June 7, 2013
Monica Jeannormil reflects on her yearlong experience working with Relief International’s Ghana Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Project (GWASH), a USAID-financed initiative that improves community rural health through the provision of physical facilities, behavior change communications, and capacity building at the household, community, school, local government and local NGO levels.
For the past year, I have served as one of seven Peace Corps volunteers seconded to the Ghana WASH Project though a partnership between Peace Corps Ghana and the U.S. Agency for International Development. I initially began my Peace Corps Service as a Development Advisor in Segou, Mali, but in April 2012, due to a coup d’état, myself and over 200 hundred Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated to Ghana.
Above: Monica and one of the families she met while working closely alongside Ghanaian communities.
Working for GWASH, I was initially charged with capturing photo and global positioning system (GPS) data on the project’s facilities for monitoring and evaluation purposes to support the development of the GWASH project map. I was also tasked with writing success stories and lesson learned documents to assess and highlight the impacts of the project. These responsibilities provided me the rare opportunity of working closely with local non-government organizations (LNGOs), project field staff, office staff, and the beneficiaries impacted by our project.
GWASH has a working environment that engages the team to use their unique skills to assist in achieving the goal of better water, sanitation and hygiene facilities in Ghana and also improving their sustainability through behavior change communication. In support of the mapping project, I find myself in the field working with our local NGOs that are responsible for triggering our beneficiaries; these activities enabled me to transfer my professional and educational skills to the local NGOs i.e., time management, relationship building, and follow-up.
Also, GWASH enables the team to submit ideas that will improve the process of delivering our goals. Partnering with LNGOs staff, I conducted community inspections and verified the level of progress made at each facility in the community, bringing back valuable information which helped the project become more responsive to the needs of our stakeholders and beneficiaries.
Above: Mrs. Kweku Abbam, who lives in the rural community of Kyiren in Ghana, received a household latrine that was built through the GWASH project.
Working with the GWASH project has increased my awareness of the need for local capacity building and the importance of monitoring, evaluating, and implementing feedback during every step of a project or program. I now more than ever understand the importance of exchanging knowledge with the communities that I work because it builds a relationship built on mutual partnership that creates sustainability and growth.
See the GWASH Project’s impact through the construction of water and sanitation facilities in five regions across Ghana in our project map.
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.
May 23, 2012
Relief International’s Technical Director, Jon Naugle, reports from the field in Uganda, where he met a woman by the name of Mama Manjeri, whose life was greatly influenced by Relief International’s domestic rainwater harvesting bag, Bob™.
Before purchasing her rainwater bag, Bob, a Ugandan woman named Mama Manjeri used to walk two and a half miles over a ridge and down the other side of a hill to fetch water and then walk back the same distance carrying a container of water. She is a very spry woman who still works in her garden even though she is in her late seventies. Mama Manjeri had heard about Bob — Relief International’s innovative low-cost rainwater bag — from her husband who had seen a demonstration in a nearby town. She told her neighbors that the next time the sales agent from her district came by she wanted to see him to purchase one.
The next time Adam Juko, the Relief International Bob sales agent, came by he stopped to see Mama Manjeri and she told him that she wanted a Bob. Unfortunately, he did not have one with him that day, but he promised to come back the next day. Mama Manjeri purchased her Bob the next day with 125,000 Ugandan Shillings (approximately $50 USD) for Bob with 1,000 and 2,000 shilling notes that were all neatly folded — money that she had earned from her garden.
The photo below shows Mama Manjeri standing proudly next to her Bob™.
As Relief International’s Technical Director, I got to visit Mama Manjeri. Mama Manjeri had constructed a base for her Bob and had started building a mud and wattle shelter to protect it. I could see that she clearly values her Bob and appreciates having water for washing, bathing, cooking and drinking right at her door step. Mama Manjeri was so happy with Bob that she insisted on giving me a 1,000 shillings, neatly folded, as all the bills she used to pay for Bob. This is something that I will treasure, knowing that the efforts of this project are changing people’s lives for the better.