"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." -Margaret Mead

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day 3 – 25 May 2012

Day 3 – 25 May 2012
Maju (good evening),

Friday was our longest and most productive day yet. We arrived to PPE (Patriensa Pure Enterprise, the name of our sachet manufacturing building) at 8:15 am to find tons of people already there relocating a pile of clay. Friday was a holiday in Ghana, equivalent to our labor day, so no one had to go to work or school. The clay was what had been excavated when the septic tank was installed in the ground. We immediately were put the work. Gordon and I (the males of our team) were handed shovels and began filling wheel barrels and large bowls and pots with the clay. Kim, Jeseth, and Kristina were given the task of lifting the heavy bowls of clay and carrying them on their heads to the front of the PPE plot to be dumped. Community members of all ages were working with us. Boys of ages 9-15 and a few adult men were responsible for breaking up the hard clay and shoveling it into various containers. Girls and women of all ages were transporting the soil across the plot. Usually the older and stronger the woman, the larger and heavier the bowl they carried on their head.

 After that, we moved into the building to watch Francis install the sachet machine and filtering system.  He explained the filtering process to us. Gordon had worked on drinking water purification systems before, so he was pretty familiar with the process. I had only taken a class and studied the process a little so I was eager to learn the mechanics of the system. Our system has five filtering containers, each of different size pores. Next the water passes through another tall filter which I think used some kind of activated carbon. Next the water goes through what was called the MP-12, a large kettle like container with some type of filters. Gordon and I had never seen anything like it, but Francis informed us that it killed bacteria. After that water passes by a UV light which does a final sterilization, killing any remnants of biological matter in the water. Biological matter like bacteria, pathogens, and other tiny creatures in water is the leading the cause of death in the undeveloped world. I believe there is a statistic that says that 4 children die every minute from diarrhea in third world countries.  Severe diarrhea can quickly dehydrate a person and if they don’t have any available clean water to rehydrate themselves, the diarrhea is fatal.

While Francis was still installing the filtering system, the community had started putting the tank on the tank stand. The tank is about 10 feet tall and probably 8 feet in diameter. The tank stand is a cement structure about 5 feet tall. The men had built a ramp out of a few wood planks and rolled the tank onto the tank stand. The tank was on the stand; however it was lying on its side and there was an electrical wire right above it going from a wooden pole to the PPE building. After much discussion and planning, all of which was in Twi and incomprehensible to us, the men had devised a way to stand the tank up on its base, just missing the electrical wires. 

Next we took a break and talked to the kids some more. They had just cleared a patch of sugar cane near the community tap where we had to dig trenches to lay pipe. They chopped the sugar cane into smaller pieces and gave it to us to chew. The cane was very tough on the outside, but once I was able to expose the sugary fibers it was very sweet and refreshing. After the quick break, we returned inside the building to watch Francis finish the sachet machine system. In a matter of about an hour he had already installed all the necessary piping, filters, and electrical finishings. He was only using the blade of a hack saw, plumbing glue, and thread tape but had quickly finished the sachet room.

After finishing the inside of the building, he moved outside to connect a few of the pipes in the trench and prepare them for connection to the pump and community taps. We helped out by burying some of the pipe. We realized that the trenches were not as deep as we had designed for. We asked for the pipes to be 12 inches below grade; however they had only dug the trenches 6 inches. We planned to re-dig the pipe after lunch. But when we returned from lunch, which lasted about an hour, Francis had already finished the connecting all the pipe. Because the pipe is connected at the tank and at the community tap, we can no longer dig the trenches deeper without cutting the pipe.. We’ve decided as a safety measure we will resurface the ground around the pipe to ensure that rain water would flow away from the buried pipes to decreases the possibility of eroding our cover soil.

After finishing work at PPE we returned to the hotel to get ready for a ceremony in the palace. The purpose of the ceremony was to introduce our teams to the queen mother and the council of elders. The ceremony lasted less than an hour but was filled with history, tradition, and merging of cultures. We started with a prayer (Ghana is predominantly Christian) and then we stated our mission of the trip for each team. Everyone then introduced each other; 10 of the elders, the Queen Mother and the Kontihene, and all 11 of the team members each stated their names in Twi. After asking a few questions about the history of the village we presented the Queen Mother and the Kontihene gifts. We wanted to bring them gifts that reflected Texas, so we gave them barbeque sauce.

After the ceremony ended, we walked to PPE to check out any new construction. The men had nearly completed a roof next to building under which we would dry sachets for the repurposing initiative. While there, we noticed our neighbors cooking their dinner. They were in the middle of making fufu. To make fufu they used a large pole to mash the ingredients of the fufu and mix it into a consistent ball. On a fire, they were stirring a pot filled with some kind soupy broth with sugar and other ingredients I’m not familiar with. We then walked to the school to have our own dinner of chicken and rice. After dinner we returned home for some needed rest.

Our third day was the most productive day we’ve seen since we started the project last year. We were amazed at the speed of the work with the help of so many community members. It was especially great to see the fruit of all our planning and designing throughout the school year and witnessing the community take ownership of this project. That’s all for now; I’m not sure when this will reach the web but I hope it finds you well.

P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures. I have a lot but it takes to much time to upload one photo. Once I get some reliable internet, I will upload some pictures.

1 comment:

  1. It's really cool if something is done for one ultimate reason, is to help. I hope the water filter system or other modification project that you have there be a success.


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