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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!

World Toilet Day!

Today is World Toilet Day! This meant nothing to me about a year and half ago. “World Toilet Day? Why on earth would we celebrate this? Wahoo! I have a toilet?” Now that I frequent Ghana, it takes a whole new meaning. I now have first hand experience of Ghana’s very different toilet situation.

In the more urban areas there is a lot of open sewage which makes for some interesting smells (*insert gag). But also the public toilets are less than desireable when “taking care of business”. You pay someone about 10 cents to use an un-maintenanced toilet. To be honest, I would rather just do my business openly.

toilet day

In the more rural areas that Community Water Solutions does it’s work, the “toilet” situation hits an all time low.  Here are the two scenarios. Poo scenario: Open defecation/Bush of your choice.  Pee scenario: concrete slab with a drain. This concrete slab with a drain is in a mud hut located within their compound that is used not only for showering but urinating as well. Just to give you a visual… a compound is about 4-7 huts hosting about 8 people; typically there is a man of the household, 1-2 of his wives, and kids galore. All 8 of these people urinate in one of these huts and the urine escapes through a drain which goes right into the footpath of the village.

Many a time we are doing our household to household monitoring, stomping through this pee. Kids playing, stomping through this pee. People with no shoes, stomping through this pee. (*insert gag). It is the only option they have and though it makes sense for them, its not doing much to control their contact with urine.

The urine and the poo, all drains somewhere, their local surface water source— a river or pond! This is where Community Water Solutions’ comes in! You could call us the poo removers!

But water is just one step…Join the celebration of your toilet and increase the awareness of sanitation. Tell people—“I truly give a shit!” Because that’s what we’ll be doing!

For more info on how to get involved go to http://www.worldtoiletday.org/

-Sam

The CWS Field Staff Goes Back to School Part II

At the beginning of October, CWS field staff, Shak and Amin, brought their knowledge about water and sanitation to a primary school in the village of Kpalung. Their presentation was similar in content to the presentation that Wahab and Peter gave in September to a school in Gidanturu. You can read about their experience here. These water and sanitation presentations are part of a larger education initiative that CWS has been introducing to some of its partnership communities. While CWS is continuing to monitor these communities as it normally does, the field staff has added education to its monitoring regimen. The objective is to educate the students on basic health and sanitation with the hopes that they will put what they learn into practice and influence their families to do the same. It’s also fun for us to get in front of the classroom and to hear the opinions of the younger folks in the villages. I hope you enjoy the pics!

-Brianán

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Shak and Amin talk to the student body of Kpalung

 

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Shak and Amin use a salt water solution to show the students that just because water is clear, it does not mean that it is in fact clean!
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Amin watches amongst the crowd.

 

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The students get ready for a game of “healthy habits” tag.
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The “healthy habits” vs. “waterborne diseases”

 

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Cholera and Diarrhea… watch out!!

The CWS Staff Goes Back to School

In September, CWS field staffers decided to bring their knowledge about water, sanitation and waterborne disease to the classroom. The CWS field staff team, which includes Peter, Shak, Wahab, Amin and me, Brianan, (you can read our bios here) met every week in August to prep. During household visits, we usually only talk to the older members of the families, especially the women who are in charge of collecting drinking water. So we were all excited to talk to students in some of our partnership communities. Peter and Wahab presented in a primary school classroom in the village of Gidanturu. Shak and Amin are planning to present at the primary school in Kpalung.

Peter presenting to students in Gidanturu
Peter presenting to students in Gidanturu

For our presentation in Gidanturu, we went the week before to schedule a day that would work for Yussef and Fuseini, the head teachers at the school. Seeing what life was like in the classroom was an experience in itself. “School in the village is different from school in Tamale”, says Peter.  And I could tell what he meant the second I stepped foot inside the classroom. When we arrived early on Monday morning, the children, who ranged from 3 years old to 10 years old, were scattered about and playing inside and outside the school. Fuseini had just arrived from Salaga (it was about 10:30 am by this point) and was still in his travel clothes.  He told us that he comes to teach in Gidanturu during the week but lives in Salaga on the weekends. So the students were occupying themselves in anticipation of his arrival.

Clear water is not always clean water!
Clear water is not always clean water!

Fuseini walked us into the classroom and gave us some chalk to write on the board. He gathered the children who were outside and brought them in to sit at their desks. Despite his tardiness, he had exceptional command over his students. I wrote “Community Water Solutions: Healthy Habits” on the chalk board and Peter and Wahab started the presentation, while I sat on the sidelines and let them steal the show. Peter and Wahab kicked off the class with a demonstration on clean water vs. clear water. They used 3 water bottles: 1 filled with treated polytank water, 1 filled with a salt-water solution and 1 filed with dugout water. Then they invited students to select and taste which ones they thought were clean and which ones they thought were contaminated.

A student pics which bottle she thinks has "clean" drinking water
A student in Gidanturu getting ready to taste water in the bottle – hope its not salty!

The students immediately decided that the dugout water was contaminated, which was obvious to the naked eye because the water was dark brown (nobody tasted this sample). They brought up several students to distinguish between the salt-water solution and the polytank water (they were both clear solutions in water bottles so it was impossible to tell the difference just by looking).

Wahab reviewing the lessons learned from the water taste test!
Wahab reviewing the lessons learned from the water taste test!

The salty water surprised the students. Peter and Wahab then talked about water contamination, the spread of waterborne diseases, rainwater collection and proper drinking water storage.

Healthy Habits vs Waterbourne Diseases

The newly empowered instructors concluded the lesson with a “healthy habits tag game” outside. Two students volunteered to be “it” and took on the roles of the waterborne diseases, Diarrhea and Cholera. Five students volunteered to be 5 different healthy habits such as: washing your hands with soap and water and drinking safe water collected from the polytank. These “healthy habits” each got 3 lives, whereas the rest of the students were not given any lives. If you were tagged aka contracted Cholera or Diarrhea, you were to sit by the tree that was designated as the hospital. After five minutes, the students who practiced healthy habits were the only ones not in the hospital since they were living healthier lifestyles and were less likely to contract these waterborne diseases. The game was complete mayhem but the students liked it and understood its message, which was what we were going for.

Healthy habits tag!
Healthy habits tag!

After our presentation, Fuseini dismissed the children for lunch. Their day of school had so far consisted of sitting and listening to our presentation for an hour. While I was discouraged by the inefficiencies of the village school system, Wahab, Peter and I felt like our presentation had made an impression on the students. You could tell by their participation and enthusiasm that some of these children were stimulated and interested by what we were telling them. There will be no way for us to know if they actually wash their hands with soap and water before eating and after going to the bathroom. We don’t have the monitoring capacity to be observing their habits 24/7. Maybe they will put what we taught them about healthy habits into practice, maybe they won’t. But at least they learned something new that school day.

-Brianán

 

Clear Water Doesn’t Always Mean Clean

In Kpanayili, this woman collects rainwater the right way! “She doesn’t joke with the clean water” – Peter

Two weeks ago while doing household visits with Wahab in Kpanayili, we entered the compound of a family that had a full safe storage container of clean looking water. We were delighted. “De viele, de viele” or “good, good”, Wahab and I said to Fati, the woman who showed us where her family keeps their drinking water. She smiled, shy but proud of what she had shown us. Upon further questioning, we found out; however, that while the rainwater this woman had collected in her safe storage container looked very clean, it was most likely contaminated and not suitable for drinking. Fati told us that she had used a clay pot to collect this rainwater from the tin roof above her husband’s bedroom, waiting five minutes for the rain to clear off the roof before collecting. She then told us that she had used her Guinea Worm filter, a mesh cloth that was distributed to her household by the Carter foundation to eradicate Guinea Worm (for more info on Guinea Worm click here or here), to filter water as she transferred it from her clay pot into her safe storage container. This clay pot had no lid and most likely stored dugout water (contaminated surface water) in it during the dry season, meaning that if tested in the lab, this water would come back positive for e-coli. Guinea Worm filters do not actually filter the water, they were used back in the day to make sure that these worms would not make it into the garrawas and buckets used for collecting water for household use. This mesh piece of cloth would remove some sediment at best, leaving all bacteria (the good and the bad) to multiply and stew. A water filtration system is the best and closest way to make clean water. If you are worried or concerned about the water you are drinking, it might be in your best interests to look for Best Water Filter Systems for maximum cleanliness.

It’s groundnut season in Zanzugu! Amin and I were given bags and bags full of groundnuts during household visits. We finally learned to say thank you but no thank you.

Wahab and I explained all of this to Fati, telling her that while her water looked clear, it was actually not clean for reasons X, Y and Z. “Awoomea”, Fati said or “I hear”. But would she actually get the message and follow through by properly collecting rainwater directly from the tin roof using her safe storage container? Wahab and I could only hope. We would not be there with her when the next rain hit. We would not be able to watch to see if she would use her clay pot again to store rainwater for drinking. The decision to make a behavioral change would have to come from Fati.

Amin uses salt-water solution to explain rainwater contamination to Wahab at a weekly office education meeting.

This is a common problem in many of the CWS villages that have tin roofs and collect rainwater during the rainy season. While we inform all of our communities on how to properly harvest rainwater, some people do not see a difference in using their clay pot versus using their safe storage container. After all, the clear rainwater looks so much cleaner than turbid dugout water. But how can we get them to intrinsically understand why this clear looking water is actually not clean? At our last staff meeting, this is a question that Peter, Shak, Amin, Wahab and I all pondered. We realized that we were going to need props if we were going to do this right.

Peter entertains a household in Kagburashe with some proper rainwater collection education! Which one would you choose?
Wahab uses a positive Total Coliform test to explain to a girl in Gariezegu how rainwater can get contaminated when collected in pots that once held dugout water.

 

 

 

 

 

Since then, we have been using water samples of contaminated rainwater that have tested positive for Total Coliform (a sign of contamination, shows up bright yellow in a test tube) and water samples taken from the polytank that have tested negative for e-coli and Total Coliform (shows up clear in a test tube). The CWS field staff has been using these two test tubes as a tangible demonstration given during household visits to show the difference between the clean and clear, the good and the bad. In order to get the children of these villages on board, we have also been conducting taste tests of a salt-water solution versus treated polytank water to show how clear water can have invisible germs inside and that you cannot always see what is in your drinking water. Almost every kid that tries the two spits out the salt-water solution in disgust! Clear does not always mean clean… or tasty.

-Brianan