Fall Fellowship Application Deadline August 18th!

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For the very first time we will be offering the opportunity to join our fellowship program for the implementation of a solar project! This Fall you will be given the choice whether you want to implement a solar charging station or a water treatment center. 

The 2014 Fall Fellowship will be a two week program and take place from November 4th to 19th. Orientation will take place stateside via webinar allowing our fellows to hit the ground running! We accept fellows on a rolling basis and encourage you to apply early! The deadline for the Fall Fellowship is August 18th! 

We are beyond excited to offer this opportunity! If you have any additional questions, please contact Sam at sreilley@communitywatersolutions.org

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CWS now in 71 communities!

 

This is my first official post as Ghana Country Director and what an exciting time it is to be updating everyone following the CWS blog on what we’ve been up to since the 2014 Summer fellows left.

Thanks to the fellows, CWS has opened water treatment businesses in eleven more communities: Original Kabache, Sabonjida, Janakpam, Manguli II, Wuvogu, Wuvogumani, Changyili, Jangbarayili, Balamposo, Kagbal, and Sagbarigu, as well as set up a solar business in Yapalsi. This brings the total number of communities we are working in to 71! In addition to the newly established water and solar businesses, nine villages are now independent: Tijo, Tindun, Libi, Changashi, Kpenchila, Nyamaliga, Buja, Kushini, and Zanzugu. At Community Water Solutions, self-sufficiency is our end goal in the communities where we work. Data collected over the years of household visits we have done since the inception of these businesses has shown that the centers have been up and running and community members have purchased water at the center on consistent bases. The staff at CWS will still monitor and assist the women entrepreneurs to ensure the centers continue to run successfully, but we are proud to add them to our list of 23 total independent villages!

On the monitoring side of operations, going to the field this week with Amin, Shak, Wahab, and Eric has been a lot of fun. Figuring out the logistics of integrating our new communities into our existing monitoring schedules was challenging, but the guys have done an amazing job with handling the extra responsibility. Having heard so much from the fellows about the women and community members, I was really eager to go and see the new centers for myself! On Monday, Amin and I went to Jakapam, Manguli II, Wuvogu, and Wuvogumani. While the fellows were still here monitoring in their villages after opening day, community members of Janakpam had made it known during household visits that they felt the water tasted too strongly of alum, the chemical the women use in the first stage of treatment. This is typically a learning process when centers are first established; it is not an easy task to ensure an appropriate amount of alum is used to treat the turbidity of the water while also meeting the taste preferences of consumers. When the women heard of this, they wasted no time coming up with a creative solution: adding water from the polytank to the dugout water in the blue drums so that the alum would settle, then adding one chlorine tablet per blue drum scooped in to the polytank. This worked for the water they sold during the first days after the center opened and by the time Amin and I came to speak with the women on Monday, the problem had been completely fixed and community members no longer had any complaints about the taste of the water.

DSC01983While monitoring with Eric on Wednesday, Arasheitu, one of the entrepreneurs running the business in Kagbal, joined us for household visits. As a way to gauge our efforts to educate community members on the health benefits of drinking clean water, one of the questions we ask households when monitoring is, “Do you know why dugout water is unsafe to drink?” Anytime we asked this question and a community member would respond with, “No,” Arasheitu stepped in to explain why dugout water was unsafe to drink and the negative implications it has for health. Community members also told Eric and I that Arasheitu and her colleagues at the center, Adamu and Sanatu, were teaching people how to collect rainwater properly and reminding people to come and refill at the center with their safety storage containers on a regular basis. It was really amazing to see the level of Arasheitu’s initiative and her enthusiasm for helping her community. Eric and I also lucked out because one of the women in Kagbal had recently given birth to a baby boy and community members were celebrating the naming ceremony. Thanks to the CWS fellows and the women of Kagbal hard at work running the treatment center, this new addition to the Outdooring Kagbal 2community, Abrahim, will always have the option of clean drinking water. That is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job as Ghana Country Director.

I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and interacting with the entrepreneurs and community members of the newly established treatment centers. As with all of the entrepreneurs we work with, these women are creative, kind, and devoted to improving the lives and health of the members of their communities. Their level of enthusiasm for running the treatment centers and the amount of hard work they put in to make sure their community has the option of clean drinking water never ceases to amaze me. I look forward to working with them during my time as Ghana Country Director.

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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!

Sincerely,

Kate, Sam, and Brianan

GilBT

 

 

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

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

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

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

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Sarah hanging with some kids from Wovogu while monitoring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Checking out the CWS Fellowship Handbook at the water treatment business

Checking out the CWS Fellowship Handbook at the water treatment business

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

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

-Sarah, Ben and Erin

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Voices from the field: Team TJ (Cara, Brielle, Selena & Jeremy)

A flashback to before opening day:

Greetings from Team Teej! (Brielle Jeremy Cara & Selena)

Whether it’s rocking out to Rick Ross’ “Sanctified” or the Tamale Hip-Life legends R2bees, we know how to have a great time.  We are currently working in the village of Changyili, which is only a short drive of 30 minutes out of Tamale.  Along our way we are able to see the local vegetation and markets where the people are always happy to greet us.  No hand wave is left unanswered!
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It should be noted that the chief of Changyili is the most relaxed and friendliest elderly man we have had the chance to meet in Ghana.  As he chilled in his home-made recliner stroking his grizzly grey beard and smoking a personal rolled cigarette, he watched us paint our new metal stand that will hold the Polytank full of clean drinking water.

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We began our work by setting up the water drums and Polytank, and once the women were selected we were eager to begin training with them. When we finish our work for the day, we usually play with kids in the village. The first game we ever played with them was the infamous “tag”. Thinking that because most of the kids involved were younger and smaller we all expected to easily stay out of reach of being “it”. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that either we had suddenly all become incredibly out-of-shape overnight or these kids were all solid contenders for Usain Bolt.

We’re having a great time and the villagers are really appreciative of CWS, which gives us all great encouragement.  They’re excited that this project is bringing health to their community, and we’re excited that we’re learning so much about their lifestyle.  It’s neat when they teach us the language of Dagbani, let us do hands-on work with them to make their food, and show us games all the kids play.  We get to pet baby goats and laugh with the people through simple means of communication and hand symbols.

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As a group we are really looking forward to opening day tomorrow. This will mark the start of the new water business for the women entrepreneurs we have trained for the past two weeks. In addition, this business will provide clean water for the village of Changyili! GO TEAM TEEJ!

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

Hi All!

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

On our way to the Kintempo waterfalls

On our way to the Kintempo waterfalls

The waterfalls

The waterfalls

Kelly and our translator, Sharifa!

Kelly and our translator, Sharifa!

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

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Our awesome entrepreneurs, Facina and Memunatu!

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

A CWS safe storage container!

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

Clean water!

Clean water!

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

Monitoring in Janakpam

Kelly monitoring in Janakpam

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

-Kelly, Miles, Sharifa, and Abby T

Ann taking a sample of water to test in the lab.

Ann taking a sample of water to test in the lab.

Miles and Abby playing with some of the kids in Janakpam!

Miles and Abby playing with some of the kids in Janakpam!

Team Sharifa!

Team Sharifa!

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Voices from the Field: Team Blessing (Claire, Phoebe, Robert and Sofia)

Hey everyone! Robert, Sofia, Claire, and Phoebe here – along with our aptly named translator, Blessing! The village Team Blessing was assigned has smiling faces and warm hearts like all CWS selections, but the unique history sets it apart. Team Blessing’s village, Original Kabache, has an ongoing feud with their neighboring village, Indigenous Kabache. From what we understand, Kabache was once a unified community, but in recent years has split in two – each community striving for Kabache as the village name. Both villages claim that they are the true Kabache; both chieftaincies claim to be the first Kabache. In 2013, CWS implemented a clean water business in Original Kabache’s rival village, which we can only imagine brewed tension. The feud is neither here nor there; Team Blessing came to implement a clean water business. Our goal was realized just 20 some hours ago!

The Chief of Original Kabache or as he says, "THE FIRST KABACHE"

The Chief of Original Kabache or as he says, “THE FIRST KABACHE”

Prior to our first village visit, our team was briefed on three aspects of Original Kabache: it was a community of ~60 households, community members fetched water from a dugout ~2km from the center of the village, and of course the intra-Kabache-naming-feud. We petitioned the village chairman to hold a meeting with the Chief and village elders to discuss the CWS proposal to implement a clean water business, and minutes later were walked to the chief’s compound. The meeting began riddled with tension punctuated by the sounds of children playing and chickens mulling about. Once all the elders had gathered, the discussion lightened and we were met by overwhelming support and gratitude from the chief and elders of Original Kabache. Throughout our time in the village, the chief has provided positive support and clearly forward-thinking wisdom at each juncture. He genuinely wants to set a positive, sustainable and longstanding example for his people for, as he said, “generations to come.” The chief was also very excited about having clean water because he didn’t like that Indigenous Kabache had access to clean water and they didn’t. He believed that with the implementation of the water business they would once again be the best Kabache. Our careful, yet excited nods of approval were satisfactory.

Team Blessing sampling Kabache's dugout

Team Blessing sampling Kabache’s dugout!

Following our chief meeting, we invited any elders to accompany us on the 25-minute walk to the dugout to test the water for E-coli bacteria. With a water sample, we could incubate E-coli and total coliform bacteria on special 3M agar to provide a visual representation of dugout contamination in order to show the community when we met with them the following day. Thankfully, our community meeting was an inspiring success; almost all members of the community were present, attentive, and excited to begin working with CWS to create their own clean water. As asked, the chief and elders selected two driven, strong, and personable women entrepreneurs to run the center. Later, on the chief appointed a third woman since one of the original two was pregnant and might need to take some time off after giving birth.

Team Blessing With Women Entrepreneurs

Team Blessing with the women entrepreneurs

The CWS model stresses a few key tenants in order to promote sustainability in the water businesses, of which two are female empowerment and autonomy. The women entrepreneurs of Original Kabache decided to sell the water for 10 GP (~$0.03) per 10 liter bucket, aspiring to match the price of Indigenous Kabache. For several days following our introduction to the entrepreneurs, our team worked long days to build the water treatment center, train the women on business management skills and water treatment procedures, and take time explaining clean water procedures to almost every member of every household in Original Kabache.

Robert and Blessing at the Original Kabache Community Meeting

Robert and Blessing at the Original Kabache Community Meeting

Come Thursday morning – our opening day for business – we could honestly say that nearly all of the work and decisions in Original Kabache had been smooth, exciting, and inspiring. Of course, “this is going GREAT” are famous last words, and as we’d been warned during our initial training, “Everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” For starters, our team was not on it’s “A-Game” – Sofia had previously missed two days with a stomach bug, Rob had missed the previous day with the same, and Phoebe and Claire later found that they were on the cusp of illness themselves. The morning consisted of a few final home visits, followed by a school visit in an attempt to separately capture the attention of the children and prep them on safe drinking habits. “School” is a loose term in Original Kabache – more often used as a word of reprimand or as a command analogous to “get out of here,” we were shocked to see that the 6 classroom school really functioned as a one room schoolhouse. That being said, our visit was successful and the children seemed to take to heart the two lessons: “Clear doesn’t necessary mean clean” and “DON’T DRINK THE DUGOUT WATER!”

By midday, we ran into our first real roadblock – our strongest and most punctual women entrepreneur was “out traveling” for the day. Furthermore, a wedding had been scheduled for the same hour as the business opening, a problem compounded by the surprise that the entrepreneurs had neglected to make an official community announcement when opening day would be. Scrambling quickly, the chief helped make an announcement – a drummer boy clanged down the road, and within a matter of minutes, women, children, and safe storage containers emerged from houses and huts. Opening day would happen after all.

The walk to the treatment center was euphoric – down the footpath we could see silhouettes of the CWS logo, women balancing the safe storage containers on their heads. In total, ~40 buckets were cleaned and filled with treated water. Some women were pleased with the taste of chlorinated water; others thought it strange. Rob tried to grab as many costumers who expressed discomfort and explain that the unusual taste was just a clean taste – a conversation most often met with a smile, excitement, and even a few laughing slaps and handshakes.

Original Kabache Opening Day!

Original Kabache Opening Day!

Following our debrief session with our strong entrepreneurs, the fellows were unusually tired; Phoebe was showing a loss of color from possible heat exhaustion. It wasn’t until a reunion with the other Salaga fellows from Sabonjida that the Original Kabache Team Blessing could properly stand back, admire the hard work of the people of Original Kabache, and take a moment to pat each other on the back for successfully bringing clean water to the homes of another 52 households under the CWS program.

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