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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Posted in Fellowship Program, Janakpam, Monitoring | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Fellowship Program, Implementation, Opening Day, Original Kabache | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Voices from the field: Team Simply (Ana B, Remy & Danya)

Customers at the Manguli II water treatment center

Customers at the Manguli II water treatment center

For the past couple of weeks we have been working in a village called Manguli II (don’t forget the II). After spending time training our three elected entrepreneurs, Moshi, Sharatu, and Latifa,  we finally opened their water business this morning! We planned to start at 10 o’clock but the day got off to a slow start which worried us a little bit.  Forty five minutes later however, we saw people approaching the center with their blue buckets in hand. There were about 6 people who all arrived at once so we quickly informed them of how it would all pan out.They would first mark their buckets with their family name, then wash them and after that they would be ready to buy some clean water! The first sale made was to buy water for cleaning the safe storage container which was really exciting for both us and the women. Danya was in charge of marking buckets, Ana handled the cleaning process and Remy took charge whenever we came upon a leaky tap. Our translator, Simplicia aka Simply, played many roles as she tried to clean and translate all at once. Although the first to show came in a bit of a cluster, the rest of the day was pretty steady with people showing up one after another. At the end of the day, the women counted their sales and found that they filled 30 safe storage containers which amounted to a profit of 3 Ghanaian Cedis! Only three households in the community did not come to fetch water but it was only because they were traveling and are expected to come to the business as soon as they come back.

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Ana, Simply & Danya with their great opening day outfits!

 

After two weeks of hard work, opening day showed how it all paid off. The process of bringing clean water to people in need is much more difficult than it seems. We definitely ran into a few speed bumps throughout the entire training and implementation process but after speaking with people and understanding their knowledge on the issue, it helped to bring us to our outcome today. We could see that the people who once seemed skeptical of our work were actually excited when they tasted the water and it was truly an amazing experience to watch. We really look forward to watching how everything plays out from here on and seeing how much of an impact our work has made on the people of Manguli II.

-Danya, Remy & Ana B.

Simply & Remy check for any tap leaks

Simply & Remy check for any tap leaks

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Posted in Fellowship Program, Implementation, Manguli II, Opening Day | Leave a comment

Voices from the Field: Team Sita (Haley, Caroline, Julia and Hannah)

The past few days in the village of Balamposo have been hectic, to say the least. We are almost ready to open up the CWS clean water center! Our two entrepreneurs, Bellamina and Damu, have been so wonderful to work with, and we are confident in their ability to keep the center up and running.

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Haley and Julia helpng Bellamina and Damu fill the 200-L Blue drums with dugout water. This is the water that the people in Balamposo are currently drinking.

Over the course of two days, we trained Bellamina and Damu in both water treatment and money management. We went into training thinking we would have to answer many questions and provide a lot of direction, but the women have proven to be tremendously intelligent and resourceful. We first demonstrated how to use the drums and polytank of the water center. The women of the village are much more skilled then us when it comes to fetching the water and balancing those buckets on their heads! We worked with alum to rid the water of its turbidity and then explained how to use the chlorine tablets to kill all the bacteria in the water. Although working with a translator during training can be difficult, it is obvious that Bellamina and Damu understand everything and are committed to providing a valuable service to their community.

Haley and Caroline teach Bellamina and Damu how to use alum to remove the turbidity from the water.

Haley and Caroline teach Bellamina and Damu how to use alum to remove the turbidity from the water.

The most incredible part of training these women is experiencing their own innovative ideas and eternal gratitude. Whenever an issue or question would arise, they would debate with the surrounding women and come to a quick solution. The efficiency of problem solving in Balamposo trumps any training we can provide. Additionally, they continue to thank Community Water Solutions despite knowing their own hard work is the key to success. During money management training, we stressed the importance of savings to ensure that all supplies are paid for and that they can adapt the center during changing seasons. Bellamina replied, ‘If we do not commit to this business and we let it fail, it means we do not love ourselves.’ They take their responsibilities very seriously and consistently express appreciation to us for giving them their start.

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We know that the future of Balamposo’s water center will not be completely smooth—there are bound to be bumps along the road to clean water for this wonderful village. We know that the success of the center will depend on Bellamina and Damu, but we hope that the training has provided them with all of the knowledge they will need. We can’t wait for opening day, when our wonderful entrepreneurs can put their skills to the test!

-Haley, Caroline, Julia and Hannah

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Our awesome translators, Khadijah and Sita, help Haley teach the ladies how to scoop water into the polytank where it will be treated with chlorine

Posted in Balamposo, Fellowship Program, Implementation | Leave a comment

Voice from the Field: Team Jaleel (Melissa, Sarah S., Christina & Nicole)

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Sarah S. saying hey!

Greetings from Ghana! Team Jaleel, which consists of Melissa, Nicole, Sarah and Christina, have been working hard to prepare for opening day tomorrow! We are working in the village of Jangbarayili, which means ‘man’s village’. Over the past couple of weeks we have completely fallen in love with the Jangbarayili community. They are wonderfully kind people and have been so welcoming since the moment we set foot in the village. It is an absolute pleasure to be greeted by Yaya Chairman at 7am every morning. We have really connected with community, especially the kids. In our free time we have played cards, duck-duck-goose, Frisbee, and soccer. They are an extremely active community. We were also surprised to find out that the dugout the community currently drinks from has a family of crocodiles living in it! We have had a couple croc sightings but we are far from the Crocodile Hunter experience.

Melissa chilling with some kids on the polytank

Melissa chilling with some kids on the polytank

We began working in the village about a week ago and already we have set up the water treatment center and trained two of the community women in business management. It was an incredible moment to see the dugout water transform into clean, healthy, drinkable water. The results from our 3M test showed that the Jangbarayili village had some of the most E. Coli infested waters that CWS has ever seen. We anticipate that the clean water provided by the new center will have significant positive impacts on the health of the village. Today we finished distributing our safety storage containers and informed all members of the community of our big opening tomorrow! We also have a big surprise for the kids in the village. We are going to set up a rope swing by the trail leading down to the water center! We are so excited for our big event tomorrow! This has been an amazing learning experience for all of us and we are so grateful to have this opportunity to bring clean water to the Jangbarayili community!

-Melissa, Sarah S., Christina & Nicole

Nicole heads down to the water treatment center

Nicole heads down to the water treatment center

Christina carries some supplies on her head for construction

Christina carries some supplies on her head for construction

Posted in Fellowship Program, Implementation, Janbarayili | 1 Comment

Voices from the Field: The Solar Fellows! (Linda, Lucas, Nick & Sarah)

Hi Everyone! It’s the Solar Fellows here again with an update from Yapalsi!

With the help of the community, we finished building and painting the solar charging center in Yapalsi. It was really inspirational to see everyone excited about the center and working with us. Each time we left the village for the day, we would return the next day to find that the community had completed yet another section of the center. Their enthusiasm became our source of motivation.

The community helps us add the last cement bricks to the foundation.

The community helps us add the last cement bricks to the foundation.

Lucas and the masons plaster the solar center.

Lucas and the masons plaster the solar center.

 Nick paints those hard to reach spots on the solar center

Nick paints those hard to reach spots on the solar center

Lucas and Linda paint the door of the solar center

Lucas and Linda paint the door of the solar center

Over the past few days, we have been working with Sana, Shetu, and Rahina, the three entrepreneurs who are have been running the water center and now the solar charging center. After we taught them how to connect the solar panels to the microcontroller, battery, and inverter, the women connected the components of the system together and the solar center works!

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Rahina connects the wiring of the solar panels.

Sana learns to connect the solar panels wires to the microcontroller.

Sana learns to connect the solar panels wires to the microcontroller.

We then explained how to calculate the maximum wattage that they could connect to the center.  Prior to teaching them that each cell phone uses 5 Watts while a full battery charger uses 14 Watts, we worried that the women would have trouble with the math, as they had never gone to school before. However, Sana, Shetu, and Rahina completely surpassed our expectations with their exceptional mental math ability.

Linda explains to the women how to connect the batteries and chargers.

Linda explains to the women how to connect the batteries and chargers.

During training, many people from Yapalsi were curious about how to connect the system and how the solar center would work.  A large crowd gathered outside during training, but after the Friday rain, most Yapalsians began farming, and the final day of training proved to be much quieter and more efficient.
After the solar center construction and training, we went to each and every household to distribute Burro lanterns and explain how to use them. We also explained how they would be able to buy fully charged batteries at the solar center to light their lantern and drop them off when they were out of charge. They were also extremely excited to be able to charge their cell phones for the first time in their village. Previously, they had been travelling to Savelugu a few kilometers away to pay someone to charge their phone. Picking them up usually meant returning to a swapped battery, missing SIM card, or worse a stolen phone. We really hope that the solar center will prove to be a major convenience and improvement for their lives. We finished our last day of distribution today with Linda and Sarah painting CWS’ logo onto the solar center! Tomorrow night is the grand opening of the solar center and we cannot wait! We shall update you soon!

-Linda, Lucas, Nick, and Sarah

Nick demonstrates how to open and close the Burro lantern

Nick demonstrates how to open and close the Burro lantern

Lucas visits a household to explain the rechargeable lantern program.

Lucas visits a household to explain the rechargeable lantern program.

 

Posted in Fellowship Program, Implementation, Innovasun, solar center, Yapalsi | Leave a comment

Voices from the Field: Team Peter!

Community Meeting

Elders gather for the Chief Meeting in Sabonjida

Hey everyone! It’s team Peter here today. We are Josh, Camille, Brandee, and Claire. We’ve been braving the “road” to Sabonjida for four days, picking up pedestrians and hoping we don’t get a flat. The journey is about an hour and fifteen minutes each way, and despite the quotation marks around road, not too bad of a trip except a stretch where rain runoff exposed the bedrock.

Once we get in to Sabonjida the view of the lake and surrounding countryside is well worth braving the road. Sabonjida is a fishing community of about 70 households on the northern coast of Lake Volta. The majority of the people speak Ewe as their first language, but we communicate with them through Peter in Twi. On our first day in the village we met Clint and Haley of Mercy Project.   They first called CWS’s attention to Sabonjida as a village in need of clean water. They have been working in Sabonjida to address the root causes of child slavery on Lake Volta. You can read more about their approach and what they’re all about on their website.

Women seeing blue drums

The newly selected women  check out the 200 L blue drums they will use to treat Lake water with alum!

The first person we met when we got into the village was Mercy.   She has shown us abundant hospitality each time we visit, offering food, bringing us chairs and being helpful in any way she can. In addition, she has had a very strong presence in all the meetings with community leaders. This makes us very optimistic for the future of Sabonjida, as she will be one of the four women running the water treatment center there. The other three women the community selected are Florence, Mary, and Elizabeth. We look forward to getting to know them better when we train them over the next few days. One thing that was disconcerting to see was during the community meeting when a woman had a question she initially addressed one of the men. Since they were speaking Ewe, a language Peter does not understand, it was hard for us to know whether it was legitimate question or if they were simply asking for clarification from a man sitting near them. After a little encouragement they began to speak up directly and we hope this trend continues as they see their friends in roles of power and respect within the community.

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Camille, Peter, Mercy, Mary, Florence and Elizabeth setting up the water treatment center. Lake Volta in the background!

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Kenkey and fish (Peter’s fav) made by Mercy!

The concerns raised in the community meeting were largely centered on the nuances that come with living in a fishing community. One major concern was the mobility of the center given that Lake Volta is prone to flooding at the combined discretion of Mother Nature and the people in charge of regulating the dam that maintains it. We explained to them that their polytank would be lifted up on a metal stand that can be moved according to their needs. Another concern was the irregularity of their income. Since most of the community fishes they might not have cash on hand, even though they have plenty of fish in net. To address this concern we explained to them that the ladies running the center had the liberty to run the business whichever way is most conducive to getting everyone clean water.   In Tunga, a community we monitored on Wednesday, the woman entrepreneur had a system of giving out interest free credit or accepting payments in advance in order to give everyone access to clean water, and we relayed this idea along to them.

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Peter hanging out in a fishing net hammock!

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Brandee, Camille, Peter, Mercy, Florence, Elizabeth and Mary building a fire to heat up the screws in order to more easily screw them in to the plastic 200 L blue drums!

There was another unfortunate yet encouraging issue that came to light during the community meeting. There happened to be an old man from a neighboring community at the meeting who wanted to know why we were doing this project only for Sabonjida when the lake water is unhealthy for all the communities who drink it. We had to explain to him that although CWS aims to continue implementing clean water businesses all around Lake Volta, we unfortunately can only reach one community at a time. However, we were excited by his approval of our project and excitement for when CWS might reach his village. We were also very encouraged by the community’s questions about how they would access clean water while traveling, which preliminarily implies that they accept the idea of always drinking clean water when they are at home.

Our plan for the next two days is to train our four women to treat the water and become the entrepreneurs of the water center!

Posted in Sabonjida | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments