Today on the blog, we are taking some time to highlight and bid a fond farewell to Saha’s first full-time Ghana team member, Peter. Peter has worked with us since 2008, when Saha Global was just an idea, and we implemented the second water business in Nymaliga. In many ways, Peter is co-founder of Saha Global and we would not be where we are today without him. We are so excited to see what the future has in store for him, and today we want to revisit some of our favorite memories of Peter’s time with Saha.
Over the years, Peter worked on every project under the hot Tamale sun! He implemented clean water businesses in countless villages, and went above and beyond to fulfil the Saha mission. He even made Saha’s first radio appearance!
It is through Peter that we met many of our current full-time staff, translators, and taxi drivers, including Wahab, Eric, Nestor, Simply, and Taufik (to name a few!) Many of our teammates fondly refer to him as “Father Peter.”
In addition to our work together in the villages, Peter has gone on many traveling adventures as a member of Saha’s leadership team. The first, and one of the most notable, was Kate and Peter’s trip to Kumasi in 2010 to buy a truck for Saha. This story was made famous (or infamous?) in Kate’s 2013 Tedx talk. It was certainly a trip to remember!
A few years later, Peter joined Kate and Kathryn on scouting missions to our neighboring countries Burkina Faso and Togo, while we were searching for new areas for Saha to work. While none of us spoke French well, Kate and Kathryn remembered a few words from high school French class and it was fun to turn the tables and have to translate for Peter after years of having him translate Dagbani for us! We will always remember the delicious roadside salads, long days in the truck, and hilarious French conversations on that trip!
After that trip, Peter was charged with setting up our office in Salaga, and piloted the first Salaga Saha business in Tunga with Kate and Kathryn in 2012. Peter also led all of the preparations for two Global Leadership Programs based in Salaga during 2013.
Since then, Peter has split his time between Tamale and Salaga, holding down the fort at our Salaga office: monitoring our seven Salaga villages and scouting for many more communities to be implemented in the future.
We’ve experienced so much together over the past 10 years. Exciting opportunities for Saha, growing friendships, expanding families, and so much more!
We are so grateful for Peter’s 10-plus years of hard work and service, and can’t wait to see what the future holds! Ti pagya pom, Peter!
This summer, Sahayili continued to work hard to make sure our water businesses are working well. One way we have approached this was by pursuing empowerment of all of our team to have a solid baseline of financial training. If we expect our entrepreneurs in the field to know how to set a price to the water they sell and the plan for the aquatabs they buy, we have to make sure we are sending monitors who are excellent with finances!
This was one of our first experience in conducting a full-staff training “in-house”. Overall, it was enjoyable and valuable and the team felt that it was definitely worth missing one day in the field to strengthen our own skills. Our training was a mixing pot of learning about core concepts, math, design, and general professional development, facilitated by our fearless math leaders Rhiana and Kathryn. But enough of the overview– let’s get into the details of the day!
The first part of our workshop dealt with this big question of “why do we set up water businesses” and we had a great conversation where staff was able to relay a deep understanding of how finances relate to sustainability. Staff shared out that business are are important so that the women who run them can earn money and buy materials, cover the cost of the treatment process, and that by not just giving a Saha treatment center as a gift, we are actually empowering these women to have ownership of their water centers and motivating them to care for their own communities in a real and tangible way. We waded into the hard stuff and identified current challenges that our team is having, took a baseline quiz to see where we could all improve our understanding of Saha’s model, and ran example calculations of prices that we need to be able to do in the field.
For upcoming new Saha hires having a serious case of FOMO, have no fear! This session was so successful that we will continue to lay the same foundation with all new members of the Saha family.
After we thoroughly refreshed with some snacks and stretching, we did some math. We have to commend the staff members for sticking it out and doing something that was unfamiliar and rather long. They approached what could have been boring content with full excitement and were engaged the whole time. We did a “pair and share” method of doing some math calculations with a teammate because we all know there is strength in numbers and sometimes you just need to talk the problem out.
We ended the day with a really fun design challenge, addressing the question of how we improve our entrepreneur’s business skills when we meet with them to check in. We brainstormed and no ideas were off limits. We were encouraged to think about physical tools we could create, digital mockups, and acted out skits with our new ideas. We look forward to doing more exercises like these in the future!
Today we would like to highlight a special member of the Saha Family for his years of dedication and service with Saha: Ibrahim Shakool! Shak is leaving the Saha team after 9 years of amazing service. He has worked for Saha since 2009 and has help build our organization what it is today. We are so excited for Shak’s future endeavors and also want to take some time to share some of our favorite memories from the past 9 years.
In the early years at Saha, Shak did it all – from opening new water businesses to finding Saha’s first office in Tamale, to teaching us everything we needed to know about life in northern Ghana. Everyone in Tamale knows Shak and once someone figures out that you are a “friend of Shak” they will help you with anything. This is because Shak has helped so many people. He will do anything for his friends and family, and you become his friend the moment he meets you!
Throughout the years, Shak has really done a little bit of everything to help Saha. He started as a translator when we were a small but mighty team of 3 and quickly moved on to help implement and monitor villages on his own. He then helped to launch our solar program and became our resident solar expert. He was a translator for countless Global Leadership Programs and a favorite face for many Field Reps. For a short time he served as the Director of Ghana Operations while juggling full time monitoring! He would take on every task we asked of him and did his best to get it done. No task was too big for Shak.
For many years, Shak would be the first face that our Field Reps would encounter as they exited the airport. His excitement and enthusiasm were infectious and the perfect introduction to the inviting hospitality of Ghanaian culture. So many of our Field Reps say that Shak’s big, friendly smile made them feel right at home. From Dagbani lessons to leading lost field reps to opening a water center, his passion for the work he does always shines through.
This past year Shak has supported our new batch of monitors to grow and shine. He also opened 5 new water businesses, bringing clean water to almost 3,000 people. In between implementations, he would step in when we needed to visit piped villages, get a metal stand replaced, or monitor villages when when a colleague was sick.
What are next steps for Shak? He is excited to see the new generation of Saha staff grow. Meanwhile he has grand plans of being a yellow-yellow driver and opening up his own restaurant in Tamale. We are trying to convince him to name the restaurant “Shak’s Shak,” but it is still in the works.
To say that our team at Saha is like a family is an understatement. We care about each other as much as we care about the work that we do. The dedication that our term puts into their work is outstanding and an integral part in the success of any Saha Water Business. Shak will always be an important part of our Saha family! Shak – Thank you for your years of service to Saha. You will be greatly missed and we know you are going to do great things!
2018 has been incredibly busy, but in all the best ways! We are more than mid-way through this year, so it is the perfect time to look back and assess our accomplishments. Amidst the busy pace of the Global Leadership Program, our full time staff continued business as usual in our Ghana office (where business as usual is working extremely hard and doing amazing things). The skies have become cloudier, the days cooler, and the roads wetter as rainy season starts to pick up here in Tamale. This is a perfect time to pause and reflect on the year so far and the incredible things the team has been able to do.
During this time of muddy shoes, wet roads, and once-dry dugouts brimming with water, we have decided to put implementations and scouting on hiatus until the start of the dry season. Businesses during rainy season are understandably very slow in many communities because any family with a tin roof is collecting rainwater at this time and doesn’t need to buy additional drinking water as frequently. We found that it is best for new businesses to start off strong during the dry season, when demand for clean water is much higher. Additionally, during the rainy season the roads can be difficult or impossible to traverse (especially the unfamiliar ones that our scouters venture on)! For scouting new villages, the rainy season makes it a challenge to accurately assess access to clean water, since there is an abundance of water right now. So it makes the most sense to take a little break from implementation and scouting. Fret not, we still have plenty of other activities for our staff to work on during this time: Annual Surveys, Updated Household Lists, Children’s Educations, Research & Development, etc. There is never a dull day in the Saha world and there is always more to be done! Continuous improvement!
First, I’d like to have a shout out to the Scouting Team. Without them, we wouldn’t have found the villages we implemented in this past year. Our goal was to scout 100 potential villages this year and we are at 93 already! We’ve scouted and mapped nearly every village within a 3-hour moto-drive-radius from Tamale. Incredible! Coming out of the rainy season, we will see if there are any ‘hidden’ villages out there yet to discover!
With our Implementation Team we are able to implement new businesses in more villages at a faster rate outside of the Global Leadership Program. Our slogan for this year is “18 for 18!”, or in other words, 18 Saha team-led implementations for the 2018. For anyone keeping track, with 10 GLP villages that will bring us to 28 new villages this year! In the first half of the year, this mighty team has implemented 9 new water businesses, half of our goal!. Since this is our first time having an Implementation Team, we are still working out many details and it can only get better with each iteration. We developed an Implementation Handbook for the team to reference during their implementations. There is a lot to remember, especially for just one person.
Some lessons learned so far in our first year of implementation team:
Having someone come to help during distributions helps a lot! The days can be long and we want to make sure that Implementers continue to have the same energy and enthusiasm in household 1 as they do in household 101.
The implementation book is helpful to remember all the little details that goes into implementing. Always check at the end of the day if there was anything you’ve forgotten to do. The larger pictures in the handbook are a favorite feature for pitching the idea to the community, and the laminated pages make them more durable.
We can take our time training the women. If we don’t think they understood it the first time, it is okay to go over it again, and again if needed. We aren’t in the time constraints of the GLP, so we have the freedom of a more flexible schedule.
For larger communities it is okay to have more than one opening days! It’s better to plan ahead for them, so people don’t show up and leave with empty buckets.
Below is a summary of all the new communities implemented by our team this year and the women entrepreneurs we’ve introduced to the Saha Family!
Who are the entrepreneurs?
1 Feb 4, 2018
Naana and Asana
2 Mar 12, 2018
Salamatu, Mariama & Nafidah
2 Mar 12, 2018
Rukaya, Zenabu, Ayishetu, Abibata, & Sadia
3 Apr 12, 2018
Samata, Arahanatu, Barikisu and Zenab
3 Apr 23, 2018
3 Apr 27, 2018
Fusseini Fusseina,Issahaku Asiya,Mohammed Zainabu and Sulemana Fatima
4 May 25, 2018
Samata, Adishetu, Fatima and Asana
4 May 28, 2018
Rashida,Ayisha,Asana,Rabi and Maina.
5 Jun 19, 2018
Memunatu1 , Memunatu 2,Rahama,Adija and Mariam.
5 Jun 2, 2018
Ibrahim Atika,Haruna Salamatu, Sulemana Amatu,Baba Fatima,Abdulai Agatha,Kpanalan Awabu, Yussif Sanatu,Aku Amina, Mohammed Hawabu.
Here are some photos from the past 7 months of work by our Implementation team:
Now these communities are being monitored weekly by our Monitoring team who is helping to provide additional support and training for the women entrepreneurs and communities. There have been small but impactful improvements from the Office that has made managing all three teams more, for lack of a better word, manageable! To updated expense reports to gas cards, all these little things add up to big changes and allowed us to be able to have the capacity to do more. We are currently preparing different workshops to help build our team’s knowledge and skills sets: Financial Training, Human-Centered Design, and Lab Training. These are the ones we’ve already gotten started, and there are still more in the pipeline.
I am so impressed by the hard work of the team and how much we’ve been able to accomplish in this half year alone and I look forward to even more we can do in the second half of 2018!
If you haven’t already noticed, there have been a lot of changes at Saha in recent months! I am so excited to update you on all of the improvements we’ve had. New staff, new reporting, new ideas!
The team has more than doubled since we last introduced new members. Here is a brief introduction of all our recent additions. Last February, we said a fond fairwell to Eda and Morganne who have served as Operations Coordinators for over a year here in Ghana. A month later, we said warm hello to the new Operations Coordinator Rhiana Meade who will be working with me (Heidi)! Rhiana was actually a field rep during our previous Winter GLP 2018. She helped open a center with TJ at Nyantag, little did she know that a few months later she would be returning to work full time with us helping implement even more villages.
Here is a brief introduction of Rhiana. She graduated from Reed College in Portland Oregon with a degree in Chemistry and went on to get her Masters at Tufts University in Civil and Environmental Engineering. Previously, she worked for a Field Operations Supervisor for a Cambrian Innovation, a provider of wastewater treatment services. She has been to Ghana even before her field rep days. Her parents lived and worked in Accra for a few years, during which she visited them, found herself a Ghanaian Auntie, and was able to tour around the country. She has works with passion and compassion and can make an amazing Blondie! It been great having her as my counterpart. She was was able to hold down the fort when I went on vacation 2 weeks into her arrival and orientation. We plunged her into the Saha life, and she has done well!
Next to introduce, is someone who took on a completely new role: Director of Operations. We welcomed Theo the same month Rhiana joined on. He was born and raised in Accra and went to Ashesi University to study Business Administration. Prior to Saha Theo worked with Delta and a Start-up called Laundry King – An on demand laundry service. Maybe we can get one of those here in Tamale? Theo is on the search for the best Wache in town, so any recommendations please send them his way. He will be taking over most of the administrative load from Rhiana and myself, so we can focus on optimizing the day to day management of our staff. It’s been helpful having an in-country representative to focus on community relationships and building up the organization for future growth. Since the role is still being formed, he’s been doing an amazing job rolling with whatever we need him to to. Currently, he is going out 3 days a week to get a true feel of how the business run and what Saha does. Since coming, he has been able to witness an implementation through it’s entirety, get incredibly lost scouting, and have difficult conversations with villages facing problems. Way to go Theo for taking on this role with bravery and openness!
Speaking of growth, did you notice, we hired on 5 new full time staff members? All the new staff were our Translators in our Winter 2018 GLP. Much like Rhiana, little did they know that they would become full time staff with us in a few months for the GLP. Now I can’t image the team without them. You can read more on their bios but here is a which overview of our newest members:
Abubakari Asita (aka Sita), she grew up in Tamale and started working with Saha back in 2014 implementing Balamposo. If she sounds familiar to you, you may have recognized her from Women’s week posts. She loves being an inspiration to little girls in the villages she visits.
Alhassan Seidu was trained under Eric who would often take him out in the field monitoring and implementing. Now he can do that on his own as a full time staff. Seidu always shoos away the goats that wander into the Saha Office. Outside of Monitoring, Seidu is a skilled electrician and helps us with any electrical needs we encounter at the office.
Ziblila Mohammed Taufik has been part of 3 Global Leadership Programs. His first implementation was Baiyili. Prior to Saha Taufik used to teach ICT, but now he enjoys seeing the clear water being scooped into the PT at the water centers.
Amenyeku Dzorsah started as a translator for GLP. His first implementation was Changbuni. Prior to monitoring, Dzorsah was a taxi driver in tamale. Now he gets work with the women entrepreneurs, talk to people during household visits about clean water, and drive a moto everyday instead of a taxi. I haven’t asked him which he prefers yet!
Sulemana Tijani has known and worked with Saha in its very early stages with Shak and Kate. His first GLP village was Yapei-Yipela. Prior to Saha he worked at Melcom (the Tamale equivalent of Walmart) and drove a taxi. Now he can bring clean water to his country and work with other likeminded individuals.
A larger team has allowed us to expand and focus! So starting in January, we divided up into 3 Distinct teams: Scouting, Monitoring, and Implementation. We divided up the team based on their interests, but there is the possibility of movement across teams if desired. For now, everyone is doing an amazing job in each of their teams. Because we have focussed teams, we can have more direct goals to achieve. For the scouting team, our goal is map our all the villages within a 3 hr driving radius around Tamale, start plotting Salaga villages, and determine “Yes” villages. Our Monitoring team’s goal is to make sure our current villages are getting the support that is needed and to find ways to improve our implementations and trainings. Constant improvement is our motto! Our Implementation Team allows us to implement villages outside of our Global Leadership Program, which means we can reach more villages each year. It also helps us use what we learn from the monitoring team, to refine and perfect our implementations and trainings. I have been so impressed with how the team has handled the transition.
You’ll see below, I’ve added a *Bonus* Team. These are our part time staff that also have been doing great work for us in the past few months. Blessing, a former translator for the GLP, is now helping us build relationships with the Districts, so we can connect our villages needs to gov’t bodies. Mutala is our newest addition to the team, he and Blessing have been doing research for Kathryn to help improve our knowledge of water consumption. Kathryn has big plans for the research team, look out for her update!
Scouting: Amin, Peter
Monitoring: Simply, Nestor, Sita, Seidu, Taufik, TJ
Implementation: Wahab, Eric, Shak
Bonus (part time) Teams:
District Liason: Blessing
The increase in staff was only made manageable by the addition of this amazing data organizing tool we started using called mWater. With mWater we are able to take surveys, plot points, and collect data all through an application on our phones. Once the phone is connected to the internet, this information is synced and can be stored and analysed online. We piloted it in November and fully launched it in December, however since we are still in the learning phase, there have been several iterations and updates to how we collect data. This has been a game changing addition to the day to day work. We can say goodbye to the endless amounts of paper used and manually inputting information into excel. I am excited to see what we can do with mWater and will update you more on this in a separate post!
Welp! If you felt like that was a lot to take it, it was!!! Thanks for reading through this “brief” update. If you want to hear about anything more in detail, leave us a comment!
This December, Heidi Ayran joined the Saha team as our new Operations Coordinator. Heidi will be will be working with the team to continue insuring all Saha community businesses are running effectively and supporting development and expansion as Saha pushes to reach more communities. Say hello to Heidi:
Hi, I’m Heidi and like all others on the Saha Team I have a passion for clean water for all! I got to celebrate graduating with a degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering from UC Berkeley (Go Bears!) by participating in Saha’s Summer 2015 Global Leadership Program. It was an amazing experience to be able to implement a solar business in Jangbaryili with Team Jaleel, which has stuck with me to this day!
Working with Saha showed me how effective simple solutions could be and how important is was to invest time into getting to know the people. A quality that really stood out to me was that Saha’s ultimate goal is to have these villages self-sustaining. Give a village a clean water solution, sustain them for some time. Give a village the understanding of the importance of clean water and how to get it, sustain them for a lifetime!
After the program, I worked as a Project Engineer for a General Contractor in SF and built high rise residential buildings. However, I soon realized that my passions were not being fueled my current position, so I decided to change that. I saw that Saha was hiring a new Operations Coordinator and I seized the opportunity. I was drawn (twice!) to Saha not only because of their passion for clean water, but their passion for people. Saha is overflowing with it! I look forward to see how I can contribute and collaborate to such a great cause and where the new year will take the Saha Team!
This December, Morganne Hodsdon joined the Saha team as our newest expansion coordinator. Morganne will be working with Eda and the rest of the team in Ghana to help Saha prepare to expand in northern Ghana. She will specifically be focused on helping Saha better understand how frequently our beneficiaries drink clean water in their homes and how we can increase that frequency. Without further ado, meet Morganne:
After my first trip to Ghana as a field rep in June of 2015, I knew I wanted to come back at some point in my life, but I couldn’t have anticipated it happening so soon! Getting to revisit my solar village of Namdu 1 and joining the Saha team is an incredible opportunity, and I couldn’t be more excited and grateful for what lies ahead!
Similar to Eda, I graduated from Colby College in May so we will definitely be reminiscing on our chilly winters in Maine while living in the Saha house. With a bachelors degree in Economics and French I knew I wanted to pursue a career in international development, but wasn’t sure of exactly what realm of the sector I wanted to be in. While searching for summer jobs I found the Global Leadership Program, and my three weeks in Ghana ignited my passion to combat the global water crisis. Witnessing the devastating effects of waterbourne illness as well as Saha’s incredibly simple and sustainable solution to providing clean water access directed my job search. After graduation I spent time in New York as an intern at charity: water, where I was exposed to the fundraising side of non-profits. I loved getting office experience, especially with a water focused non-profit, but I am definitely ready to get back into the field with the Saha team!
As an Expansion Coordinator I will be assisting with the detailed monitoring efforts to ensure we’re doing everything we can to support the success of our businesses. I will also be running case studies with various villages to help us understand how households are using their village’s water, and how Saha can encourage clean water usage. Saha wants to ensure that the women entrepreneurs are profiting from their businesses and that no contaminated water is being mixed into anyone’s diet. The next several months will be a huge learning moment for Saha, and I can’t wait to see what methods prove successful to instilling safe and healthy water practices to all of Saha’s 46,510 (and growing) beneficaries!
Clean Water Entrepreneurship Program in Ghana Earns Prestigious Support for Saha Global’s Co-Founder
$100,000 Fellowship Grant Awarded to Boston Visionary Kate Cincotta
BOSTON, MASS. (Issued Fall 2016)— Dagomba people in the African country of Ghana use the Dagbanli word saha to mean ‘opportunity.’
A major opportunity to use this word in the country’s rural areas the arrived with the launch of Saha Global (www.sahaglobal.org) in 2008. Co-founded by Kate (Clopeck) Cincotta andfellow MIT graduate Vanessa Green, Saha Global’s frontline work is entirely in Ghana. A small Boston staff handles volunteer recruitment and fundraising.
Saha provides cheap, clean drinking water to people living in rural communities by training women how to take advantage of the resources available to them and donating the capital that they need to start a clean water business. To date, Saha has launched 93 water businesses in Ghana. 100% are still in operation.
The Vision: A Better Life for Children
In recognition of her work, the Mulago Foundation of San Francisco chose Cincotta to join itsprestigious Fall 2016 Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program where participants “focus on their ideas and a systematic way to apply them. Saha is receiving two $50,000 grants — a total of $100,000 over two years. Founded in 1993, Mulago carries on the work of pediatrician/philanthropist Rainer Arnhold, “to bring a better life for children in poverty… (to support) organizations that tackle a basic need of the very poor, have a scalable solution, and know how to deliver it.” That’s exactly us!” smiles Cincotta, pointing to the organization’s motto, ‘Solving problems with opportunities.’
The course brought Fellows and faculty together for an intensive week to work on design for maximum impact and scalability. Held in Bolinas, California, the course gave Fellows the rare opportunity to focus completely on their ideas and a systematic way to apply them.
What caught the attention of Mulago?Cincotta says it’s Saha’s 100% success rate, simple approach, and commitment to long-term monitoring and evaluation.
Creating A Permanent Source of Clean Water
Cincotta says, “Saha is the first water organization selected by Mulago for the Fellows program. We both believe that Saha cannot only serve the poorest of the poor, but we also have the potential to scale. The key is simplicity. Our water treatment centers use all locally available, affordable, low-tech products. It costs Saha less than $12 to provide a permanent source of clean water to one person. Other organizations average around $20 – 25 per person.”
Reflecting on the course, Cincitta says, “Mulago is different than any other funder we’ve had. They are a true partner in every sense of the word. They want to work with us to help us grow and achieve maximum impact, and understand that there will be challenges along the way.”
She adds, “We’re really proud of the impact we’ve had so far: Over 45,000 people in Ghana now have permanent access to safe drinking water.” But there are 800,000 in Northern Region Ghana who still lack access to clean water. Fueled by its partnership with Mulago, Saha’s goal is to rapidly scale in northern Ghana, doubling its impact by 2018, to reach over 400,000 people in the next 5 years.
Still Facing Tough Challenges
Saha Global certainly chose two of Ghana’s toughest challenges: (1) There’s a very high risk of food or waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever; and (2) The biggest single economic issue is the lack of consistent electricity. Things are improving, though average life expectancy is just 66 years, per capita income is $4,300, and the 2015 inflation rate was 17%.
Green and Cincotta understood that the water needs in Ghana were not due to a lack of technical solutions. “We knew the challenge lay in the implementation of those solutions in the field. We developed a durable implementation model, community-scale, low-tech, social enterprise approach that formed the foundation of Saha Global’s model.” They raised funds to pilot the idea from the Public Service Center at MIT, then headed back to Ghana in 2008 to found Saha Global.
In another project, Saha is helping local entrepreneurs use solar energy to light lanterns so children can study at night, and to charge cell phones – also for a small profit.
Twice each year, Saha Global recruits and trains scores of college students in social entrepreneurship. Volunteers spend three weeks in Ghanaian villages helping to set up micro-businesses. In each village, the community designates two women to learn how to chlorinate water and sell it to fellow villagers for a small profit.
College students interested in being Field Reps in Ghana can learn more at the Saha Global website. Saha Global also seeks individual donations, Corporate Partners and Field Rep Sponsors. For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.sahaglobal.org.As a 501(c)(3) organization, donations are tax-exempt to the extent allowed by law. Donations may be made online or via check made out to Saha Global, and mailed to 26 West Broadway #302, Boston, MA 02127.
Despa!! I’m currently sitting in the Saha office on a rainy Monday morning. Most days we’d be out monitoring right now, but the downpour is keeping us inside. We gave it our best shot, heading out at 6:30am only to make it to the other side of Tamale before we were soaked through. It doesn’t help much to put a rain jacket on after the rains begin, and motos don’t offer any rain protection, so back to the office Wahab and I drove! Tomorrow we will try again!
The few weeks since the Global Leadership Program ended have been an adventure. Thus far, I’ve gone monitoring with Eric, Shak, and am now starting to monitor with Wahab. Katie and I are spending a week with each full time staff to really understand how things run around here.
Eric monitors Vogyili, the community I implemented a water business in as a field rep. It was fun to monitor and see how well they were doing, especially considering they now have a solar business too. Eric also monitors five of the nine new water businesses from this summer’s GLP. All five (Kanjeyili, Baayili, Dawunyili, Mahamuyili, and Kpingiyili) are doing well!
A few surprises occurred when Shak and I visited Yakura. The first of which was the small lake that greeted us on the road into the village. We weren’t sure we could make it through on the moto, but a man passing by on a bicycle assured us it wasn’t that deep. However, he was taking a back route that wasn’t moto friendly to avoid the puddle, so we were on our own. I decided to let Shak ride alone, and I would walk though the puddle rather than risk a swim were the moto to tip. Thankfully, the man was right and we made it through without (many) problems, but I am glad I walked!
In Yakura I also saw Mary, one of the women entrepreneurs from my time in Vogyili. We were walking into our first household to monitor and there she was!
I knew that she had moved to another community, but I was so surprised and excited to see her! She’s now helping run the water and solar businesses in Yakura. Mary was equally as surprised to see me, and asked how Victoria, Jacob, and Hailey were (my 2013 GLP teammates). It was a touching reminder of the lasting impact field reps and Saha truly have on each community and its entrepreneurs.
And now, an update on living in Tamale and a shameless plug for our food blog! Katie and I have started an Instagram account – tamaleeats – to document our adventures cooking and eating here in Tamale (even though we have zero experience with food photography). It’s a whole new world learning what goods we can actually cook from the market, and trying to operate our oven. It’s a great day if it only takes one match to light the stove!
Nevertheless, I think we’ve done a splendid job so far: we haven’t eaten plain rice for any meal and we discovered donuts in the market can be a good (albeit not nutritious) lunch substitute when it’s too hot to turn on the stove. Head over to tamaleeats to see homemade falafel, mujadara, chili, and more!
Two leadership programs down and two weeks of monitoring under the belt – wow, life in Tamale is different when there aren’t 60 salamingas running around town. As I settle into this new lifestyle, I am starting to reflect on the differences of being a Field Rep and working as a staff member in Ghana.
As a field rep, my mind was set on the end goal of beginning a water treatment business in Sagbarigu. There were definitely problems along the way, but we were able to find quick and easy solutions to each problem we faced. We left in June 2014 confident that the skill sets we gave the women entrepreneurs were enough to keep the business running.
Now I am back two years later as a full-time staff member. Yes, Sagbarigu’s water treatment business is still running well. But, I have already learned in my short time here that there are many gray areas to the success of these businesses. It’s not just about the incredible team that implemented these businesses. It’s also about the incredible staff members that work hard to monitor in these communities. Every day, we visit 3 communities to check on the center, sales, successes and challenges of the water and solar businesses. I am learning quickly that each business has its unique challenges that I could not have imagined as a field rep. As I sit in the solar center of Chandanyili with Wahab and the 4 women entrepreneurs talking about money management, I can see a concrete difference in the way I solved problems as a field rep and the way I solve problems now.
Instead of wondering, what can be done right now to solve this problem, I ask myself: What is better for the sustainability of this project? Should we use the easy solution to get the center back up and running now? Or talk with the women, encourage them to hold a community meeting, and let us know their final decision on sales? Do we lead these business owners towards the answer we want to hear or do we let them find solutions to their problems that best fit their community? Will their answer end up being the same as ours?
I may not know the answers to all of these questions now, as they are sure to be different with each unique situation, but I have learned so much already from Eric, Wahab, Amin, Peter and Shak. Eda and I continue to be thankful for their patience, willingness to answer any [silly] question, and the constant laughter (usually relating to our most recent marriage proposals). We’re excited to see what this year has in store for us!