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It’s my last day in Ghana, and as I sit and reflect on my time spent in the villages with Community Water Solutions I can honestly say that this experience was life changing. I was able to immerse myself in a Ghanian village, meet with real life African chiefs and elders, and experience intimate moments with the women and children. As a public health policy student I was not well-versed in the global water crisis before coming to Ghana. Seeing first-hand the turbidity and feces-contaminated water was both heart-breaking and frustrating, but after 3 grueling weeks I am proud to say that over 100 households now have access to clean water in the village of Dundo!

Community Water Solutions has a great concept that is improving access to clean water in rural areas that the Ghanian government has had issues with providing with piped water sources. In addition to clean water, women are able to achieve some economic freedom from their husbands through profits from the water center. The women take ownership of the water center which I think is a great first step to inducing behavior change. It’s hard to believe, but while dirty water has claimed the lives of millions, there are still millions of people who have survived with minor symptoms. This was something I had to keep in mind when educating villagers as it is easy to think (with my privileged American brain) that EVERYONE should want and value clean water. To my surprise, it isn’t always a priority when you have kids to watch over, a farm to tend, and meals to prepare. There are more pressing and immediate issues that I think are sometimes overlooked when humanitarians/volunteers come into a community to do service work. With CWS, we spend hours educating households before the water center opens up and after all of the time spent educating, I thought it would translate into immediate behavior change and only clean water being consumed by the villagers. During our last week, we monitored the households who received safe storage containers and took samples of their drinking water. To our surprise, quite a few households’ water samples tested positive for bacteria contamination. This meant that contamination was occurring in the household as our polytank samples always came back clean. Contamination was most likely coming from not washing the containers and dipping objects into the container rather than using the tap.

During this time I thought back on the process that we had gone through and thought about how excited everyone seemed to be about clean water and getting the safe storage containers, and then it hit me. We are foreigners coming into a culture that we know little about and told them that they were going to get something for free! Of course they were going to be excited, and for the most part everyone cooperated but the public health in me wanted to get to the bottom of why everyone might not have thought clean water was a priority for them.

My schooling came in handy here as we have learned over and over again how hard it is to change behaviors with things such as condom use, cancer screenings, eating healthy, etc. people know what they are supposed to do but when dealing with individuals with an array of other issues affecting them everyday it became apparent to me how important it is to monitor and reiterate your message in non traditional ways. CWS takes the approach of using the fellows to come back the week after implementation to go back and re-educate, but I think the man power could be better used with educating the women and leaders of the community to be warriors for the cause. Simply restating what we have already told them doesn’t seem to be as effective as having someone from the same community as them reiterate these points. I think that our time would have also been better spent monitoring in communities that past fellows have already implemented in. When fellows are not in Tamale, there is a full time staff of about 4-5 individuals who visit only about 6 households in each of the villages. While they do the best they can with their manpower, with 20-40 fellows at your disposal, I feel that we could reach many more villagers.

My other issue with the fellowship was the program fee of $3000 that we were required to raise. My team kept track of our expenses and we only spent 950 Ghana Cedi. This is equivalent to about $500. As a team we raised $9000 (18,000 Ghana Cedi). I’m sure some of it went to our lodging, food, transportation, and translators, but Ghana is not an expensive country. It is my assumption that a large chunk of our funds went back into the organization to help support the full time staff’s salary, but I think that this should have been explained to us or a proper breakdown of where all of our funds went. While I don’t think that CWS is corrupt or using our money improperly, as their staff must survive and need a salary, but I do think that they are falling into the trap that cause many non profits to fail. They aren’t transparent with how they spend their money and donors start to feel apprehensive about contributing, causing an organization to go under. I think that being honest and upfront is a much better route to take, and is something I will take into consideration when starting my own organization.

Lastly, I didn’t like the idea of the fellows going into the communities and painting the schools. While a good gesture, no school in America would allow an organization to brandish the building with their logos the way that CWS does. My first thought was, “Do we only think this is acceptable because we are in Africa?” Luckily everyone else in my group agreed and we decided against painting, as none of us are painters or artists.

Overall, I think CWS has a great concept, and I support their cause but I think they have some quirks to workout to keep their organization sustainable. I’m not concerned about the villages maintaining their water centers as the ladies we encountered were all great business women and took it seriously, but as someone who is looking to one day start my own non profit, I learned a lot and would do it again in a heartbeat. I am so thankful for all of the people who donated to my cause and I wish that you could have experienced the words of kindness showered down on me while working, because without you this would not be possible.

Love & Light.

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Today was opening day and it was a total SUCCESS!!! We sold over 80 buckets of water today and I couldn’t be more proud of the ladies. They totally took charge of the center and kept everyone in order as they waited for their buckets to be filled. I have no doubt in my mind that the center will be left in good hands and that they will make significant profits from the business. Many villagers are already asking how they can purchase additional safe storage containers because they want to have more clean water in their compounds. Below are pictures from throughout the day at the center.

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Tomorrow we get a much deserved day off (yippee!!!) We will return to Dundo on Sunday to begin monitoring and replacing any faulty buckets. Stay tuned for updates!!

Love & Light!

We have almost completed distributing safe storage containers to all of the village of Dundo. To keep a presence in the community and to bond with the villagers we are spreading distribution out over 3 days. With this being said, that means that some villagers have safe storage containers and some do not. This has started a mighty stir throughout the village so anytime we are seen by a villager without a container they question why we have left them out. After an explanation they totally understand, but are quick to remind us not to forget about their household before opening day.

I must say that I feel like a proud mama as I watch our female business owners, Sahatu Adam and Awabu Elidu, stand over the buckets with a smirk of pride as the other women walk by them on their way to the dugout. They have even begun to educate others about the importance of clean drinking water. This example is exactly why I believe in the power of social entrepreneurship. By taking ownership of the business and making a profit these women are becoming empowered beyond belief, while also doing an extraordinary thing for their community that will last for future generations.

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The women have even engaged their fellow business owners by asking them to collect dugout water to be treated at the center. This speeds up the process of treating the water, as the business owners would have to make many trips before the drums would be full, if they did it on their own. Getting the other women involved also makes it easier for us to educate them on the importance of drinking clean water. Many already know, but they are curious about the process and want to make sure that the chemicals will not change the taste of the water. The only time the chemicals will be tasted in the water is if too much is used during treatment. Our business owners use alum in their households, so they are pretty much already experts in the proper proportions.

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Tomorrow will be our last day of distribution before Opening Day and I couldn’t be more excited. I can’t reiterate enough how thankful I am for my family members and friends who donated their money to make this project happen. All of the funds that I have received were used to buy the chemicals to treat the water, safe storage containers, polytank, and water drums. Over 100 households will be getting clean water because of you!! If you donated and are reading this blog, you should really be proud of yourself because you are changing lives!! Ok, I’m getting off my soapbox ;)

Love & Light!!!

PS – Can’t forget one of my fave professors who wrote my recommendation for the fellowship Dr. Vyas……you’re the best!!!

I must say that today has by far been the best day EVER! We began Day 1 of training the women on clean water treatment by showing them how to make the alum ball which causes all of the particles and debris in the water to coagulate together. With so much water in the drums, the alum must do its magic for at least 24 hours.

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Pictured below is of  me & our business owners!

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One day I will master the smirk ;) but today I mastered water collection (not really, but it’s the effort that counts!) the women welcomed us into the dugout and allowed us to help with water collection. I was made to feel like a true Ghanian woman ;) but I must say that it is time to hit the gym, my triceps and biceps are not cut out for this!

   

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Tomorrow we will re-enter the village and continue with distribution of the safe storage containers. Interacting with the villagers is definitely the best part of this experience, and it is so humbling to hear their words of gratitude and blessings upon our lives for providing them with water. It’s hard for me to take such kind words, knowing that clean water is something that should be a right and not privilege but I bow and say, “Amin!” to not be disrespectful.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Love & Light!

 

I have been in Ghana for about a week and can honestly say that I am in love :) From the hustle and bustle of the markets and streets, to the excitement on the children’s faces in the villages when they see their pictures on my camera – I have enjoyed every second of my time here (okay, maybe not the 17 hour bus ride, but everything else, including the heat!).

For the past 5 days the other fellows and I have been immersed in an orientation that has covered everything from lab training, water treatment training, & Dagbani (local language) training, to learning about the global water crisis. We have even visited villages where water businesses have already been implemented. This was a very exciting moment as it allowed us to meet the female business owners while also monitoring & evaluating the use and sales of clean water at CWS sites.

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While women are still considered second class citizens in the villages, they are the backbones of the communities. They farm, cook, weave, gather, and child rear to just name a few of their tasks, that keep their households running smoothly. The business owner that we met in the village of Niapieg played no games when it came to ensuring that villagers were practicing the techniques that she and the CWS fellows had taught them. She had no qualms with reprimanding them and ensuring that no dug out water was being stored in the safe storage containers. It is the policy of CWS that if dug out water is continuously found in the containers that the container will be taken away, as they were given to them for free to be used correctly.

Today the fellows were split up into teams & we went to meet the the chief and elders of Dundu to see if they would like to have a CWS water station in their village. After we held our meeting, the chief & elders were very enthusiastic to have us implement in their community. Before leaving, we visited the dugout where they are currently collecting water to take samples to test in the lab.Tomorrow we will begin to build the concrete stand for the large polytank that will hold the water that will be treated and distributed to villagers.

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Before coming to Ghana I was unaware if the villagers actually knew how the dirty water can negatively affect them. To my surprise they completely understand and mentioned that the dirty water even gave their goats the runs (diarrhea) at times. The villagers do take some precautions by boiling their water or only using rainwater, but even then the water becomes contaminated through dirty hands and dipping cups or other objects into the water. The safe storage containers that we provide them contain a spout that prevents any need for dipping objects into the bucket and we also stress the importance of keeping it covered.

Over the next two weeks we will educate households on clean water education through community events and also going into the school for a presentation. As we distribute safe storage containers we reiterate these techniques to ensure that when we leave the village the techniques will be continued and passed on. On my team, I am specifically responsible for teaching the 2 female leaders how to run the water business and how to manage the funds that they will be receiving from their sales. My passion really lies in women empowerment in developing countries so I can’t wait to begin the task! The next two weeks are going to be a lot of work, but the outcome will surely be worth it!!! Can’t wait to share our progress.

Love & Light!
Jaz

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I have recently received a fellowship position for the upcoming winter with a non-profit corporation called Community Water Solutions (CWS). This organization partners with rural communities in developing countries to establish sustainable water treatment businesses. These businesses are owned and operated by women in the communities that they serve, and use simple, affordable technologies to enable the treatment, distribution and storage of clean, safe drinking water. The maintenance and operation of these water treatment businesses are funded by revenue from the sale of drinking water, while the capital necessary to establish them is generated from fundraising activities.

During December and January, I will be working in Northern Ghana with three other fellows, where we will be responsible for implementing CWS water business in a new village. Once implemented, this business will provide a permanent source of safe drinking water for 700-1000 people in Ghana where 90% of the 1.8 million residents lack access to improved sources of drinking water. All CWS water businesses that have been implemented thus far are now consistently selling water and earning enough money to not only sustain the businesses, but also to provide a small income to the men and women who work there. In fact, a woman who runs the center in Kasaligu, Ghana has used her income to pay for her two youngest children to attend primary school. These children are the first in her family to ever attend school.

Community Water solutions is effectively combating the water crisis in Ghana, and I am very excited to be working with them. As mentioned before, the capital necessary to establish these water businesses is generated through fundraising, and as a fellow, I am responsible for conducting a portion of that. The funds I raise will go directly towards the capital necessary for the water business my teammates and I will be establishing. I would greatly appreciate your help in this endeavor. Every donation makes a difference, no matter the amount! You can send checks made out to Community Water Solutions (with my name written in the “memo” portion). Or if you would like to donate by credit card, you can do so through my fundraising website: http://www.crowdrise.com/jazmingoestoghana/fundraiser/jazminarcher

If you have any questions about the project feel free to email me at jsarcher11@gmail.com.

Sincerely,

Jazmin Archer

Community Water Solutions

46 Ledgetree Rd.

Medfield, MA 02052

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Originally posted on GW Public Health:

HIV+ women who handcraft the bowls at Wola Nani

HIV+ women who handcraft the bowls at Wola Nani

Today was the last site visit of our trip, and I believe it was a great illustration of the strength and courage of the women in this community. The organization Wola Nani provides an opportunity for HIV+ women to create paper mache crafts that are sold all around the world. The participants receive 75% of the profit, allowing them the opportunity to have a steady income for their families. While many of these women are the heads of their household, they also have to deal with the pressures associated with their illness. These social entrepreneurs exemplify what happens when individuals of lesser financial means are given a chance to better themselves. The pride that the women took in their art work was astounding. They applauded us as we bought heaps of their art and told them that we would pass along…

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jsarcher11:

Reblog of my post on The George Washington University’s Public Health Blog….enjoy!

Originally posted on GW Public Health:

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What an experience today has been. Today we were in the township of Langa and witnessed the amazing work that Mama Kopo is doing in the township. As we sat and talked with the South African participants it became very apparent how eager they were to learn how to better their health, while also spreading this knowledge to their family members and friends.

The highlight of my day was working with the children. These beautiful girls were enamored with me, and my BROWN skin. To my disbelief they were calling me Beyonce, along with saying that I was “prettier” than Beyonce! For a moment, I could not understand what it was they were seeing in me, until all at once it hit me. I was like them. Same hairstyle, same skin color, same nose…….they looked at me, with thoughts and hopes that they could grow up and one day be…

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Last night I arrived with some of my fellow classmates in the “Mother City,” aka Cape Town. From the moment we walked through customs, I knew this was going to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. Unlike European customs, the officials at the check-in were extremely friendly, questioning us about America and whether or not we have met Beyonce and Jay-Z. The customs officials joked and laughed with us, while also making fun of us for looking so tired after over 24 hours of travel. I explained to the customs official how shocked I was at how friendly they were and he responded, “You are in Africa, we do things very differently here!” With a big, warm grin. He then proceeded to explain the term “Ubuntu.” This word means good-will, togetherness, human-kindness, etc. I can’t wait to experience “Ubuntu” first-hand as we dive into the South African culture. Join me as I dive into the South African culture over the next two weeks :)

Peace…xoxo

Here’s a great link that explains Ubuntu even more http://voices.yahoo.com/ubuntu-south-africa-really-means-1979514.html

jsarcher11:

I needed this… (optional)

Originally posted on :

Found this list on apartmenttherapy.com and was inspired! Hopefully it will inspire you t00!

1. Make your bed.

The book The Happiness Project, explains that this three minute task is one of the simplest habits you can adopt to positively impact your happiness.

2. Bring every room back to “ready.”

I learned this trick from Marilyn Paul’s clever book, It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys. It’s a known fact: Clutter causes stress; order creates a haven from it. This mood-boosting routine is simple: Take about three minutes to bring each room back to “ready” before you depart it. (Unless you have a toddler, or a partner who likes to simulate earthquakes, three minutes should be sufficient.)

3. Display sentimental items around your home.

One reason that experiences (and memories of those experiences) make us happier than material things is due to the entire…

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