A Fond Farewell to the GLP

Almost 10 years ago, in June of 2010, Saha (then called Community Water Solutions) hosted 5 volunteers in Ghana as a part of our newly launched Global Leadership Program (then called the CWS Fellowship Program). At that time, Saha was a small, new non-profit. We had 5 water businesses up and running and were excited about the results we were seeing in our partner villages. We knew that our idea for low-tech, locally owned water businesses had the potential to have a major impact on the water crisis, especially in the small “last-mile” communities that were often left out of typical water solutions. But, we were struggling to grow. There were hundreds of villages in northern Ghana without safe drinking water that could benefit from a Saha water business, but we lacked the man-power and the funding to reach them.

The first-ever Saha Field Reps: James, Molly, Amaia, Ben and Sarah

That all changed when Ben, Molly, Sarah, Amaia and James arrived in Tamale. Before coming to Ghana, these 5 volunteers raised enough money to launch and monitor a water business in the village of Wambong. They then travelled to Ghana for 3 weeks and worked alongside Saha to train Abiba and Monera, two women from Wambong, how to treat water from the contaminated village water source, make it safe to drink, and then set up a business selling this water to their community. After the 3 weeks, Ben, Molly, Sarah, Amaia, and James returned to the US. Abiba and Monera continued to run the water business (Abiba is still in charge today!), and Saha continued to monitor the business. The Saha Global Leadership Program was born!

To date, we have hosted 517 Field Reps in Ghana who have helped Saha launch 114 clean water businesses and 24 solar businesses in 114 rural villages throughout the Northern Region of Ghana. These businesses provide safe drinking water to 49,300 people while the solar businesses provided access to electricity to 8,700 people. Almost 300 women from rural Ghana run these businesses, who are able to earn income for their families while providing life-saving access to water to their communities.

Aidan, Sophie, Natalie and Kaz in Bonyase

Over the past 10 years we’ve joined our Field Reps on 28 20+ hour bus rides. We’ve laughed through icebreakers, celebrated Fire Festivals and Damba Festivals. We’ve endured countless taxi breakdowns. We watched hundreds of sunrises and sunsets, celebrated 138 opening days, talked for hours during debriefs, and so much more.  We met so many interesting people, who have continued to support Saha for years after their time in Ghana. Hosting this program every summer and winter was such a joy and we are so thankful to each and everyone of the 517 people choose to volunteer their time, talents and skills to help Saha grow.

The Saha team ready to play football!

Since that first program in June 2010, Saha has evolved tremendously. We now have 210 water businesses serving safe drinking water to almost 100,000 people. Thanks to the generous support of our foundation partners as well as many donors from around the world, we’ve been able to grow our Ghanaian staff and now provide jobs at Saha to over 50 people from northern Ghana. Our team is able to open new businesses throughout the dry season, instead of just during the months when we host Field Reps. This allowed us to open 70 new water businesses in 2019 – almost tripling our 2018 impact.

The 2013 Summer Field Reps at GILBT, the awesome guest house where our volunteers stayed in Tamale.

Saha has always been and will continue to be focused on serving remote, rural villages. The Global Leadership Program worked because there were so many rural villages without water access within a 2-hour radius of Tamale (the capital of the Northern Region where we could safely host our volunteer Field Reps). This is no longer the case. Saha has officially reached all of the rural villages that are a good fit for our solution within that 2-hr radius of Tamale. While we tried many times to host Field Reps in the smaller city of Salaga, we have found that it is not possible for Saha to safely run the program outside of Tamale. This means, that starting in 2020, Saha will no longer be running the Global Leadership Program. 

Ending the GLP is bittersweet. We are so, so grateful for the support that our Field Reps have provided over the past 10 years. There is no question that Saha would not be where we are today without this program. Over the past decade we grew from a MIT student-project spin off to a thriving non-profit impacting almost 100,000 people with plans to reach 800,000 by 2023. We met some incredible people through this program. In fact, every American that has ever worked for Saha, besides Kate (our co-founder) started as a Field Rep! This program was incredibly impactful, and it was SO FUN!

At the same time, we are really proud of that fact that 58 of our 61 current staff members are Ghanaian and almost all of them are from the region that we serve.  By making the transition to an all-Ghanaian implementation team, we are able to take advantage of the entire dry season, opening new businesses 8 months out of the year instead of just 2. We know this is the right next step on our path to achieving 100% water coverage in Northern Region Ghana.

To all of our Field Rep alums – THANK YOU. Thank you for your support, not just in Ghana when you were a Field Rep, but also after you came home. You’ve fundraised, shared stories and photos, advocated for our work, and so much more. We are so lucky to have you all in the Saha family, forever!  In closing, we thought we’d share some of our favorite photos from the GLP.


… and that’s a WRAP! Reflections on Summer 2019’s Global Leadership Program

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just two days since we said goodbye to the 2019 Summer Field Reps. Thanks to this awesome group students and young professionals, Saha was able to partner with with 5 more communities in Northern Ghana to open new water treatment businesses. Because of them, 1,221 people now have the ability to drink clean water each day. 17 women entrepreneurs are able to provide potable water to their friends, family and neighbors through community-supported small businesses. And Saha is able to welcome 20 new faces to our global Saha family!

Aidan, Alex, Ali, Amanda, Emily, Gretchen, Grace, Jonell, Kayla, Kaz, Leslieann, Maggie B, Maggie R, Mitch, Natalie, Olivia, Quinn, Sarah, Shannon, and Sophie:

Can you believe it? We sweated through taxi breakdowns and laughed through broken stand disasters. We rolled alum balls on the porch and rolled with the punches more generally. We navigated the market and the ins and outs of a new-to-us culture. Most importantly, we found joy and success in the surprise of the unanticipated. Though not every moment was easy, all the (literal) blood, sweat and tears certainly paid off. 
It was such a pleasure to work with all of y’all, and we consider ourselves lucky to count you as part of Sahayili! As you head off to your next adventures, please don’t forget

Kpegunaya, Chahanaya, Bonyase, Dasana Kuraa, Kpintalga

and all of us here at Saha, and let us know what we can do to further your missions.

With gratitude,

Rhiana & Team Saha

and now… the jumping pics!

Team Bangaham in Chahanaaya
Team Shirazu in Dasana Kuraa
Team Jude in Bonyase
Team Kamil in Kpegunaya
Team Nestor in Kpintalga

Voices from the Field: Team Nestor in Kpintalga

Hello from Team Nestor! Our team consists of: Maggie from Rhode Island, Ali from Brooklyn, Kayla from Wisconsin, and Sarah from Virginia.

Today was opening day in the village of Kpintalga! We arrived in the village a little before noon, distributing the rest of the safe storage containers (SSC). Though our opening day was previously planned for Tuesday, but we had to push it back until Thursday due to an unexpected death in the community and the metal stand which held the polytank collapsing. This was a devastating event for both us and our entrepreneurs since it caused us to empty out our FULL polytank. But Saha has definitely taught us that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, so we were prepared.

But Team Nestor persevered and after a couple of incredibly hot and tiring days of distribution, we were ready for opening day! Our women entrepreneurs, Arishetu and Alima, were just as enthusiastic as us and ready to run their business.

The first safe storage container (SSC) the entrepreneurs filled was the Chiefs’, a great honor ritual we got to experience. Then, as we blasted some American tunes, sang some Girl Scout songs, and played some rough games of soccer, the clean water business of Kpintalga was officially open! A total of 35 out of 40 distributed SSCs made an appearance, and many of the women (especially the kids) were very excited to try the clean water. A huge highlight of the day: no leakages in our SSCs!

All of the women and kids could carry them on their heads without any water dripping down their faces.

While Nestor helpfully translated for us, Kayla was responsible for all the pictures (giving credit where credit is due, obviously). All the pictures you’ve seen from Team Nestor is all because of Kayla’s hard-work, photography skills, and iPhone X. All the kids were incredibly excited and jumpy whenever the iPhone was pulled out of Kayla’s pocket, ready to snap a memory into permanence. Ali took the administrative role, counting all the SSCs that came to the business and interacted with many of the women. She kept track of the finances and marked off the women who arrived so we could follow up with those who hadn’t, and definitely was the glue that held the group together today. Opening day would have been much more chaotic and far messier if Team Nestor didn’t have Ali in our group. When she wasn’t holding a sleeping Mohmin or tickling Yousseif (we call him Mr. Giggles), Maggie was hard at work, cleaning all of the SSCs. It is really important that SSCs are cleaned often in order to prevent a reemergence of bacteria and dirt. Maggie played a huge role in making sure the new water in Kpintalga was clean and healthy by removing all dirt possible and making sure everyone received healthy and safe drinking water. Sarah, who may be the muddiest of us all, did what she usually does: keep the children entertained and out of the way of the adults. She gave all the kids tons of high fives, taught them new hand games, and shouted Girl Scout songs at the top of her lungs while running around the open field with the kids.

However, the day would’ve gone flawlessly even without our help as Arishetu took complete charge and did an impeccable job serving her community.

Overall, not only did Team Nestor have a great opening day, but also a fantastic week. We are very grateful to have a translator like Nestor, who is a natural leader and incredibly enthusiastic about team spirit. We are also very appreciative that we were assigned such a great community that welcomed us with so much hospitality and excitement. Team Nestor has loved every minute in our community and although our journey is coming to an end as we finish up with monitoring households and clean water school education, it is only the beginning for the community.  Though we are thrilled that the loving village of Kpintalga has clean water, we are sad to see our time in Ghana come to end. This experience has opened up our eyes in ways we can’t imagine and we will never forget the people of Kpintagla and the memories we have made.

Voices from the Field: Team Kamil in Kpegunaayili

Team Kamil here, or as he likes to call us, Team Crazy! This is Maggie, Grace, Shannon, and Leslieann, and we have been working in the small village of Kpegunaayili for the past ten days or so. Before our arrival, the villagers were drinking water the color of chocolate milk, full of E. coli and other harmful bacteria. They knew this water was detrimental to their health, but were not sure why. Not to mention, they had no other option. It has been amazing seeing the villagers learn about the impact water has on their health and how easily they adapt to the Saha method.

Today was our opening day, and our turnout was awesome! Samata, Fegima, Azumie, and Amna, our four entrepreneurs, worked diligently in their spare time to make their business successful. They are incredibly fast learners, needing only one example from us to successfully complete every task. In the past two days, we distributed 29 Safe Storage Containers (SSC’s) to our tiny village, and the entrepreneurs sold 27 buckets worth of the newly cleaned water this morning! The two women who were unable to make it this morning were busy picking Shea nuts, and we are very confident they will stop by the center later today, as everyone was very excited about their newly purified water.

Working in the small village has definitely had its benefits! Everyone has been super involved through every step of the process, from the kids helping us distribute the SSC’s, to nearly the entire village showing up at the center for its opening day. Even though all the children were shy at first, they have become used to us throughout our time at the village, and now when we leave they run after our car smiling and waving. The language barrier was initially intimidating, but we have all grown as a whole, field reps and entrepreneurs alike. All of us have learned that you do not need to speak the same language in order to feel the same emotions. Putting this aside, Kamil, our translator, has definitely been an integral part of our team, making this experience fun and interactive for everyone involved. We are so grateful to have him, and he has provided so much guidance for us and the women. Plus, he has great style!!

As four privileged students, this experience has opened our eyes to a part of the world that we do not normally see. Amenities that we view as staples in our daily lives can be commodities for others. We are forever grateful to the community of Kpegunaayili for welcoming us into their lives with open arms, and to Saha for providing us with this amazing opportunity. We will take what we have learned with us for the rest of our lives, and never take another sip of clean water for granted.

Voices from the Field: Team Jude in Bonyase

As we waited outside Holy Cross for our translator, Jude, to arrive so we could attend mass with him, it became clear to us that we were all far underdressed. “Sunday best” is not taken lightly in Tamale, as all attendees walking into the church were dressed in a variety of bright colors and bold patterns. When Jude arrived, we walked in together and sat in the middle section of the church, mesmerized by the beautiful color scheme.


After announcements and prayer requests, the people in the front two rows of the left section rose to their feet. A man started clapping softly and singing as the two rows slowly started to join in, creating a natural crescendo until their voices echoed in the church. Two men sat with drums between their legs and joined the choir singers in praise. 

Each of the three sections of the church had a choir in the first couple rows, and each choir sang in a different language. The choirs took turns leading songs, but even the members of the congregation that did not understand the language of the song swayed and clapped along. As Jude told us, even though the members speak different languages, they all come together in unity to worship.

During one of the songs, rain started pouring. The rain smacked onto the tin roofs so thunderously that it almost drowned out the voices. Like a normal Northern Ghanaian rainfall, though, rain fell intensely for about 10 minutes but then let up, leaving only a sprinkle for the next hour or so.

As the last song died down, two teenagers came to the podium and began reading from the Gospel. One read in English and the other repeated in Dagbani, the predominate language in Northern Ghana. The congregation then knelt and we followed suit until instructed to rise and greet one another. We nervously made eye contact with the weekly attendees around us until one of the ladies in a blue and orange sun dress reached out to shake our hands. Others followed, and a dozen handshakes later we considered ourselves members of Holy Cross Tamale.

We filed out of the church and stood outside with Jude and his wife, Joyce, and their two young daughters as they greeted their friends. We had planned to go to Jude’s tailor after the service to have clothes made for us with the fabric we had been buying throughout the trip, but Jude informed us that he was unavailable at that time. Instead, we decided to go back to the market until lunchtime. We headed over to the taxi where Nkatia, our team’s taxi driver, was waiting for us. “Did you pray for me?” Nkatia asked, jokingly. We laughed and responded, “The entire time.”

After shopping at the market and getting lunch at Wooden with Jude and Nkatia, we headed to our village, Bonyase. Like most of our excursions, Jude sat in the passenger seat of the taxi while the four of us had to squeeze in the back. Our seating arrangement only exacerbated the already unbearable heat of the day, and our sweat combined between our arms and legs. 

The drive from GILLBT guest house where we were staying to Bonyase typically takes about an hour and a half, with the first hour on the main paved Tamale road and the last 30 minutes on a bumpy dirt road. Bonyase was idyllically situated south of the Volta River, giving the land a lush, green jungle and plenty of room for lots of cattle to roam. As we arrived, goats and dogs lazily lay in the sun. We got out of the taxi and stretched. Aidan headed towards the goats to try in vain to catch one while Kaz, Sophie, and Natalie played with the children. Jude asked one of the children to fetch Howa, one of the woman entrepreneurs, and the boy quickly ran down the trail towards Howa’s compound to get her. 

We waited with the kids until she arrived, drawing in the dirt, dancing, and giving a generous amount of high fives. Kaz started guessing each of the children’s names that she remembered from before, and they laughed at our accents and mispronunciations. When Howa arrived, Sophie bowed and said “despa” to her, the polite morning greeting, forgetting it was now afternoon. Jude reminded her, “Sophie, it is not morning, it is the afternoon. You say ahntray!” Howa laughed and responded with the usual “naa.”

Today was one of our four planned distribution days, so it was going to be a long day. The children helped, though, by carrying our blue water containers from compound to compound as we spoke to the women about what the container was for and how each household should properly use them. Salamatu, one of the entrepreneurs, also decided to take control of the distribution. At every house we went to, she immediately held up the 3M test from the lab. The sample showed the bacteria that was present in the dugout water that the village drinks. Almost everyone that saw the sample was shocked at what was going into their bodies. Lamatu, another entrepreneur, and Howa would cackle in the background at the women’s expressions and occasionally add their own input. 

We planned to open the business in three days, so we had to make sure to distribute safe water containers to every one of our 50+ households by then. By the end of the day, we went to fifteen households and distributed over thirty safe water containers which was much more than anticipated. With the help of Salamatu, Howa, Lamatu, and the village children, instead of having a long grueling day in the sun we had a rowdy and enjoyable successful one. 


Team Jude:

Natalie Fleming

Sophie Kurdziel

Kaz Ogita

Aiden Sabety

Voices from the Field: Team Shiraz in Dasana Kuraa

Team Shiraz here! Led by our translator, Shiraz, and our ever-stylish driver, Gaf, we are Alex, Emily, Jonell and Gretchen. Two weeks in and we’ve made a lot of progress. We are working with the community of Dasana Kuraa, located about 2 hours south of Tamale. “Kuraa” means farming community, and the villagers collect shea nuts on the farm. Last week we went to the market to collect our supplies, including a 140 L polytank, 3 large drums, 10 feet of chain and one elusive wrench. On Friday we brought all the materials to the village and transported everything to the dugout – with the help of the entire community. The kids all helped carry buckets and soap, while the women balanced blue drums on their heads, and the men transported the enormous polytank on two long branches.

Team Shiraz and community members from Dasana Kuraa after a hard day’s work!


So far, this day has been the highlight of our project. Before we could assemble the drums and the stand, everything had to be thoroughly cleaned. We thought we only needed soap and water, but the women showed us how to use ash and some gravel to scrub the oily residue from inside the drum clean. Next, we started cleaning the polytank. Shiraz began adding buckets of water and soap, then said, “Okay, Jonell. Get in!” And in she went. We wanted our PT to be squeaky clean – we would run another test before opening day to be sure there was no coliform or e.coli in the water.

Jonell in the PT
Amina adding ash (an active ingredient in soap) to the drums during the cleaning process.



Once everything was clean, we filled the drums with dugout water (with a few feeble attempts from members of our own team) and watched as the women skillfully balanced garawas of water on their heads before emptying them into the drums. The whole process took them less than 10 minutes. Using the balls of alum we made during training, we demonstrated how to apply the alum with a vigorous whipping motion to encourage the dirt particles to flocculate and settle to the bottom. The drums would sit overnight and we crossed our fingers for the alum to do its work. Too much, and it will taste bitter (no bueno). Too little, and the water would still be cloudy.

Nima loading the drums with water from the dugout.


Nima giving the alum a big stir. (Algae was filtered during the scooping process).


We painted the stand as best we could in the rain. We mounted the polytank at the end of the day and installed the tap. Amina, one of our entrepreneurs, screwed in the tap as the community stood behind her and watched. We were inspired by the engagement of the whole community and humbled by how much we learned from them at every step of the process.

More recently, we met with each household individually to talk about the water center and distribute the Safe Storage Containers. During these meetings, we also asked about their household size and current water habits. We took the time to explain how bacteria enters the water, and how drinking fecally contaminated water can make you sick. Holding up the 3M test helped visualize how drinking dirty dugout water can impact our health. One woman, Hadija, said how fed up she was about drinking dugout water. We could see from their reactions that they wanted better for themselves and their families, and that they were grateful for our assistance in making that a reality.


All hands on deck for Distribution Day


Jonell and Shiraz explaining the results from the 3M test during Distribution Day.


We’re looking forward to another day of distribution with the Fulani tomorrow. We are feeling ready and excited for opening day on Tuesday!

Voices from the Field: Team Bangaham in Chanaya

Kawula! (What’s up?) We’re team Bangaham – Amanda, Olivia, Quinn, Mitch, and Bangaham (our translator and so much more) and we started working with the village of Chanaya this week! To build a relationship with our village, we met with an elder in the community because the village Chief was in Accra during our arrival. After getting the elder’s approval to work with the community, we gathered with the whole community to discuss the Saha Global method the following day.

We arrived at the village around 1 PM, just in time to meet with the whole community as they wrapped up afternoon prayers. Community members gradually trickled over to where we were standing in the shade, and the children scurried to grab benches for us to sit under a group of trees. It was exciting to see the whole village come together, including the Fulani – a nomadic ethnic group. In most cases, the Fulani people do not integrate with an established community since they are a different ethnic group. However, the elder and our translator explained that although the Fulani people live separately from the villagers, they have shared the same water source for years and have become socially integrated.

The meeting began with our team asking the community what they thought of their water. The consensus was that they all knew the water was dirty, but they were uncertain as to why. After explaining why the dugout water is unsafe to drink, we opened it up for questions about the process. To give a visual of what the center would look like, we showed them pictures from other Saha villages. Everyone in the community was engaged and excited to learn about the project!

Bangaham Elders

2019 Global Leadership Program Orientation

All 20 of our Summer 2019 Field Representatives safely arrived in Tamale this week!  In just a few short days, they’ve had a crash course in the global water crisis and water-related diseases, as well as the Saha model for intervention.

The teams joined Rhiana and Simply in the field with their first visits to current Saha villages of Dalibila and Laligu.  They were able to see working centers, meet some of our women entrepreneurs.  Mma Ayishetu in Dalibila gave some great advice: “be patient with the women you are working with, and teach them very well how to run the business, and they will be very patient with you and accept you.”

Team Jude, Team Nestor, and Team Kamil in Dalibila with Mma Ayishetu, Mma Ayi, and some friends.

In the afternoon, the teams learned how to use alum, a common coagulation-flocculation product, to remove particles from the water.  Then they learned how Saha monitors our current communities, and practiced having curious conversations with their translators.

Team Nestor making alum balls
Asita teaching the proper alum ball technique

Today, the teams were on their own for the first time in current Saha communities of Zowu, Mile 40, Libi, Nangbagu, and Tibugu, practicing monitoring, speaking with current entrepreneurs for advice, and learning more about how the Saha model works.  Tomorrow it’s off to their new communities for the first time! Good luck!

2019 Global Leadership Program Has Landed in Ghana!

A maraba to the Summer 2019 Field Representatives!  We have a great team of 20 jet-lagged yet excited young people who have arrived safely in Ghana to begin their experience!

The first day was spent in Accra, having an orientation to Ghana, introduction to Ghanaian transportation (tro-tros and taxi negotiations!) Dagbani language lessons, and getting to know their group.  Tomorrow we will be on the STC bus: next stop, Tamale!

First sweaty tro-tro selfie: check!

Field Rep Voices: A learning experience like no other

Julie is a sophomore at University of Pennsylvania who is working on dual degrees through the Jerome Fischer Program in Management and Technology. She’s also the founder of Peerlift, a nonprofit that helps high schoolers find college scholarships. 

If her story inspires YOU, apply to work with us in Ghana this summer:

Our 2nd Round closes this Sunday, March 17!


Why did you decide to apply for the Global Leadership Program?

I want to make sure whatever I’m doing helps people and makes an impact. I’m really interested in technology and business and where they come together and play.

A club at my school sent out an email about the Global Leadership Program around this time last year. I did a lot of research, and Saha checked all of the boxes for me. They really care about the communities they serve and are committed to sustainability.

What did you take away from the experience?

I learned so much from being in a new environment and working with people from so many different backgrounds. Visiting the villages and seeing the water businesses first-hand helped me learn things I never could have gotten from reading a book or watching a video.

One of the translators, Jonathan, and I connected over our common interest in technology. I learned so much from his experience and take on how to solve people problems. He shared how many children in northern Ghana lack access to computers. But when they do get a hold of technology, mostly through computing centers in the major cities, they often participate in scamming schemes to collect money. Jonathan has created a nonprofit to help these kids put their talent to use in a positive way by teaching them computer skills and, hopefully one day, programming.

With the nonprofit I started to connect high schoolers with scholarship opportunities for college, I’m trying to solve a different problem with different skills, but my passion and goal is similar — to improve access to education.

What was your “Saha aha” moment?

On our last day in the village there happened to be a big celebration, and we were included. There was music and dancing and kids running around everywhere. I felt so proud that the women we worked alongside invited us to be a part of something that was special for them. We didn’t just build a business and leave. We made some incredible connections with the community.

How has the Global Leadership Program influenced your work with Peerlift?

Twenty four hours after I got home from Ghana, I packed up again and left for San Francisco to go work on my start up. Everything I learned was so fresh and clear, from how to teach a skill or pitch a business to setting prices or choosing a location or person to run a business. The core basics of Saha Global’s model brought me back to the importance of always putting the people you serve first.

What advice do you have for future field reps?

Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. The experience is super rewarding, and you will learn a lot about yourself. I think it’s something everyone should try.

Keep an open mind, and take everything as it comes. Things will go wrong. Take a step back from the situation and work with your team to figure it out together.

And don’t forget to bring a lot of snacks!

If you think you could help Saha bring clean water to a new community this summer, get your application in now!

You can still make our “Second Round” Application Deadline: March 17th.

Let us know >> Apply Here!