Antire from Tamale to our beloved family and friends and our dedicated blog followers!
We are all having an amazing time; thus far, the experience has definitely been one that we will always remember. Three days ago, we set foot for the first time in Sakpalua: our village that CWS Ghana Country Director, Kathryn, found for us. During our initial visit, we met one of the elders, with whom we spoke briefly about implementing the treatment center. He was well educated on the poor quality of the water his village was consuming and very receptive to the idea of us coming to implement a center. We were then escorted to the dugout by three teenage boys from the village- Olman, Abu, and Muusaa. When we got to the dugout to take a sample of the water, we noticed that though it is vast, the water level was low because the region is just now transitioning from the dry season to the rainy season. Sakpalua has proved truly unique thus far. Not only are the people great, but they are used to Westerners coming to the area. Remnants of past NGOs can be seen in the rainwater harvesting bins, local primary school, and library, all sponsored by a Presbyterian organization. After collecting a sample of the water, we went to leave Sakpalua and met the Chief. The chief was very soft-spoken and wore a kind smile. We set a time to come back the next morning to meet with him. We then all piled in to Shak’s truck to embark on the one hour drive, filled with “Salaminga, hello!” and people waving.
The following morning, we had our official chief meeting. Elders and many members of the community came out to hear about the project. Rich was in charge of leading the meeting. We began with a prayer, led by the village pastor James, then moved into introductions. Each of us took turns standing up to thank the community for welcoming us into their village and stated our names. Rich then began by stating that we were there on behalf of CWS, explained who CWS is and the approach. During this time, Shak walked around to show the villagers the samples of the dugout water that we had tested the day before at the CWS lab. E coli and other bacteria filled the small 3M test, indicating how contaminated the dugout water was. Everyone at the meeting agreed that we “must begin treating the water immediately!” as one of the women put it. We discussed further prospects for the best methods to move forward in implementing the center then set a time to come back the next morning to begin building the polytank stand.
Our Wednesday began around 8:00, allowing time for the shops to open. Shak picked us up out front of the Gillbt House and our first stop of the day was at the mason supply store. There we purchased thirty large concrete blocks, two bags of sandstone and a 40kg bag of cement. As we loaded the supplies in the back of the jeep, many of the local children gathered around to cheer us on and dance to the Bob Marley blaring from the radio. Our trip to the village this time around was a bit more interesting with the weight of the supplies bearing down on the axel. After some minor setbacks that Shak handled with ease, we arrived at our village, ready to begin the work. The elders had selected an ideal spot for the polytank center to be built, located in a well shaded area about 50 meters from the dugout. The first step of the process is to lay the blocks vertically in a tight circle, and begin mixing the sandstone and cement, slowly adding small amounts of water. We quickly apply the mortar and build the second layer of blocks with an overwhelming amount of help from the village men. It is great to see the villagers eager to help with the project because after another 10 days it will be left in their hands to maintain while we are away. The importance of clean water is not lost in the least and after an hour of work the day is done, allowing plenty of time for the cement to dry and harden.
Thursday begins in roughly the same manner, returning to the supply store and purchasing more sandstone for the polytank stand. Around 9:00 we roll up to the construction site and find many of the villagers already at work. The initial task is to rummage around the dugout area and dig large stones from the ground, which will later serve as filler for the center of the stand. Once the center of the stand is about ¾’s full, the women set to work retrieving a fine gravel to pack in around the stones. They carry the heavy weight with no problem, balancing large metal bowls on their heads as they trod from the center to the gravel and back several times. They make it look unusually easy, however after we each try our hand at the task we realize that it is anything but. As the gravel is being packed, we mix more mortar, adding additional cement to create a thick plaster to cover the exterior of the stand. Close to 12:30, the final touches are put on the stand and while the cement is still wet, Shak writes each of our names, the date and CWS in bold letters along the top of the stand, commemorating the time we shared with the village.