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Voices from the Field: Team Jaleel

June 14th

We have had a very eventful first couple of days in our village, Jangbarayili! Our first challenge was to pronounce the name of the village…a task we are continuing to work on. We set out early morning on the first day to greet our village. At 6:00am we left with our translator to get the engine fixed to make our voyage. We waited 2 long hours for the repairs to be completed and then were hopeful to get going. As we were driving we had our first run in with the Ghanaian cops, not once…but TWICE (within 5 minutes of each other we might add). Finally, we arrived and were greeted with children fighting to hold our hands, so much so, there was one child per finger. This is when we knew this would be a great village to work with. Trying to break free from the kids’ grasps we met with Chairman Yaya to seek a meeting with the chief and elders. The chief was out farming, so we busied ourselves by trying to find the crocodiles known to lurk around the dugout. Once the chief returned, he and the elders were already seated and waiting for us to pitch our purpose of working with them to create a solar power center and business to be run by respected women in the community (the same model that was implemented by Saha Global for the previous water business). They accepted without any hesitation and even said “No was not an option.” They were gracious for the opportunity to bring light to their village and we were excited to stat working with them!

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Community Pic

June 15th

We woke up the next morning eager and hopeful for the day ahead. We ambitiously left to gather and purchase ALL the supplies that morning so we could prove our commitment to the village. Unfortunately, we ran into unexpected complications in the process. For instance, we had no idea what the items should cost in GHCs, and did not know which items could be bartered for or what item had set prices. We also had to go many different places to cut the wood because some businesses ran out of power. After many stops and learning experiences, we got most of the supplies and were pleasantly surprised by how many people in the community had gathered to work and how much they had already accomplished in building the structure. The men in the community taught us how to make mortar by mixing water and clay in a pit, so we all literally jumped in to get our hands and feet. Everyone helped out and even the little kids made their own assembly line carrying little piles of mortar to connect the bricks. In no time at all, it was finished!
June 16th

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Day three, we started on the roof with a local carpenter. Since the carpenter was an expert, there was little help us or the community could give him, so we took the opportunity to get to know the women entrepreneurs. We asked them questions about their water business as well as going over their solar business that was soon to come. They even gave us a chuckle with a funny story about a spider who thought he could be oil in a pot. The funniest part was not the story itself, but the women acting out the scene complete with shouting and wiggling her behind. Another team member bonded with the boys playing soccer and another brought together the community with her Ukulele. At the end of the day, we accomplished all of our goals and even more! We are now ready to tackle each new day with the village and all the challenges that will arise.

Team Jaleel: Greta, Heidi, Lindsey, Hunter and Jaleel (not pictured)
Team Jaleel: Greta, Heidi, Lindsey, Hunter and Jaleel (not pictured)

P.S. Drought is alive and well in Ghana’s rainy season. Fortunately, it has just started pouring as we type.
-The Greatest Team (Lindsey, Heidi, Greta, Hunter, Jaleel)

Voices from the Field: Sasha, Amin, Tara, Richard and Sarah

Meanwhile, in Northern Region Ghana…

Orientation is completed and our 4 water teams and 7 solar teams are beginning the work of building their new businesses! We will feature stories and pictures from all 11 teams as our program continues. Kicking off our tradition of “Voices from the Field” is Team Amin.

Today our group, comprised of Sasha, Sarah, Tara, Richard and our translator Amin, made our way out to Komlan-yili to pitch the Saha Global business model for community water filtration. After picking up our water supplies from the office we made our way out to the rural community. An hour and a half of dirt, potholed-roads later we arrived. We immediately made our way to the water source, which was predetermined as a stream nearby. After driving to the stream, it was clear the stream had dried up considerably. The seasonal change in location had forced the community members to walk farther and farther to get dirtier stream water. After walking along the dried banks we made our way to the current filling location, passing multiple women who were carrying water along the way. Without even touching the water it was clear how turbid and contaminated the stream was. While briefly talking to a group who was fetching water, we collected our sample and proceeded to make our way back to the community.

 

Sasha Amin Richard Tara and Sarah meet with the community of Komlanyili for the first time to discuss the water business idea
Sasha, Amin, Richard, Tara and Sarah meet with the community of Komlanyili for the first time to discuss the water business idea

Upon returning to Komlan-yili, we drove into the heart of the community to speak with a community member. With the help of Amin, we requested a meeting with the community chief and were told to have a seat under a prominent tree among other community members while someone ran to go get him. In a short moment, a wooden reclining chair had been set in front of us and two elders took their place directly across from us.  After exchanging pleasantries, the chief proceeded to ask the purpose of our visit (whether we had come to see him or were being chased and wound up there).

Here we began to explain how we suspected their water source was contaminated. We asked questions about the quality of water and if it made them sick, especially probing about diarrhea. When the elders and the community members confirmed our suspicion, we proceeded to explain how we, Saha, could provide their community with clean water using a four-step process. These steps were the following: 1) building a center to house the water, 2) training women entrepreneurs to filter the water and run the business, 3) distribute safe storage containers to each household, and 4) opening and maintaining the businesses after we leave.

Women collect water from Komlanyili's stream.
Women collect water from Komlanyili’s stream.

Beyond this explanation we concluded that Saha does not pay the women at all and simply helps set up the business. After initial implementation, we explained, it is up to the women entrepreneurs and the community to maintain the business and ensure its success. With this final note, we asked if the elder had any questions and were told that they were very grateful to have us visit and were excited to begin work with us. Exchanging thank you’s and pleasantries once again, we set a time for a community-wide meeting the next day before giving the elder an offering of kola nuts. With much excitement, they exclaimed that they were the ones who were supposed to give us an offering and proceeded to give us eggs as a gift. With much gratitude, we accepted and took our leave to regroup back at our lodging.

– Richard, Sasha, Sarah, Amin and Tara

Voices from the field: Tacpuli’s Building, A Reflection Poem

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe chatter of the village
The rustling of leaves
Staring at the image
Of the gold, green trees

Bright was the blinding sun
O’er the straw roofs it shone
On salimingas whom sleep had won
How tired they both moaned

All of sudden work begun
Plaster, plaster cried the sleepy we
But no work was to be done
Leave it to us and sleep said he

Half past noon still sitting were we
But Arose did the magnificent building
Just typical Ghanaian magic you see
Yet there was no doorbell to ring

Hunger struck us one by one
So we snuck into Hustla’s car
Until we could be seen by none
Yummy yummy hardy har har

Chicken and rice again (sigh)
How I’d kill for a shake
Oh when oh when
Will I have cake

Horah horray callou callay
O’ Triumphant is today

-Matt, Julia, Kristina & Paul

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SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Voices from the Field: A Moya Opening Day Poem

OPENING DAY at Moya was a great success,

Without the business women, it would have been a mess.

We arrived in the village when the air was still chilly.

Children running around, willy nilly.

The women of the village were assembled with their buckets,

Handing out lollipops caused quite a ruckus.

All of the children were so happy with water bottles in hand,

it was like a party at the polytank stand.

The village said bye-bye to the dugout water filled with poo,

as we drove away in our taxi, Moya shouted wahoo, wahoo!

Moya kiddos!
Moya kiddos!
The first customers!
The first customers!
Orlando shows the polytank love.
Orlando shows the polytank love.
Fatima, Fatimatah and Hamshaw with their new business
Fatima, Fatimatah and Hamshaw with their new business
The line for water on opening day - look at those blue safe storage containers!
The line for water on opening day – look at those blue safe storage containers!
Team Moya - TJ, Orlando, Kiana, Jenni, Fatima, Fatimata, Hamshaw and Julia
Team Moya – TJ, Orlando, Kiana, Jenni, Fatima, Fatimata, Hamshaw and Julia. Saha’s 75th water business wouldn’t be possible without their hard work! 

Voices from the Field: Team Amin with Sarah, Jake & Marsha

Amin, Sarah, a Djelo elder, Jake & Marsha
Amin, Sarah, a Djelo elder, Jake & Marsha

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.

The Burro lantern & batteries
The Burro lantern & 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.

Making cement
Some Djelo’s making cement
Little helpers too!
Little helpers too!

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.

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Djelo’s Solar Charging Center!

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!!!!!!

-Sarah, Jake & Marsha

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Jake & Sarah entertaining some kiddos with a game of tag!

 

Voices from the Field: Team Wahab with Aly, Marlena & Sofia

Despa from Team Wahab!

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 treatment process - Ademu, Sikina and Jamila collect and treat dugout water with alum to reduce turbidity
The treatment process – Adamu, Sikina, Aly, Wahab and Jamila collect and treat dugout water with alum to reduce turbidity

 

Alum balls! These cause dirt to settle out of the dugout water. Simple technologies in action!
Alum balls! These cause dirt to settle out of the dugout water. Simple, local and effective technologies in action!

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.

Team Wahab loads up their taxi to head out to Kpanshegu
Team Wahab loads up their taxi to head out to Kpanshegu
Aly gets serious about polytank cleaning.
Aly gets serious about polytank cleaning.

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 wiggled  inside 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!

Aly puts the finishing touches on the new polytank stand!
Aly puts the finishing touches on the new polytank stand!
Selfies have been taken. Naturally.
Selfies have been taken. Naturally.

We are also super excited to attend the Kpanshegu Dambaa Festival tomorrow and dance like no one’s watching! 

Team Wahab poses with the chief of Kpanshegu in his palace.
Team Wahab poses with the chief of Kpanshegu in his palace.

Voices from the Field: Team Peter with Matt, Paul, Kristina & Julia

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Cola nuts in hand for the meeting!

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.

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Kristina showing some kiddos her pics

 

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Heading to the chief’s palace to meet with the chief and elders

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.

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Paul excited for the chicken

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!

– Paul, Julia, Matt & Kristina

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Team Peter’s market selfie from the scavenger hunt

 

 

Voices from the Field: Team Shak

Terry, Mary, Kerry, Anne and Shak make up Saha’s Solar Center Project Team Shak! Due to “life and so it goes”, Kerry and Mary were unable to make the trip despite their successful contribution of considerable funds, and so they are very much with us in spirit here every day.

We have been assigned the village of Nekpegu which is about an hour and a half away from Tamale; The chief and elders were quite anxious to meet with us. The women entrepreneurs have successfully managed a Saha Water Treatment Center since 2013 and were happy to tell us about the positive effects on their health. The chief’s son had seen Saha’s Solar Center in another village and was sharing his experience with the chief and elders. The Chief mentioned that it would be helpful for the children to study and for their night school, and offered the cooperation and assistance of the entire community.

The construction of the Solar Center took a couple of days, the equipment was delivered and the training of the women could begin. The village chose the two women who are currently running the water business, Ramatu and Fati, to manage the solar business as well. They learned how to hook up the power convertor, do some troubleshooting and how to manage the sales they will make from their new business. Lanterns were distributed household to household and we are now ready for Opening Night!

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At our every step, there are thirty little steps behind us with smiling faces…

Shak is our translator, but he is also project manager, carpenter, navigator, “fixer of everything” and now, friend.

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-Terry & Anne

Voices from the Field: Team Wahab

Clean Water Success in Gburma!!!

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It’s been a long road all the way to Tamale, but we made it here and accomplished what we set out to do. Team Wahab did it! Leah, Logan, Alfonso and Wahab built the water treatment facility in the village of Gburma and trained four women from the village, Afishetu, Amata, Salamatu, and Chokopa. The women were taught how to use the alum to make the turbid water clear and how to use the chlorine tabs in the Polytank to kill the bacteria and further purify the water. Afterward, we went around the households in the village and handed out the Safe Storage Water Containers explaining how to use them for clean water storage and how to keep them uncontaminated. The entire village is so involved, excited and committed to having clean drinking water.

Everyone from the children to the elders wants to make use of the Safe Storage Containers and improve their health by drinking the clean water. They all couldn’t wait to taste the water and were so surprised at how good and clean it tasted on opening day. They constantly thanked us for providing them with clean water and their enthusiasm was palpable.

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There is no better feeling than turning dirty, bacteria infested water into clean drinkable water that will improve the village’s health and longevity. Being a part of this project with Saha Global has truly been a life-changing experience that will stay with us forever.

Ti Pie Ya, Saha!

Leah, Logan, Alfonso and Wahab

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2014 Fall Program Kicks Off!

It is crazy to think we had all just arrived in Ghana just 6 days ago for the Fall Global Leadership Program! The Field Reps have literally hit the ground running! This Fall Program is different from other programs because it is just two weeks, compared to the three-week Winter and Summer Programs. In order to shorten the time spent in Ghana, the Fall Field Reps did all of their orientation in the States via webinar, logging in from California, Maryland, Massachusetts and New York. This program we have two teams, a Water and Solar Team. The solar team consists of Anne, Terry & Shak, and the water team consists of Leah, Logan, Alfonso & Wahab!

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All the Field Reps arrived into Accra last Wednesday. The next morning we took a flight up to Tamale with enough time to make it out to the field that afternoon! We arrived safely, dropped our bags off at Gillbt, hopped into a taxi and were off for a site visit to Kurugu Vohoyili. Kurugu Vohoyili is a community of about 23 households and has both a water treatment center and solar charging center business. We first stopped off at the dugout to check out the water treatment center and then headed into the community to try and meet up with the entrepreneurs, Ayi and Fusiena.

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2014-11-07 09.30.07Friday was an early start as we loaded back into taxis and headed off to Sakpalua to visit another site and get a feel for monitoring.

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That afternoon we met at back at the Saha Global office for some lab, alum, and solar training. All the field reps have been on top of their training which is awesome to see because they just had two days in Tamale before they approached their new communities.
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Both teams had extremely successful first visits to the new communities! The implementations have really taken off with community meetings and constructing! Word from our Fall Field Reps soon! 2014-11-09 10.34.06