The next day we left Nkwanta at 7:00 am to finish the last leg of the journey to Damanko. This last 50 km takes us two and half hours, because the road isn’t paved. Fortunately I was starting to feel better at this point so the bumpy road didn’t affect me too much.
The reason we came to Damanko was to train Ghana WASH latrine beneficiaries and community volunteers on the importance and use of household latrines. Recently, a Peace Corps volunteer who lives in Damanko had about 100 latrines built there. However, many of these people haven’t had a toilet to use their whole lives so they don’t understand why they should use one. If you are given something and don’t understand the importance of using it, there is a good chance you won’t use it. This isn’t Field of Dreams, just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come.
The first two days in Damanko, we held workshops for the latrine recipients. We asked them where people defecate in the community. The typical responses were “in the bush”, “in the refuse dump”, “in the gutter”, or “behind the house”. From here it was easy to make the connection between feces being everywhere in the community and the types of diseases that will result from it. We also taught the basics of how to use a latrine, such as never put chemicals into the latrine pit, but always put anal cleansing materials into the latrine pit. Before coming to Ghana I didn’t know of some of these principles. The final two days consisted of similar training except to community health volunteers.
The biggest challenge wasn’t the material being taught, but the language barrier. Not only was there a language barrier between me and the people from Damanko, but also between my Ghanaian NGO colleagues and the people from Damanko. The majority of people living in Damanko are from the Konkonba tribe that speaks Konkonba and my colleagues are from the Ewe tribe that speaks Ewe. So, most of the lessons were done in Twi (a more common Ghanaian language) and English with a Konkonba translator. You know there are a lot of languages in Ghana when there is a language barrier between the natives. My lessons on latrine maintenance and hand washing were done in “yevu English” and occasionally translated to Ghanaian English (more on that in another blog post).
After the four days of lessons we attended part of a Konkonba funeral, were people were dancing around large drums. The dancers held props, such as shovels, tree branches, and machetes. I’m told the Konkonbas have a tendency to fight, so holding props while dancing makes them feel powerful.