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A Community Made, Locally Sourced Solar Charging Shop

Build 10
Children in Kurugu Vohoyili standing around Shak’s jeep and the newly built solar center charging shop!

It has been a productive week of building in Kurugu Vohoyili. Our efforts were pushed back a day because of car trouble and a funeral in the community on Wednesday. On Thursday, Shak and I arrived around 7:30 am to get an early start on the roof. The carpenters unfortunately were not as punctual as we would have liked, so the morning was spent sitting and chatting with the elders and some of the children.

Boys
From left to right: Saimu, Abukari, Deen, Mohammed, Ibrahim, Afizu, Arafiki and Issaka. The young, helpful boys we have gotten to know throughout the building process!

 

Girls
These girls were laughing because Shak was asking them to show him their teeth so he could count how many they’ve lost. It didn’t help that I was the silly salaminga saying “lama”, which means smile in Dagbani. From left to right: Arashia, Serena, Nabari, Bamu, Najatu, Pana, Badila and Nasiba.

 

When the carpenters finally did show, they got right to work. The round zinc roof was too complicated for me, Shak or community members in Kurugu Vohoyili to construct. So the chairman called his carpenter friends in the nearby community of Tolon, who have extensive experience in the village roofing industry. Most community members live in round village huts like the one we are building but they use straw to roof the house. We decided to use a zinc roof for the solar center to keep the battery, inverter, cell phones and appliances safe and dry in case of a heavy rainstorm. Straw roofs have more seasonal maintenance compared to zinc roofs, so it made sense economically to go with zinc.

Build 1
Carpenters Asma and Wumbina of Tolon get right to work!

 

To construct the roof, the carpenters started by adding supportive beams to hold up other pieces of wood in the nailing in process. They went around in circles several times adding wood, nailing it in, taking measurements, cutting more wood, adding supportive pieces to nail in the zinc. At one point the carpenters ran out of wood, so Shak and I headed to Tolon to get more. When we got back to KV, one of the carpenters said they had just run out of nails and that we had to turn around and go back out to get more. It took us a few minutes to realize he was kidding. Shak replied, “That it a very hard joke to make Carpenter”, which ended in roars of laughter amongst the chairman, elders and even some of the small kids. The carpenters completed the wooden roof structure in 4 hours, then took another hour to nail in the zinc.  It was a long day but overall a success. We left Kurugu Vohoyili with an almost complete, locally sourced and community made solar center charging shop!

Build 2
The chairman and Mr. Iddrisu help the carpenters.

 

Today, we returned to Kurugu Vohoyili to finish some of the wood work for the door frame, window and faceboards. We started plastering the outside of the hut with cement to make it durable in the rainy season like families do to their own houses in the community. The center is looking great! Tomorrow we will return with the solar panels, inverter, battery, cable, Burro AA batteries and Burro battery chargers to start training the women! We can’t wait to meet them! Check below for pictures detailing the building process.

-Brianán

Build 4
Taking a break in the hut!

 

Clean water 1
Clean water from Ayi and Fuseina’s water business was brought to the work site. Huseini fills up his cup!

Build 3

Build 5

Build 6
The wooden roof structure — bottom view.
Build 7
Nailing on the face boards.
Build 8
Measuring the distance for the face boards.
Build 9
Shak and I cheesing out the window of the new solar center charging shop!

 

 

Oh Where Oh Where to Put the Polytank?

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Peter and Wahab monitor the water treatment center in Kpachiyili. This is a typical center placement. It’s located right next to the dugout. Look at how green it is! This picture was taken during the rainy season, as you can see not flooded!

The placement of the CWS water treatment center is key in running a successful water business. Fellows and CWS translators ask very specific questions when it comes to finding a spot for the polytank. The villagers select where they want their water treatment center based on what dugout or water source they use for the majority of the year and look for an area that does not flood during the rainy season.

But what happens to the water business when a dugout dries up or when people use multiple water sources throughout the year?

In some villages, the women entrepreneurs figure it out for themselves. Adamu and Salamatu in Gariezegu found a metal, moveable polytank stand that was used in the school, which allowed them to move the water treatment center to various wells in the village. After the rainy season, Lasinchi and Mariama in Tacpuli moved the center to a well that was closer to the village and placed the polytank on large branches, using a hose to fill safe storage containers. For the most part though, the women who run the centers have a hard time coping with seasonal transitions on their own.

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The chairman in Gariezegu posing with the metal polytank stand.

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The CWS policy for moving water businesses in the past has been that the women have the freedom to move the centers as long as they come up with the materials to build polytank stands themselves. CWS wants the centers to be as self-reliant as possible. If we continually help the water businesses to thrive off of our dime, then they will not be sustainable in the long run. But where is the line drawn? We’re realizing on the monitoring side that there is a monetary limit to what we can ask of the women. It costs roughly $38 to build a polytank stand in Ghana. This is more money than most women make in a month working at the water treatment center.

It’s time to start building polytank stands! We’ve decided that by building polytank stands for communities that use multiple water sources, this will take a large burden off of the women who run the water treatment centers. So far we’ve mapped out 11 communities that will need polytank stands built at another source in the next 6 months: Bogu, Djelo, Gbandu, Gbung, Kpalbusi, Kpanayili, Tacpuli, Tohinaayili, Yapalsi, Yipela and Zanzagu Yipela. The communities will still be responsible for moving the polytank and blue drums to the new location when they need to (and making decisions about when to move it) but CWS will fund the building.

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                                        Polytank Stand Building 101 with Shak

Our first stop is Djelo, as their water source situation poses the largest threat to the community. The dugout where the center was initially built is starting to dry. The women, Zelia and Fuseina, predict that the dugout will be dry within the month. Luckily, there is another dugout a little farther away that will not dry up. This weekend CWS field staff, Shak and Amin, went to Djelo to build a polytank stand at this second dugout. We wanted to get the stand built before the dugout dried, to make the transition as smooth as possible. This will not cause any behavioral disruption because the villagers of Djelo are going to start going to that second dugout very soon.

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                                        Djelo’s plentiful, second dugout.
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                                         The stand in Djelo is complete!

The CWS technology in Ghana will only work if there is water to treat. The water businesses will be most successful if they are located next to the water source that the villagers use the most. If that source changes throughout the year, then the center needs to change with it. More updates to come as we continue to build!

-Brianán

CWS on the Road: US Edition Part 2

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**First, our apologies to our email subscribers for filling your inboxes yesterday! We recently switched back to using wordpress for our blog and needed to transfer over all the posts from the past couple of months. Everything should be all set now!***

Its that time of year again! CWS is hitting the road to recruit for our Summer Fellowship Program (apps due March 15th, APPLY HERE!) This year, we’re doing things a little bit differently, focusing on career/internship fairs instead of info sessions. Check out our schedule below and if you’re in the area, come on by our booth and chat with us! Don’t see your school listed an want to learn? Email Sam (sreilley@Communitywatersolutions.org) and we’ll try to schedule info session for you!

CWS On the Road

January 24th: Boston College Internship Fair

January 31st: NorthEastern Internship Fair

February 13th: University of Rochester Spring Career and Internship Day

February 15th: Princeton Non-Profit Career Fair

February 20th: Brown/RISD Non-Profit Career Fair and the UMASS Amherst Career Blast

February 22nd: Georgetown Government and Non-Profit Expo

February 26th: BU School of Public Health Career Fair

March 5th: Harvard School of Public Health Spring Career Fair

March 7th: John Hopkins Spring Career Fair

March 8th: Tufts Spring Career Fair

March 8th: Columbia Spring Career Fair

The Seasons They are a-Changin’

CWS Tamale staff wishing this nice truck was ours! Sadly it's just the landlord's...
CWS Tamale staff wishing this nice truck was ours! Sadly it’s just the landlord’s…

First week back in Tamale and Hamatan is in full swing! Hamatan is when a dry-dust wind blows in from the Sahara. This happens from late November until mid-March all over West Africa. This Saharan wind engulfs the city of Tamale every year with a thick orange cloud of dust, leaving us with chilly nights and burning hot days.

Shak tastes the borehole water in Buhijaa
Shak tastes the borehole water in Buhijaa

What does this mean for CWS? Well for the staff it means that we finish our days with an orange dust facemask and dirty feet. For CWS project manager, Peter, it means he comes back from the field with a carrot colored beard. For our 47 communities, the Hamatan wind does not affect water sales per se but the seasonal changing of weather has a big impact on where people get their water.

During Hamatan, it gets drier and drier in and around Tamale. This means that water sources like manmade wells; boreholes and dugouts start to dry up. In many of CWS’ villages, the community water sources change, which creates challenges for the entrepreneurs who run the water businesses. This has several implications. Some women have to close their centers for a few weeks as they transition to treating water from a different source, some have to pay donkeys or motor kings to bring them water to treat and some move their water treatment centers multiple times… All the women are unique in their approach to dealing with seasonal transitions and CWS ensures that they are coming up with a plan that’s right for them.

Fati and Amina aka “Samlenna” or TZ seller are the women who operate the water business in the village of Gbung. When it rains, the women move their center from the dugout to the market in the middle of town and treat collected rainwater. In the Hamatan season,  the people who live in Gbung get their water from a few different places. They get it from a nearby stream and from a closer but smaller dugout that dries up for half the year. No one is collecting household water at the dugout where the polytank initially was built. So for the time being, Fati and Samlenna are paying a motor king to bring them water. The women are working on adjusting the price of water to reflect the increase in water treatment costs. The center is still running despite these seasonal challenges!

Children hanging in Libi
Children hanging in Libi

In nearby Libi, Cheriba and Ramatu closed their center for a month for a number of reasons. In December, the path to their stream where the polytank stand was initially constructed was still muddy and overgrown. Cheriba told CWS field staff that her fellow community members were getting water from a number of sources. Some people got it from manmade wells, some got it from smaller dugouts and some had stored rainwater. She said that if she opened for business nobody would come. She wanted to wait until people started going back to the stream to collect household water.  Ramatu and Cheriba will be opening for business this week!

The well in Tacpuli
The well in Tacpuli

Tacpuli was the lowest performing CWS village in October 2012. Lasinche, the woman who runs the water business in Tacpuli was having a hard time getting people to come to buy water post-rainy season. Many people had rainwater stored in their houses and did not want to make the muddy trek to the dugout to buy clean water. Lasinche tackled the problem on her own and moved the water treatment center to a well that was closer and more accessible for the community. Lasinche kept the center at the well for all of December and for the beginning of January. She moved the center back to the dugout and sales are going well for her!

Memouna and Damu - The women entrepreneurs of the newly implemented Tindan (not to be confused with the Tindan implemented in October)
Memouna and Damu – The women entrepreneurs of the newly implemented Tindan (not to be confused with the Tindan implemented in October)

Weather patterns, climate change and seasonal challenges all play a major role in determining where people get their drinking water and the amount of water that is available year round to treat. In Tacpuli, Gbung and Libi, three villages that are very close in proximity to one another, these factors all affect them in different ways.  After working in these communities for a few months, I’ve noticed that the best solutions are formed organically from the entrepreneurs or the community members themselves. As Shak, the CWS assistant project manager always says, “We are not the ones getting our drinking water from the village.” He makes a good point. While CWS works its hardest to make sure all 47 water businesses are running effectively, we will never be able to control the weather and we are not the ones drinking the water. The women and the people who live in these communities need to be the decision-makers for seasonal problems that arise throughout the year. And this goes for all development projects, not just water.

-Brianán

 

Voices from the field: Team G (Gabi, Katie, Jane & Jakob)

Hi Everyone!

DSCN0365Team G here (Gabi, Katie, Jane & Jakob). Today we went to our village, Kulaa, to conduct monitoring of the villager’s safe storage containers. Jakob stayed home with an injured foot (who is now fully recovered) but we had Sam with us, which really helped to get us through an otherwise very hot day in the village.

We started our day on Ghana time (aka slightly later), but we stopped along the way to pick up egg sandwiches, which are heavenly, they consist of scrambled eggs, tomatoes, onions, and Panini bread, all for the price of 1 cedi and 50 pesewas (75 cents) for a two-egg sandwich.

Once in the village we intended to conduct safe drinking water discussions with the children at the school, but everyone was still cleaning the school building since it was the first day back after the holiday break. Instead, we coordinated with the teachers to conduct the safe water discussion tomorrow, and we went household-to-household for monitoring for the rest of the afternoon.

We were very pleased with our monitoring as all of the households had clear water, and everyone exclaimed how they loved the taste of the clean water and would continue to drink the clean water from the polytank.

DSC03715The children continued to follow us as we made our way through the village; each child always tries to cling to each limb/hand/backpack string. One baby in particular is the child of the Queen Mother (basically the older woman who is in charge of the women/children), and this baby is a round little girl with pierced ears, eyeliner, and a belly that says she eats very well! Jane placed one of the children in the open pocket of her backpack (similar to a baby carrier in the US—see picture below). Gabi cleaned and treated a number of gashes on the limbs of the children—we are hoping to teach them to clean their wounds before they become infected. Katie has been attracting many suitors, including one young man, about 20 years old, who approached Katie while she was holding one of the babies and said (Ghanaian accent), “Hello. I want to be your friend (touches her hand). I want to call you at your hotel.”

IMG_0335We all love our village, and the villagers in particular are extremely warm, welcoming, and helpful with everything we bring to them. Tomorrow will be our last day in the village and we plan to shower them with candy, clothes, water bottles, and toys. We will greatly miss our village and everyone in it, but we are confident they will maintain this water business for years and years of good health.

 

XOXO

Team G

 

Voices from the Field: Team C (Emily, Lauren, Sarah and Priya)

Picture1Team C, aka Charlie’s Angels (consisting of Emily, Lauren, Sarah, and Priya), ventured into the school in Tindan today to teach students about healthy drinking habits! First, Sarah, Emily and Lucy (our photographer) went to the dugout and water treatment centre to collect materials for the games, and check on the women (Adamu and Maymuna).After a couple days of distribution and monitoring safe storage containers, the kids of the village were excited about learning healthy drinking habits!

The motto of our first activity was: clear does not always mean clean! We had the kids gather around while Emily and Priya presented them with three water bottles, filled with polytank water, a salt-water solution, and dugout water. We asked them which one(s) they would like to drink, and the two clear solutions were chosen. Needless to say, Abrahim, a little boy of the village, was shocked that the salt water solution tasted bad even though it looked clean. The kids laughed, and we taught them that re-contamination is not always visible, so they should keep their hands out of the safe storage containers.

Next, we played ‘healthy-habits tag’, where we taught the kids safe drinking habits. Three kids were “diseases”, who were “it” in the tag game and, five kids were assigned healthy habits, giving them extra lives in the game. Lauren volunteered as a “disease,” and the young Tindan kids outran her as we all played. At the end, the kids with the healthy habits cards (drawn by Priya!) remained standing which showed how crucial healthy drinking habits are.

Picture5Playing games while educating was a great way to introduce healthy drinking habits to the kids and excite them about their safe storage containers filled with clean water! We are sad to leave Tindan, but we have left the centre in the capable hands of Adamu and Maymuna, and we are confident that the children will practice safe drinking habits!

Voices from the Field: Team E (Linda, Vanesa, Alexa and Julia)

Team E (Linda, Vanessa, Alexa, and Julia) has spent the past week in Nekpegu, a small village of 26 households.

Prior to opening day, we had met with the chief and whole community and distributed 26 buckets to all the households. After only an hour on opening day, all buckets had been filled at the center. Our two women, Fatima and Ramatu, had made a profit of over two cedis—which is more than a weekly income for most people in rural Ghana.

What was best for us was really watching the women take charge, and see the village’s excitement. When the chief arrived at the polytank Ramatu was so eager to have him take the first drink from the tap. (The photo of him smiling is when he was asked what it tasted like… I thought it tasted pretty good, too.) The second they turned the knob and saw the crisp clean water, the whole line of 15 women and children started clapping.

During the first training session we had with Ramatu and Fatima, which Julia helped lead, Ramatu modestly accepted Julia’s notebook and pen and explained with a smile that she could not write. Seeing her pose with her notebook and pen, after learning how to tally the people who arrived, gave light to the empowerment that the CWS model brings to the women of these villages.

The next day, the polytank was empty and our women were enthusiastic to start round two and scoop their blue drums into the tank for treatment. On our last days we get to monitor and hear back from our households on how the center is working for them (and mostly just how the water tastes.) We will also be spending a day at the small school in our village and we are excited to get to help start the education process with our children—because, as our chief said to us, the kids will help enlighten them.

xoxox

Lexi Lee

Voices from the Field: Team D (Urooj, Casey and Ty)

Blog4Welcome to Kalinka! A beautiful village tucked in the northern region of Ghana, home to over 300 people. Our team is small: Casey, Ty, and me. Our goal is big, to implement safe, clean, and healthy water for Kalinka. Our process is simple but layered. Here we present a day in our journey, we hope you enjoy! It all began at sunset.

We awoke bright and early to begin our hour and a half drive to Kalinka, situated beyond the lull of the city, beyond a maze of potholes and dusty roads. As we waited for out trusty translator to come pick us up, we realized we were on American time and our translator T.J, was on Ghanaian time. Nonetheless, T.J arrived with our taxi, we all piled in the backseat, squashed together like a pair of sardines, a prerequisite of such closeness is you get to know your teammates very well. As we were discussing exciting anecdotes of our past and hopes and aspirations for our future, we were pulled over by the police. We handled it like pros, that is to say we kept our mouths shut and allowed the experts, our translator and driver, to handle the situation. After what seemed like hours, T.J informed us that our driver’s license had been seized by the police, much to his and our disappointment.

Despite the inconvenience we marched on, we arrived at Kalinka behind our scheduled time, but on village time. Once there, we finished day two of our training. Casey took lead, instructing the women on how to scoop the clear water into the polytank prior to chlorination. T.J and Ty excelled at handling the large polytank and making sure it was in top operating condition. I distracted the little ones with my camera and generally took pictures of everyone in awkward situations. One exciting moment was when Casey successfully balanced a scooping bucket on her head in an attempt to understand and emulate the difficulties of the women slugging water weight day in and out.

Blog1After finishing our water treatment duties, we commenced the community outreach portion. We returned to the village center and began to assembly the safe storage containers (picture on the left). Here you can see how passionate and ardent we were about assembling the containers correctly (Casey, T.J, and Ty were so intent on the task they didn’t even look up when I snapped a picture of them). Afterwards the women assembled in clusters and we all gave them a pitch about harnessing the power of clean water and using it to improve their quality of life. The women assembled, participated in the process with gusto, and hit on all the key points. Some concerns that arose in this process were access to extra containers for larger families and the water treatment process. Here I glow with pride, as my team handled all the questions very very well. We were hot, tired, thirsty, but we had a sheen (and no this was not from the red dust but a glimmer of pride at what we had cultivated in this village: a relationship).

Tomorrow the fruits of over labor will be evident, as tomorrow is our opening day. We are extremely excited and looking toward the future, and expecting smooth sailing all the way

-Urooj

Voices from the field: Team B (Caroline, Amanda and Iyi)

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Team B

We were so thrilled see such amazing community involvement!  Our village’s was named Toyinahili, about 1 hour outside of Tamale. There are approximately 100 households in the village and many adorable children.

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Azabel (red shirt) hands the mason a tool to make the cement.

The turnout to build the Polytank stand was predominantly male and everyone pitched in to help.  It was nice to see the whole community come together to help the implementation process.  Each person played an intrigal part of the stand: the son of the chief, Azabel and Shak (our translator) took control of the build and a mason came and did the cement work for free. Children goofed around and lounged the in shade – once spotting a crocodile in the lake and rushing over to see it. Our Polytank spot is wedged in between two trees by the dugout and is a beautiful spot for clean water.

DSC05981-1After the stand was finished we headed up to the center of the village and gathered the children around to brush their teeth. The day before, we had given each child a toothbrush and a toothpaste packet and taught them how to brush. For all of the children, it was their first encounter with a toothbrush. Amanda noticed when she first arrived that all the children had very white teeth but as age increased, tooth decay did as well. Watching them raise their hands proudly to declare who had brushed the night before was an amazing feeling for everyone on the team.

Happy Birthday Iyi
Happy Birthday Iyi

Today was also Iyi’s birthday 21st (January 6th)!  Shak decided to pour water on Iyi to help him celebrate.  A special celebration is planned for tonight!  Our translator Shak can do just about anything as he is a “jack of all trades”.  Whether it would be fixing his truck on the side of the road, or helping transport and build the parts of the water purification business, he always is calm collected, and nonchalant.  This is because Shak has worked with CWS for a few years now, and he is always prepared for whatever the day brings.  Our purification drums were held to the car solely by long strips of elastic, which was tied down securely by “do-it –all “ Shak.  The cement work took about 2 hours however since a good portion of the community was there, many hands made light work.   When the cement work was done everyone, Shak, Amanda, Caroline, and Iyi signed the cement so that the entire village would remember us for generations to come.  Tomorrow we will begin training the appointed women to run the business on how to make the balls of alum and their role in the water purification business.  Everything is running smoothly.  Tohyinayili’s opening day could be easily as early as Wednesday, January 9th, 2013!

–Caroline, Amanda, Shak, Iyi