Relief International Board Member, Ellen Frost, Reflects on her Visit to the Field in Ghana

October 9, 2012

Relief International’s board member, Ellen Frost, reflects on her visit to the field in Ghana this past September where board members held one of their quarterly meetings and got an exclusive look at RI’s ground-breaking programs in social enterprise and water, sanitation, and hygiene through field visits.

For members of Relief International’s board of directors, there is nothing like seeing projects firsthand to realize the contribution that Relief International is making to help people escape from poverty in places like Ghana. Imagine the scenes: Peter – a shy, soft-spoken Ghanaian – and his three assistants sitting under a tree at the edge of the Accra city dump, hammering scrap metal into charcoal-efficient cookstoves. At another location, a man is shaping ceramic stove filters using a foot-operated potter’s wheel, while another man punches out ventilation holes. At a third site, the filters are fired in brick ovens fueled by wood and corn cobs. These jobs provide livelihoods to a large number of people. All in all, there are 450 manufacturers and 500 vendors of these stoves, and the market continues to grow.

In the photo above, Peter and his assistants busy at work as Relief International videographer, Carlos, focuses in for the perfect shot.

Above, a ceramicist uses a foot-operated potter’s wheel to delicately craft a Gyapa liner.

Above, Gyapa liners equipped with ventilation holes, wait to dry before they are sent off to the kiln.

At a market stall that we visited, one vendor summarized what she tells customers when she recommends Relief International-sponsored stoves: “Same price as the others but saves lots of money.” The stoves cut charcoal consumption in half, thereby easing pressure on household budgets and reducing pollution – and they earn carbon credits as well.

In the photo above, some energetic children from a school that board members visited.

Another Relief International project of a different sort centers on clean water, sanitation, and hygiene (“WASH”). Here, the goals are both “hard” and “soft” – to purify or recycle water, build and install latrines, to teach people why they should use them and how they should adopt sanitary procedures such as washing their hands. Since children learn quickly and are natural crusaders, schools are a special target. Board members visited two schools, both of which were bursting with bright-eyed, giggly, energetic children. Also,we visited a group consisting of three long-robed tribal elders, the head of the local youth committee, and a woman who serves on the local water committee. The elders made it clear that the whole community was involved in addressing the community water, sanitation, and hygiene issues. 

In the photo above, two smiling boys who hope to become part of their school’s hygiene club that Relief International helped establish.

The board members were impressed by the high quality and dedication of Relief International’s field staff as well as by what we saw at each site. We came away feeling hopeful and encouraged. 


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