While University life was over, I felt like it was a right time to contribute some good deeds to the world, not forgetting how much I have received from it. It was my first charity work out of UK; aiming to travel more than 3250 miles away from Manchester to Ghana. So, it all started with an organisation called Global Brigades. It is a global organisation that takes students from different Universities of different countries to African and South American countries to volunteer in different sectors like water, medical, dental, micro finance environment and architecture. According to the T&C, the project needed minimum of 15 people and here; we were talking about going to Africa from UK. Cost is always a major issue. After lots of hard work in encouraging people and using different techniques for fund raising, we managed to gather 22 people altogether and the project was on. As an Engineering students, we chose water as our sector.
We left Manchester on 11th June 2013 for 10 days (including travel time). It was about 7 hours and 15 minutes journey to Accra, capital of Ghana. Since the flight was at night, I slept throughout the journey. We landed at 6 am in the morning. Even at that time, Accra was so hot that we had to take off our jumpers.
|Volunteers all the way from Manchester to Ghana|
All the volunteers were accommodated in one lodge in a place called Otuam, about two and half hours drive from Accra. Accra is a big city. While passing through it, I saw lots of construction works going on everywhere. Our co-ordinator called Morrison explained that there are so many new businesses opening here, which makes Accra one of the fastest growing capitals in West Africa. Another interesting thing I noticed was school opens at 7 am. It was about half seven when we got into the city and there were school kids running everywhere. Smoke of burning was seen at each meter distance, which as explained by Morrison was burning of household rubbish.
Next day, we visited the place where we were going to spend our next 7 days implementing our project. The place is called Srafa Aboano, which is about 15 minutes drive from our lodge. To begin with the day, we went to visit one family in the community. There were 16 people living in that 4 bedroom house. They don’t have hospital in the community and the whole community share 2 toilets. Another pitiful thing they told us was, they don’t filter or boil their water. From the water they drink, community people frequently get rashes and diarrhoea. Still, life expectancy of 61 years is very impressive. After family visit, the opening ceremony was organised where we volunteers were welcomed by the community. The ceremony was all about dance, dance and dance! Even in the sun of 35 degree Celsius, we were dancing like crazy. Srafa Aboano was cheerful and for us, it was a celebration of something we hoped to do for the community that need the most. We all celebrated together.
Volunteers enjoying in Openingceremony
HOW GLOBAL BRIGADES WORKS AND WHY SRAFA ABOANO?
Global Brigades initially carries out survey in the communities and recognises the community that is in need of different sources like water, medical, finance etc. Once the community is chosen, they ask families to sign up for the project. For example if a family signs up for the water, Global Brigades then starts digging up their family condition, income, members, in fact everything about the family. Also to become eligible for the service, a family has to contribute 10 % of the cost and provide sand, stone and cement for the construction of the rain harvester. Global brigades subsidies 90% of the cost, which comes from volunteers.
WATER SOURCES OF SRAFA ABOANO:
* Seawater: There is no way they can drink it. They only do fishing there.
* Well (deep): It is too salty to drink, and its not easily accessible.
* Shallow well: The water there is infected with other pollution and waste.
* Pond: The nearest pond is very dirty and there is not enough water during dry season. There is another pond, which has water throughout the year but to get there, it takes 15 minutes by foot.
* Vendor water: Some business men take tap water from city, mix some tablet and sell it there as a clean drinking water. It costs them 2 Cedis per 15 litres. Considering their average income of 100 Cedis per family per week and also considering the number of people in the family, vendor water is not economically sustainable.
* Rain water: Rainwater is their cleanest source of affordable water but normally they consume it without any purification. So, our solution to them was to make rainwater harvester.
Out of 10 days in Ghana, 5 days were allocated for the implementation of the project and one day was to teach school children about clean and safe drinking water. 22 of us were divided into 3 groups.
1st day: The foundation was already laid for us so we mainly worked on connecting mesh wires with cable ties. Other than that, we did lots of sieving cement, mixing of sand and cement, and plastering. By the end of the day, 9.8 m circumference mesh wire stood on the foundation.
2nd day: I woke up with pain in my whole body but hard work was waiting ahead. Today was all about plastering. I have to say mixing cement was the hardest part.
3rd day: Digging up open pit for tap, and plastering, sieving and mixing cement. Started connecting mesh wire to make roof.
4th day: Mesh wire was on top of the roof by this day. Roof plastering started.
5th day: Final bits and pieces. Final plastering, and cleaning up. By the end of this day, 3 new rain harvesters stood on the land of Srafa Aboano. It was physically hard work for us and working in the temperature of more than 30 degree everyday wasn't easy but we were satisfied. Even though it was not the cleanest source of drinking water, these families don't have to drink water from pond anymore.
6th day: School and family education about how to use rain harvester and what else they can do to clean water.
|Wire Mesh stood on the foundation|
|Now all left was plastering!|
|Education in School|
|Volunteers educating children about clean drinking water!|
It was a life changing experience. Every time we went to community, children ran to us to grab our hands. We were certainly very unique to them. Even though they have different life style than us, they were always welcoming. They loved us but to us, sadly, they looked pitiful. One day, I hope to get my children experience something like I did so that no matter how much I pamper them, they can always appreciate what they have got in their lives.
|I love Children!|
|Open pit. We will be remembered!|
We are grateful to Cargill and Virgin Train for sponsoring us, and all of those who bought our Krispy crème and cup cakes. Srafa Aboano is still in need of help, not even quarter of the village has rain harvester yet. There are still many families who drink water from a pond.
"Children of a culture born in a water-rich environment, we have never really learned how important water is to us. We understand it, but we do not respect it."
-- William Ashworth
-- William Ashworth