and collect additional samples for our laboratory tests. Fussina and Candy, the women in charge of the business in Cheshegu, have mentioned that only one person in the village has had a complaint about the quality/taste of the water from the polytank (alum).  However, everyone else in our village has given us very positive feedback about the water from the polytank.  The individuals of each household are excited to talk about their safe drinking water that they were able to retrieve in their new, bright, blue safe storage containers.  A particularly encouraging moment during the monitoring process occurred when a woman welcomed us into her household, tipped back her cup of clean water, smiled, thanked us for what we have done for her family, and allowed us to continue with the rest of our process.

Renee & Dori making sure to keep things organized!


In addition to monitoring the households, we have kept a keen eye on the polytank and blue drums located adjacently to the dugout.  During each visit to the dugout we have found that our four blue drums have been completely full and treated with alum. Prior to our departure on the first day of monitoring, the women came out that afternoon to scoop the alum-treated water, apply the Aquatabs, and refill the blue tanks before heading back into the village to their households.

Recently, CWS has begun to stress the importance of drinking clean water and practicing healthy habits by visiting the schools in the villages to educate the children.  By providing the schools with interactive activities, we provide a hands-on approach to a healthier lifestyle. The size of the school in Cheshegu is well…intimidating.  Getting over 200 children to stand outside side-by-side to attentively listen to what we had to say was quite the task.  However, with the help of the school’s headmaster, several teachers, and of course our energetic translator Wahab, we were able to maintain get our point across to the children.  By using volunteers for a taste test with a bottle of clean water from the polytank and another with an ungodly amount of salt diluted into it we were able to conclude to the children that “clean does not mean clean!”  That is, some dugout/rainwater might not look like it has bacteria in it, but it can still be very unsafe to drink.  Treated water from the polytank is always the best option!  After our presentation, we corralled enough volunteers together for several rounds of “Healthy Habits Tag.”  Here, the children who were “it” wielded signs that displayed various waterborne illnesses (cholera, typhoid, etc.).  Those who were tagged had to immediately sit out and recover at the hospital (a shady area under a tree).  However, individuals who held signs displaying health habits (washing your hands, drinking polytank water, etc.) were able to play longer since they were given 2 additional “lives” for the game.

School education


Successful Opening Days!

With opening days taking place Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week we can’t think of a better way to recap the excitement but with pictures from each of the teams!

The 7 new water treatment centers now serve clean drinking water to 3,664 people!! We are so lucky to work along side such amazing fellows!

Carole Anne, Lilly & Taylor pose with the proud ladies of Kideng!
caroline and brigid
Caroline & Brigid pose with the excited kids of Kasawuripe!
Team Shak (Victoria, Eda, Jacob & Hailey) peacesigning with their lady entrepeneurs, Mary & Fushiena on their opening day in Vogyili
Victoria, Eda, Jacob & Hailey peacesigning with their lady entrepeneurs, Mary & Fushiena on their opening day in Vogyili
Team Sharifa (Katie, Lucas, Stephanie & Sandra) post with their women entrepenuers and some kiddos in front of Namdu's up and running water treatment center
Katie, Lucas, Stephanie & Sandra with their women entrepenuers and some kiddos in front of Namdu’s up and running water treatment center
Team TJ (Maxine, Casey, Jhanel & Bryan) pose with their grateful chief!
TJ, Maxine, Casey, Jhanel & Bryan with their oh-so-grateful Chief of Kpali!IMG_2556
DSCN0219Kirsten, Sarah, Ethan, Angie & Nestor with the women as they fill their very first safe storage container of clean water in Gundaa






Voices from the Field: Team TJ (Bryan, Maxine, Jhanel & Casey)

Our Rising Tigers

Finally the day we and the villagers had been waiting for had arrived – our opening day! When we arrived at the dugout, six safe storage containers were already aligned in front of the Polytank in anticipation of getting clean drinking water. As the women arrived at the dugout to provide the drinking water, the numbers of buckets swelled from the initial six to close to forty. It was amazing to see the excitement the villagers had to finally have clean water despite the earliness of the day.


The women in charge of the water treatment center immediately took charge.  They filled up a bucket with water to clean out all of the safe storage containers and put someone in charge to oversee cleaning. One sat at the station to collect the money and even moved some of the buckets out of the way, so that she wouldn’t fill up buckets for people who hadn’t paid yet. They then used the lids when transitioning buckets so no clean drinking water would go to waste. Once a new bucket was being filled, they would use the water in the lid to top off the bucket so each household had the most water possible in their safe storage container. One of the fellows even jokingly tried to get a bucket filled for free, and one of the woman in charge laughed at her and stuck her hand out, indicating she had to pay for a full bucket. The system was very efficient and we barely played a role in assisting them, allowing them to have full reign of their business.

Halfway through opening day, the chief and elders drove up in the chief’s Ford Pickup Truck. Many of the elders had already gotten their water and told us how tasty the water had been. The chief wanted to let us know he was leaving for Tamale to run errands, but wanted to see us before he left.  From the get-go, we had always had the support of the chief; he had gathered his community to hear about our project and even talked to a few of the villagers who didn’t show up to the community meeting to ask why they didn’t come. Once again, he was showing his support by letting us know everything was going well and thanking us for our role in bringing clean water to his village.

Maxine helping the ladies fetch water!
Maxine helping the ladies fetch water!

When we were about halfway through filling up all the buckets, the Polytank ran dry. The women immediately took charge, refilling the tank with the settled water from the blue drums, and then refilling the blue drums to treat them with alum. They told the remaining people waiting in line that they would be open later in the evening once the alum had settled the water, so the remaining buckets could be filled and everyone could have clean drinking water on opening day.

Before we left, four drummers came and we danced around while the villagers watched and laughed while joining us. Finally, we left to head back to Tamale, excited for our villagers and looking forward to the upcoming days.


Voices from the Field: Team Eric (Fellow Alums, Brigid & Caroline)

Brigid, Eric & Caroline!
Brigid, Eric & Caroline!

We’re so excited to be back in Ghana! Since we are returning to the fellowship program, our team consists of just the two alums and our amazing translator, Eric. After saying goodbye to the other fellows and translators, we arrived in Salaga on Tuesday with the rest of the team. Our first visit to our village, Kasawuripe, on Wednesday was a success as we met with the chief and planned to return the next day for a village meeting. We were thrilled to present the CWS model to the community and they were enthusiastic about partnering with us. Today we began constructing the treatment center and brought a movable metal polytank stand to the village so that they can move the polytank to their alternative water source in the months when their dugout dries out. The community has a great school and we especially look forward to educating all the kids on the importance of clean water and playing the CWS healthy habits game and other fun activities to encourage to drink healthy water. Tomorrow we’ll begin training the women and distributing the safe storage containers and we hope to have our opening day on Wednesday! After spending just a couple days beginning the project and playing with the kids of the village we’re so excited to be spending the next week opening the water business in Kasawuripe!

-Brigid & Caroline

Brigid with the kiddos
Brigid with the kiddos

Voices from the Field: Team Nestor (Angie, Ethan, Kirsten & Sarah)

Our team consists of Angie, Kirsten, Ethan, Sarah and our translator, Nestor. We’ve been working in the village of Gundaa, about an hour west of Tamale. Our village has about 40 households, divided into New Gundaa and Old Gundaa. Their current source of drinking water is a dugout that is about half a mile from Old Gundaa (the center of the village).


Gundaa's dugout
Gundaa’s dugout

The first day we visited Gundaa, we met with the chief, sub-chiefs, and elders to pitch the idea of a CWS Water Treatment Facility. They were totally onboard, super excited, and extremely thankful! The chief acknowledged that the dirty dugout water they had been drinking was making them sick. He said, “From now on, we will only be drinking clean water!” When we explained we would be working with them over the next two weeks, they even offered to build us our own hut. We organized a community meeting for the following afternoon, so that all of the women in the village could attend after spending the day in the farm (puni). There were over 100 people in attendance.

Angie and Nestor presenting the results of the 3M bacteria test to the village at the community meeting.
Angie and Nestor presenting the results of the 3M bacteria test to the village at the community meeting.

Our community meeting began with a prayer for a good meeting, led by the assemblyman. BAM! A table that many people were sitting on fell to the ground. Luckily no one was hurt and the assemblyman joked that the prayer hadn’t reached the sky yet. We each took turns explaining parts of the CWS concept and the work we would be doing. Everyone at the meeting was really excited and loved to see the visuals we brought with us (bacteria tests, a safe storage container, and our Fellow handbooks).  At the end of the meeting, the community began to sing a song that involved the women clapping, singing, and yodeling. They sang us two songs – the first was a song of appreciation and the second represented the idea of “united we stand, divided we fall”.

The team clapping along with the women of the village during the appreciation song.
The team clapping along with the women of the village during the appreciation song.

Tomorrow we’ll start building the polytank stand that will be near the dugout under the shade of a tree. We’re super excited to start tomorrow and we can’t wait!