"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

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Day 24 – 15 June 2012


Friday was another big day. It seems that a lot of tasks get pushed backed to the end of the week. This was especially true in our project, with our most productive days on Friday and Saturday. This Friday we arrived on site early to paint our tank stand. We wanted our tank stand to depict our business as a community owned business, so Kim had the good idea to get children to put their hand prints on the stand. First we needed to paint the stand white for a bright background. We were also eager to paint because it was one of the only tasks that we felt we could complete on our own, without hiring labor. Unfortunately this wasn’t true. We had a local painter come to mix the paint, something that is not usually done in the US, so we really had no experience. After mixing the paint, the painter insisted on sticking around to paint the stand. We had four brushes, so we all pitched in to paint it white. We needed to have it painted in the morning so it would be dry by the time kids got out of school. Later in the day, kids came and we had a fun time putting green and blue hand prints all over the tank stand.

While leaving the tank stand to dry, we worked more with Degraft to finish the manual for the sachet machine. We realized how hard it is to put in writing all the small steps needed to create one sachet bag, but the manual would primarily be used as a reference for the employees. During their actual training, it would be much easier to give them a hands-on course for running the sachet machine.

After lunch, Francis, the man who installed the machine and the hydraulic system returned to site from Accra. We had planned for him to arrive in the morning, but of course on Ghanaian time, people tend to show up a few hours later than planned. Francis had come to make any final repairs and insure that the machine would produce clean water. He immediately got to work flushing out the system, cleaning the residual carbon from the activated carbon filters. We soon started producing clear water, however there were several brown slimy particles floating in the water. We couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. After a while he opened up the MP-12 unit which is a bolted shut steel canister that contains several ceramic filters. We unbolted the lid, lifted the housing panel to find that someone had set the filters in there in their original cardboard packing. The inside of the unit was a soupy mess of cardboard and plastic. After about 30 minutes of cleaning the filters, removing the cardboard, and reassembling the unit properly, we were producing clear, clean water.
 Although the water looked fine, we still need to taste it. Francis tasted the one of the first sachets produced and said it was fine. We tasted it next and disagreed. I could still taste the funky odor of the old cardboard in the water. But Francis insisted that it tasted fine. He continued to produce about 5 large bags of sachets, each bag holds 30 sachets. The water would be used the next day at the opening ceremony of the building. We decided that we didn’t want to distribute the sachets we thought were bad, so we decided to come back early the next morning to flush out the machine and produce more sachets. It was beginning to get dark and starting to rain, and we still needed to get dinner at AATI; so we called it a day.

Friday was full of mixed emotions. We were really proud of our tank stand that we had primarily painted on our own. The tank stand would be a great reminder to anyone who passes by the building, that it was a community owned and operated business. We were also pleased that our machine was running well, with our own plastic and our name on it. However we were vastly disappointed that we had still yet to produce a sachet that met our standards. The sachets were completely safe and many people didn’t notice the taste, but we were afraid to give away any sachets that may not be up to our standards, and risk giving the business a bad image before we even truly started production.

We went to bed knowing that the next day would be a critical moment in the viability of our project and of the community business.


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