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Voices from the Field: Cassie, Paul and Dannie

After an amazing three weeks in Ghana, the Saha US Team and the Summer Field Reps are all a little sad to be back home to our “normal” lives in the States. Luckily, we have a chance to go back and re-live our summer program through this final blog post from Team Sharifa! Our apologies for the delay in this post, but we promise it will be worth the wait!

After opening our solar business in Yakura on Tuesday, we spent the next few days monitoring (checking on lantern usage and answering questions). This morning, the community bid us farewell with an incredible dance ceremony, even allowing us to participate in several of the dances. After this morning, we’re pretty sure the residents of Yakura have learned that Salamingas aren’t as apt at dancing as we are at installing solar panels. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know everyone in Yakura and watching our entrepreneurs, Ayi and Hawabu, grow as leaders in the community.

Yakura Jumping

Below, our team members reflect on some of our most memorable experiences in Yakura.

Paul: One brief image from opening night, emblematic of that night as a whole, has stuck with me. A Fulani man showed up about an hour after our 6:30pm opening time. His compound, the most remote in the village, lies more than half a mile from the solar center (I remembered him specifically because of our walk to his residence during lantern distribution). He bought his batteries and left within two minutes. We watched from about 10 feet away as Ayi and Hawabu installed the batteries, took his money, and gave him change. That was it. No ceremony, no outpouring of thanks. Just a simple transaction. At that moment, I thought to myself: this is the point, this is exactly why we’re here. This kind of commerce didn’t exist in Yakura and now it does. We then checked in on this Fulani man’s household this morning during monitoring: he had no questions for us and he reported that he’d been using the lantern for additional cooking and working time at night. His life hasn’t been radically altered: his family remains beset by many of poverty’s harshest challenges. But this family now has a few extra hours of productivity each night without the adverse health effects of using a kerosene lamp. And those few hours matter.

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My experiences in Yakura and, more broadly, the Saha business model have taught me something about how best to enable communities to develop. Whether you’re distributing batteries or billion-dollar aid packages, it’s best to empower rather than instruct, to collaborate rather than chastise.

Cassie: The monitoring process these past few days taught me so much in my design thought process. As a future engineer, much of the work I will do will involve products for others. Following up on your product is a really important aspect of the process I had never given too much thought to until now. Working with the women multiple days after opening night to see how sales are going and work through any problems they have encountered was both encouraging to me, to see how well they have taken the business, and to them as they have continued support for the next few years. Ending our time with the the Yakura community with some dancing was the perfect way to conclude such an incredible experience. There was one moment when I was dancing with the women and all of the sudden they all got to the ground dancing so I joined, but they all stood up as I stayed. I’m pretty sure they were making fun of me, but it was all in good fun. I greatly enjoyed learning some of their dancing, a trade off of sorts, for the solar business we shared with them. I look forward to continued success in the women’s solar business and hopefully a dance with them again sometime soon!

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Dannie: Leading up to this trip I had learned numerous pieces of information about poverty and the various methods by which people look to aid those in need. However, despite all the knowledge I had accumulated there is, and always will be, vast amounts that I will never know. When I walked into Yakura for the first time, in fact, when I walked into the village of Takpili (our first village visit: part of training in which we monitor a previously established business) for the first time, I was nervous. It’s funny because you wake up every day and you want to change something, make someone’s life better, make the world a better place then you had seen it the day before; but when I walked into these villages everything I had learned became real and the people , although always willing to throw a joke your way and a smile to follow, they are suffering. I didn’t know how to cope with everything and it never fully came together until opening night and today when we left our village for the last time. We watched as people brought their lanterns to the charging center for the first time, it wasn’t as if anything different had happened in the village, and that was the beautiful part. Paul, Cassie, Sharifa (our translator), and I with the help and support from Yakura and our incredible entrepreneurs, successfully implemented a new business that did not change day to day life in the community. This is crucial to the success of the business as well as the consistent monitoring that Saha will continue to do in the future. Today we were able to dance with the community and joke with not a worry in the world about the success of the business in the future. Not only are the women extremely intelligent but Saha will be there every step in the way. If I could tell the girl who walked into Yakura on the first day, nervous if waking up everyday hoping to make a difference was enough, what I know today, I wouldn’t, because I thoroughly enjoyed calling Kate every single day annoying her with questions :)…thank you to everyone who has helped us through donations and support, you were crucial in establishing a solar charging center in Yakura.

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March Monitoring Results

March was the second month that our Ghana team used new monitoring procedures, and they really started to get in the swing of things. March was a notable water month because we celebrated World Water Day with our women entrepreneurs in Tamale! Check out Eric’s post for more great pictures and stories from this awesome day! Below is the monthly monitoring summary for March:

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For a detailed description of how each line item is calculated, check out our February post.

 

 

There are a few things to note about our March monitoring results. The first is that our water business usage rate dropped slightly from February to March. This is due to dry dugouts. March and April are a very challenging time for our village partners because it is the very end of the dry season and many water sources run dry for a few weeks or a month before the rains come. This is difficult for Saha to deal with because without water in dugouts, there is no water for the women to treat and sell. They must temporarily pause operations until the rain comes. The number of dried dugouts varies year to year. This March, the dugouts in Chandanyili, Jabgerin, Galinzegu, and Zanzegu Yipela all ran dry.

When we monitor villages with dried dugouts, we still do household visits to see where people are getting their water. Sometimes, it will rain enough for a family to collect rainwater in their safe storage container, but not enough to fill the dugout. So, that house will have clean water and we will count them, but their neighbor may not. Sometimes people will walk to a nearby village with a Saha business and buy water there, so we can count them as having clean water too. But oftentimes, people do not have clean water when we check, so our average is brought down for the month. Our staff makes an effort to inform the District Assemblies about communities with dry dugouts, to see if the government can help them at all. Amin and Peter are in charge of setting up these meetings and are doing a great job! But for the most part, all that we can do is wait and hope for rain for our community partners.

The dried dugout in Chandanyili
The dried dugout in Chandanyili

 

 

Another thing to note about March is that our team did a much better job of visiting all of the new businesses, both water and solar! After the first week in March, every new business (less than 6 months old) was visited once a week. I was happy to have the team back on track after some scheduling difficulties last month.

The only other major issue in March was a conflict between the community of Budhja and the Fulani, a nomadic tribe that had been staying in the village. Due to the conflict, the entrepreneurs were nervous that the Fulani would steal their water supplies, so they closed the business for about two weeks. Many communities members left the village during the conflict and stayed at neighboring villages, so there weren’t many people around to buy water anyway. By the end of the month the conflict was resolved and business returned to normal in Budhja.

On the solar side, we had an exciting month because the entrepreneurs from Tacpuli opened their bank account! Amin spent the whole day at the bank with Lasiche, Maraiama, and Ayishetu but it was well worth it. Congrats Ladies! All of other solar businesses were up in running in March, with no technical difficulties and consistent sales. A great month for sure!

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Lasiche, Maraiama, and Ayishetu opening a bank account for their solar business.

 

If you would like more information, the detailed week by week reports are all available online here. Check it out and email kate@sahaglobal.org if you have any questions! Below are some more pictures from March monitoring in the field.

-Kate

 

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Its a good morning for solar sales in Djelo!

 

Batteries are ready to go!

 

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A busy day of at the water business in Sakpalua!

 

 

 

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Thumbs up from Fusiena and Dawu!

 

 

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Everyone loves a good selfie!

 

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Peter chatting with a family in Idigenous Kabache

 

 

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First stop, the water business! Wahab taking notes on the water levels

 

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World Water Day Celebrations at the Saha Office!

 

Clean solar panels means efficient electricity generation in Tacpuli!
Clean solar panels means efficient electricity generation in Tacpuli!

 

 

 

February Monitoring Results

February was the first month that our Ghana team officially switched over to our new monitoring procedures. Below is the monthly monitoring summary for February:

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I was happy to see that our usage rate (the % of households with clean water in their safe storage container when one of our team members stopped by) was 73%. Over the past 7 years, our average has been right around 75%, so right off the bat I could see that February was a pretty typical month (we are constantly striving to get this number up, mostly through education campaigns in our partner-villages, but at the same time, we are also constantly adding new communities). Keep in mind, just because there isn’t clean water in someone’s safe storage container, does not mean that there is contaminated water in there! Usually the bucket is just empty. Some families may have just finished their water and haven’t had a chance to re-fill. However, for some it is because they aren’t frequently filling.

The “Clean Water Used” stat is calculated from the number of Aquatabs that the women reported having used each week. Each Aquatab treats 200L of water, so we just multiply the reported number by 200.

The “Clean Water Sold” stat is calculated from the number of Aquatabs that the women bought each week. This number differs from the clean water used, because the entrepreneurs don’t always buy the same number of Aquatabs they use. Some women buy in bulk one month and slowly use the tablets over time, before making another big purchase a few months later. Others may use 2 in a week but then buy 3 or 4 to replenish their pile. Each business owner works out their own system.

The “Number of Lanterns Sold” indicates how many lanterns the solar business owners have sold to members of their community. During implementation, each family receives 1 lantern for 1 GHC, and they can buy more at market-rate if they would like. The women buy the lanterns from Saha at cost and then choose to mark up the prices as much as they would like. Unfortunately, over the last couple of months our lantern supplier has increased the price of the lanterns dramatically, so the ladies haven’t been making many sales recently. Lantern sales used to be a big money maker for the solar entrepreneurs.

The “Average Solar Business Earnings”  is the total earnings (730 GHS) divided by the number of villages visited. This month, our team only made it to 7 out of the 8 businesses.  All revenue is reported in GHC.

Below is an example of the weekly data table that Wahab fills out, based on the information that our team collects in the field. You can access the actual excel files here – each week has it’s own tab, with the monthly data summarized at the end.

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There were no big issues in our communities this month. Little things like leaky polytanks sprung up here and there, but those small issues are easily solved. Some communities, like Wambong, reported slow water sales, but our team was able to work with the community and the entrepreneurs to get back on track (see the last photo below). The biggest challenge this month was getting our team back on track with their new monitoring schedule after the Winter Global Leadership Program. As I mentioned earlier we only made it to 7 solar communities in February. Since most of our solar businesses are less than a year old, each community should have been visited 3-4 times this month. After receiving the week 3 report from Wahab, I noticed this problem right away and discussed the issue with our Operations Manager, Shak, during our weekly check-in. Shak and the rest of the team then discussed their new schedules during their next staff meeting and were able to figure out how to re-arrange their weeks to make sure new communities were getting visited more frequently!

Below are some pictures from the Field from February! Stay tuned tomorrow for our March monitoring report!

-Kate

PS – remember, for monitoring reports from before 2015, visit our old site here.

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Ayi selling water in Kurugu Vohoyili
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A busy morning in Kurugu Vohoyli
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Eric noting how many Aqutabs Fulera had bought
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Eric helping Ramatu how to strengthen the connection of the cell phone charges
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The Nekpegu solar center is bumpin’!
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Fati posing with all of the charging batteries in Nekpegu
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Staff meeting selfies!
A straight-faced Salima make sales early in the morning in Wambong
After a month of low water sales in Wambong, Shak and the women met with the community chairman. Chang-Chang suggested that he make announcements at the mosque whenever she had water ready to sell, and he agreed. After the first announcement, the water center was BUSY!

 

 

A New Monitoring Routine

As we’ve mentioned a few times, Saha Global recently fully transitioned the management of our Ghana operations to our amazing Ghana team. During that transition, we also overhauled our monitoring process. With the help of our new Board Member, Mark Moeremans, we thought long and hard about the data that we collect when we monitor our water and solar businesses, what we use that data for, and how we communicate the results to our supporters around the world. In Mark’s blog post, we showed a sneak peek of our new monitoring spreadsheet, but we wanted to wait a couple months before posting regular updates to ensure that we would actually have enough data for the results to be meaningful. Well, a few months have passed and we are excited to start sharing our monitoring reports with all of you! This page is where you will be able to find all of our data from the field. Later this week, we’ll be posting our reports from February, March and April. After that, we’ll post a new update each month. If you are looking for reports from before 2015, you can head to our old monitoring page here.

Now, I would like to re-introduce one of our awesome managers, Eric Angkosaala. We thought that Eric would be the perfect person to describe just how our monitoring process has changed and what those changes mean for our Ghana team. Take it away, Eric!

10338763_736940336370510_7655639240748997261_nA typical week for a staff starts on Monday at 6:30am at the Saha office. The Staff look on our updated whiteboard board to see which villages might need immediate attention. We grab supplies we might be running low on like Aquatabs, taps, glue, thread tape etc. We also take along safe storage buckets, lamps, batteries, etc. to the villages who demanded for them, either to buy or if there was a new family in the community who had not yet received one. We then head out to our respective villages. We get back from the field in the afternoon to meet at the office where we report to Shak about our day and update the board. We do this Monday to Friday. We sometimes go to field on Saturday when there is a pressing problem, like a leaky polytank. We go to help the women fix such problems as soon as we can, or else all the water would drip out and the women’s time and energy would be wasted. On Fridays at 3 pm, we sit for a staff meeting to discuss issues that happened during the week and talk on how to solve problems that might have developed that week and plan for the future.

Eric taking note of the water levels at the business in Djelo
Taking note of the water levels at the business in Djelo

Usually, we monitor three villages in a day, but that depends. Sometimes we only stop in two villages because, there might be a problem and we have to spend extra time on that problem village to try and fix the issue before leaving. Sometimes, we visit four villages in a day, because things were great in those villages or those villages are close to each other.

When we get to a village our first stop is at the water center, where we check if there is treated water in the polytank and what level the water is at. We also check the blue drums to see whether there is dugout water or water has been treated with alum and ready to scoop. We also check the polytank to make sure there is no leakage.  If there is a problem, we try to work with the women entrepreneurs to fix it. If we can’t figure it out then, we take down notes to discuss with Shak and the team.

This is me chatting with Fulera, the water entrepreneur in Kalinka, about her sales.
This is me chatting with Fulera, the water entrepreneur in Kalinka, about her sales.

Next, we ask the entrepreneurs how business is going. When was the last day they made sales? When was the last day they used aqua tabs and how many? We find out from them how many aqua tabs are remaining and if they would like to purchase more. We also find out if they are saving the money they get from sales. We ask to see if there are any problems. In solar villages, we then go to the solar center. Once there, we ask the women: Is everything working well? Did you have any problems? How many batteries did you rent this week?  How many cell phones did you charge? How much money did you make this week? If there are no problems, we go around to households to see how people are doing with their safe storage containers and lanterns. In the households, we check to see if there is water and the level. We ask if they like the taste of water, if they have seen any improvement in their health, and if they know why dugout water is not safe to drink. We educate them on areas we see that they didn’t give good answers for. For solar villages, we ask families if they use their lantern. What do they use it for? Do they have a cell phone? How often do they charge their phone? We go around to at least 6 households in a village. But, we sometimes monitor 12 to 18 households if we observe that people are not going to the center to refill. If there are any complaints about the taste of water, we go back to the women to advise them on their next water treatment. We then move to the next village and then the next.

Anytime we get back from field, we look at the board to see which village has a problem or which villages have not been visited yet. We also look at the villages which are along the same area before choosing which villages to go.

Peter, filling out one of our old monitoring sheets in Sabonjida
Peter, filling out one of our old monitoring sheets in Sabonjida

When Brianan, our former Country Director was in Tamale, she used to go to field with a different field staff on a daily basis. Brianan created a monitoring sheet while she was here and some of the questions on it were: When was the last day sales were made? How many people came to refill? Are you saving from the sales you make? How are sales? Is there anything broken at the center? Was it fixed or do we need to go back? What’s the level of water in the polytank? How many blue drums have water in them and were they treated with alum? How many aquatabs were used the last time? How many remaining? Would you like to buy any more aquatabs? How many? Any compliants or problems? Have you seen an improvement in health? Why is dugout water not safe to drink?

We handed over the sheets to Brianan on our return from field and she would gather everything and then forward the reports to Kate.

Shak, Wahab, Amin and I checking in after a day in the field.
Shak, Wahab, Amin and I checking in after a day in the field.

Now, we no longer use the monitoring sheets because we have been using the monitoring sheets over the last few years, we know the questions to ask the women and in households. We take down notes in a notebook, which helps to save a lot of paper! Then, when we get to the office we tell our reports to Wahab, who then collates everything on excel and forwards a weekly summary to Kate. Wahab’s reports focus more on numbers like the number of aquatabs sold, the amount of money the solar women made in a week, and the number of buckets with clean water, instead of on the answers we get from conversations. The number of aquatabs used and purchased helps us figure out how much water is treated and sold each week. We can then see if those numbers align with the sales the women report and what we observe during household visits.

 

-Eric Angkosaala

From Start-Up to Stand-Up: Growing Saha Global

This is a guest post written by new Saha Board Member, Mark Moeremans!

Me and Ben with some of the Saha team and the women entrepreneurs on opening night of the very first Saha solar businesses

After almost 7 years of successfully working in rural communities of Northern Region Ghana it is safe to say that Saha Global is growing in every sense of the word. Whether you are counting the number of new businesses opening each year, the number of field reps participating, the number of schools we are partnering with, or the scale of impact that the organization is having in Ghana, Saha is becoming a tour de force in the field of international development.  It has been my incredible honor to play a small part in that growth, originally as a water field rep in 2012, and later as I piloted the solar program in the fall of 2013 with my social enterprise teammate Ben Powell.

The US workshop in December
The US workshop in December

This past fall, I was approached by Executive Director Kate Clopeck with a new opportunity to get involved and continue to support the growth of the organization. Kate recognized the need to make adjustments to the organization in order to avoid hitting a ceiling, and wanted to start putting processes and structures in place that would allow for this growth to continue. With plans to launch business in a new country, Kate wanted to make sure that everything internally was running smoothly so that her team had the capacity and direction to support the expansion. My background as a management consultant combined with my knowledge of Saha Global put me in a unique position to advise the Saha team on how to change, adapt, and grow their own structure, processes, and habits to make sure no one’s time or skills were being wasted.

Re-assigning tasks to keep the US team productive and efficient
Re-assigning tasks to keep the US team productive and efficient

My first step was to get the US Staff on the same page – conducting a one day workshop with the team to better understand roles and responsibilities and expectations about what work needed to get done. This information was used to create role profiles – succinct job descriptions outlining the tasks and responsibilities of each US employee. These profiles are aimed to ensure clarity and transparency regarding what the team was accountable for while eliminating any redundancies. Finally, these were supplemented by a detailed competency model, a talent framework emphasizing the skills and attributes that are needed to be successful in the organization. This will provide the US team with a consistent set of language to talk about professional development and giving the US team the opportunity for the same type of career conversations as their counterparts in for-profit companies.

Hanging in Ghana with Saha Senior Manager, Amin, and two of the 2015 Winter Field Reps, Marsha and Sarah.
Hanging in Ghana with Saha Senior Manager, Amin, and two of the 2015 Winter Field Reps, Marsha and Sarah.

It wasn’t just the US Team that needed to adapt. With the promise of a new country on the horizon for Saha Global we needed to be sure that Ghana operations would continue to run smoothly once there was another country to support. For the Ghana staff that meant moving them toward greater self-management, a pipe-dream for most international non-profits. We knew the Ghana staff had the smarts and the gumption to get the job done, they just needed a bit of direction, same as the US team, and that’s where I came in. I recently traveled back to Ghana in early January to assess the situation on the ground and see what I could do to help make them more independent.

The new Org chart for the Ghana team
The new Org chart for the Ghana team

Every team member was thrilled at the opportunity for more responsibility, they were eager to learn and wanted to make the most of my time. After a brief observation period I set to work, realigning the Ghana team to create a division of labor based on people’s skills and interests. I created unique role profiles just like the US team and shared the same competency model so that they understood the expectations for their own growth. The second half of my trip was spent training them individually on the skills they would need to successful perform their new duties. To say they were quick learners would be an understatement and I’m still trying to figure out how they learned Microsoft Excel so fast. After two short weeks I headed back home, excited by how much had gotten done and nervous that it might not be enough.

 

Saha Senior Manager, Wahab, has been killin' it with his monitoring spreadsheets. He is now in charge of compiling everyone's monitoring data and emailing them to Kate once a week.
Saha Senior Manager, Wahab, has been killin’ it with his monitoring spreadsheets. He is now in charge of compiling everyone’s monitoring data and emailing them to Kate once a week. Click on the photo for a larger view!

In the few weeks since I’ve been back I have seen a transformation in how Saha Global is operating – both in the US and in Ghana. The US team has moved into their new roles quickly with the launch of the new country competition, the creation of the alumni advisory board, and an enhanced focus on recruiting with an emphasis on data analytics. On the Ghana side I receive emails weekly from the team with updates, excel reports, and stories about how much they are enjoying their expanded roles. If you are an alumni, I definitely encourage you to reach out to your translator via email, they will respond!
Seeing Saha Global continue to mature has been a truly humbling experience. Saha means opportunity, not just for the people of Ghana but for students and young professionals as well. I am so grateful for the opportunities Saha has given me, as a water field rep, a social enterprise winner and solar pilot, and as a strategic advisor. Even now, I am thrilled to announce that I have been giving yet another opportunity to continue serving the organization in helping it achieve its growth goals, this time as a member of the Saha Global Board of Directors. I look forward to serving in this new capacity and any other Saha sees fit. Stay tuned for more!

-Mark Moeremans

Tamale Day 2 – Off to the Village!

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.

Team TJ and Team Wahab meet with the Gburma entrepreneurs and their families - including little Ibrahim!
Team TJ and Team Wahab meet with the Gburma entrepreneurs and their families – including little Ibrahim!

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…

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Team TJ (Kiana, Jenni, Orlando and Julia) and Team Wahab (Sofia, Marlena and Aly) check out the water treatment center in Chani – 4 years and going strong! Take notes, Field Reps…

 

 

… including, of course, Salamatu’s grandkids!

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Kiana shows Chani kiddos a picture she snapped.

 

 

District Manager Wahab showed the team a solar center in action – he helped set up both the water and solar businesses here in Chani.

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Wahab shows water field reps a solar center in Chani. Wahab has been coming to this community for four years now and is “proud of the work that they do”.

 

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.

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Salima makes a sale while Matt, Paul et al. look on

 

The Field Reps were able to sit down with the Chief as well. Saha’s favorited grandmother, Fati, also made an appearance.

 

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Field Reps with Mma Fati

 

 

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.

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Sarah and Kristina work with Amin to assemble a solar array during training.
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Marsha, on her way to mastering the Genset.
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Matt and Julia hook up the Genset.
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Amin, Paul and Jake hook up the battery during training.

 

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.

 

 

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A long but good one!

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

Voices from the Field: Team James (Sarah R, Ben, and Erin)

Monitoring, we’ve found, involves much more than monitoring. Every monitoring day in Wovogu brings new friendships and new challenges. Today was the third day of monitoring, and our second-to-last day in the village. It will definitely be hard to say goodbye to everyone we’ve met here!

Erin, Sarah and Ben with some of our new friends in Wovogu!

We visit around six households each day, and ask a series of questions about the water and how the safe storage container is working. Most of the safe storage containers were working, although two households reported leaky or broken taps, which we will replace. When we ask about the taste, they usually say “denyasa pom”— it tastes good.

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Sarah hanging with some kids from Wovogu while monitoring

The more households we visit, the more our entourage of children grows. They love to follow us from house to house, asking for photos and holding our hands. It can be pretty overwhelming at times, but they are adorable and it’s nice to see how excited they are to have us in their village.

We also make sure to look over the water treatment center itself and to check in with our fabulous women entrepreneurs, . They’ve been great at keeping the center running smoothly. A large number of the households had returned to the center to refill their safe storage containers.

Senatu and Abiba have been doing an awesome job running their water business!
Senatu and Abiba have been doing an awesome job running their water business!

There are some troubling rumors going around that the clean water might limit fertility, or cause a woman to only give birth twice. We’ve been doing our best to dispel these rumors and to make sure that everybody knows that the treated water will improve their health and the health of their children.

In addition to monitoring, we visited the school that Wovogu shares with a neighboring village. We filled one water-bottle with water from the treatment center, one with dugout water, and one with salt-water. We had the kids decide which water they shouldn’t drink. The turbid dugout water, with visible pieces of fecal matter, was an easy first pick.

The treated water and the salt-water both looked clear, so we had the kids do a taste-test. After one boy got quite the salty surprise, we explained that just because water is clear, it doesn’t always mean it’s clean. We told them that it is important to make sure the water in the safe storage containers stays clean— if it gets recontaminated, you might not be able to tell just by looking at it!

Checking out the CWS Fellowship Handbook at the water treatment business
Checking out the CWS Fellowship Handbook at the water treatment business

We also played Healthy Habits tag, which was a lot of fun. We reminded the kids that practicing healthy habits can prevent them from getting sick.

Tomorrow is our last day of monitoring. We’ll visit six more households, check in one final time with Senatu and Abiba, and visit the chief to say our goodbyes. While it will be hard to leave, we know that our entrepreneurs will be more than capable of running the treatment center and making sure that Wovogu’s drinking water stays clean and safe.

-Sarah, Ben and Erin

Voices from the Field: Team Sharifa (Miles, Kelly, Ann, and Abby T)

Hi All!

Yesterday, we spent our day off at Kantempo Waterfalls, about 3 hours outside of Tamale. Several of the translators came along, and everyone had a great time swimming in the falls!

On our way to the Kintempo waterfalls
On our way to the Kintempo waterfalls
The waterfalls
The waterfalls
Kelly and our translator, Sharifa!
Kelly and our translator, Sharifa!

Today in Janakpeng we completed our first day of monitoring after opening day. First, we met with our women entrepreneurs, Facina and Memunatu. We discussed their plans for their business, and asked them how they thought opening day went. They were pleased with the number of sales on opening day, but they think that since times are hard in the village and it is almost rainy season, they don’t expect as many sales in the upcoming weeks.

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Our awesome entrepreneurs, Facina and Memunatu!

Next, we visited 6 households to check their safe storage containers. Almost everyone’s bucket was full, which was great to see!

A CWS safe storage container!
A CWS safe storage container – raised from the ground, a clean cup on top, looks great!
Clean water!
Clean water!

We reiterated to each family how important it is to drink clean water and stressed the connection between water and disease. We received feedback from a few families that the water tasted too much like alum, so we talked to the women at the center so they know to use less alum next time.

Monitoring in Janakpam
Kelly monitoring in Janakpam

We also took samples from each household’s container. Since it rained yesterday, the women didn’t open the center again after opening day, so the Polytank is about 3/4 full and the women filled all of the blue drums. We had a great time playing with the kids – they tried to teach us some Dugbani words, and Miles taught them how to play tic tac toe. Overall, it was a great day of monitoring, and we’re excited for tomorrow!

-Kelly, Miles, Sharifa, and Abby T

Ann taking a sample of water to test in the lab.
Ann taking a sample of water to test in the lab.
Miles and Abby playing with some of the kids in Janakpam!
Miles and Abby playing with some of the kids in Janakpam!
Team Sharifa!
Team Sharifa!

Voices from the Field: Our First Solar Fellows!

Hey! It’s Linda, Lucas, Nick, and Sarah, the CWS Solar Fellows. After arriving to Tamale, we were surprised with a scavenger hunt around the city to get to know the locals, places, and culture on a more intimate level. During the 2 hour time frame, we ran around the market looking for things like dried hibiscus flowers, one calabash, and one piece of fabric with the U.S. flag on it. We then went around the Cultural Center trying to convince locals to dance with us to Pharell’s “Happy” while being recorded on video. Next, we needed to take a picture on the Tamale Football Stadium field. We discovered upon arrival that the Ghana vs. Sierra Leone game was in session and wondered how to cross that off the checklist. After sweet-talking the guard, he allowed us to watch the game from the field. Nick's Happy Shimmy

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Team Solar!: Linda, Lucas, Nick, and Linda at the Tamale Soccer Stadium

Yesterday, we headed out to the field for this first time this trip! We visited Sakpalua, where we monitored both the water and solar businesses, which are run by four women, including the two water entrepreneurs Lydia and Damu. Unfortunately, Damu was unable to meet with us because she was in another village attending a funeral. In particular, it was great for Nick to be back in the village that he implemented on his first Fellowship. He played mancala with the children and hung out with his friends Simeon, Zizu, and the Pastor. He also got to take a picture in front of the CWS sign with the children of Sakpalua. 

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It was the first time that any of us were able to see an implemented solar charging center and it was great to see that everything has been running smoothly. The women seemed to be in good spirits and had been doing a great job of keeping track of sales at the business. When we asked if there had been any problems at the center, they did mention a suspicious “whirring” noise coming from the Genset. After thinking about it for a few seconds, we realized that what they were talking about was the fan that keeps all of the components cool. When we explained this to the women, they were very relieved and let us know that there weren’t any other issues with the center.

After monitoring households in Sakpalua, we made the short drive to Wambong – another CWS solar village. The entrepreneurs in Wambong had been experiencing good sales as well, and the households we monitored said they enjoyed having easing and affordable access to cell phone charging. As in Sakpalua we monitored the households for water as well and were encouraged to hear so many stories of improved health for families and their children.

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After a successful first day in the field, we had the chance to learn how the components of the solar center worked and how everything should be connected. This made us all really excited for tomorrow, as it will be our first day in Yepalsi, where will be spending the next few weeks implementing a new solar charging business.