Global Water Brigades Opens in Africa!
A Look into Ghana’s Successful First Water Brigade
Srafa Aboano is located about an hour off the main road in southern Ghana in a picturesque spot along the coast. Each day the men of the community load into their small boats and take off into the great Atlantic Ocean to fish. Many days the young boys will tag along in hopes of making a big catch and a bit of money. Most community members have lived here for their entire lives, some have never even set foot outside of the town.
Three sisters, now elders of the community, sit under a tree outside their house and explain to us that many things have changed in the past 60 years, and some things have remained the same. Of the things that have changed most? The water. “It just doesn’t rain like it used to,” says Nana Adwoa. “We used to have the water that we needed and now we are left to collect water from a dry water source down the road. And the quality is terrible!” she adds. It was conversations like these that inspired and motivated the work of Global Brigades Ghana and the London School of Economics in March during our first Water Brigade ever in Africa.
From March 26-April 4, LSE partnered with Srafa Aboano with the intention of addressing this daunting water challenge from one angle, through the school. The hope was that with clean water at the school we could transform the lives of the community’s youth and thus bring long-term development to the entire village. The Brigade began with an incredible welcome from the children and community that displayed the community’s passion for the project and showed us that the community was organized and ready to work. The LSE students danced and sang with the kids and knew that this was the beginning of a successful relationship.
After spending two days listening to the community, the elders, the chiefs, the teachers and the children, LSE understood the challenges. Students currently struggled to attend class because they had to spend hours collecting water or would get sick from the contaminated water source. The goal for LSE was clear: provide the 358 students of the Srafa Aboano primary and junior high schools access to clean drinking water for 365 days of the year. Change starts with the youth, we all agreed, and the team recognized the power of focusing in the classroom. LSE decided that for their project they would have 4 elements: a rainwater harvesting system at the school that could store 11,000 liters of water (enough for 4 months of drinking water for every child at the school), a water filtration system that could serve filtered drinking water to all students, education in 4 different classrooms on water quality and hygiene, and lastly our first ever Water Club, made up of leaders from each grade, that would be left to manage the project, educate others about it and ultimately maintain the system for years to come.
The project was an incredible success. “Now we feel safe drinking our water” said David, the Water Club president. “We can go to school without worrying about water.” The Queen Mother added, in her address to the community leaders and the LSE student-group during the award ceremony that “water is the future of this community. Without it we cannot progress and our children cannot grow to achieve the full potential that we believe them to have.” As she was talking, the first rains to come to the community in 3 months were falling outside, filling the school’s new rainwater harvester and storing enough water for the students to make it through the rest of the dry season.
While Water Brigades still has a long ways to go in perfecting our program to bring water to schools across the region, this was an excellent start. LSE laid the groundwork for Water Brigades in Ghana for years to come. We hope that more groups from around the world will join us in supporting these communities to have access to clean water.
More information about the LSE Water Brigade can be found at the excellent blog that the group put together http://waterbrigadesghana.wordpress.com/. You can also find more specific information about the Water Brigades Ghana program here. Please contact Orion Haas at Orion@globalbrigades.org for more information and to get involved. Ghana’s doors are open to you.