To the 2014 Summer Fellows


1964882_736716316392912_3695791533619431533_nDear Jeremy, Selena, Cara, Brielle, Nicole S., Sarah S., Christina, Melissa, Claire B., Claire C., Josh, Sofia, Robert, Camille, Phoebe, Brandee, Elijah, Michaela, Abby F., Naomi, Danya, Ana B., Remy, Ben, Erin, Sarah R., Miles, Abby T., Kelly, Ann, Evan, Lexie, Kelli-Ann, Maggie, Haley, Caroline, Julia, Hannah, Nicole G., Ana CR, Alex, Katie, Sarah F., Linda, Lucas, and Nick,

It is hard to believe that the 46 of you are already heading home from Ghana this evening. 3 weeks has certainty flown by fast! It has been such a pleasure getting to know each of your during your time in Tamale. From the moment you arrived, you have impressed us with your knowledge, work ethic, and most of all, your desire to make a positive impact on the world around you. We are so proud of the work that you have accomplished during your time with CWS this summer. Thanks to each of you, 11 communities and approximately 4,000 people now have permanent access to safe drinking water and just over 500 people have access to solar electricity. 26 women entrepreneurs now have new businesses to run, and (thanks to your training), they are well equipped to handle any issues that may arise.

Thank you for choosing to spend the beginning of your summer working with Community Water Solutions. We are so lucky to have you all as members of the CWS team and can’t wait to see the incredible things that you will do for this world!


Kate, Sam, and Brianan




Update from the Kurugu Vohoyili Solar Pilot

Solar center in KV

It has been almost 3 weeks since the solar center opened in Kurugu Vohoyili. The solar center entrepreneurs, Ayi and Fuseina, report that business is going well. Community members say the lanterns are useful for cooking, studying, working at night and make them feel safe from scorpions lurking in dark corners.  The entrepreneurs say people have been coming to exchange their dead batteries for “fresh ones” and cell phone charging sales are high, especially at night.

Ayi and Fuseina
Water and Solar center entrepreneurs Ayi and Fuseina

Last week on April 2, CWS Assistant- Project Manager: Shak, and I had the privilege of visiting the solar center in Kurugu Vohoyili with the Burro team, Burro founder: Whit Alexander, Burro Country Director: Carol Brown and Business Development Manager: Caleb Darko. Burro is a bottom-up social business based out of Koforidua that markets high quality, life-improving products to low-income and rural populations. CWS has partnered with Burro to bring lanterns, gensets and solar panels to the solar center pilots.

Huseini - KV
Huseini with his Burro lantern newly loaded with “fresh” batteries from the solar center on opening night
Burro Office
Burro headquarters in Koforidua

When we arrived at the center, Fuseina was there open for business! There were 34 batteries charging but no phones just yet. Fuseina said that some people still had charge in their phones but they would come. We checked out the solar panels, which had a layer of dust and some mud splotches. The Burro team was helpful in advising Ayi and Fuseina to clean the panels every morning with a cloth and water to remove all dust in order to get the most sunlight possible. Whit also advised the women to use alcohol to remove any residue build up on the AA batteries to make them more efficient. Burro’s mantra of “Do More” shined throughout the community visit.

Shak and I visited 6 households with the Burro staff. All 6 households still had charged batteries in their lanterns. 4 out of 6 households had charged cell phones at the solar center. The 2 households without charge still had charge remaining from before the solar center opened. These households have been conserving their cell phone battery to keep fuel costs down. They used to travel several miles to Tali to charge. I predict that cell phone charging demand will rise over time as the solar center is conveniently located in the center of Kurugu Vohoyili.

Abiba, Huseini and Osman
Abiba, Huseini and Osman with their household Burro lantern. They use it on the 3rd setting at night so the women can cook and people can chat or study

Burro Founder, Whit, started asking households about what they used to do for energy prior to the solar center. Most households used kerosene, spending 5-6 GHC on kerosene every 3 days. Now they no longer use kerosene, opting for the cleaner, cheaper energy offered at the solar center! KV community member Alimatu brought out her kerosene lamp to show us what she was using before. It was striking to see the kerosene lamp and Burro lantern side by side. Alimatu asked us if she could use the Burro lantern as a night-light to fall asleep, she had been using a kerosene lamp before. We said yes and her face lit up!

Alimatu of Kurugu Vohoyili
Alimatu of Kurugu Vohoyili

It was encouraging to monitor with the Burro team and to see the fruits of our labor after the pilot. A big thank you to Whit, Carol and Caleb for coming all the way to Tamale to check out the solar center and for all of their consulting.



Jarayili: Results and Reflections from Abby

I’m contemplating my last two weeks in Tamale as I sip my favorite African cider, Savannah Dry, at Accra’s airport while waiting to board my flight to Johannesburg.  My time in Ghana was wonderful and I am really sad to leave. On Thursday, Peter and I went to Jarayili to present our results to the community. I was so excited! My lab tests showed that rainwater collected in Jarayili households is almost always contaminated with both total coliform and E.coli, which in turn makes rainwater entirely unsafe to drink.  In addition, my tests indicated that polytank water is very rarely contaminated, which is exciting because this means that Suayba and Awulatu are doing an excellent job as co-owners of Jarayili’s water business!

Abby in Jarayili
Abby and Peter hanging with community members in Jarayili

When I first began the project two weeks ago, I assumed rainwater would be the cleanest because it falls from the sky, whereas the polytank water comes from a muddy dugout infested with mosquitoes, total coliform, E.coli, and who knows what else.  I now realize that collected rainwater is unsafe to drink because it is highly susceptible to contamination.  For instance, one finger dipped into an entire 70-liter bucket of rainwater threatens the pureness of the water.  In addition, hygiene is poor in the village, which increases the likelihood of contaminating the rainwater.  Finally, the dugout water is treated with alum (to reduce turbidity) and chlorine (to kill contaminants), which is residual.  This means if if a single finger is dipped into a 70-liter bucket of polytank water, the residual chlorine will keep the water from being contaminated days after it was first treated.

Jarayili 3
Peter with Suayba’s twins!

My recommendation to the community was to always buy polytank water, even throughout the rainy season. I explained to the villagers that paying for clean water may not be their first choice now, but it will benefit them in the future because medical bills for diarrhea, typhoid, and cholera are high.  They understood.  In addition, Peter and I talked to the community about the relationship between clean water, health, and hygiene.  Jarayili’s chief, elders, women, and men engaged in a lively discussion at the end of our spiel, which made me think that Peter and I made a lasting impression.  I really believe Jarayili families will prioritize clean water in the future.

Jarayili 2
Abby and Peter doing an educational presentation using salt water to show that clear water like rainwater is not always safe for drinking.

I already miss seeing Suayba’s cheery smile every morning.  I really hope I can come back to check up on Jarayili in the future!

Until next time,


Thank you!

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Thank you all for supporting Community Water Solutions’ Indiegogo Campaign, Salamatu’s Story!

Our team was completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who donated to the campaign, tweeted, emailed, “liked” and shared the link! We are so grateful for your support. Thanks to your help, we were able to raise $18,314 in 5 short weeks! Amazing!

These funds will allow us to finalize our expansion to Salaga in time to host our first two teams of Community Water Solutions Fellows this Summer. The Salaga Fellowship Program will take place from June 19th – July 10th. We will be posting updates on the CWS blog through the entire program so be sure to check back for updates!

Over the next few weeks we will be working on sending out your perks, so be on the lookout for a fun package in the mail from CWS.

Thank you again for your continued support!


Social Enterprise Winners!

The CWS team is very excited to announce the winners of the CWS Social Enterprise Competition: Innova(Sun)!

CWS Co-Founders Kate and Chuck with Ben Powell from Innova(SUN) (Not Pictured: Ben’s Teammate Mark)

The Innova(Sun) team is made up of Fellow Alumni, Ben Powell and Mark Moeremans. Despite Mark being stuck in Europe for work and having to join the pitch via teleconfernece, the Innova(Sun) team did an incredible job of presenting their idea for solar-powered electronics charging businesses that will provide CWS villages with access to electricity.

Over the next year, Mark and Ben will be working with me and my co-mentor, Chuck, to develop a plan for piloting Innova(Sun) in a CWS village. Thanks to our amazing competition sponsors, Goodwin Proctor, Wolf Greenfield, and Foley Hoag, Innova(Sun) has $10,000 of funding for their pilot!

The Social Enterprise Competition Finalists!
The Social Enterprise Competition Finalists!

The Innova(Sun) pitch wasn’t the only great presentation at the competition finals. Kelsey & Zoe from Waste-to-Wealth, and Michelle & Alex from GroundNUTrition did an amazing job pitching their social enterprise ideas! I helped to moderate the final judging session, so I know that it was extremely difficult for the judges to pick only 1 winner. As mentors, Chuck and I are so proud of how far each of these teams have come over the past 11 weeks!

Finally, I would like to thank our judges: Una Ryna, Matt Tarditi, Vanessa Green and Mike Pomianek! As Innova(Sun) works to develop their pilot plan they will be writing a series of post on the CWS Blog. Make sure to check it out if you are interested in following their progress!


Annual Benefit Success

The Community Water Solutions’ Second Annual Benefit was a huge success! Thanks to the support of our amazing event committee (Sarah, Mike, Sarah, Nick, Christine, Vanessa, and Marc), generous event sponsors, Foley Hoag, Goodwin Proctor & Wolf Greenfield, and, of course, everyone who attended the Benefit, we were able to raise a total of $21,791 – exceeding our goal of $20,000 and more than doubling the amount raised at last year’s event!

The night ran as smoothly as possible. The ambiance of the W Hotel combined with the music provided by jazz guitarist, Scott Free, resulted in a beautiful evening that was enjoyed by all! April Obey from April K Photography generously donated her time and talent by setting up a photobooth where attendees took picture with the CWS blue safe storage containers. Check out the photos below!

The night also included a celebration of the launch of our new website! Thanks to the talent and enthusiasm of the Cloud Construct Team— specifically Rebecca, Arra & Kate – we are so excited and proud to introduce our new site!

Cheers to our event sponsors, event committee, beverage sponsors and all who could join us in the evening! We cannot wait for next year!

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Fellow Farewell

Yesterday morning, our 23 Summer Fellows and their Fellowship Leaders boarded the bus to Accra and the 2012 Summer Fellowship Program officially came to an end. I know that I say this at the end of every program, but these 3 weeks truly flew by. It was such a pleasure to work with this amazing group of young people!

The 2012 Summer Fellows with some of their translators and Fellowship Leaders – everyone was up BRIGHT and early for their 5am departure! Photo credit: Kathryn Padgett

Alex, Zoe, Olivia, Kelsey M., Tyler, Leah, Bridgid, Jenn, Krysta, Abby, Evan, Meaghan, Cameron, Matt, Heidi, Megan, Brittni, Marwa, Khadijah, Sarit, Moriah, Mark, and Kelsey B. –

These past three weeks flew by too fast and Tamale already seems much quieter with the 23 of you gone. As a group, you guys were not only incredibly hardworking and inspiring, but also plain fun to be around! I know that there are many other things that each of you could have done this summer, but thank you for choosing to come to Ghana to work with CWS. Thanks to you (and the donors who supported your trip!) 6 communities and over 2,000 people now have access to safe drinking water. 2,000 people. That’s pretty amazing.

As you continue with the rest of your summersschool years, and/or careers, I hope that you continue to remember that impact that you have had here in Tamale, not just on your villages but everyone that you met and worked with while you were here – your translators, taxi drivers, leaders, Abraham, Emmanel, & Daniel, vendors in the cultural center, even the lady who owns the bar across the street! We all feel lucky to have gotten to know you. I am certain that each of you will continue to do amazing things and I can’t wait to see the change that you will make in this world!

Stay in touch and hopefully I’ll see many of you in Boston this summer!


Reflections of an (almost-former) Ghana Country Director

I can’t believe its been a year. A year already? A year only?!

Volunteering with Community Water Solutions this year was an experience that I am struggling to summarize. I could go by those landmark successes (and failures):

– Opening days in SIXTEEN communities = great success!

– Pushing the CWS truck down the Kumasi road = huge fail!

But I think it’s those ordinary days that have defined this year for me. I’ve been lucky to be able to hit the road most (earlyyyy) mornings with five incredibly hard-working and altruistic guys. Peter, Shak, Wahab, TJ and Amin made up our Tamale full-time field staff this year, and without them, well, I would be unintelligible in our villages. But their job is much more than translating. They wheedle information about problems out of reluctant housewives, they teach kids how to push taps without breaking them and give presentations to their classrooms, they take it personally when a house has misused a safe storage container, they charge community cellphones at their houses, switch farming tips, stories and food with the local men and women and kids, and they are the face of CWS to the communities they work with. I’m just lucky that I got to be part of such an ace team.

It’s not just the CWS posse that has impressed me daily. The ladies we work with in every village never cease to surprise me. Some are grandmothers and some are unmarried girls. Some work farms, others roadside food stops. All support their families and their communities without giving it a thought. Of course, the profits from the business are a great incentive to keep them going, but the actions and words of the ladies we work with have led me to believe that, for most, profits are only part of the reason they continue their work. The importance of community well-being here is something that I have rarely found so highly valued elsewhere in the world.

This year has certainly been one of great change for CWS. We have expanded rapidly, and the way we follow up in the places that we work has changed with this expansion. Figuring out how to optimize our time and resources and figuring out what ways monitoring is most effective were the twin challenge for me this year. Communicating our findings to a broader, international audience lead to in addition to topical blog posts. We also managed to successfully incorporate local government participation into our projects, and many villages are now nominated by their districts to partner with CWS. In retrospect, our growing pains were minimal; making water accessible to thousands more has yet to feel trying, and when you put it that way, how could it?

Of course, none of this would be possible without the amazing fellows we have had roll through our Tamale office, and a huge perk of this job was being able to work with so many talented, energetic and creative students and young professionals. Thank you fellows; keep in touch and keep your villages close to your hearts.

“Who is more dirty?” – my favorite game to play

Luckily I don’t have to say my goodbyes just yet, but leaving this week is still bittersweet. Its wonderful to know that a competent group, headed by new Country Directer Brianan Kiernan, will be able to take over operations once I’m out. But it’s very sad to think that I won’t spend my mornings hanging off the back of a moto. I’ll have to console myself with a fat American hamburger – thats right – its time to leave the chicken and rice behind, if only for a while!

– Kathryn