Friday, September 11, 2015

Latrine Photos

As promised, here are some pictures of the latrine in progress! 

Standing on top of the formwork to lay rebar for the concrete slab over the pits

 The concrete slab has been poured and cured, with six holes - one for each latrine.

The latrine stalls in progress!

 Latrine stalls with doors and PVC pipes to serve as ventilation

A side view of the latrine

Back view of the latrine, featuring Christine

A look at the inside of the pit!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Wrapping Up!

Hello everybody!

Christine here! The first travel team (Adam, Anna, David, Wing-Sum) left us last week to head back to New York, and our mentor Alexi left Ghana last night as well. Leerang, Becca and I are in Accra for the last few days before we leave on Thursday evening, and we have a lot to talk about!

With regards to the KVIP, we left Kwasi Doi on Saturday with high hopes for the completion of the latrine. We had a few setbacks with time and materials, but we are confident that by the time we visit one last time on Thursday before our flight, the latrine will be finished and ready for us to help paint it (pictures of that later)! We had one more maintenance meeting with the community members of Kwasi Doi, and there was a great turnout - everybody is extremely excited to have a new, working latrine. Of course, we stressed the importance of constant maintenance for the success of the latrine, and the community members agreed.  We hope that the implementation of this latrine will not only improve sanitation in Kwasi Doi, but that it will inspire the community to continue with development in the future.

We continued to work on surveying in the Amanfrom area and had several meetings with the community, where we discussed bookkeeping and reliability within the newly elected unit committee, which is the main governing body of the area. We most likely won't be building anything in Amanfrom in the near future, but we are looking forward to building a stronger partnership over the coming years!

All right, time for us to go eat dinner - we'll check in one last time before we leave New York! Thanks to everybody who has been following our trip and supported us over the last few months - your encouragement has been wonderful for all of us.

All the best,
Becca, Christine, and Leerang

Saturday, August 22, 2015

New Discoveries

Greetings from Ghana!!! The second travel team (Leerang, Becca, and Christine) arrived last Monday, and the first team (Anna, Wing-Sum, Adam, and David) left this morning. Our mentor, Alexi, is here for both travel team times.

There's been a few new discoveries about Amanfrom's current water systems. Community members told us of a borehole built in the 1990s that had worked for a few weeks but then was believed to have gone dry. To see why the borehole stopped working, we hired a specialist to open up the borehole and examine the piping. It turns out that the borehole has water in it, but that a crack in the bottom of the piping has prevented it from being able to pump water. We were really surprised that this borehole has been here the whole time unused when a simple repair (costing 650 cedis) would fix it. We've informed community leaders of our discovery and will meet with them soon to discuss plans to fix it.

We also learned of a private pump and an extension of a water source on the outskirts of the village. A nice girl named Celestina helped show us these and is excited to help us learn more. Her whole family even came by our place to pay us a formal visit. It was great to talk to them about their school and life in the village. Celestina is fourteen years old, so she has applied for high schools and will find out where she is accepted in a few weeks.

On the latrine side, construction is going well and the masons have adapted to the design changes we made to their usual latrine construction. Our community contact, Sammy, has been great about overseeing the latrine work and ensuring the construction occurs efficiently. We are excited about the technical process of building the latrine, and plan to meet more will community leaders and members to ensure that there are systems in place to maintain the latrine at a high quality.

We're looking forward to the completion of the latrine and learning more about Amanfrom's water sources, and will continue to update when we can reach internet access.

2015 EWB Ghana Travel Team

Friday, August 14, 2015

Ete sen! (Eh ya!) - Travel Team 2015 Week 1

After a variety of air travel mishaps, we’ve all arrived in Ghana! At this point we’ve been here for almost a week, so this post will include a brief summary of several days worth of work.

For those of you who are not familiar with our projects, here’s a quick summary:

This trip we are hoping to accomplish two goals. The first is to implement a latrine for the community of Kwasi Doi. Our other goal is to gather information about water usage and availability in the neighboring community of Amanfrom.

We expected there to already be a hole for the pit of the latrine so that we could begin working right away. Unfortunately it’s always difficult to communicate overseas, and when we arrived in Kwasi Doi we found that the community had not started digging yet. Because of time constraints, our community contact, Sammy, had to hire a backhoe. Luckily, the backhoe was finished digging in just one day.

While the backhoe was working, we met with leaders in Amanfrom. The leaders emphasized that their first priority is water for their community, but also mentioned that in the future they’d like to have a latrine as well. We told them a little about how EWB functions, and our expectations for the community to contribute to the project as well.

One of the biggest challenges we’ve had this trip has been reaching design agreements with the workers, especially with the language barrier and because we did not communicate as well while we were still in the U.S. Additionally, we found that some of the measurements for materials such as the cement blocks are not the same as we had anticipated. We eventually came to an agreement after talking with the district engineer, and now we’re back on track for latrine construction. On the bright side, many of our larger quantity building materials cost less than we budgeted for.

Before making cement, we had to gather a bunch of water to mix into the cement powder and sand. The community’s water pump is down the hill from the latrine, and the villagers carried water from the pump to the latrine site on their heads. We wanted to help out, so each of us carried a few as well. Balancing the buckets on our head was tricky at first, but we caught on quickly. The kids and women watching thought it was hilarious that the “obroni”s (foreigners) were carrying water the way they do. They are better at it than us, but at least we were some help and it was amusing for them. We are now done with cement pouring, and will let the cement cure over a few days before beginning on the walls.

We’ve learned a lot just by interacting with the different people who live here. Our neighbor, Abraham, told us about his experiences living in Amanfrom. He told us about his job at a hotel, and also about the blackouts that they experience in Ghana. We also learned about what TV shows he likes to watch, and he taught us a few useful words and phrases in Twi (the language spoken here). He and his family have been extremely hospitable to us during our stay.

This afternoon we met with the district assembly man of Amanfrom. His name is Michael, and he also happens to be Abraham's brother. From him, we learned about the three regions of Amanfrom and how they currently get water. He also told us a lot about what the government looks like within the community, and how families are structured. Tomorrow morning, he's going to show us around a little, since we haven't really gotten a chance to see Amanfrom yet.

Our next travel team begins arriving on Monday, and we look forward to seeing them soon! For now, we hope you enjoyed our little update, and we'll try to update again in the near future.

All the best,

EWB Ghana Travel Team 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

You've been SURVEYED!

Afwee Shepa! (still relevant, we think)

We've finally made it to the internet cafe! After navigating through a maze of Nsawam's busy streets of taxis, fruit stands (without fruit), and market hustle and becoming completely lost, we've finally collected our wits about us and used our resourceful teamwork to locate familiar territory once again to bring you this run on sentence. What a triumph!

The past few days have been full of meetings and surveys and we are brimming with new information, ideas, and motivation to begin the next stages of our projects. On the side, we've also completed the plumbing on the Central and Western latrines (2 of the main latrines in Obodan), that was not finished from last winter's travel trip. It's been a busy few days.

Our first community meeting was with Kwasi Doi on Saturday, in which we responded to the community's feedback that their latrine is low functioning with water often filling the pits. We have been faced with this issue for the past 2.5 years and cannot locate the source of the water. Thus, we've decided in keeping with our end of the bargain, it is our responsibility to provide a new, functional latrine that meets the need of the community. During the meeting, we discussed the latrine options and design criteria with the attendees for the future toilet plans. The conclusion was that the community prefers a KVIP with more seats to meet the demand of the community members.

The second community meeting held over this weekend was with Akwakupom on Sunday (nice and early at 630am). At this session, we deliberated the future of their current latrine system, which had been converted from a source-separating latrine into a lined pit latrine (similar to a KVIP) since our last travel trip. The pits on both sides of the latrine were opened a month ago due to the great demand during a funeral. The key intention of this meeting was to make the community members aware that the original functionality of the latrine was lost since the design was modified. The meeting was concluded with responsibility for the latrine's maintenance being handed over to the community.

Our final meeting was our Latrine Education Workshop with the greater community of Obodan. Here, all the posters and shoeboxes we lugged to Ghana came to use. These materials were used to explain the components of the latrine that caused the most confusion as highlighted by our surveys. We also passed around a bag of compost from the pilot latrine to show the end goal and results of source-separating latrines (beautiful black soil). The community members actively participated with questions and discussions and we are more confident than ever that the latrines are in capable hands and will be well maintained in our absence.

Today we switched gears (and communities) and headed to Amanfrom. Mike, the assemblyman from Amanfrom previously introduced, was waiting for us as we showed up at 830AM Ghana time. Mike's punctuality will definitely take some getting used to! We spent the entire day with Mike and Emmanuel, another member of the community, talking and surveying the different households through Amanfrom to gain a better understanding of how our skills can best help. Some of the problems that the different households brought up included lack of water access, lack of a secondary school in the region, and a low supply of public latrines to meet the demand of the community. We will be taking this information back to Columbia and can't wait to share it with everyone at home (who are all reading this, we're sure).

For the comic relief part of this blog post, the team decided to cook Faustina a meal to show our appreciation for all her assistance with translation work over the past week. Moral of this saga, never try new recipes with guests and Mexican-American Ghanaian fusion will not catch on anytime in the near future. However, if you don't like to see or taste your onions or tomatoes, you can hide them quite well in a stew of black beans, casava, and taco seasoning. Faustina was a delightful dinner guest and when asked her opinoin of our meal, could only muster laughter.

We'll be eating out tonight; until next time!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Angelina Poolie and Brad Pit

Afwee Shepa (still relevant, still 2015). To celebrate the New Year, we've accumulated quite the selection of tropical fruits, root vegetables, and services. As of now, we've received:
- 9 pineapples
- 7 cassavas
- 2 coconuts
- 1 puo puo (still not sure what this is as it is currently rotting under our desk)
- multiple offers of prepared food
- numerous offers of marriage
- 1 offer of a kid goat for 10 dollars
- 1 new sister-in-law for Kiersten as her brother was married off in a "love at first mention" wedding by an eager lady from Obodan

All of these goods have come as a result of the commencement of our household surveying the past few days. This Wednesday, Faustina (the sister of Assemblyman Sammy, our community contact) arrived in Obodan to help us translate our survey questions from useless English into the local language (Akwapim Twi). As of now, our lexicon consists of:
- Afwee Shepa (Happy New Year, again still relevant)
- Medase (Thank You)
- Obroni (Us, foreigners)
- Ma Chi, Ma Ha, Ma Jo (Good Morning, Afternoon, Evening respectively)
- Me Din De (My name is...)
- Other basic terms like "sorry" are still in the works. We'll update you on that later

Our Buzzfeed lists are now over, onward to the good stuff!

The surveys have proven extremely helpful in determining the work to be completed for our source-separating latrines over the next few days. These modifications are instrumental in making the latrines suit the needs of the community. Some of these needs are (last list, promise):
- converting seated seats to squatting seats
- completing piping for urine diversion
- education workshops to improve maintenance and cleaning techniques

Meanwhile, we've had a couple celebrities drop by Obodan in the form of Angelina Poolie and Brad Pit (see title). These have become some of our team members' alter egos on the front line of sampling material from our latrine "Pits". These brave visiting heroes are extracting samples from the longest composting latrine to understand the power of poo. In other words, we are using field sampling kits to understand the progress of composting waste within the latrine pits. Poolie and Pit determined that the coupling of dry conditions and feces is a powerhouse, just like them. The current compost Pit was found to be at the borderline between the Ideal Curing and Mature Compost stages. Success!

Our team has also been busy working with Amanfrom and their assemblyman, Mike, to assess their water sources and needs. From our limited first impressions, the community of Amanfrom seems super excited to work with us and to form a partnership over the next few years. We also realized they have a lot of hair salons (note for future travel trips). The first step after this past Sunday's community meeting was to collect water samples from all six utilized water sources:
- Anofo Stream
- Tonto Stream (potentially a spring)
- Nana Obodan River
- Amoani Spring (that has catfish that look delicious but are according to the community members, essential to the spring's existence, and therefore are taboo to catch and consume)
- Primary Well (hand-dug)
- Cemetery Well (EWB's nickname, also hand-dug and taboo to use)

These water samples are being tested AS WE TYPE in Accra for coliform and inorganics. We are also testing the water system in Obodan for coliform (samples taken at the spigot by the pump, the borehole, and the pump inlet). We anticipate these results by next Thursday, watch out for them!

Water Testing/Sampling happened
Poop Testing/Sampling was gross but informative
Surveying was good

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Day(s) Without an End(s)

Afwee Shepa! (Happy New Year- in twi!) We are so excited to be here in Obodan and work with our partner communities. Today is our third day in Ghana. We got here on Jan. 3rd, and had a very exciting and productive first day! After settling in to our room in the Obodan community center, we met with Obodan's assembly man and longtime EWB community contact, Sammy Gamson. After catching up with Sammy, we went to a party in Fotobi. The party turned out to be a young woman's graduation event. After being set down in literally the spotlight of the party, the MC came up and suddenly we were the center of attention during this girl's celebratory party. We made the (ultimately positive) mistake of saying that our favorite Ghanaian song was Azonto (which is awesome) and then were brought reluctantly on stage to dance for it. After a heroic attempt at dancing with grace and poise, we were eventually, mercifully joined by children who taught us how to dance unterribly (for the most part!).

After the party we met with Sammy and our mentor, Steve, to talk about our projects and plan for the next two weeks. Then we received our mattresses, went back to the community center, and finally went to bed. After being up for 36 hours at that point, we fell asleep within 36 milliseconds of our heads hitting our pillows (stolen from the plane!). A well deserved nights sleep!

DAY TWO:  After an early rise to prepare for a full day of meetings, the travel meet met with Obodan's brand new Unit Committee (formally known as the water committee). We had a very productive meeting discussing Obodan's water distribution system, going over our shared concerns and goals for our future projects, and going over new programs to improve the latrines, including the implementation of a latrine ambassador program. The unit committee seemed very enthusiastic about the program and eager to take a role in latrine affairs as well as water distribution things.

Then we met with the Amanfrom community, who voiced to us with much enthusiasm that their biggest concern is water. We went around to all of their water sources and spoke with community leaders about the steps we need to take to decide whether we can help with their water availability. Then we went to Fotobi for food and drinks!

DAY THREE: After yet another early rise, the team went to collect water using buckets and carried them on their heads for the first time. We looked at the latrines in Obodan and Alata, and then went to Akwakapom and Kwasi Doi to meet with the communities and look at the latrines. It was a great day!