Next fall, after two great years working for CWS in Ghana, Brianan will be heading to Ireland for Graduate School. We could not be more proud of her or more grateful for all of the work that she has done for CWS! We are also very excited to welcome Chelsea Hodgkins to our team who will be taking over as Ghana Country Director this summer!
We first got to know Chelsea when she came in Ghana as a 2012 Spring Fellow. I think it’s safe to say that Chelsea fell in love with this amazing country because she quickly returned to Ghana to study abroad for a semester and is now back again for 9 months as a Fulbright Fellow! We’ve really enjoyed getting to know Chelsea throughout her time in Ghana and are thrilled to officially have her on the CWS team next year! Without futher ado, meet Chelsea:
I’ll begin this post in the same way Kathryn, Brianan, and Sam all began theirs: by expressing my enthusiasm and joy to be joining the CWS team as the Ghana Country Director this June! I feel incredibly privileged that my first ‘real’ job out of university is to work with such an amazing, dynamic organization impacting the lives of thousands of Ghanaians and US college students/young professionals.
I graduated from West Virginia University with a dual Bachelor of Arts in Geography and International Studies with a concentration in International Development. Prior to taking part in the fellowship program in April 2012, I had vague thoughts of pursuing a career in international development; after a month-long program studying climate change and livelihood systems in Malawi with WVU’s Geography department, I knew that being in the field and working collaboratively to solve challenges that would improve the lives of others was exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I had yet to find a specific area of development where I felt I could make the biggest contribution. That all changed over the three weeks I spent in Ghana with CWS.
I can still remember how emotionally jarred I was when I and my teammates Rich, Colleen and Nick entered Sakpalua with Shak for the first time and saw the community’s water source: a dugout shared by livestock and community members alike, heavily contaminated with fecal matter and so turbid one could not see an object submerged an inch under the water. Going back and forth every day between the bustling streets of Tamale to the more tranquil setting of Sakpalua to implement the water treatment business was exhilarating. Opening day was one of the most amazing, fulfilling and rewarding experiences of my life: as I watched the line grow of people waiting to fill their blue buckets for the first, of many times to come, I saw two pregnant women heading back to their homes, carrying the clean water on their heads. Their children would be the first generation to have access to clean water and all of the health benefits that it brings. It was an ‘aha’ moment for me, as I realized that water is the most fundamental key to living a life of dignity. When I went back to the US, I left Ghana knowing that CWS was an organization I wanted to stay a part of because the work that the team does is really serving a critical need.
Since the fellowship, I have been very fortunate to have had more than one opportunity to return to Ghana. Each time I have visited Lydia and Damu, the women entrepreneurs that are running the business I helped establish in Sakpalua. During every visit, I am reminded of how CWS is providing sustainable, not ‘band-aid,’ solutions to the water crisis in Ghana when I am told by Lydia and Damu of how much the treatment center has improved the health of everyone in Sakpalua and how grateful everyone is to have clean water. And there are thousands of more stories like this from each of the communities where CWS has established centers! I cannot describe how truly excited I am to work with everyone at CWS and how much I am looking forward to June!